This week is the beginning of M's latest track-out. For those neophytes that know little about year-round schools, a track-out is a short, three-four week break that happens every two months. It takes place of the traditional 10 week summer vacation many of us are so familiar with.
Anyway, track-out time has become a big business here in the Raleigh, NC area. There is no shortage of weeklong camps for everything from horseback riding, to swimming, to ice-skating, to art. And while they are a wonderful opportunity to fill in the extracurricular activities that the public school system does not offer, and a necessity for dual income families, I have the luxury of staying home with my girls and so wrestle with the choice to participate fully, a little, or not at all.
Actually, that's not entirely true. In reality, in this economy, it's not feasible for me to spend several hundred dollars for a one week camp, and philosophically, I believe that kids get these breaks for a reason - to relax. They spend full six-hour days being shuffled off to school, going to one class or another, working. I don't like the idea of continuing to shuffle them off to camp when they're supposed to be having a mental break.
I realize in this competitive era, many would say I'm missing out on the chance to create a well-rounded kid who's had lots of experiences. But I'm a traditionalist, and my kids are still pretty young, and so I'd rather they spend their days traipsing around the yard, exploring, imagining, and having fun on their own. It's also an opportunity for me to spend time with M, who I just don't see as often now that she's in school.
It's not that we don't have plenty of ideas planned. Today, we went to Duke Gardens to run around outside for a few hours, feed the ducks (and the catfish) and enjoy the early spring blooms. The girls climbed trees, smelled the flowers, and had an awesome time.
Too, M and I have a mosaic flower pot project we haven't gotten to yet, and a painting lesson as well. We have some weekend trips planned, and some museums we may get to.
In the meantime, she's enjoying the chance to wake up in the morning, hang around in her pj's for a while, and generally take her time with her day, a nice break from the usual rush to dress, eat breakfast, and jump on the bus. She gets to play with her sister, have lunch with her Dad at work, and be outside barefoot in the middle of the day. She gets to have some one-on-one time with me during our regular trip to the mall for Cinnabon and browsing at Barnes and Noble.
As she gets older, I may plan a few more organized activities, but if I do it will only be for one week out of three. I hope she will grow up being able to have both the extracurricular experiences and the free time. We need more dreamers in this world, more people who appreciate the virtues of stopping to smell the flowers, laying on your back and watching the clouds go by, daydreaming. Isn't that, after all, where all the great ideas come from?