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This Summer Camp Starts in Autumn

It may be like this everywhere.  The competition to get the kids into the right summer camp.

Several years ago, Jessica, who works for me at Universal Health Institute, told me that she was signing up for camp at 3 a.m. – yes, in line at 3 a.m. – waiting in line to sign up her boys for T-Ball camp – at 3 a.m.!  Did I say 3 a.m.?  When I asked her why, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “We didn’t get in last year.”

I can only speak for myself when I say I need my Beauty Rest.  In my book, getting up at 3 a.m. to get in any line is a bad beauty habit.  It is also a bad mood habit.  It is also bad for my sanity.  Bad for my
friendships…any relationships, really.  If I get up at 3 a.m. I look like I just got back from a round trip to hell; I act like I just got back from a round trip to hell; my brain is fried; and everyone I know wants me to go to hell.

But what is a mom to do?  What do we do with our kids in the summer if they are not in camp? Signed up for T-Ball or another camp?  My choice was to make my own camp.  I named it Smarty Pants Summer Learning (SPSL for short).  The deal was:  One subject. 21 lessons; 3 ½ hours each lesson.  Learn about something you might only learn as a grad student…or as a student of life.  Subjects like:  Where did language come from?  What is light?  Could there be aliens?  Why and where did religion begin?  What does it mean to be successful?  What is money and why do we have it (and what do we do with it)?  What is a mentor?

One subject:  21 lessons; 3 ½ hours each lesson.  It still is the deal.  I pick the topics.  Each lesson morphs according to their interest.  It is inquiry-driven (by the questions that the girls ask in – yes, class and homework).  It is more fun to answer questions than to try to drag the girls through the keyhole of my lesson plan.

Noooo, I don’t have to do every lesson.  I invite other – older, inspired – kids to help.  High-schoolers and college-kids interested in passing the torch; sharing their faves; helping out the younger generation – and learning, too.  That said, I love doing as much of the planning and execution as I can.  It’s been easy.  EASY.  It’s been fun. FUN.

I do not have to get up at 3 a.m. to stand in any line.  It is good for my sanity.  Good for my relationships. Good for my kids.  Good for the world.

Smarty Pants Summer Learning saved my sanity and enriched my daughters’.  One of the best investments I have ever made; going on year ten.

Planning now for next year’s topic:  Test Interpretation and the Science and Art of Testing.   I know it does not sound very sexy, but it is surprisingly juicy.  The outcome of this SPSL is important.  I want the girls to know where tests come from, who writes them, what the scores mean…not because I want them to do well on tests, but because I want them to be bigger than the tests they take.  I do not want them to run their lives to pass any test…or to feel defined by a score.  I want them to be the judge of their performance with the help of the tests they will take. Most importantly, I want them to write their own. How they craft and answer questions they ask themselves, measure their progress and accomplishments and close the book on any chapter of their lives is all that counts.

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