Camp Brainiac in Des Moines
I’m a working parent and planning for summer care is one of the most stressful spring time activities I’ve experienced.
Once my kids finished 2nd grade, I opted out of summer long day care programs and jumped into the world of summer sitters and day camps. The former option was a simpler time – just sign up and be done. I opted out because I wanted to give my kids a little more variety in their summer, a little more flexibility to their day, and an opportunity to explore more interests. Ever since, the search for summer sitters and day camps has made me feel a bit like a contestant on the Amazing Race where my sole challenge is to figure out my children’s whole summer before April 30.
Right around spring break is when area organizations release their summer day camps schedules and anxiety sets in. Next comes the frantic research to find the available options that might interest my child and the endless comparison of pricing, camp hours, work and vacation schedules. My kitchen table becomes a matrix of the various camps overlaid with my children’s summer sports activities, transportation logistics, and an array of applicants interested in being our summer sitter – most of whom want as many hours as possible before returning to school.
If this weren’t enough, statistics show that kids also benefit from a solid summer routine to avoid the ‘summer backslide’ so I try and work that into the mix too. I love our teachers so I don’t want to spoil 9 months worth of their hard work teaching my children for it to be lost over the summer. I also don’t want to spend extra hours around the kitchen table reviewing what they learned last year on top of what they are learning in the new year. Homework time with my kids is already chaotic and stressful for both me and my children so I’m all for getting in some review over the summer.
Since my time with my kids over the summer is limited to evenings and any vacation time we take, I’ve tried to sneak in a few things educational things to help reinforce their learning even though the last thing my kids want to do is study or read.
- Have them research something about your vacation or an activity you have planned and tell you what they found.
- Ask them to do 1 or 2 mental math problems before they can have dessert or a treat.
- My kids love playing restaurant critic while eating dinner. I have them write their reviews and give a recommendation. (I rarely achieve a 5-star rating)
- Read aloud. I can’t get my kids to sit and read on their own without me sitting on them so we started a 10-page book club. Ten pages a night before TV or electronics. I read or we take turns reading.
- Math lessons happen when I give my an allowance and have them bring their own money on errands. It’s not only cut down on the “Can I have…” nagging at stores because I can remind them they have their own money. They gain compare prices, add to see what they can buy more than one thing and they learning about saving, needs and wants. “You shared with me that you really want a hover board, so do you really need that stuffed toy from Walgreens?”
- Hang out in the library. I love going there and when I take them with me, I can at least pretend that they are learning just by being in the presence of books.
All this can sound relatively easy but combined with all the other responsibilities that come with adulting – the cooking, cleaning, bills, pet care, and if I’m lucky, maybe 30 minutes of quality time with my spouse before we both fall asleep on the couch, I can assure you, it’s not easy. But, every morning, I wake up and start my day all over again with the best intentions for my children.
Or, I wake up and start something I couldn’t find that is both educational and fun – an academic summer day camp for K-5 students. It’s called Camp Brainiac and I have partnered with talented and enthusiastic Iowa licensed teachers who will do a much better job at helping me help my kids avoid the summer backslide while also making it fun. If you can relate to my experience and still have time to fill in your child’s summer schedule, please visit www.campbrainiac.com to learn more. You can also find Camp Brainiac on Facebook.
Note: Summer Day Camps are eligible for FSA Dependent Care reimbursement.
About the Author
Andrea Hansen is a local mom to active fun-loving 4th grade twin boys, two rescue dogs. She and her spouse have been co-piloting parenthood for nearly 11 years. She’s the creative one. He’s the calm one. Andrea has spent her career fundraising for non-profits but she also has creative entrepreneurial tendencies which lead to projects like Camp Brainiac.