Today, at least here in Ontario, is the last day of school for elementary students. The children, of course and for the most part are happy. The parents, who now must come up with some manner of having their children supervised over the summer, perhaps not so much so.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that we had to make arrangements for our own children over the summer months. We lived out in the country, and fortunately, there was a young lady who lived next door to us, who came over each day. There weren’t the options available to parents then that there are now for keeping them busy, nor was there an emphasis on structured activities like there is today.
There was Vacation Bible School, of course, and that was free. But it was only one week, leaving seven more to fill. Our children pretty much were expected to play outside when the weather was good, to make their own fun—it was the age before computers, and cable television with their all day cartoon network, so making their own fun was really my kids’ only option.
I don’t recall that there were many complaints of boredom from them, but that could have been because they knew I’d find them work to do if they did complain.
These days there are, of course, all sorts of “day camp” options available for the children to attend. Some are run by organizations like the YMCA, and some by the Parks and Recreation department of the local communities. Most of the programs hire teenagers to interact with the children, while being organized and supervised by adults.
Yes, the day camps are a glorified babysitting program, but they usually feature activities to keep the children’s minds and bodies occupied. Kids attending these programs go on outings to parks and zoos, to museums and observatories, and to conservation areas where they can swim. There’re arts and crafts and games. They make friends and have fun.
There are also all sorts of specialized camps. Rock climbing camps, canoeing camps, even pottery camps can be found in our area. My granddaughter’s favorite specialty camp is Horse Camp. There the children enjoy all of the above activities, with the added fun of learning how to ride and care for horses. She’s attended every year for the last five years. It’s her favorite two weeks of the year.
All of the programs offered are expensive, but then so is hiring a babysitter in this day and age. I don’t know how parents manage. Some don’t, I suppose. There are children left to their own devices during the day while their parents work. For those who can’t afford to have their children supervised, and those who can but struggle to pay for it, I imagine the idea of year-round school is an attractive concept.
My two youngest grandchildren will have a couple of weeks with mom, while she takes her vacation from work, but the rest of the time they’ll attend various camps. No sleeping in for them, either, as their day camps usually start around eight in the morning, run until four-thirty or five in the afternoon, and take place Monday to Friday.
The children still have to have a lunch packed, the same as during the school year. And some of the camps are even held at the school, utilizing the gymnasium and cafeteria space.
I kind of feel sorry for those children who attend camp at their schools. It must feel as if they never get away from the dreaded place.
In general, when I look at the lives my grandchildren lead—the homework and projects they have to do, the extra activities they’re expected to engage in, and the busyness that is their lives, I can’t help but shake my head in wonder.
Being a kid sure seems to be a lot more work than I remember it being.