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The Freedom of Being a Kid

Camp lets ’em play like Tom Sawyer or ­Preston Hartge

With Kid Summer beginning June 8, now’s getting to be the time to figure out what the kids will do without the routine of school. Just in time comes our Last-Minute Camp Guide, laying out lots and lots of ways your kids can have more fun this summer than is likely on your agenda. I read about these camps with such desire that I’d almost be a kid again to get to go to camp. Except that for kids, most everybody is the boss of you, while we grown-ups are free — or so it appears to them.
    That’s why I suggest you give the kids some autonomy. Read our Last-Minute Camp Guide as a family, and invite the kids to highlight their favorites. Use fluorescent highlighters, one color per kid, to add glam.
    We both know my suggestion could be leading you to tears and tantrums, should the camp of their choice be too expensive, too far away or too well subscribed. (For plainly I remember that when I was camp age, both my parents together were no match for my determination.) Perhaps they’ll believe you if you give them the even-greater freedom of three choices, then quietly let practicality have its say.
    The summer slump is greatly feared, less kids lose all their school learning. Camp adds first-person experience to schoolroom learning, making it stick like glue. As paleontologists, kids handle the remains of prehistoric monsters. As Norsemen and women, they learn to map voyages across great seas. As colonists, they walk back into Maryland history. As engineers, they build rope bridges.
    Plus, camp lets kids take fun seriously. It’s the time to fly on zip-lines, glide on ice skates, ride on horses, muck in streams, live in yurts, act out other people’s lives, play music like pros in a club, enter the Mud Olympics.
    There’s this advantage, too. All the energy the kids expend and the new things they learn may distract them from every kid’s greatest interest in life: getting over on you, by wit or persistence.
    Maybe they’ll even find their future at camp.
    In the good old Tom Sawyer days when kids and dogs got to roam free, life in towns and villages meant there was work to be done and fun to be had.
    “There wasn’t much down here in the 1950s and ’60s,” tugboat captain Preston Hartge says of Galesville in this week’s feature story. “So we all grew up in the yacht yard and sailing, racing, crabbing and fishing. We were all a bunch of water rats creating our own entertainment.”
    Life was camp back then, and in that environment Hartge found both his life’s work and his way back home to Galesville.
    “Do what you love, make it your work, and you’ll make a decent living loving every day,” his grandfather told him.
    Camp helps your kids spend summer finding what they love.
    The adventure can cost a bit, more than a bit or nothing at all. That latter is the price of all-summer-long day programs at all four Calvert libraries, where your kids and you, too, will find plenty to love.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
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