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Camp Classics

One parent's desperate attempt to beat the summertime blues

By David Templeton

Monday morning. I drop the kids off at the local Spring Break Day Camp that I almost waited too long to sign them up for, then race over to the coffee place for a quick latte on the way to work. Hovering near the espresso machine are three other parents from my kids' school. They are chatting in hushed voices, looking about as stressed-out as I feel.

"Where are yours this week?" one woman asks, referring, I presume, to my children. We all compare notes: Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Park & Rec, Grandma's House. "What about, um, Summer Vacation?" someone asks nervously. Those two horrible words hang in the air like an unpleasant odor.

Summer Vacation.

That financially precarious, emotionally strenuous, three-month-long annual scheduling problem "We'd better not wait till the last minute," I suggest, trying to sound as if I do not always wait till the last minute. We depart, with those words following me like some aggressively hungry cat. I cannot escape them.

"Fine!" I say to myself during my lunch break. I'll set something up now. Let's see. Maybe something different this year. Perhaps an overnight camp if it's not too expensive. Maybe some special classes sprinkled across a steady diet of activity-filled day camps.

I already know about the YMCA. Five locations throughout the county: Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Occidental, Sebastopol, and Sonoma. Crafts, swimming, sports, field trips. Basic cost: between $200 and $232 per two-week session. I check my little red phone book for the number. There it is, listed under Emergency Services. 545-YMCA. I make a mental note to call them for a brochure. Right under the Y is the number for the Boys & Girl's Clubs, all five branches. I make a quick call to the Petaluma branch (769-5322) to find out if their summer-long drop-in program is still happening. It sure is. Swimming, sports, crafts, field trips, all for an economical $85 for a summer-long pass or $5 per day. The Santa Rosa branch will be offering formal two-week sessions with different themes.

Cool.

So what else is out there? I pull open a drawer to reveal a stack of brochures that I've been collecting. I pick up the big, thick one first. The Excel program at Sonoma State University will be offering some amazing classes during their intellectually stimulating annual summer session. Designed for advanced students in grades 4 to 10, these classes are so intensive they require a note from the student's teacher or proof of involvement in the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program.

"Classes," it reads, "range from airplanes to Shakespeare, microscopes to jewelry, chemistry to clay, researching, performing, and surfing the Net." I leaf through the booklet. Pre-medicine for Kids. Crash and Burn Chemistry. Adventures in Space. Kids Talk Radio Production. My oldest kid would like Check Mate, wherein medieval Europe is experienced through the characters on a chessboard.

Cool.

Most Excel classes are three hours long, Monday through Friday. Each class lasts one week, and there are morning and afternoon sessions. Prices average around $100 per class. I draw a big circle around the phone number (664-2394) and add a giant arrow. I write "Definite Possibility" next to the arrow.

What else have I got?

It takes up only one week's worth of summer, but Petaluma Sings! Children's Chorus is offering a day camp for singers the week of July 29. Under the direction of Melinda Worth, who directs the Petaluma Women's Chorus, this camp will focus on vocal technique, ensemble singing, solo singing, music theory, and music reading. Open to kids ages 7-15, the camp will operate from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will culminate in an informal public concert. After a quick call (778-7961), I learn that a placement appointment is required before the camp begins, to determine the appropriate level for each melodious camper.

What about good old-fashioned run-around-in-the-woods kinds of camps?

The Nature Camp at the Westerbeke Ranch is a series of one and two-week camps that run in succession beginning July 1. I call up Diana Rhoten, camp director (996-4026), and ask her to describe the program in words I could use to sell it to the kids.

"It's more fun than most kids can handle," she laughs. "We have a 'Hike till You Puke' philosophy. Most kids go home exhausted."

"Early bedtimes," I think to myself, moving this brochure to the top of the stack. The camp features nature studies, swimming, hiking, pottery, a ropes course, and one overnighter; ages 5-12 are invited; and the cost is $325 for the two-week session, with discounts for siblings. "It's a real cool camp," Rhoten adds.

I make a note of that.

Now wasn't there some sports camp I got a flyer about? Here it is. The University of Sports Camps is offering a variety of summer day camps, with special emphasis on basketball. Held in various places around the county, the one-week sessions are co-ed, with the exception of the Girls Fundamental Basketball Camp held at Healdsburg High School, and are open to kids in grades 3 through 11. Most sessions run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and cost around $150 a session. Operated by the Cotati-based University of Sports (585-2302), the camps are designed to be intensive, but not too intensive, with an emphasis on teamwork and esteem building. A camper/coach ratio of 8 to 1 looks good, too.

Oops. Lunch is almost over. I'd better decide right now.

But wait. Didn't I hear about some weird summer camp out at the Coast Guard base in Two Rock? Better check that one out, first. And, hey, isn't there an Art Camp at the Rohnert Park Community Center? And baseball, theater, soccer, cooking, and cartoon camps at the Sebastopol Community Center (823-1511)? Maybe we'll do a few of each, but we'll never hit them all.

Anyway. Summer Vacation is still nine whole weeks away. There's plenty of time, right?

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From the April 11-17, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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