A summer like no other, but still filled to bursting with sunshine, laughter and huge amounts of safe ice-cream!
With the start of the new school term being just a week or so away now, the last few days have been a great end to the extended break from school for G as she has eagerly followed in M’s footsteps and taken part in this week’s Midlands Siblings Camp in the Cloud. She has been waiting patiently for camp to start and firmly put M in his place last week when he offered to help her explore the virtual campground and point out where cabin chat challenges would be set and so on.
Being the ages they are, both children had the same set of challenges, which you might have thought would make this second week less attractive, but in fact the exact opposite has been true. A couple of the craft activities set had proved challenging for M as he found some of the finer details frustrating with his dyspraxia and he spent much of his time browsing the virtual campsite and taking part in the online activities, rather than completing the practical ones.
G, however, has tackled the crafts with relish and with perseverance; and, having discovered that watching the online videos was key, created a beautiful origami crane mobile, a working robotic hand and whizzed her way through the clues for the “locked box” challenge. She has loved joining in the nightly cabin chats and has come more out of her shell as the week has gone on. Her blue team has connected via Instagram, and if the amount of notifications buzzing through to her phone is any indication, they’re a chatty and engaged lot!
With Storm Francis hitting us hard with rain and wind this week and wiping out our new-in-lockdown 16ft trampoline by taking down one of the trees in our paddock, this week’s Camp in the Cloud has been a welcome distraction. Even better, M has re-engaged with some of the free-flow activities he didn’t complete during his week of camp, which has kept them both quiet and occupied with something other than the inevitable screens. In a summer that hasn’t quite been what we were hoping it would be, Over The Wall has kept us all sane and given both children some much-needed smiles on some otherwise grey days.
Since their first camps in 2016, G and M have looked forward to the start of every year to find out if they have got a place at their choice of Over The Wall camps. The initial outcome of this year’s applications saw both children on the waiting lists for their respective choices and, in M’s case in particular, with fingers tightly crossed that they might be lucky enough to make it to the actual camp when the time came about.
Like so many other activities, the coronavirus pandemic understandably shut down the Over The Wall camps this year, something that we all understood although it did leave the children somewhat disappointed. However, no sooner had we been advised that camp wouldn’t be happening this year, than an email was sent telling us that they were looking into a virtual alternative and to keep an eye out for future updates to be sent. It didn’t take long for the final details to reach me and both children eagerly signed up to the first ever Camp in the Cloud.
M was first up with the online South Health Challenges Camp and about 2 weeks before the start of camp his Camp in the Cloud box arrived on our doorstep. He did a grand reveal and shared opening his box with my Mum and Aunt over Face Time on the Saturday afternoon. Hidden inside was a padlocked box, sealed envelopes labelled for each day, face paints, a stationery set and, most importantly, his team t-shirt revealing he’s risen to the heady heights of being a green boy. The box also included a pot of M-friendly hot chocolate for cabin chat. The note on the container reminded him he could make it with the dairy-free milk alternative of his choice – a small thing that showed just how much OTW focuses on the finer details for each and every camper in their care. They also followed that up with an email just before camp began to remind me to check the ingredients to make sure I was confident that it was safe for M to drink.
The week of Camp in the Cloud came at a perfect time for M. It was a good start to his so-say summer holidays and proved to be a great distraction from the sad news of losing Grandpa the weekend before. The daily challenges gave him a focused activity to try his hand at and he loved being able to explore the virtual campsite, searching for the hidden Newman’s sauce bottles and participating in all his favourite camp activities in one way or another. The highlight of each day was most definitely the camp chat via Zoom, which gave him around 45 minutes to meet his team mates, accept, or set, team challenges and just chat in a face-to-face context, something he hasn’t really been able to do since lockdown began.
I was intrigued to see what M’s response to the week would be and it couldn’t have been more positive. Whilst he commented that it obviously wasn’t as good as going to camp itself, he loved being part of it and having something different to do after so many weeks of the same old, same old. Being able to dip in and out of the online platform during the day worked perfectly for my usually active child and the evening cabin chats really made it feel like camp. M was so impressed with the camp that he even contacted OTW himself to suggest that Camp in the Cloud is something they could continue to do in the future. He loves going to camp and always feels the bitter disappointment when he isn’t successful in getting a place. M believes that being able to offer Camp in the Cloud to those children who aren’t able to go the physical camp would be a great alternative and would reach out to offer the fantastic OTW experience to even more campers than they usually can. Whether they consider doing that, we simply don’t know, but anything we can do to help make it a reality we will.
Now we’re onto the countdown for G’s Midlands siblings camp at the end of the month – and she just can’t wait!
And just like that it’s the end of the school year and the end of G’s secondary school career. From September she’ll have moved to the heady heights of further education here in the UK, although she’s still not decided as to exactly what she’ll be studying or where. It’s been an odd culmination of the last few years of hard work and has left us all feeling a little discombobulated. It’s not quite the end of the 7Y2D home-school as I have already warned both M and G that I fully expect them to keep up with some studies over the coming weeks and M has already been set some tasks by school to challenge him in preparation for his GCSE courses that will soon be starting.
They do have some fun activities planned for the summer too, with both children being invited to join Over The Wall’s “Camp in the Cloud”, something they’re both excited about as this photo of M opening his box shows. We will also no doubt take advantage of the freedom of more movement by embarking on a few hand-picked and carefully chosen day trips starting and ending at home. Our plans for a summer extravaganza to celebrate the end of G’s GCSEs have been put on hold for the foreseeable, but we will make sure that her results day is still marked in style. Truthfully it’s not the summer we had planned, but then 2020 hasn’t really been the year we were expecting it to be either. One thing’s for certain, this is a year unlike any other and we’ve all experienced life in a new way in the last 17 or so weeks.