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We live in in the Raleigh – Durham area of North Carolina where public school offers parents a choice of what calendar they would like for their children. Yes, you read that correctly. When we registered my son for kindergarten all those years ago, we could choose a traditional calendar or what is called year round. Within the year round calendar, are 4 variations or tracks so children are consistently streaming in and out of school. Children on a year round calendar are in school for 9 weeks and tracked out of 3 weeks. Some children have almost 5 weeks off in between grades and some have 1 week.
Enter the concept of trackout camp. Think of it as year round summer camp. Trackout camp is a life saver for parents of children in year round schools.
Are you familiar with the phrase, “there’s an app for that”? That would apply to trackout camps in the triangle area!
There are multi-sports camps, dance camps, tumbling camps, gymnastic camps, hockey camps, soccer camps, bmx camps, rollerskating camps, tennis camps, art camps, martial arts camps, theater camps, museum camps, science camps and probably a host of camps I haven’t even heard of yet! All of these options are within a 30 minute drive from our house.
Camp is a time to speak to your child’s interests and talents. Let them explore topics that they do not normally get to explore in school.
Now that we homeschool, I have been keeping my ears open for opportunities that we would have not normally been able to take advantage of while the kids were in public school. While I was on Google+ I noticed a post from a local lady. She said that her friend has opened a science camp and is looking for campers with Moms that would be willing to review the camp. I didn’t immediately think of ourselves for the project. I clicked through only because the owner (Arron Rothrock) was a friend of the gal posting. I know enough bloggers in the area, that I thought if the camp met some basic requirements I would send the opportunity along. When I clicked on the website link, I was almost immediately impressed with CraZbrain. First of all, cleaver and catchy name! The second thing that caught my attention was the fact that Aaron runs the Summer Quest Camps at Cary Academy. By the time I clicked over to the list of camps, I wanted to attend!
I showed my pre-teen 4th grader the CrazBrain website to see if he had any interest to go and what camp would he like to attend. His enthusiasm was unlike what we see on a daily basis and we knew he was hooked. 007 Spy Camp and Remote Control Car Challenge was the camp of choice. It pained my husband that there was nothing like this for him when he was younger and that he was going to miss out on this experience as well. For our review, I thought it would be fun to record what his thoughts were after each day and ask him a high and low.
007 Spy Camp: Tested the 5 senses
RC Car Challenge: Navigating course challenge
High: Learning how to navigate the course.
Low: Learning about the 5 senses. Not convinced that the 5 senses had to do with spy work. We remedied this opinion at home by asking him to close his eyes and touch salt and sugar. Determine which was sugar and place a pinch on his tongue. Sometimes being a parent is really fun.
While I was waiting to enter the building, I met another Mom. Her son was returning for the second week in a row because he loved the first week so much, he just HAD to come back. That was a perfect lead in to starting our week. Aaron was super energetic and friendly. He got down on the kids eye level and welcomed everyone. Instructed the kids on what to do while everyone was arriving and made sure all the Moms had their questions answered. My favorite part of the day was following what the kids were doing on Instagram.
007 Spy Camp: DIY Popsicle stick / tongue depressor weapons
RC Car Challenge: Modify your car to pop a balloon
High: Making weapons during spy camp.
Low: No low
This was the day I knew we had nailed it, in choosing this camp for my son. Not only is making his own weapons (pretend weapons, pretend!) something that he has never been allowed to do at a camp before, he loved working within the parameters of the challenge. For the weapon challenge, you would not sharpen any of the sticks. You could only use popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, a glue gun, rubber bands, straws, pencil top erasers and marshmallows. THEN they were ASKED to create something to pop balloons with. Kid heaven I tell you. Tucker couldn’t wait to go back for the next day.
007 Spy Camp: Continued to refine weapons for Spy Course. Objective was for 2 people to be shooting NERF darts at 2 Spys running the course with the homemade weapons.
RC Car Challenge: Pop other team’s balloon
High: Running spy course against NERF darts.
Low: No low
Tucker was so excited about his weapon, he had taken it home the night before. He brought it back in to finish up his design and test it in the target practice area before the big spy course challenge. The kids even made quivers for their arrows. He learned how to notch the end of his arrow out so that it wouldn’t get stuck on the rubber bands. I was impressed by the length of time that the kids worked on this project. I had popped in to take pictures that morning and was also impressed by how Aaron handled a bunch of kids, “shooting arrows” in one area and using scissors and hot glue guns in another. He never seemed overwhelmed and he actually knew what each kid was up to at each moment. I was impressed for sure!
007 Spy Camp: Find the invisible handprint and Clue Game using invisible ink, sticky notes and a black light
RC Car Challenge: Pop the balloon day 2
High: Find the invisible handprint
Low: No low
The excitement and interest in camp was still going strong. I don’t really understand how they played the games that they did. Every time I asked for an explanation of the games, my son was so hurried and filled with excitement that I really could just not follow it. I sum it up as playing with invisible ink, black lights and a bunch of kids you have bonded with over the last few days is REALLY fun. That makes for one happy Mamma.
007 Spy Camp: Steal the candy protected by a laser / laser course challenge
RC Car Challenge: Get ball off cone and into frisbee
High: Laser challenges
Low: It was the last day and when he had to leave
My overall opinion of this camp is that if you have a child, and you live in the Triangle you should try out CrazBrain camp. For us, it allowed our son to get away and hangout with kids that liked to do similar things. Tinker, build, think and build more stuff. There are several education benefits to attending a camp like this. There was no sitting and learning facts. It looked like the kids barely sat and the chairs were always stacked for a course and tables were knocked on their sides. Moving around furniture to make courses in a giant room is high fun for kids. Instead of having someone that looked exhausted at the end of the day, Aaron was still going strong and was enthusiastic about how their brains stretched, how their creativity was challenged and how quickly these kids seem to make friends with each other.
When choosing a trackout camp, we look for a few key factors.
1. The camp is recommended.
This probably sounds obvious. If you do not personally know someone that has sent their child, ask on social media. It’s called crowdsourcing and it is so very helpful!
2. Visit or talk to the person in charge on the phone.
Now that everything can be done online, we forget that sometimes we don’t actually speak to anyone before leaving our child in their charge for 8 hours a day.
3. When you drop off and pick up your child, take note of how the kids are acting and what the counselors are doing.
I am looking for how they greet you. Does the person in charge look you in the eye? Greet you and your child kindly? Do they make an effort to learn the child’s name? Do they mention a specific detail about the child’s day to let you know they engaged with your child? Does your child make an effort to say goodbye or do they just get up and gather their belongings without making eye contact?
4. Simply ask our child how their day was.
I know, that one can get tricky. “What did you do today?” Can be an overwhelming question. Ask you child what was the first thing they did? What about after lunch? What were they doing right before pick-up? That will guide your child to a specific time of day and you can hopefully avoid the “nothing” answer.