Finding summer camps for the kids

Last year, I signed Jase up for a summer camp. It would have been a half day, week-long camp full of science experiments. I say, “would have been” because the camp was canceled two weeks before it was set to go. They did not reach the minimum number of participants.

This summer we signed him up for Lego Star Wars camp. Again, the same thing happened. The Thursday before camp they called to say it was being canceled. They offered other camps as an option, but he wanted a Lego camp.

Luckily, I knew that the Bricks 4 Kidz company was also putting on the same camp at their own location in July. (The first one was scheduled through a church’s summer program.) The only problem was that this camp was the same time as Lexie’s camp.

Now I hadn’t planned to sign Lexie up for a camp at all this summer but when I was going through the church’s brochure on camps, I found the perfect camp for her. Frozen summer fun! Yes, it was a camp filled with activities based off the movie Frozen.  Music, games, crafts and even a snowball fight are planned. She will love it!

I can’t say how the kids are doing in their summer camps as they just started today. But I am excited that they are going to them. Lexie was a little nervous about signing up for camp as she declared she didn’t want to be away from me. However, she has attended both preschool and kindergarten with no problems, so she should be fine.

Last year, I did sign both kids up for some half-day camps offered by the Little Gym where at the time Lexie was taking a combo dance/gymnastics class. Though the camps were designed for kids up to age 8, Jase was often the oldest kid there. He still had a great time, and it was awesome that the kids could do these camps together, but I knew it would only work that one summer.

So today, my husband dropped Lexie off on his way to work. He will also be picking her up at noon. I get the job of taking Jase to his camp, which of course is in the opposite direction. With camps at the same times and in different locations, I would never be able to do this without my husband’s help. Basically, the options were he take one kid to a camp or Jase again misses out on his camp this summer.

I am pretty sure we will look for some half-day camps next year for the kids. We might even consider a full-day camp for Jase if he wants to try one. I don’t know if they – or I – am at all ready for them to stay overnight at a camp. But I can see that coming in the future too.

Teaching the kids to swim

Lexie swimming (one closest to orange cone)

Lexie swimming (one closest to orange cone)

Today, Lexie has her fifth swim lessons. This is her first summer taking swim lessons. She was very excited – and a little nervous – to start them. By the second day, she decided learning to swim wasn’t as fun as she thought it would be.

Every summer, I typically look for swim lessons that fit into our schedule. Many places here seem to offer them the first few weeks of summer break, which is when we are on vacation. Our public parks program offers one near the end of June, but the locations are nowhere near us.

This year I went back to a location we used before when Jase turned 6. They are done through our local school district, which has partnered with Swim Academy to offer these lessons. The goal of the Swim America program is to first off ensure that your child is safe in and around the water. After they have worked on breathing, gliding and floating, they began teaching actual swimming strokes. I think the rate of $75 is reasonable for eight classes. The kids are taught in small groups of about four kids and as the kid progresses in skill, they are moved up to different classes. It is all based on what your child knows and can do.

Originally, only Lexie was going to take swim lessons. Jase was signed up for Star Wars Lego camp during her first week. And then suddenly we got the call that his camp was canceled because they didn’t meet the minimum enrollment. (This happened to him last year for Mad Science camp too. He just has bad luck so far with camps.) Since he was now free of activities, I was able to get him signed up for the same two weeks as Lexie but his class would be the one right after hers.

Jase (middle of pool) getting instructions.

Jase getting instructions.

Really, Jase should be a good swimmer by now, but he isn’t. We started him in once a week swim classes when he was 4. He did that for about 15 months. He loved his classes but never really learned to swim. I don’t think the once a week thing worked. So we did the Swim America lessons when he was 6 and then didn’t follow up the next year with additional classes as they either didn’t have them or couldn’t find the sign up. (Honestly, it is the hardest thing to find the website for signing up for these lessons even if you know they are out there so I don’t know how they get so many people there.)

Quite a few of my friends have said I should put the kids into a swim team, so they can learn to swim. Of course, most of our area swim teams have some sort of test before they let you on the team, and I don’t think my kids would pass it. Plus, I really have no desire to have them on swim team. I want our summers to be relaxing, not spent every morning bright and early at the pool.  (No offense meant to those of you who have kids on swim team or enjoy spending all your time at the pool, but that isn’t for us.)

