"On the go" summer daycare...Commentary

Well it's summer at last and school's out and the fun is supposed to engage NOW!!!

Summer for us here in Southwestern Indiana is still a school-less time in a child's life when the rigors of the classroom cease for a time and all the mysteries of the world beckon at the mind's door. Children relax into down time. Down time in a child's life is supposed to teach things outside the books.

The lucky children who stay home for the summer are blessed by the casual days of "just hanging around" with the security of mom or dad close by. They eat when they want, play with the neighbors, go around to stores and visit friends across town. It's like a perpetual Saturday.

Those who attend summer camps still have to get up early and leave their homes, but camp should be a go, go, go, busy time that teaches and allows children to explore the world around them with hiking, swimming, visits here and there and lots of crafts and projects.

Summer child care should change every bit as much for the younger child as the older child. Why should his environment never change? Why should he wile away summer hours like winter hours - indoors with the same old toys?

The Garden School, where I teach, is famous for its discovery summers. This year we have a field trip schedule from "You asked for it."  The question has arisen a hundred times, "Why do you do it?" The answer is because field trips are fun, doable and the kids love it because they learn.

It started years ago when we set up shop in a party barn - pool side and quickly got used to having our own pool.  When we built our own school building, there was no pool, and that's when we decided to be the on the go place - the discovery school.

We wanted to keep the swimming because we quickly saw that swimming builds confidence and strength in children. So twice a week we take the whole crew swimming to the big pool. Kids love water and by the end of the summer they have explored enough that most of them will be going off the board or at least graduated to the swimming zone.

The whole go, go project takes a lot of work and engineering and, of course, we have to have the absolute best bus driver in the state, Miss Sandy. It takes some daring from our teachers and some love from our parents. But after years of work, we can say we're the activity place and the only school in Evansville to do what we do, but we don't have to be. Other schools can do it too and their kids would love it as much as ours do.

This year, our field trips began with a trip to Lincoln National Park and a picnic in the woods. Next week it's Mesker Zoo, and then we go to New Harmony and then on to bigger fields. This year we will go to Mammoth Cave for a special two mile excursion into the cave, and there's a trip to the Nashville Zoo in Nashville Tennessee. The end of the summer is spent at the Garden of the Gods and Pounds Hollow Lake. It's a favorite play spot for kids.

Field trips take knowing every child well, getting to know parents, building trust and discipline, and a perspective that says, "Hey guys, most parents don't have time to do this every week, but we do - I mean what else are we doing?"

After all, what can a child say about summer if he never does anything? Travel is part of summer, and when parents either can't afford it or don't have the time, kids are stuck, and that's where we come in. Our kids will visit two other cities in two different states as well as visit parks, swim in natural lakes in four states. They will also learn to swim.

The real question is what will time and energy bear? Our limit is 3 hours on a bus in any direction. More time and you'd have to spend the night - we haven't done that yet and probably won't but there was a time when talk wondered about what it would cost to charter a plane...it was fantasy, but it was a fun hour.

Costs are always divided among the families, and there are enough free things to do to bring the cost down. It's about just saying yes, finding that great driver and setting sail!