Summer camp provides us the wonderful opportunity to allow our children to develop and pursue their passions. During the school year, so much of their time is spent on structured activities, reinforcing school work or concepts, perfecting that pitch, practicing the flute, and pursuing our dreams for the them. Allowing our children the freedom to choose what they would like to do in the summer, is a gift we often forget to give them.
Some children choose to do nothing—to stay at home and enjoy unstructured time, go on play dates, visit grandma and attend the occasional movie or baseball game. Others use this time to attend speciality camps, to hone their talents and passions without the restraints of school work. I’ve seen kids create artistic masterpieces, master chess and even build websites or learn how to code over the summer.
Research tells us that Jewish summer camp is one of the largest influences in building a positive Jewish identity. There are a variety of excellent Jewish summer camps, locally and a little further away. They allow kids to soak in their Jewish culture, learn new Hebrew songs, eat traditional Jewish food, and most importantly, develop life-long friendships. Although exciting for some, sleep away camp is not for everyone. Orange County is blessed with a variety of excellent Jewish day camps and with a little bit of research, you are sure to find the right one for your children.
Whatever you choose to do in the summer, I encourage you to give your children some choices. Let them follow their dreams, pursue their passions and learn that there is more to an education than school!
Sue Penn is a mother of three, Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.