So we will see how much they will learn in this final week of classes. Lexie has already advanced one skill level, and I expect Jase will too before it is over. Then it is up to us to keep practicing and of course decide if we want to do them next year – if they fit into our vacation schedule.

Having a birthday on a holiday or during school vacation

I never wanted my kids to have a birthday in the summer or during a school break. It makes it hard to have a party when you no longer can easily get in touch with classmates. Plus there is always the chance that people will be on their own vacation during these times.

Even worse is having a birthday on a holiday. Now Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day may not matter but to have one on Christmas (or even the day before or after) has to be hard. No one is coming to a party on Christmas and the holidays are chalked full of activities that sometimes even the days before or after are too hectic. And then there is that dreaded joint birthday/Christmas gift. Instead of getting two toys, you get only one.

At an early age, many kids may not mind having a holiday birthday but as they get older, it matters. The negative of any birthday around Christmas is also that you get all your presents in one swoop. (And for the parents it makes purchases trickier as you don’t know what others are getting them. My friend Patty has had to take items back that she bought for Christmas after her twins had their birthday party two weeks before.)

Fork in slice of birthday cakeLexie’s birthday has always landed on Spring Break as it lands during the second week of March. I have been telling Lexie that the whole school takes off for her birthday. But what this really means is we have her birthday celebration spread out over at least two weeks.

We had her party with friends on March 1. You can’t have it the weekend before or after her birthday as those are part of spring break and many people go out of town or have other plans. To avoid having a low attendance, we started last year having it during the first weekend of March (though we have to schedule it around Jase’s karate tournament that is always that weekend.)

Then there is the celebration in class which we did on the Friday before Spring Break. This is where she wears the birthday crown or ribbon and gets to share treats – cupcakes or donuts – with her classmates at the end of the day. And lastly, we have a family get-together on her actual birthday.

Since her birthday lands on Spring Break, she usually gets to choose what she wants to do that day which means we will go to the museum or the zoo or a bouncy place as part of our day time celebration. That is a lot of celebrating for one little girl.

Jase on the other hand doesn’t get the two week long celebration. His birthday is mid-May. His class party and family celebration are typically done on his birthday. We usually have his party the weekend after his birthday as the weekend before is Mother’s Day. Of course being the great kid that he is, Jase doesn’t mind not having the LONG celebration that Lexie gets.

The only negative from having his birthday in May is that it is the last full month of the school year and many of the kids with summer birthdays tend to have their parties this month rather than dealing with getting people to come to a party on their actual birthday. So around here, May is a hard month to throw a party too.

This is the first in a three-part birthday series. Next week – Waiting for the dreaded RSVPs. 

Planning activities for a busy summer

School officially ended here in San Antonio last Thursday. Now we have eleven weeks of summer vacation to fill with fun activities. I am quite the planner so our days – at least for June and July – are going to be packed. I like to keep the kids busy as it allows me to keep my sanity. If I let them stay home all the time, the bickering would soon start when the novelty of no school wore off.

Free activities

Let’s start with my favorite thing – free activities. There are many free activities you and your kids can do this summer. alexa snorkelingIn our case, we have our neighborhood pool. Though while nothing exciting, we love to go in the morning and have the whole place to ourselves. Of course going in the evening with friends is a blast too.

The library is another great place for free activities. Even though my kids have grown out of story time, they have activities for the older kids that include crafts, and they have a summer reading program where the kids can earn a free book. Our library also usually shows a few movies, brings in a magician and has at least one play from our local children’s theater each summer – all for free.

Several of our local movie theaters offer either free or discounted movies in the summer. While the movies are never new releases, it does offer a chance to get out of the heat. My kids love going to the theater, even if they have already seen the movie. Unfortunately, most of this year’s selections aren’t appealing to the kids, so we may only make it once or twice this summer.

bowling 2I know we have received many flyers from Jase’s school about summer activities and while some of them do cost, we received one for our local AMF bowling alley where registered children receive two free games per day as long as you pay for shoe rentals. All I had to do was sign them up online.

