Storyteller just finished her first ever week at day camp. She was at the Springs Preserve for their Out West themed camp. The Springs Preserve is a nature center that specializes in sustainable desert living. She was gone for seven hours for five days. It was kind of like how it would be if she went to a regular school. It was a very busy week and she was absolutely beat at the end of each day. I could tell at some points that it was also a bit confusing and maybe even stressful. This was a completely new experience for her.
The minimum age for the camp is 6 so she was one of the youngest. However, other 6 year olds just completed their kindergarten year and most likely did it in a regular school. Storyteller did two years in play-based preschools but this was a whole new world. She was introduced to many school routines that kids at this age have spent the last year learning. These are routines that adults automatically assume kids understand. Most days she came back with an example of something that happened that she just didn’t understand. She caught on quickly but I can image it was a bit of a learning experience. I wish I could have been there to see her reactions to some of these routines.
She learned to form a line during her last year of preschool when the kids lined up to walk out the door at dismissal. It was a way to direct the kids based on who was staying for lunch and who was going home. The line never lasted once the kids walked out the door. There were only 12 kids in the class so it actually wasn’t much of a line. Well, a year passed and now this week she learned to not only form a single line but also to walk a long distance in that line without talking. I really wish I could truly describe how she told me about it as it was just hilarious!
Storyteller said, “They did this thing where they made all the kids stand in a line. A teacher was at the front. We had to walk in a line. Why do they do that?”
I replied, “That’s how kids walk when they’re in school. It is supposed to help keep them in order and quiet so they’re not running all over when moving from place to place.”
Storyteller, “Well, I know how to walk nicely. Why can’t we just walk like normal people?” She said it like this was the dumbest thing she had ever seen…complete with an exaggerated sigh and an eye roll! We’ve been to many places with a large group of kids and she always walks around with her friends usually holding hands. She couldn’t understand why this outing was any different. In her eyes, these people didn’t know how to walk like normal people.
One day at pickup time, the kids were in a circle with a teacher leading some sort of game. About half of the kids were sitting while the ones standing seemed to be posing like different cacti. Storyteller was one of the kids sitting on the floor. Twice she stood up to ask the teacher a question but before she could say much the teacher told her to sit down. She saw me soon after the second time and ran over. I told her that she could go back and finish the game. She explained that she didn’t understand how to play it. She said, “I keep trying to ask the teacher why I need to sit down but she won’t let me ask my question. She keeps telling me to sit down. I think I’m out but I don’t know.” I told her she could go back and maybe if she waits a bit longer we can figure out the game together. She said, “It’s no fun just sitting there. Let’s go home.” She wasn’t upset. She was just confused and ready to shrug it off and be done with the game.
That night she said that sometimes she doesn’t understand what is happening. We reminded her that she can always ask a teacher for help but her experience with the game showed that a teacher may not be able to help her in the moment which is completely fine. I explained that sometimes teachers are busy with someone or something else but they’ll help as soon as they can. She insisted that none of the teachers ever helped her when she asked a question. I can’t imagine that a teacher or camp counselor would repeatedly ignore a student so I think she took that one instance during that game and blew it up to make it seem like it happened all day. She said she still had a lot of fun but that some of it was just confusing.
Each day of camp left her exhausted but once she caught a second (or third) wind at night, she went on and on about all the things she had learned. We were very impressed with all the stories and facts she told us. After the third day, she asked what we were doing the next day. I explained that camp was five days long so she has two more days. She was disappointed. She said it was boring to do the same thing every day. I asked if they did the same activities each day and she said it was always different but that because it was camp it was still the same. She was hoping to go to camp one day and somewhere different the next day and back and forth. That’s about how our schedule normally goes. We do our school work (which for kindergarten really doesn’t take long) and then we’re usually out the door to various activities and errands. This was her first experience going to the same place every day for a week and it was even all day long.
I think she was both relieved and sad when the week ended. She was excited to move onto something completely new but sad to say good-bye to a few of the kids. The Springs Preserve offers themed weekly camps all summer and she wanted to sign up for two. She still wants to go to the other one which is towards the end of the summer. I’ll take that as a good sign that she had fun even if some aspects were a bit scary for her. I think the rigid schedules for food and bathroom breaks, trying to get the attention of busy teachers and needing to follow instructions she deems silly (like walking in a line) were good experiences for her to have without me being there to help her along. I’m hoping her time at the camp will help her appreciate some of the freedoms she has being homeschooled. Without me there to help all day, I think it will also further build her independence.