© 2011 jen

The World Domination Inspired Summer Uncamp

(Repost from my former DIY Lounge blog)

This post isn’t about the best camps to enroll your child into.  It might not work for all families, but I think it’s a great solution for mine.  If you have your child’s summer full of activities and camps, you don’t need this post.  If you don’t have a plan or you have a limited, part time plan then read on because I’ve been working on this plan for a few days and I’m pretty excited about it.

If you’ve known DIY Lounge for awhile you know that we used to organize a kids camp called No School Art School, which was tons of fun to run, but at some pointed I decided I needed to focus in on other things and I couldn’t do that while I had so many different plates in the air, so we stopped running these camps.  This post is not about the traditional camp plan it’s about the uncamp.  I made this concept up after attending the World Domination Summit, which was pretty much a life changing experience and is now influencing many things I do, including my plans this summer with my son.

Photo of an attendee’s notebook to the World Domination Summit

My son is 11 now and told me that he isn’t that in to going to camps anymore.  His exact words were that they are sorta baby-ish and he wasn’t into it.  He is signed up for one film camp, per his approval, where he’ll be making a mockumentary.  Other than that we’re on our own.  I know that my son is a video game junkie.  He will sneak off and I’ll find him on a game in some far corner of the house.  He’s smart; he knows that I’m busy and if he can be quiet and sneaky about it, it will take me awhile to find out what he’s up to.  One day I tried to loosely track how often he was sneaking off to play games and it was something like between 5-10 times a day and if I’m not paying attention that can mean many extra hours of game time.

I have many levels of concern with my son playing too many hours of games as most parents do, but most of all he’s an angry little pain in the butt when he plays for too long on computer games.  The other thing is that I don’t want him to grow up with some idea that 4-6 hours of computer game playing per day is normal.  OK, maybe I just confessed my horrible parenting, that sometimes my kid plays too many hours of games, but it’s the truth, sometimes he has played too many hours of computer games, but not this summer.

The Theory Behind the Summer Uncamp:

If you want to change a habit, you must put a new plan in it’s place.  You cannot just take something away, you must add a replacement behavior for real change.  I learned this over the weekend from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits who spoke at the World Domination Summit a.k.a. WDS.

For my son, I decided that I would set up a schedule for him for this summer.  He’s an only child and I think he gets bored at times and lacks a certain amount of structure so I’ve set up a system for him for this summer that rewards him for following the rules with extra computer time.  He can earn extra time by doing activities that I feel are good for him.  More on this in a minute.  Honestly, I need to change some habits for myself too.  I have been getting really distracted by many online sources: Facebook, Pinterest and many bright and shiny blogs with cool imagery and tutorials.  I need to break some habits too so I’m ‘enrolling’ myself in the uncamp as well.

The original uncamper

I believe that my son is an artist who hasn’t found his medium yet.  As most of you know, I am an artist too.  I am working on finding consistent ways of increasing my own productivity.  I also want set my son on the best path possible for his own creative future, so this plan will help both of us. I learned from Jonathan Fields at the WDS that a great way to increase your productivity is to routinize as much of your schedule as possible.  This allows you to have more time for creativity and if you are following a fairly consistent routine it doesn’t allow for some of the common distractions that you typically face.

OK, OK, so what did I do to create the uncamp for myself and my son?  Here it is.

The Formula for the Uncamp:

I set up a schedule for my son that rewards the behavior that I want (chores, new skills, reading, writing) with the treats that he wants (game time).  I give him 1 “free hour” of game time and the rest of his game time he can earn.  In theory, if my son does all of the things that are possible in the uncamp system he could be earning hours of extra game time.  Some parents won’t go for this because they feel that their child should only have 1 or 2 hours of game time per day.  My husband is a web developer who began learning the skills for his future career when he was a kid himself.  He was building math game programs when he was my son’s age, so I feel that if my son has a little extra computer time that’s fine with me as I feel his future career will probably be enhanced by his developed computer skills.

