June is here! After several long months of working overtime as homeschool teachers — and not by choice — the notion of now needing to create camp has been (and maybe still is) overwhelming for so many parents (Kveller staff included!).
But as a community that’s created by and for parents, we are here to help. We started Camp Kveller with the aim to help you navigate an unprecedented pandemic summer filled with so many unknowns. So far, our live, weekly chats on Kveller’s Facebook page have covered how to break the news to your kids that their camp is canceled, and how to decide what to do if your kid’s camp is, in fact, aiming to open this summer.
This week, we did a deep dive into what virtual camp — an option that so many Jewish camps are exploring this summer — will actually look like. While there are still some unknowns, our guests — Adam Weinstein of Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp; Elyssa Gaffin of Sprout Brooklyn Day Camp; and Laura Hyman of Genesis at Brandeis University — candidly shared how they are currently navigating this new space. Click here to watch the conversation and learn from these experts first-hand, and read on for the top five takeaways, below.
1. Do your homework
Sorry, parents — homework isn’t just for school, and it’s not just for kids. While your kids may have spent much of the school year anticipating camp, online camp is, unfortunately, a different ball game. Depending on your kids’ ages and interests, you may want to switch up your original plan — virtual sports camp, for example, may not cut it for your baseball-loving kid. Some camps offer one-off courses or single days, while others offer lengthier, more comprehensive experiences.
2. Empower your child
While parents need to do their research (see above!), be sure to involve your child in the decision-making process. Some parents have expressed apprehension about forcing their children to attend online camp — one should never have to commit this act! By including your kids in the process — from choosing programs to choosing options within a program — you are giving them a stake in their summer plans. Empowering your children is totally a camp value, and it will also ensure that they will be excited about their virtual camp experience.
3. Don’t feel stuck
You may follow steps one and two and, yes, it may not work out. Fear not! This is another opportunity to explore one of two camp values: perseverance and flexibility. Depending on the situation, it might make sense to encourage your child to stick out a program — after all, camp is often about exploring areas outside of one’s comfort zone. If that’s not the case, however, and this just is not working, then you can always try out something new. The plus side to virtual camp is that tuition is significantly lower than the standard pricing, and it’s easy to register and “transport” your child to a new virtual setting.
4. Change your expectations
You don’t need to lower your expectations of camp, but you will need to shift them. While you cannot create a Shabbat experience online that does justice to the in-person camp experience, there are alternatives. For example, the Genesis program shared on our Camp Kveller webinar this week that they will be sending havdalah candle kits to their campers, in order to add a hands-on element to a at-home and virtual havdalah program. Camp educators are doing their best to think outside of the box and in the cloud. (Pun intended!)
5. Embrace the silver linings
While some elements of the camp experience simply will not take place this summer, there are some upsides to programs going virtual! For starters, it’s easy to mix-and-match programs in order to accommodate your child’s interests and your family’s schedule. Also, you can attend any camp anywhere in the world! Camps, too, can bring in experts from across the globe, as they are all very much so available to Zoom in. And perhaps best of all? All of these perks come with a much cheaper price tag than the typical summer camp experience.
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