Chicago mom opens family camp for summer

In 2005, I began something ‘controversial’ in the mothering world. I kept my kids home – All. Summer. Long. With little cash on hand and happy memories of my non-camp days, I decided that my little ones could make a camp with mommy. Once my friends got over their initial shock (and varied “Are you freakin’ crazy!?” remarks) they asked if their kids could join next year.

Camp Kutliroff was born consisting of three campers: my daughters, ages two and five, and my son, age eight.

I even wrote about it for Chicago Parent back in those early days. I hired my then-teen sister as an assistant camp counselor.

We made a blog before blogging was even en vogue. We created a camp t-shirt, camp motto and trips galore. My children loved Camp Kutliroff, my sister had a blast and so did I. I did take mental health breaks in the evening to ensure I had adequate alone time. My husband also took a day off here and there to sub for me when exhaustion hit after a few weeks. But, I would rest, reinvigorate and camp on.

As they got older and I had another baby, it became appropriate for them to hang with their friends and try sleep-away camp or day camps that appealed to their interests and ambitions for the summer. When my kids sometimes asked to rejoin Camp Kutliroff, I joked that we were closed for renovations year after year and that the head counselor ‘quit.’

This year, my youngest, now five, will happily attend a day camp with her preschool friends. My oldest, 17, will likely be taking a summer job before he jets off for a year abroad. My middles, 14 and 10, are left with nothing to do. Being too young to work and too old for day camps, they just wanted to attend one place – Camp Kutliroff.

So, once again our doors will reopen for Summer 2014.

We have created a Pinterest page – Kamp Kutliroff, chock full of projects, ideas and baking suggestions to incorporate into our days. We’ve talked about a yoga sessions, photography-filled outdoor field trips, pool time and lots of other ideas to incorporate into our day while my little one is at camp. I find myself reinvigorated by once again tapping into my former teaching days. My girls are excited to plan and be in charge of their own fun that is already filling up our Pinterest page months ahead. I think it will be an amazing bonding experience for all of us and a great teaching moment for them.

I understand home camp is not for everyone. It’s exhausting, challenging and without many breaks. But, if you can – even just once – try to be there to welcome in summer with your kids. Let them feel the freedom of a summer with both nothing and everything to do. Let them know, while they are still young, that summer is still a break from social pressures, being told what to do and where to go. I will be pinning away, blogging and sharing our experiences all summer long. Is anyone else out there making their own Family Camp?

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