My Son’s Summer Uncamp Schedule:

8-9am Breakfast and reading
9-10am Computer games
10-10:30am Chores – clean room or unload dishwasher or vacuum living room and dining room
10:30-11am Snack time
11am-12pm Project time – Make movies, take photos, make lists of ideas, journal, build something, draw, other?
12-1pm Lunch time and free time
1-3pm Project time
3-4pm Exercise, stretching and relaxing
4-5pm Talk on phone,play outside, write, day dream, other?
5-6pm Books on tape (my son loves books on tape so I thought I’d build it into his schedule)
6-7pm Dinner and relaxing
7-8pm Free time
8-9pm Free time and reading time
9pm Bedtime

My Summer Uncamp Schedule:

7-8am Coffee, reading, computer time, email, lists and make breakfast
8-9am Eat breakfast and writing time
9-10am Video editing
10-10:30am Chores
10:30-11am brain storming and researching new projects, ideas, concepts (no more than 1 per day)
11am-12pm Project time – Ck in with son about his project for the day first and/or work beside him
12-1pm Lunch time and free time
1-3pm project time – videos, new projects, bargain hunting, knot ugly, diy lounge, etc
3-4pm Exercise, stretching and relaxing
4-5pm Errands, return phone calls, catch up on email
5-6pm Prep dinner or at least clean the kitchen so hubby can cook
6-7pm Dinner and relaxing
7-8pm Free time, reading time and wrapping up projects if necessary
8-9pm Computer catch up
9pm off duty!


With my son’s schedule, I have built in some rewards.  I plan to do this with myself too although I haven’t gotten to my reward system yet.  Here’s how my son can earn extra game time (this will only work if the reward is highly desirable to the individual).

Extras that can earn extra game time:

1. Walk and feed the dog = 30 minutes extra game time
2. Sweep/vacuum all floor space, including under chairs, rugs corners for all common area rooms: the living room, dining room and kitchen = 1 hour of game time
3. Sweep back patio, wipe down outdoor table and water plants = 1 hour extra game time
4. Journaling – words and pictures = 30 minutes extra game time
5. Making and recording music – up to 1 hour per day = journal time is equal to game time ie. 1 hour extra of journaling = 1 hour extra of game time.
6. Making videos 1 hour of video = 30 minutes of game time (this is something he already enjoys so It’s weighted less than other activities, but I believe it is a valuable skill for him to build)
7. Extra exercise done independently = unlimited, exercise time is equal to game time ie. 1 hour extra of exercise = 1 hour extra of game time.

Between the two lists you can see that there is some overlap which was intentional so that I can monitor my son during the day.  I know he won’t exercise without me at his side encouraging him so I plan to work with him on this all summer long.  Jonathan Fields discussed at the WDS that most people can really only work in 45 minute up to 90 minute blocks at one time so I anticipate that we will need more breaks than is accounted for on this schedule and I have a plan for how to make this work.  Any time either of us feels burnt out by the activities we’re supposed to be doing we can walk on the treadmill or go outside and take a walk for 5-15 minutes and then get back to the schedule.

I know there will be days that we won’t stick to this schedule because life can be unpredictable, but as much as we possibly can we are going to stick to this schedule for the entire summer. If we find something isn’t working then we will change it so that we can be more successful.  Another thing I now know, thanks to Leo Babauta is that it takes 30 days to establish a new habit so I plan to stick as strictly to this routine as I possibly can and I also plan to shadow my son during the first 30 days to help keep him on track.  Additionally, I should say that I didn’t make this plan and tell my son how things were going to be.  I created a rough list and then sat down with him and explained that I had a cool plan for how he could earn extra game time and learn some new skills at the same time.  He totally bought in and is excited to test out this new plan.  He even had ideas of things he could do to earn extra game time.

For me, this gives me uninterrupted work time.  If my phone rings during my work hours, I won’t pick up the phone.  I have turned off the notification on my computer so I won’t hear any pings if I get an email.  To make sure that both of us aren’t cheating during our working/project hours, I am going to set up the Stay Focused Chrome Extension that allows me to block certain sites during certain times of the day so that if I try to get on facebook, say and it’s a time when I should be working it will ask me “Aren’t you supposed to be working?” and block me from the site.  I am doing this because I know that my willpower isn’t perfect and neither is my son’s so the computer he uses will also be blocked during certain hours.  You can read more about the reasons to use and how to use this application here.

The other way that I will monitor this schedule is I will set up an hourly chime on my phone to remind me when it’s time to change to the next activity.  I’ll have copies of the schedules upstairs and downstairs so that we can refer to them as needed.  I really feel that these additional safeguards will assure that we can stay on task with our new system.

Other useful ideas for the uncamped summer is to look into cool free activities going on in your town.  In Portland, where I live there are free concerts in the park, movies in the park, great local libraries and more.  Here are some great summer bucket lists that I found on Pinterest to peak your excitement for summer activities: Little Wonders’ Days, Positively Splendid and Embellishing Life.

I’m going to try and give updates about the uncamp and how it’s going.  I plan to be really honest too if things aren’t going well and what aspects are working.  Wish me luck and I wish you lots of luck, happiness and productivity this summer as well.

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