FAMILY & PARENTING

Two Parents Create ‘Common Sense Camp’ To Strengthen Their Kids’ Life Skills

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Sometimes, it feels like a lot of people on this planet are lacking common sense. And kids can very easily fall into this category.

Sure, they may know their way around a video game. But do they know how to change a tire? YouTube may help them out, but there’s nothing better than hands-on learning. Plus, sometimes it’s important to learn skills like this so that they can help others in need with a sense of confidence.

To try to change that lack of common sense knowledge around, parents Paul and Oona Hanson have created a camp that teaches kids these basic skills. It’s called Common Sense Camp.

Enlisted are their children, 17-year-old Gwendolyn and 12-year-old Harris. And — that’s it. At least, for the time being. Given that social distancing is still very important, that may be for the best.

Even though the camp is merely family-sized, there’s still a lot on the camp itinerary. The camp runs for eight weeks, and every week has a specific “theme.”

These themes are all varied. One week focuses on just the kitchen, while another can focus on emergency preparedness. But topics also go deeper. One week is dedicated towards anti-racism, which is incredibly important. Social skills is another theme. Altogether, they’re meant to create a well-rounded individual.

They even have a particular textbook that they use to help manage the camp. It’s Catherine Newman’s book  How To Be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills To Learn Before You’ve Grown Up. The book was created to help kids become more dependable. And as far as educational textbooks go, it’s pretty darn affordable.

Oona introduced the camp to others with an article she wrote on Medium. She explained that many of her ideas actually came from a very popular comic strip, The Far Side. While the Gary Larson classic took a long break from being published, new comics have come out in recent years. Suffice to say, it’s still very popular.

In one cartoon, a boy is outside of a building that states it’s a “School for the Gifted.” But the boy is pushing on the front door despite the door saying “pull.” It’s a situation many of us have accidentally gotten in before — and that’s why it’s so funny.

“Sometimes, when my husband and I would observe our children struggling with ordinary tasks, we’d joke that they could benefit from Common Sense Camp,” Oona wrote. So this year, she decided to just go for it — especially given the way 2020 has gone thus far. “With normal summer options off the table this year, we knew this was the moment to make Common Sense Camp a reality,” she continued.

Even though it’s the first year of camp, and it happens to be taking place inside her own home, Oona is really making the most of it. She’s gone so far as to create materials you’d find at any standard camp. “Of course, it wouldn’t be summer camp without camp T-shirts, s’mores, tie-dying, and lanyard-making, so we’ll carve out time for those activities, too,” she said.

One look at her itinerary, and you’ll be impressed. While she’s using real-life knowledge to teach her kids, she’s also including YouTube tutorials just in case those resonate with her children more. For example, during “Do It Yourself” week, she’s featuring the popular Dad, How Do I?” YouTube channel.

And “Household Cleaning” week isn’t just a filler since her kids already know how to do their own laundry. Instead, she’s teaching them the basics, like figuring out when the laundry should be done. All in all, it’s giving them a well-rounded guide so that they’ll know how to survive outside the house.

“Because our kids are already adept at basic household chores, we’ll focus on deep cleaning and raising the standards for daily upkeep,” she wrote. “They will also demonstrate laundry proficiency, from noticing the pile of dirty items (which so often sits right next to the hamper… why?!) to ensuring that clothes are clean, folded, and put away.” It’s a course everyone might need a refresher on.

“Safety and Emergency Preparedness” week is also one that everyone could benefit from. Oona plans to teach her kids how to perform CPR and also prepare for major disasters. It’s impossible to feel prepped for everything, but having a general knowledge can be a real help if disaster strikes.

“Living in Los Angeles, home to earthquakes and fires, we are due for a refresher on disaster preparedness and response,” she wrote. “In addition to practicing our emergency plan, the kids will take online courses in CPR and first aid, and our teen driver will review roadside safety.”

But quite possibly, the most useful week is when they’ll discuss personal finance. That’s a topic that often gets brushed off at school — but can get you into big trouble in the future. Despite the fact that so many banks and statements are digital these days, Oona is still taking the time to teach her kids how to balance a checkbook.

As this isn’t anything she’s profiting from (at least, for now), Oona seems really happy to spread her idea to other parents. And it’s a pretty good idea. Not only will it help your summer feel more structured, but you can feel good about preparing your kids for the world ahead — especially if they’re at the stage of becoming young adults.

While it may not be the most socially exciting camp, it’s a good reminder that there’s so much to learn about the world outside of a specified academic setting. By teaching our kids the basic skills, they’ll be able to help their friends and community while also becoming better people.