Monday, July 3, 2017

School vs. camp: camp wins!

For most of his school life, Max has taken part in the Extended School Year (ESY) program, which starts after July 4th and goes through mid-August. Not this summer. For the first time, we skipped school and let him go to camp. A bunch of them, actually. 

Did I have some should-we-be-doing-this pangs? Yep. 

Did the fact that you're only a kid/teen once win out? Oh, yeah. 

For the past seven years, Max has traditionally gone for just one week of camp to the amazing Elks Camp Moore, for kids and teens with disabilities sponsored by their local Elks Lodge. Every camper has a one-on-one counselor. There are activities galore: swimming, arts and crafts, a magic show, dance parties, roasting marshmallows and other camp awesomeness. 

Last summer, we pulled Max out of school so he could attend a Camp Ramah inclusionary program, Tikvah. He was only supposed to go for two weeks, but he begged to stay for a third and we let him. 

Max has thrived in camp. His independence has surged. He's made friends. He's charmed the ladies. He's tried new activities. He discovered that he loves being in shows; last summer at Camp Ramah, they literally could not get him off stage. At Camp Moore last week, Max raised his hand every single time the magician asked for a volunteer. 

Max begged to go to the full Camp Ramah program this year, four weeks long. And we went for it, even though the high school Max is attending recommended ESY. We don't think he'll suffer from any major educational regression. I asked his eighth-grade teacher to put together a binder of worksheets, which she kindly did, and the camp director is cool with him doing one daily. He can also do IXL, the homework practice site he loves. We'll see how it goes.  

Max is also spending a week at Double H Ranch, one of Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall camps for youth with critical illnesses and neuromuscular disabilities including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida. Rounding out his camp extravaganza, he'll be doing a week of day camp through the Friendship Circle. We're grateful to have all of these camps in his life; it hasn't always been easy to find options for him. I once toured a camp that followed the ESY program, except it wasn't a good fit for Max. 

Sabrina will also be in camp for a chunk of the summer, and with only Ben at home, it'll kinda-sorta be like a staycation, other than the fact that Ben hits the ground running at 5:30 a.m., pausing only for meals, an hour nap in the afternoons and to stoop to observe the occasional ant crawling around our kitchen. 

Max has been counting down the days, and reminding me of the essentials he needs to take to camp: a tub of chive cream cheese (he's obsessed with it), avocados, a canister of whipped cream and his trusty Fireman Max hat. We're excited for him. He works so hard during the school year; he deserves time off. Dave and I want him to have the same great memories we do of time spent at camp. 

Max's life may be unlike his peers' in various ways, but he has the same quintessential right to good old summer fun. 

Camp, camp and more camp, here he comes! 

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  1. Good choice.

    Our ESY is 1/2 days for 3 weeks. When Luke went the first time with the middle school group he learned some behaviors that took over a year to eliminate. Since then he only does the day camp for kids with developmental disabilities. They do lots of fun things. They also work on things like independence, how to be a friend, helping each other, etc. I need to look into some week-long overnight camps.

    1. I am sorry about that first experience, and so glad he's found a good day camp! Highly recommend a week-long camp. I'll never forget how Max sobbed when we first left him at one and how anxious I was. He had the time of his life, here's the post I wrote:

  2. So happy Max will be at Camp Ramah - our daughter went there her whole life and my husband and I both went there. I know you have met many of our wonderful friends there.

    1. You have to message me and tell me who we might have in common! I was a counselor at both Nyack and Berkshires.

  3. Love this! I've totally been wanting to get my daughter into some camps for next summer!



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