Welcome to the fun-filled world of HSC campouts! We have compiled the following information to give you an idea of what to expect at our campouts. We hope you find this information informative and helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the camp host for the particular campout you’re planning to attend or hoping to attend, or contact our campout coordinator.
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At HSC campouts we enjoy creating a community of diverse, yet in many ways like-minded, homeschoolers doing life together for a week. To that end, certain ways of doing things have evolved because they contribute to creating community. We have seen that not only are we successful in creating a community for the week of the campout, but that our community carries over to the next event, and the next one, and exists even between campouts. We also believe that each family should feel free do what works for them, of course, as long as it does not infringe on others.
The first morning of the campout we usually gather for our first morning meeting. The host for the campout will let us know what time we’ll meet. Please plan to attend this meeting, even if you’re camping in an individual site. We will do introductions and share information on the week’s activities. This is also the best time to ask questions and share information to keep the campout running smoothly. On subsequent days, please try to be available for a morning meeting too. Morning meetings are a good time to work as a community to resolve any problems that may have arisen. We do not have to meet everyday, but usually will for the first couple days at least. This also allows us to introduce late arrivers.
Not a communal kitchen, but rather a community kitchen area....We set up our individual kitchens next to each other in one area of the campsite, instead of having everyone set their kitchen up by their own tents, or on a picnic table, like you do when camping as a solo family. We all have our own stuff, tables, food boxes, coolers, cooking supplies, etc.. This ends up a perfect set-up for borrowing forgotten items, finding takers for the leftover pancakes, and using someone’s stove when yours dies. We don't cook communal meals; we all make whatever we would normally make, but we are set up in such a way that while we're cooking, we're not off by ourselves, but rather, with others.....unless you need that space, as some do.
We’ve observed that the community kitchen can be just as important to our kids as it is to us. You will see that most everyone is around the central area of the camp, which usually includes the kitchens. If a child has to go off to their kitchen elsewhere, it takes them away from the action, possibly new friends. It helps the kids stay connected if they can be where most everyone else is. Their needs are more easily met this way too, as they don’t have to go off somewhere else just to get a drink or snack. Also, satellite kitchens - like a small group of friends deciding to do their own thing off somewhere else - can sometimes be a problem for others; sometimes, depending on the situation, a satellite kitchen area or camp will pull kids away from the central area making it difficult for parents to keep an eye on their kids. You might get stuck watching a gaggle of other people’s kids! :)
Important: Everyone who is able usually brings their own table for setting up their kitchen. We like to leave the campground's picnic tables free for playing cards and games during the day, doing crafts, for the dinner potluck, and for eating meals together throughout the day and night. If you can't bring a table this time, then you could try sharing one of the picnic tables with another family and hopefully get one for subsequent campouts.
We will usually use one central fire pit for fire each night (and maybe mornings if it's cold.) This ends up being safer; people with little ones don't have to worry about three or four different fires all around. It is, of course, mostly beneficial because it allows us all a central place to hang out, and people don’t have to wonder which fire they should hang out at. We don’t, though, prohibit fires in other fire pits; sometimes the layout of the site is so spread out, or the group is just so large, that we will have two. Also, If someone has fire tools they would like to share, please bring them! We would be appreciative. Typically we'll try to put our chairs around the fire when we are getting settled at camp. If we put as many chairs around the fire as people we will typically have around the fire from our family at one time, and if we all do that, there should always be enough chairs there. Then we can just sit in any available chair, and not worry about whose it is.... If you have a favorite chair, then certainly you can ask someone to get up so you can sit in it. Personally, I will try to discourage people from doubling up in any chair that is not theirs, and otherwise showing respect for others' property; if you have an expensive or very favorite chair, of course, you don't have to share it or leave it out at the fire.
We usually put our tents around the outside perimeter of the camping area. When you arrive at camp, the host will point out the kitchen and tenting areas. We try to keep the tent area a bit like a bedroom area, and keep the play and all kitchens away from the sleeping areas. If you are a family that likes to play in the tent at night, we ask that you set up in an area away from the main tent/sleeping areas, so the noise levels are down for people wanting to sleep. There are always people who stay up late around the fire, but the singing, talking and laughing around the fire is usually a welcome, almost ambient, noise that’s a part of camping.....whereas when someone is right next to you, if you are laughing and talking loudly it feels like you are in their tent, and can be bothersome. Please note: if you are a family that needs to get to sleep at any particular hour, and you cannot sleep with noise around the community area, please choose to put your tent as far away from that area as you're can. We prefer not to have to hush (reasonable) happy noises at night and there will be noise late at night around the campfire, especially.
We usually like to keep one area open (no tents or kitchens) for large field games. This is usually somewhere not too far from the kitchens, so parents can keep an eye on the little ones while also needing to be in the kitchen.
We have potluck every night. Potluck is optional, but highly recommended. If you choose not to participate in potluck, you might want to time your meal so you can eat with everyone. Potluck is one of the few times at camp when *everyone* is together.