Another activity that is often free is vacation bible school. I know the church where Lexie attended preschool has one that is free, though they do expect you to volunteer at least one day. We have a neighbor who hosts a Backyard Bible Club for kids (Kinder through 5th).  Jase went last year and loved it. We have already signed him up for this summer.

Summer Camps

There is a summer camp out there to cover all interests. Every gymnastics and dance place seems to offer a camp as does other places – the Lego center, Sea World, the Cooking Academy, the Zoo, and the list goes on and on. So whether your child likes science, magic, basketball, playing an instrument or whatever – there is a camp out there for them. Most range from three to six hours a day and run anywhere from one day to all week.

This is the first year Jase and Lexie will attend any camps. Together they are going to camp at The Little Gym.  I bought a 10-day camp pass, and they are going to pop-in to various camps. This will allow them to try out five different themes, including superheros, karate/hip hop and extreme sports. And the best thing is since this camp is for 3-8 year olds is they can go to this camp together.

We are also sending Jase to Mad Science camp for a week in July. He really enjoys science, so we signed him up for a camp called “Moving with Science” where he will build bridges, make his own chalk and more.

Other activities

McKenna Children's Museum

McKenna Children’s Museum

We will also be busy with discounted admissions to local attractions. Over the past two months, I have been buying deals off Groupon – the daily deal website. I have discounted admission to Kiddie Park, McKenna Children’s museum, Monster Golf, Amazing Jump and Pump It Up. All bought with at least a 50% discount.

We also have memberships to the zoo, Sea World and Six Flag so I figure we will hit these – especially the water parks at the latter two.  As you can see, all these activities along with our two quick trips – one to South Padre that we just completed and another to Corpus Christi – we will certainly be active this summer.  And hopefully I will keep the kids so busy that bickering won’t even enter the picture.

Giving the Gift of Time…delaying the start of kindergarten

School starts next week and my seven-year old will be starting the first grade. Yes, you read that correct. He is already seven and no, he did not have to repeat kindergarten. Jase is typically older than most of his classmates because we chose to hold him back a year.

When Jase was born, I just assumed that when your child turns five, they start kindergarten. The first time I heard about holding a child back was when he was two. We had a school counselor speak at the Mom’s Club I belonged to, and she mentioned the possibility of holding back those kids who had summer birthdays. But I didn’t think it applied to Jase as his birthday is in mid-May and I don’t consider that a summer birthday.

Jase has always been a smart boy but reserved. Even around my parents it took him a while to warm up each time we visited them, which was often since they only live twenty minutes away. When he started preschool, he rarely spoke to the teacher or director. It was his preschool teacher who suggested that we hold him back. They offered a class called “A Gift of Time” which was designed for “younger” five-year olds that might need an extra year to mature before going to kindergarten.

I did what I normally do when presented with something I know nothing about – I began full research mode. I scoured the internet looking at the pros and cons of holding your child back. I spoke to friends and neighbors about it and found out that it was quite common here in San Antonio. No one I spoke to that had held their child back had regretted it. There were a few who wished they HAD done that with their child.

But still I hesitated to do it. Sign up for kindergarten is in March, and he could change a lot in the five months before school started. I didn’t want to regret our decision. It was also hard because many people I seemed to believe that at five he should be in kindergarten no matter what. By holding him back, he would be the oldest kid in his class. When I was in kindergarten, I was the youngest. I started when I was 4. My September birthday was past the cut-off date to attend that year but my mom had me tested, and I was able to start early. Yes, academically I was probably ready. But I am not sure that I was socially mature enough. I was a shy child. Most of the time, I didn’t feel like I fit in. Now I am not saying that starting kindergarten early was the sole cause, but I am sure it contributed to it.

Finally, I just decided to do what was right for Jase. There really was nothing to lose by holding him back a year. We would be giving him a year to grow and mature.  And you know what? It has been totally worth it. In that extra year, he blossomed into a confident student. When he entered kindergarten, he was ready for any of the challenges his new school offered. He was a top student in his class. Would this have happened anyway? I don’t think so. If he had started when he was five, I think he would have been very shy and very overwhelmed by his surroundings. He grew a lot in that extra year. And I don’t regret our decision at all.