Anyone who's ever been to camp, join in: "Flea!" (Flea.) "Flea fly!" (Flea fly) "Flea, fly, flow!" (Flea, fly, flow.)
It's the song that makes no sense, yet year after year, summer upon summer, happy campers sit 'round the fire and repeat the infectious refrain. In the name of spirit, humans participate in a lot of seemingly bizarre behavior, and at summer camp it can be one strange task after the next.
The odds of actually being required to tread water for 11 minutes in a full jacket-and-pants getup (anyone else attend Camp Phantom Lake?) or start a fire with two twigs these days are slim. But the skills and camaraderie gained at camp last a lifetime. Wisconsin is a revered destination for its outdoor camps, offering that true overnight-in-a-cabin experience. But camp is more than just bunk beds.
Madison Children's Museum Summer Day Camps
100 State St., Madison
Half-day, Mon.-Thurs. sessions between June 22 and Aug. 27; $70 per session for museum members, $80 for non-members; "Lunch Bunch" supervision (meal not included), $20 per week
Thrill factor: Mellow to adventurous
Innovative, weeklong intensive sessions introduce kids to new experiences ranging from trekking to Madison's cultural destinations (including the UW Space Place and MMoCA) to learning to cook with a behind-the-scenes restaurant tour. "We take advantage of the plentitude of Capitol Square resources to make our sessions unique and appeal to a wide range of kids' interests," says Jennifer Collins of the Madison Children's Museum.
If you have a mini M.C. Escher on your hands, sign her up for "Art & Science Fusion," which "explores the intersections of science and art," experimenting with color and perspective at an elementary level. A little Ansel Adams? "Nature Photography" arms kids with disposable cameras. Or have the kids delve into the world of Greece while donning togas or invent the world's next great thingamajig in "Inventor's Workshop."
Cave of the Mounds Get Out! Mini Camps
2975 Cave of the Mounds Rd., Blue Mounds
Morning and afternoon sessions from June 17 to Aug. 28; $20 per session; "Munch Bunch" meal and supervision, $5 extra
Thrill factor: Adrenalin trickle to adrenalin rush
If there's only one vocabulary word your child learns over summer, let it be "spelunking." The act of exploring caves, spelunking combines the essentials of childhood: poking around, adventure, exhaustive use of gross motor skills, intriguing locales and, of course, rocks.
Cave of the Mounds is an easy, scenic 20-minute drive from the west side of Madison. Instructors guide your "Rock Hound," "Fossil Fanatic," "Cave Critter" or "Eco Artist" throughout this natural playground, all the while teaching about cave formations and geological curiosities.
Kimberly Anderson, education coordinator at Cave of the Mounds, says the camps address the lack of outdoor physical activity in today's young population: "The cave is a natural draw - we don't have technology here! - and it gets kids jazzed up about getting outside."
Anderson suggests parents take advantage of camp time to tour the Driftless Area and visit attractions such as Little Norway and House on the Rock. Or, when camp's over, why not check out the cave yourself with the fresh knowledge of your own miniature tour guide?
Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) Young Eagles and
Air Academy Flight Camps
3000 Poberezny Rd., Oshkosh
Weeklong sessions from June 15 to Aug. 8; $675-$1,075
Thrill factor: White knuckle
"You will, weather permitting, get to ride in an aircraft, and possibly even a helicopter," says Mary McKeown, camp coordinator of the Air Academy Camps in Oshkosh, Wis., the self-proclaimed "Center of the Aviation Universe." For kids who are attracted to adventure, who love high altitudes and who always ask "Can we meet the pilot?" when you fly, this is the ticket.
Age-appropriate instruction covers the fundamentals of aeronautics. Sixth-graders learn to build a balsa glider; high school seniors learn to weld. Everything is hands-on. And with a beautiful, modern lodge overlooking Pioneer Airport, campers are fully immersed in aviation. "These are kids who are possibly looking at careers in this field and have an interest that others don't seem to share," says McKeown. "Here they get involved and make friends who are just as excited about flying as they are."
For the stage-struck
If your wee one is more likely to belt out "I've Got Rhythm" than belt a centerfield triple, then theater camp is a great summertime activity. While Madison plays host to drama day camps at Children's Theater of Madison and MadCAP School of the Arts, Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts presents an out-of-town option for those itching for a sleep-away experience.
Sulie & Pearl Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts
Carthage College, 2001 Alford Park Dr., Kenosha
Three- and six-week sessions from June 21 to Aug. 2; one-week session for 7-10-year-olds
$885-$4,925 depending on session
Children's Theater of Madison Summer Drama School
Fredric March Play Circle, Wisconsin Union Theater, 800 Langdon St., Madison
Two- and three-week sessions from June 22 to Aug. 15; one-week session for 7- to 10-year-olds
$250-$600; "Summer Studio" for 5- to 8-year-olds, $160
MadCAP Summer School of the Arts
MadCAP Studio, 214 N. Henry St., Suite 203
Two-week sessions from June 15 to July 31;
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As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.