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Kids can learn with online summer camp

In mid-March, when schools closed over COVID-19 fears, I was in denial. I thought, “These kids aren’t going to be home all day long, are they? This can’t be happening. It’s like a never-ending snow day.”

In April, when my kids were home all day long watching lessons on Zoom and completing homework packets, I thought for sure this pandemic-thingy would be over soon. “Give it another month,” I told my wife.

In May, as the final month of our makeshift pseudo-homeschool was winding down and the pandemic lingered, I was sure that my kids would be back to typical summer routines. Camps, parties, sleepovers, the pool or lake or beach would all resume. “Summer camps are right around the corner,” I said with suspect joy.

As June comes to a close, I’m only sure of one thing: I’m not “sure” of anything and I’m done with unscientific predictions for when my kids will be out of the house and back to their normal routines.

Now that the school year has ended, not only are we still home all day with the kids, most summer fun activities are on hold. No movie theaters (although a visit to the Elm Road Drive-In is planned). Even if and when they open, I doubt our kids will visit the public pools. No sleepovers. Worst of all (for me), no summer camps.

Maybe next summer they’ll be back to camp, looking for bugs, canoeing on a lake, making s’mores and looking at stars.

Instead, we’re looking into virtual summer camps, even if this means a little more screen time. Unlike the last few months of school, with last-minute adjustments to lesson plans to meet the new demands of online learning, virtual camps have had time to adapt for a summer audience.

Some virtual camps charge a nominal fee, but some are free.

For example, check out Camp YouTube. It’s free and there are more than 1,200 videos and activities. Activities are self-directed and the videos are divided into categories for various age groups. My favorite was Jamie Oliver’s 100 Calorie Popcorn how-to video (you know, for snack time).

You’ll find it at https://learnathome.with youtube.com/camp-you tube.

“Whether your (kids) are obsessed with anything and everything STEM-related or have always wanted to learn to play guitar or master yoga, there’s truly something for every kid,” Murphy Moroney of PopSugar said.

Camp Candlewick is another wonderful free option that strikes a much-needed balance between screen time and reading (if they’re reading actual books, that is).

Go to https://camp.can dlewick.com/ for more information.

Caroline Knorr of Common Sense Media notes that Candlewick’s camp is “a 12-week summer reading program broken down into ‘cabins’ by grade level. Each ‘cabin’ gets a suggested book to read each month.”

There’s a different book for each four-week period. Book one for Cabin 3 (grades 5 to 8) is “Ghetto Cowboy” by G. Neri and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson. For an added bonus, there’s a video message from Camp Candlewick “counselor” (the book’s author), Greg Neri.

The pandemic will end one day, hopefully sooner than later. In the meantime, we have work to do to keep our kids occupied this summer. We’ll be scouring the Internet and beyond for great ideas to keep our kids actively learning and having fun during these long summer days.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn .com.

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