Friday, July 2, 2010

DIY Camp

**This is a guest post from Sarah!

Before I owned a home or had kids, the only DIY I ever did was take a shower. I was not handy, and I hadn't spent a lot of time around kids. Well, flash forward more years than I care to admit and I've completed many a simple home DIY project: painted countless rooms, tackled landscaping and remodeling, and with the kids, started babysitting coops, helped at preschool and elementary schools, you name it.
Now, I'm about to begin my most exciting DIY project yet -- a parent run summer camp!!

The idea started when a few of us who met at camp two years ago realized we had a few problems scheduling camp this summer. For a couple of us, we just couldn't seem to find anything our kids were getting excited about. More dramatically, three of the main breadwinners in our extended community of campers had lost their jobs and camp was just out of the question. We still wanted to get the kids together, and to solve both problems, decided to set up and run our own camp!

The planning and preparation is relatively easy -- just make sure you tackle all the concerns each parent may have, and set up rules. Also, consult the new ebook
VolunteerSpot has created: Do-It-Yourself Neighborhood Camp

One of the keys to a successful DIY Neighborhood Summer Camp is clearly laying out the responsibilities of all parents, very similar to what you might do with a babysitting coop. Some important points:
Agree on safety rules all will abide by (for example: one-third of American families own guns; there needs to be a safety rule that if guns are in the home, all weapons are locked and secured). How many days will each parent work?  For elementary age kids one adult per five kids is probably a good rule of thumb, plus it works out to one day worked equals four days off! Parents with two kids work one shift for each of them. Younger kids need a higher ratio. 

What is the age range of kids? Toddlers are harder to watch than 12 year olds, think this through and get agreement. 

Are there pools at any of the camp homes? Will the camp pay for a lifeguard? Is there a fence? What about sunscreen and sun safety?

Will the host camp home provide snacks or will parents send them. If the camp provides snacks are there guidelines about what's appropriate or is a junk food free-for-all completely fine since it's summer?
Is video entertainment allowed? Under what circumstances? For me personally, I don't want my kid supposedly going to camp and then watching SpongeBob all morning (or something less savory).
Discipline: What are the discipline guidelines, conflict resolution plans, and ultimate penalties available? This is a critical point for every to agree to. 

Agreeing to ground rules ahead of time is important because it will prevent conflict later. It also prevents any one parent from feeling overly scrutinized -- these rules apply to everyone, and once they are in place, everyone can feel comfortable knowing that supervision and programming will meet their expectations. Then comes the fun part -- planning the activities and setting the schedule.

If camp is batched in two week increments, it can rotate through all ten houses so each family gets an equal dose of chaos. If some families just can't host, there has to be a trade-off to make up to whoever hosts twice. (e.g. A working parent may pay a stay-at-home parent in exchange for hosting an extra day.) And finally, set up the activity plan so everyone knows what happening and figure out the supplies needed to run the activities. A budget should be set up for supplies (agreed on by the members -- there's nothing worse than one person thinking that a hundred dollars is a reasonable budget when most feel like $10 is more than enough.)

Before camp begins, have an orientation meeting with all campers and parents present. This gives everyone a chance for introductions and reassures the kids that all the parents know the other parents and kids. You can let them know all the fun they'll be having, and a little bit about the discipline plan and camp rules. (Having the kids know that there are rules and consequences can prevent a lot of "rule testing" misbehavior during camp itself).

Finally, the genius part is you can easily set up the entire calendar of workdays, locations, supplies in VolunteerSpot, providing easy reminders to each worker and a good place for all participants to keep track of everything that's happening. 

So get ready to get out there and have some real fun this summer -- for you and your kids - start your own camp and let everyone - adults and kids -- make some great new memories this summer.

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