Writer Pam Coyle

By Pam Coyle

I don’t know how parents do it. Summer camp schedules publish in January or February and they sell out quickly. We don’t even have children and I got stressed out looking at what is available in June.

Nashville Zoo – all camps sold out. Cheekwood – many camps sold out but some spots open, especially for older children. Many sites list camp options but don’t update them, requiring time to go to the website of the organization that sponsors the camps and try to figure it out, or pick up the phone.
The Middle Tennessee YMCA offers camps at multiple sites, but not all branches list them online and even if they do, determining availability isn’t that easy. Local publications, such as Nashville Scene, put out summer camp issues earlier in the year; again, the heavy lifting is sifting through the links to see what has openings.

Did I mention this post is stressing me, a non-parent, out?


Many parents are on top of the game and have their kids’ summer schedules planned – and paid for. Many others are unable to plan so far ahead, let alone pay for weekly camps, especially if they have more than one child.

As a DIY kind of gal, I start thinking – couldn’t a group of like-minded parents get together and create mini camps of their own? Hiking at Radnor or Beaman Park or Long Hunter or the Warner Parks with some topography, flora and fauna and conservation lessons and a picnic lunch. Five parks, five days, a little research, lunch and some snacks.

For older children, free university art museums and galleries (and the Tennesee State Museum) with talks about history, how the art fits into the political, cultural and economic forces of the time, even short artist biographies.

What kid doesn’t love looking at swampy things under a microscope? Most adults I know still love to do it. Talk about what they find and how powerful new microscopes can be.�

I think we can learn something from parents who home school their children and organize experiential learning with similar families. Look for lesson plans online. Put six or eight kids together and make a week of it. Adults take turns, working with vacation schedules or days off. The possibilities are limited only by time, organizational skills and wiliness, but I’m guessing a kid is likely to remember the Nashville Hiking and Nature Lessons Summer Camp that Dad organized for a long, long time. Or the time Steven’s mom took us me to museums and we got to ask questions about the art. Or the time we went to Aunt Sally’s farm and learned about growing corn and soybeans and raising cattle.


Nashville is filled with interesting people who do interesting things, and most of them like to share their passions. For parents who have in-home child care, they can work with their trusted providers on ideas and ground rules.

Getting out of the house is good for everyone.

Do inexpensive, yet official and organized, options exist – especially with June already upon us? I am sure they do, and we’d love to hear about them – both to help parents get through this summer and start thinking ahead for next year.

Q: What should I do to prepare my daughter for being away from home for the first time?

Expert Jennifer Buckelew answers your questions.

All the above information has been reviewed by this week’s expert.