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.
This post will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage. 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. There is no question I completely enjoyed my break from the kids. But my biggest discovery this past weekend was that it was the kids, perhaps, who needed a break even more.
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.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.