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Planning Your First Home Ed Camp?
by Beverley Paine, Aut 2012
I've planned and organised a few camps in my time, including complex ones that combine parent sessions, conference programs, specialist activities as well as simple bush camping retreats. If you are planning your first camp and want to keep it simple but still fun, engaging and inviting, the best advice is to keep it simple - sometimes it is difficult to keep them small, especially if you advertise them through your local or regional home education networks!
For a first camp I'd say aim for autumn, make it a caravan park that has lots of natural areas and good tent sites (some powered, some unpowered - not many caravan parks seem to cater for tents anymore, so be choosy). Cabins will increase the number of people who will come - some with little children don't like camping and some who have disabilities find it too difficult. Access to hot showers also boosts attendance!
Weekends are good because it allows working partners to attend. Mid-week is great because parks are usually less full... especially during the tourist season.
An extensive playground and trees suitable for clambering over or sitting in the shade under are essential. If the weather is going to be at all warm, water play is a good idea - either a pool, creek, beach, but remember that you can create safe water play areas with sprinklers, plastic sheet water slides, etc if the park allows that.
Children love to play chasey and hide and seek - keep that in mind when choosing a venue. Safety is a big concern, but look for areas that have lots of neat places that encourage fantasy play.
Start each day with a morning circle for everyone. Some people will do yoga, etc before the circle, but if everyone comes together and plays a few circle games that really helps people to meet each other. Plus it gives an opportunity for everyone to have a say in what they'd like to do that day - plan the games and any activities, say if they are going on an excursion (fishing, walking, etc) and invite others along.
If the camp has a communal kitchen, plan to use it for cooking meals. It is so much easier for everyone to prepare their own, but you can pool food for one celebratory meal without too much hassle. Using the camp kitchen brings everyone together. For a short camp I would simply use the BBQs and see how inventive we can all get with recipes and menus!
Quiz nights are hugely popular. They don't have to be elaborate, like the ones local clubs do for fundraising. They can be less 'academic/intellectual' and more physical, role playing, etc. If two families live close to each other they can take on organising this - better if a couple of parents take on this responsibility as it is a reasonably sized task!
If everyone who goes brings an activity to share - and it could be as simple as getting a game of French cricket started - you will have enough to fill every day. Someone could bring a box of books and a rug for a reading nook under a beach umbrella... Networking beforehand allows for brainstorming ideas like this.
I personally like the idea of everyone wearing name labels for the first few days. An early activity could be to make labels and perhaps play a few games so that people begin to recognise who is who. Name labels also help late arrivals feel part of the group faster.
Two to three nights is a great short camp and whets the appetite for more. Longer camps can be exhausting for younger children as well as for large families. Nothing beats spending five days away with like-minded families though - the bonding and friendships that are made at a long camp last years, if not forever.
Feedback from previous camps
We used the following 'rules' for a few of our local camps. This is something you might like to discuss before getting to camp with families who are coming, or perhaps nut out together at a welcome to camp session upon arrival.
It is usual to bring an activity to share with others at the camp. You can set up an activity for all the children or a small group of children, for the adults, or for the whole camp. You can lead the activity by yourself or with others. The activities can be art or craft activities, games, charades or skits, science activities, nature walks, reading... anything you would enjoy doing with friends! If you would like to be reimbursed for material costs please email Beverley with the total amount needed before the camp.
The following list can be extended. It is a good idea to take a whiteboard and put it somewhere everyone will notice and keep it updated with what's happening each day, when and where.
The aim is to be relaxed and flexible and to enjoy ourselves. Camps work best when people take the initiative to interact and join in with what others are doing, or when they invite others to join in with what they've planned.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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