Common Sense Camp

Dear Reader:

I love reading about different ideas in “Spotlight on Kindness” that pops up on my iPhone every week. They have such wonderful stories and ideas…it restores my faith in humanity. I loved this true story of one family coping with a summer without camps due to the COVID19 virus. So what did they do…create their own camp.

Common Sense Camp: The best kind of camp! 🙂

Editor’s Note: In the next 20-30 years, kids in elementary school today will likely be running significant parts of the world. While they will no doubt learn skills required to survive through education, how do they learn to have basic ethical values that serve them and others? This week’s stories highlight creative paths that parents and kids are experimenting with to create a kinder world. –Guri

Camp Common Sense: Due to the cancellation of summer camps and activities, parents Oona Hanson and Paul decided to create a ‘Common Sense Camp’ to teach their two kids much needed life lessons and abilities to take with them into adulthood. The camp is eight weeks long and features a variety of different weekly themes, such as “Kitchen Confidence” and “Anti-Racism”.

Oona and Paul hope that the things they learn this summer will help their kids in the future when faced with different encounters, such as responding to an insensitive comment or making breakfast for their roommates.

With sleep-away and day camps canceled, Los Angeles-based parenting coach and educator Oona Hanson and her husband Paul found themselves facing a long summer sheltering in place with their daughter, Gwendolyn, 17, and son, Harris, 12.

The Hansons had joked for years that their kids could use a good old “Common Sense Camp“to learn some of life’s more basic but necessary skills. So they decided to make it a DIY reality.

The family planned eight themed weeks… each one focusing on a different set of life skills. Themes include “Kitchen Confidence,”Safety and Emergency Preparedness,” “Laundry and Cleaning,” and less physical lessons like “Anti-Racism” and “Social Skills.”

“How to Be a Person” became the guiding manual because it uses short, step-by-step, illustrated instructions to teach everything from how to sort laundry to how to plunge a toilet or how to make an apology.

“I chose to use this book as a guideline because it’s written and illustrated with charm and joy and infused with humor and empathy,” said Hanson. “It’s not an adult talking down to kids; it’s an adult inviting kids into the world and explaining how you function in daily life.”

At first, her children were a little wary of the concept, said Hanson. “I think they were afraid it would be just more school.” The family structured Common Sense Camp so there was time for an activity in the morning, then another in the afternoon or evening.

For the week focused on “Kitchen Confidence,” for example, Hanson asked her son to find the chapter in the book that covered cooking and to read through it first before they discussed what he wanted to learn. “He’s excited to learn how to boil the perfect egg now,” she said.

Her husband, a “terrific cook,” has taken over most of the week’s lessons, Hanson said. “Today they were discussing knife skills and learning the difference between a mince, a dice, and a chop.”

“It always seems like we’re going to get around to teaching them these things ‘someday,‘” she said. “There’s that fantasy that before they go to college, they’re going to learn these thousand skills that actually take time to learn and practice. Right now, we have the time it never seems we have to do it.”

When they’re not learning how to boil an egg or read a map, the Hansons kids had a chance to engage in typical camp fun like making s’mores and friendship bracelets.

They even made camp T-shirts.

But though she is excited for her kids to confidently make their own meals and do their own laundry, Hanson said the benefits of Common Sense Camp go far beyond domestic skills.

And though they are physically distanced from their friends and family right now, Hanson said the meaning and future joy of what her children are learning this summer will last a lifetime.

“‘We are telling them, ‘You might be the person in your shared apartment who knows how to make everyone breakfast. You might be the person who, when you hear a questionable joke, speaks up and says to another colleague, ‘I am not comfortable with that. Why did you say that?'” she said.

“I’m OK if the kids are rolling their eyes at us now …if later they can look back and say, ‘I’m so glad I know how to make pancakes for 12 people.’ That will bring them so much joy and connection.”

So until tomorrow….Don’t you know parents right now…are screaming…”Where can we sign up?”  

Think about it…basic life skills were always taught at home for generations…how to sew, cook, clean, act in “proper” society…(Shoot…by the time I was  in college our freshman year (late sixties)…we were still required to take an orientation class on what else…“Lady Manners!” (And we were tested on it too!) 🙂

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Jeff showed up with digging instruments and cement to save two sections of a falling fence between me and my neighbor…he will have to wait and come back in a couple days (after it has hardened) to finish the job…but so excited…knowing that section of the fence won’t fall now… taking the rest of it with it.

P.S. Jeff took the “reading fairy’ with him to see what he can do to restore the light! 🙂 Jeff is a very good man! He can do it all! I am very blessed to keep getting, not only great lawn maintenance experts,but Mr. “Fix-It’s” in the bargain!

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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1 Response to Common Sense Camp

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Oh Becky…I love this idea…Common Sense Camp. I just talked to Blake and Emily last night and both are anxious as to how this school year will come off…but I told tbem that kids might learn a lot of things that no one gad the time or desire to teach them before…


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