Back in the 20th century, summer camp options usually boiled down to 4-H, church, Scout or YMCA programs, often on a lake in the woods where activities ranged from swimming and hiking to swimming and hiking. Since then, a proliferation of choices has resulted in summer camps for everything from swimming and hiking to math, foreign languages, computers and performing arts.
It's enough to make any reasonable, responsible parent demand do-overs. You can, however, enjoy vicarious do-overs through your own children, by delivering them to the awesome contemporary camp of their choice and living the experience through the enthusiastic reports they bring home. Among the programs you might hope they pick:
What: Circus Arts Camps.
Who: Ages 7-18, subdivided into tighter age clusters.
Why: Are you kidding? The opportunity to learn low-flying trapeze skills, stilt-walking, juggling, acrobatics, pantomime, clowning and other circus skills, leading up to an actual performance for parents and friends, and you have to ask why? "They'll have tons of fun," says Cycropia Aerial Dance veteran and Mazomanie Movement Arts Center director Marcia Miquelon, "and go home each day worn out from all the active learning." Circus arts also develop focus and concentration, balance and self-esteem, while emphasizing teamwork and cooperation.
Taught by veterans of aerial dance, improvisational theater and physical comedy, these one-week day camps aim to instill a sense of physical competence and movement in three dimensions. A two-week advanced camp, for ages 10 and older with prior experience, introduces even more skills and apparatus (aerial improvisation, the rolling globe, the German wheel) and includes a Circus World Museum visit.
When and Where: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, June 14-18 (ages 7-9), June 21-25 (ages 7 and older), June 28-July 2 (ages 9 and older), and July 5-16 (advanced camp for ages 10 and older with prior experience), all at Mazomanie Movement Arts Center; and July 19-23 (teen camp for ages 12 and older), Goodman Community Center.
How: Registration is $200 for one-week Mazomanie camps, $400 for the two-week advanced camp, and $225 for the one-week Goodman Center session.
For more details, phone 608-795-0014, email email@example.com or visit their website.
What: Canoe and Kayak Camp.
Who: Students entering grades 6-8.
Why: "It's a way to get outside and learn some new skills," says Nancy Saulsbury, director of Rutabaga Outdoor Programs. Learning how to maneuver canoes and kayaks "opens up places you might not otherwise get to." Indeed, whatever parts of Madison aren't surrounded by water are still within portaging distance of lakes Mendota, Monona or Wingra, which add up to more than 13,000 acres of surface area and almost 40 shoreline miles to explore. Not to mention all the local rivers and creeks like the Yahara and Starkweather. Plus, the best time to learn good paddling skills is while you're young, before you've developed bad ones that need to be corrected. Among its handful of paddling day camps this summer, Rutabaga Outdoor Programs offers this introduction to both canoeing and kayaking, with games, activities and excursions that aim to teach basic strokes and maneuvers. Kids also learn water and weather safety, best practices for sharing the resource with anglers and larger boats, and responsible behavior in sensitive habitats.
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 19-23.
How: $349 (scholarship applications available), with registration at 608-223-9300; more information at their website.
What: The Total Guitarist.
Who: Guitarists and drummers entering grades 8-12 with at least one year of playing experience.
Why: School of Rock may have been an entertaining movie, but instructive? Not so much. And there's a lot to learn about rock - as well as blues, jazz and classical - guitar. Part of UW-Green Bay's extensive menu of summer arts and science camps, Total Guitarist puts the amp back in camp, bringing young ax-wielders of both the electric and acoustic persuasion together. "This summer we will be adding more of a 'real life' component," notes UW-Green Bay camps and conferences director Mona Christensen, referring to such program elements as how to run rehearsals and how to prepare for gigs and studio sessions. With a curriculum grounded in applied music theory, the syllabus includes everything from recording basics (how to lay down and mix tracks and overdubs) to such stage savvy as how to run a jam, craft and rehearse new songs, and play through professional-grade sound systems. "This year we are adding drummers to the mix," Christensen adds, "so guitarists can work with a rhythm person and bassist to build on some skills they can use when they get back home."
When: June 27-July 1.
Where: UW-Green Bay campus.
How: $495 residential rate includes instruction, room, board, camp T-shirt and transportation to evening activities including concerts and jam sessions. $295 commuter fee includes instruction and T-shirt.
For registration and other details, visit their website, phone 920-465-2775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Young Student Summer Program.
Who: Students in grades 4-6.
Why: The Madison-based Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth is a smart choice among summer-camp options, where gifted students can have fun and learn in a setting among their peers. "Kids get a chance to explore something that they can get excited about," says WCATY president Carole Trone. "It's not at all related to grades. It's all about learning for learning's sake." All YSSP campers pursue a fast-paced, weeklong, small-group program that plays to their scholarly strengths and enthusiasm. Options include biology, chemistry, digital art and photography, physics, journalism, Japanese culture and language, Shakespeare, Greek mythology and space exploration. Each afternoon, all campers have recreation time, where activities include Ultimate Frisbee and Capture the Flag. Daytime courses are augmented by evening workshops ranging from ballroom dance to knitting to spoken-word.
When: Aug. 1-7.
Where: Beloit College.
How: $800 for residential campers and $500 for commuters (some financial aid may be available) includes all books, materials, supplies, lab fees, meals for residential students, and lunch and snacks for commuter students. A nonrefundable $60 application fee is due by the May 8 application deadline. Phone 608-890-3260 or email email@example.com for more information, or visit their website, select "programs" and click on the YSSP link.
Kids critics choice
Presented by Madison Ballet, March 13 (2 & 7:30 pm) & 14 (2 pm), Overture Center's Overture Hall
Madison Ballet revives its lavish production.
St. Patrick's Day Parade
March 14, Capitol Square, 1:30 pm
Whether you're Irish or not, who can pass up a parade?
,i>Presented by Dance Wisconsin, March 21, Waisman Center, 1 & 3 pm
Dance Wisconsin adapts Beatrix Potter tales in this preview performance for the Waisman Center Children's Theatre.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.