Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I have a new hero: K, who last week ran the inaugural (AFAIK) Wellington Home Schoolers Family Camp. What a fantastic time! Judging by the fact that the few small homeschool events I have organised have always ended up being twice as much work as I expected, I imagine this was a huge job, and I am grateful she did it as well as deeply impressed at how she managed to combine "well organised" with "relaxed and flexible". (I can do the former but not the latter.)

Our Camp, at Brookfield Scout Camp in Wainuiomata, started in the late morning on Wednesday. Those of us camping put up our tents; the rest unpacked into cabins. After lunch were icebreaker games, followed by an orienteering activity provided by Brookfield. The orienteering took us all over the camp and was an ideal way to quickly get familiar with it, including discovering the swimming pool, confidence course and lots of little tracks through the bush.

After tea, more games, the older kids wanting to stay up playing, us parents not wanting to spoil the fun but eventually rounding the kids up and off to bed. It was lovely hearing a morepork close to the campsite and tuis in the dawn chorus but I was very cold.

Thursday mid-morning, more families arrived to join us for the day. We broke into groups according to the children's ages and began the rotation of the four activities of the day: abseiling, kayaking, confidence course and treasure hunt. It was at this point that Josiah met one of the several new friends he made at camp; this one shares his name, which created amusement for the two of them every time either was addressed for the rest of the day.

I spent the day supervising the kayaking on a small, still lake, which was enormous fun, though also challenging because a tiny island and a jut of land into the lake meant it wasn't possible to see everywhere at once. The little ones were lovely, some of them kayaking by themselves for the first time, their faces shining with pride and excitement. Of course the only two children to fall in came from the oldest group. That group, which included Josiah and Tessa, was a lot of fun though. They were very adventurous - clambering from one kayak to another out on the water and pushing a wooden raft around the lake.

Tessa twisted her ankle on the confidence course. Unfortunately Tessa's high pain tolerance and correspondingly mild account of her injury, combined with how busy I was at the kayaks, meant that all I did was murmer sympathetically. I didn't look at her ankle till we got home on Friday, at which point I discovered it was considerably swollen. Since then, we have been putting ice on it regularly, wrapping it up firmly, elevating it and trying to get Tess not to walk on it too much, but it is still swollen.

On Thursday evening, we sat around a campfire, having a hilarious time singing songs and later toasting marshmallows. Josiah doesn't eat marshmallows because of the gelatine, which is an animal product, and the processed sugar, which he tries not to eat much of. He toasted pieces of banana instead. When some of the younger kids noticed this, they were astonished and went around telling people about it in shocked accents. But soon the banana toasting caught on and as the marshmallows ran out, there were a few keen kids toasting pieces of banana.

Having learned my lesson, I wore polyprops under my pyjamas and a woollen hat that night and was a lot warmer.

Friday it was time to pack up, but there was also time to play and time for a last swim in the very cold pool (the kids - not me).

Best thing about camp: all the conversations I had, making new friends and getting to know people better. Seeing the kids play together in large, friendly groups, laughing and having fun. I also enjoyed being outside in the sun, the peaceful kayaking and bush walks, and the bird song around the campsite.

Unfortunately I was too busy having fun most of the time to take photos, so all you have here is Josiah and a friend, their faces covered in shaving cream and burger rings during one of the icebreaker games on the first afternoon. The game involved teams of kids throwing burger rings at shaving cream clad targets, the winning team being the one that managed to hit their target the most times.