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You camp be serious
Could summer's slippery discipline make bums of our kids?

Starshine Roshell is a Santa Barbara writer and mother of two.
Visit her at .
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Much as I hate to see it go, it's good summer's nearing a close.
Parents (at least this parent) get sloppy when school's out, and the strict wake-work-wake-work routine of the schoolyear melts into an amorphous, three-month spree of float ... eat ... nap ...

I'm embarrassed at how easily the rules I set up with my children's best interest in mind - dietary guidelines, hygiene habits - are overturned by the warbling notes of a passing ice cream truck and the compelling swimming-pool-as-bathtub argument.

The justification for such anarchy, of course, is that it's only temporary. We know that a few months of slippery discipline between the end-of-school potluck and the back-to-school potluck won't kill a kid.

Where our logic goes wrong, though - where our laissez-faire parenting may have disastrous long-term effects - is in our funding of frivolous summer camps.
Surf Camp. Archery Camp. Circus Camp, for god's sake.
In my rush to secure some blissful alone time - time to write without fielding the dreaded, "Mom, I'm bored bored BORED" refrain - I signed my 8-year-old up for every camp he showed interest in. Broadway musical camp? Sure. Dog obedience camp? OK. Jedi Camp, where "Star Wars"-obsessed adults educate giddy little boys in the ways of The Force? Um, alright. Truth is, they sounded fun even to me; and the more fun they were, the more likely I'd get some peace and quiet to do my work.

But as summer tapers off like the point of a snow cone, and I reflect on the $1,000 I've just invested in my son's development as a human being, I'm a little concerned. Because what I now have is not a fourth-grader who's appreciative of the R&R and eager to return to academics with a clear head.

What I have is a kid torn between a career as an actor and a puppy trainer - who now thinks it's OK for grown men to wear Jedi robes and carry light sabers in public.
My girlfriend sent her son to rock guitar camp, which culminated in a deafening performance of Black Sabboth's "Iron Man," during which her boy wore spiked hair, an Ozzie grimace and a worrisome twinkle in his eye.
"When we enroll our children in these camps," she now wonders, "what are we encouraging them to do, really? Are we aware they may actually find their niche? And we may inadvertently be signing up for years of metal rock concerts?"

According to the American Camp Association, there are more than 12,000 camps operating this summer. Most are aimed at thrilling kids: Hollywood Stuntman Camp. Fashion?? GOLD-PANNING? But plenty are designed to please parents.

And wouldn't our camp fees be better spent at, say, Cleveland's Pre-Med Camp, where kids "explore career opportunities in health care" while donning scrubs and dissecting organs (in the photo, they look like kidneys, but I wouldn't know as I spent my summers, ahem, weaving lanyards)?

How about San Jose's Web Architects Camp, where pre-teens design and publish an Internet site for the company of their dreams? Or Global Youth Village in Bedford, Virg., where teens learn time management, goal setting and resume writing? (Did I mention my son's now skilled in dog poop disposal? I wonder if there's money in that.)

I have a friend who flew her 11-year-old to the Midwest this summer for two whole weeks of intensive Japanese language camp, the tongue of our future world leaders.
Now that's a smart mom - a year-round parent whose diligence doesn't melt in the heat of summer. Because if you think about it, she didn't just get more peace of mind that I did; she got more peace and quiet.


Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf

Time: Race at 9am, Festival 11am - 5pm


Cheer on the racers and then partake in a fun festival with a taste of the tropics. Fresh flower leis, shaved ice, face painting and dances. 



Santa Cruz State Park, Rancho del Oso


Time: 12:30 pm - 4:00pm


Storytelling, crafts, snacks and a history of Rancho del Oso.  

City of Capitola
8/31/2007 - 9/3/2007

Time: Event times vary


Beautifully decorated floats, concerts, sand sculpture contests, movies, art, a fishing derby and more!

Capitola Esplanade 
9/8/2007 - 9/9/2007 
Over 185 artists and 16 wineries will participate in this year's festival. Enjoy great entertainment on 2 stages.  

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Santa Cruz dad James Williams has created and monitors a teen website, just for local teens, that provides a safe alternative to MySpace type accounts. This "invite only" under 18 website includes instant messaging, chat, online radio, polls, games and event listings.
See what the Santa Cruz Sentinel had to say:

You can submit your local event to our calendar for FREE on our website. Also, be sure to list your sale of children's items or garage sale on our FREE CLASSIFIED section.
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Santa Cruz, CA