Radios. They’re so commonplace, it’s easy to forget what a fascinating invention they really are. Just think, millions of waves and signals zipping through the air to a metal stick, where they slide down and slip through a tiny translator that transforms them into words and sounds we can actually understand.
Radio is a Latin word that means, “I shine,” or, more specifically, “I shine a beam of light.” When I began rolling those images around in my mind, it didn’t take long to realize that Radio was just the right word for our camp.
While Camp Radio has only been its name for a year, our homespun collection of kids and memories began about four years ago in the beautiful backyard of two brothers, whose parents were part of a small group of families in need of some part-time, easy-going, manageable but fun and familiar, childcare for the summer. The eight kids (six, plus my two daughters) and their parents all knew me well from our time together at First Baptist Day School (FBDS), where the kids had, at one point or another, been in one of my preschool or post-K classes.
As we came to that sad summer when all the children, including mine, had aged out of a program we all adored, the parents approached me, asking if I might be willing to take the summer off from FBDS, and “put something together” for their kids for those eight weeks. A set of parents even offered up their home as the location. I was reluctant at first, knowing that every day in a creatively energized day-school for 7-year-olds is like an indoor birthday party all day-every day, and could (or probably would) bring a torrent of stains and breakages. But the parents persisted, good-naturedly assuring me that they knew what they were getting into.
After that, it was nothing but yes
Yes was all I ever wanted to say, as this was no ordinary group of kids. Those that love to teach can tell you what a thrill it is to walk with those who love to learn. The eight we began with are, to this day, some of my favorite people ever. All but one (who moved) still come to Camp Radio, now with younger siblings and friends.
Every summer, parents from the group volunteer their homes for camp locations. I think having our camp rotate homes throughout the summer brings a unique sense of belonging and familiarity. A sense of, well, home. Instead of going to a classroom or campground or community center every day, they’re going to their friends’ houses, or having their friends over.
So what do we do for six hours each day?
Well, we stay busy, but not too busy. It is summertime after all, and what the kids really want is to play with their friends all day. So the schedule is carefully strategized to include a good spread of both well-timed free play, and organized games. The games vary from good, old-fashioned, sweaty outdoor escapades, like Capture the Flag, to quiet, careful indoor rounds, like Hide the Thimble. The kids feel like they’re playing all day (and they are), but I’m not sure they realize they’re actually learning about 90 percent of the day, too.
Aside from the myriad of social lessons learned from organized games, we play memory-challenge games (we call them Brain Games), read aloud, and discuss the story.
We also have Explorations each week, usually based on the kids’ interests. This past summer, for example, I sent each camper a questionnaire, asking (among other things) where they were visiting for summer vacation. Once I heard back, I collected information, and built little projects based on their destinations. One of my favorites was the week we studied the printing and history of U.S. currency, since a few kids had plans to visit our country’s Money Factory, the U.S. Mint. It was unbelievably interesting (and so much easier to prepare for than you would think).
The kids loved exploring various bills with magnifying glasses, watching Youtube videos on the artists who engrave the printing plates, and flipping through the pages of children’s books on the subject. And, as kids often do when inspired by something new, they wound up using their free-play time extending the exploration, creating detailed bills, and a bank of their own!
We captured the joy of learning
Weeks of mountains, caves, bears, cowboys, Native Americans — we all learned so much last summer, yet it never felt like school. It felt like what we wish school felt like — hands-on, interest-led, pressure-free learning. A school year is necessarily rigorous, but the world is still a fascinating place and summer is the perfect time to explore.
We have the time to read classic books, build volcanoes, carry on long discussions about poems. We can pour over maps and admire their allure, look inside flowers and paint their pieces — all for the sheer joy of it. Camp Radio is a place to soak in the waves of information, and show something, make something, tell something about our world.
Our camp has grown this past year, but there’s still a little space here and there if your school-age youngster needs a place to shine this summer. We meet all summer in the Midtown area, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday most weeks, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost is $100 per child per week, and covers all supplies.
Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in checking the availability of the weeks you need. Or, if you’re feeling inspired, get together with a few families and start your own neighborhood camp, I’m happy to help you on your way. — Contact me, Becky Forrester at firstname.lastname@example.org
— Passionate about community, education, and children, Becky homeschools her three children during the school year and builds camp weeks for spring, summer, and winter breaks.