Summer camps are very popular here in New York. Children have 12 to 13 weeks off school during the summer. Typically, they enroll in a few weeks of camp. Since many parents work full-time, summer camp is a helpful option to preoccupy children during the day. It is quite a far cry from my own camp experiences with NCC where my friends and I orienteered in Mandai, fell into wet swamps, stayed in gloomy military camps and slept overnight under the open sky in Pulau Tekong. Most memorable of all were the days at the Outward Bound School. Best of all, the time we were made to crawl into a pitch black tunnel only to find ourselves stuck in a human jam, this carried out with the distinct purpose of toughening us up when confronted with a dark and confined space.
Camps can have specific subjects ranging from music, ballet, art, chess or a sport. Many camps such as Ramapo, Pierce and Gate Hill are located outside the city and provide various activities in an authentic outdoor setting. I contemplated one of these camps for next year, and then realized how far they are from the city.
I usually send my children to camp for 4 weeks out of the summer. 2 weeks of Chinese camp which they find so much more fun and engaging than the lessons they take throughout the school year, and 2 weeks at another camp. My daughter has been to a 'camp without a home base' where they met at the sidewalk and spent each day visiting a museum, traveling by subway. This year, my children thoroughly enjoyed their time at Chelsea Piers where I sent them for my interpretation of the Gulag - continual sports from 8.30am to 3pm. They lost weight, had a stronger appetite and were completely exhausted each night. Best of all, the school bus came to pick them up at 7.55am and dropped them off at 5pm. I felt like I was on holiday from the kids each morning.
Because camps average $500 per child per week, I have found it worthwhile at times to use part of that budget to travel and conduct my own "Camp Sharon". This year, I decided that we should be tourists in our city. So I planned my days starting with "academic maintenance", i.e. finishing those workbooks sent home from school and working on weak areas. The motivation for my children was that as soon as they completed their homework, they could start off with the day's outing. Last week, we covered the following:
Monday - Lunch at Chinatown, Flushing...then the New York Hall of Science 3 stops away
Tuesday - The New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, followed by milk shake at the nearby Shake Shack
Wednesday - The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on the Upper West Side where we visited the dinosaurs, watched the Imax movie "Journey to the Stars" and went to the new exhibition about Bioluminescent creatures.
On Thursday, we made a poignant visit to the 9/11 Memorial, had a lovely lunch outdoors at Battery Park overlooking the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty, followed by a trip back to the east side to the Bodies exhibition at South Street Seaport. Along the way, my children were curious about St. Paul's Chapel so we stepped inside, only to learn that George Washington had attended service there on the day of his Inauguration at Wall Street. While there, we saw a postcard about the Anne Frank Center. My daughter was somewhat keen to visit, and we made our way there to its new location at Park Place. We stumbled upon a very interesting exhibition about the life of Anne Frank. We watched a 25 minute documentary narrated by Jeremy Irons about her, and then listened to the iPad apps. It provided rich information about a historical person whom my daughter had been reading about.
On Friday, we went to the new exhibition about healthy eating and sleep at the Children's Museum. There were facts that even I found useful for aging gracefully.
The camp was exhausting but completely enlightening, seen through the eyes of my children. Other impressive trips included the "Lunchtime" exhibition at the New York Public Library where we were introduced to the automat. Older visitors would stop beside us to reminisce about the time that they frequented the automat restaurants, the last of which closed in 1991.
We will end with a finale to the Intrepid to view the space shuttle.
Creating my camp has given me a deeper appreciation of the many camp counselors and planners who work hard to make each day fun, engaging and memorable for their attendees. It was undeniably my proudest achievement this summer.
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