Here's how our potlucks work best: contribute a dish of anything in the quantity equal to what your family would eat *as if that's all they were eating for the meal*. For example, if you were making a salad, you would *not* make a salad the same size as what you make for your side salad that goes with your meal. You would make a really big salad, as if that salad were the only thing your family was going to eat. Anything goes for potluck contributions. Some people go gourmet. (Thank you to those people!) But everyone always appreciates a huge batch of just a plain ole fresh vegetable, or mashed potatoes, or hot dogs. It doesn't have to be complicated. There's also always a need for kid-friendly foods. Fruit is good too. The quantity is the more important thing. We're a big enough group that there's always good stuff to eat, we just need to make sure there's enough.....and there always is doing it this way. For vegetarians and vegans, we differentiate the dishes with clothespins. One clothespin is vegetarian, two is vegan, none is for omnivores! Please be sure to find the clothespins that are usually supplied at the table (or bring some) and use them accordingly. Oh, and put your own serving utensils in your dish.
The littlest kids are allowed to go first, and are even allowed to cut whenever they get there. Parents should go along with the littles to help them, and parents of littles can get their own food while they're there too. You may want to provide a little oversight to your kids regardless of age to ensure that they’re being considerate, taking only as much as they really expect to eat. We also try to encourage the kids to not take a whole lot of one thing so as to make sure there's enough of the coveted things to get around to more people.
Activities are usually spontaneous. Most people, parents included, just do what they want at camp, and often it turns into “an activity.” Capture the flag, badmitton, a knitting circle, a hike, are all examples of spontaneous, organic activities. There are always a lot of those at camp.
Sometimes, though, it may help to communicate these things to other campers before camp. I might give a heads up to others that I’m going to do some felting while at camp, for example, and that might encourage others to bring, or even make a point to buy some felting materials of their own. If your child is into a particular game, you may want to let others know so other kids who are into that can bring their things.
In addition to the spontaneous, natural activities, everyone is free to organize activities too. It might be tie dying, foam weapon making, artist trading card creating, or a side trip to a particular site of interest. Whatever it is, feel free to share on the campers list prior to the campout so people can bring necessary supplies and have fun planning with you.
Activities are usually announced at the morning meetings. At previous campouts we’ve had tea parties, gone horseback riding, celebrated Cinco De Mayo with a Mexican themed potluck, celebrated Rosh Hashana, played Live Action Role Playing, gone on numerous hikes, made tie dye-like apparel with sharpies, had morning yoga, had planned “chats” about unschooling, unschoolling in the college years, and even a chat about menopause, learned geocaching, rock climbed, just to name a few events and activities that campers have planned or offered at past campouts.
Att most (but not all) campouts, we’ll have a talent show on one of the last nights of the campout. The talent show usually happens because a child (or group of kids) decides they want to put it on, and they set up a sign-up sheet, and make it happen. If your child has a particular talent they want to share, you may want to let them know about the talent show in advance in case there’s anything they may need to bring for it. We do discourage parents trying to take over the talent show, but we love when parents want to show off their talents.
Sometimes our group areas fill up and we have campers in individual sites. We hope they also wish to be part of the community as much as anyone else. We encourage all campers to come to the morning meetings. This is important, especially the first morning, because we do introductions. It'll be a chance for you to meet everyone else and for everyone to know you're a part of the group, even though you couldn't get into the main group site. Check with the host for the meeting time. Everyone is, of course, invited to put their chairs by the campfire and join in the nightly campfires. In fact, if you or your kids plan to be there, make sure you do have chairs there!
Sometimes it is possible to have people camping in individual sites join us in the community kitchen area. This way you can really hang out all day and night in the group site, and only go "home" to your site when you need your car or to go to your tent or RV. (Rarely is there room to park your car in the group site, so please plan to walk over.) There is not, however, room to add people to the kitchen area at every campout, so you'll need to check with the host of the campout to see if you can set up a kitchen in the group area.
A couple of administrative type things: please be sure to find the host and make sure she or he has a signed liability release form from your family. Anyone who spends time in the main group area is required to have turned one in to the host. Also note that if you are in an individual site, you did not pitch in for wood. If you or your kids plan to join in at the fire, we request a $15 payment per family to help pay for the wood.
At first glance, it may look like some of our kids are not being well supervised. Well, we do not have a specific rule saying that parents must be with their children at all times, however parents are expected to know where their kids are and what they are up to. Call it keeping your finger on the pulse. Parents must be attentive and available to their children at all times.
Some suggestions for parents:
1. Become familiar with the area and talk to the kids about your boundaries. For example, you might say, "Don't go beyond that tree," or "If you want to leave the group area, check with me first," or "No rock climbing after dark."
2. Parents are expected to use their own judgment about their kids. Some kids do not need much direct hands-on supervision while others need constant adult supervision.
3. Be available to your kids. If we need to leave the area, for example, let them know which other adult is available to them. While we are a community that tends to step up and help out any kids we see needing help, don't assume others will watch your kids.
4. Communicate with other parents. Conflicts are usually easily resolved through early and clear communication. Be sure to let other parents know if you're taking their child away from the group camping area.
HSC hosts campouts in February, March/April, May, June, September and October. As soon as dates and locations are confirmed, a "Save the Date" announcement is posted here and on the HSC email list, the HSC Campers List, and in "The California Homeschooler" monthly email newsletter sent to all current HSC members.
When registration becomes available that will also be announced here and on the HSC email list, the HSC Campers List, and in "The California Homeschooler" monthly email newsletter.
Remember that HSC members get priority registration and campouts do fill up quickly. Join HSC here.