Annual Theme Book Camp

Shared Vision

I actually have / had a theme for this year. It is / was called Shared Vision. Typically it is something that would have filled the majority of space on this blog. For years now, I’ve selected a theme for the upcoming year sometime around October or November. I consider how that theme impacts all the different aspects of my life: wife, mother, friend, relative, citizen, financial provider, author, Christian. The spreadsheets are seriously impressive in January when comes the time to start meeting all those smart goals I established in the fall.

Then 2020.

I should end this post there, probably. The words “then 2020” have a specific, unique meaning to each of us, but they also have a universal core we can mutually understand. That we share.

Twenty-twenty has not thus far been the vision I expected to share within anyone. Most of my careful plans appear upended. Can’t go to a writing conference mid-pandemic, for example.

Six months in and it’s finally time to recast my vision. To my utter shock, most of my goals still have pathways even through pandemic, given that I and my immediate family are relatively safe and cloistered and employed.

Line by line through four printed pages of minute type in tiny boxes, and I see a way forward. Or at least a way to be here for a while.

Being present, being here now, has been somewhat of a struggle for me. Not just during pandemic but in all times. My mind tends to wander to ruminate on the past and to fantasize about the possible futures.

Now, during pandemic, more than ever before I need to anchor myself in the now. In the here. In what is and the way it is.

Happily, my shared vision theme document from last fall pretty perfectly sets the stage. There are some things that I can’t do, or that I choose not to do. But there are lots of other things I can work on where I am when I am.

And at least one shared vision is coming on Sunday…it’s Book Camp time! Book Camp looks way different this year. The kids are another year older and that much more capable. They’ve been in near-isolation since spring break. Virtually no other camps, except a virtual camp, have been had this summer.

More than that, I have a formal job now. Book Camp and work–wait, what?! It’s really only possible because this is the sixth Book Camp (seven years since we started, but that one summer we moved to Florida) and because the kids are teens or nearly so. The schedule has a Book Camp Intensive before work and one after work, teatime mid-afternoon, and loads of other neat perks. In between, though, the kids will be self-directed, working on assignments and the big group opus.

The two families have undertaken what a niece calls “severe quarantine” for two weeks leading up to camp. This is serious business.

Oh, and did I mention Book Camp is TWO WEEKS LONG this year? That’s right! Given the weird schedule and all, I don’t promise to blog every day this book camp, but I will keep you apprised.

To Book Camp! To shared visions! To being present even when “then 2020.”

Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2018: Day 2

Day 2 began with chores and the daily routine. Being the lone counselor has its advantages!

On day 1, we looked at what makes an adaptation. Today we drilled a bit down to what works and what doesn’t. We followed this core idea through baking and Hamilton, but then the kids decided what they would adapt.


We engaged in an apple pie experiment. Each kid selected their own apple at the store. We ended up with New York Ruby Frost, Fuji, Red Delicious, and two Honeycrisp. I chose Ambrosia.

Back at home, I had prepared a few changes to the pie recipe, cut the paper apart, and put the pieces in a bag for choosing.

  • leave peels on apples
  • omit sugar
  • omit cinnamon; add thyme and rosemary
  • crumble on bottom; crust on top
  • omit butter
  • twice the sugar

We allowed ourselves a standard crust, made by the thirteen-year-olds. It was made per recipe. Meanwhile, we rotated through the kitchen trying to make little ramekin pies with our differences.The ten-year-old got the apple peel instructions, and he was thrilled! Poor thing, he’d never had an apple pie with tough peels. He just knew he got to skip a step.One eleven-year-old omitted sugar and the other doubled it. The omitter substituted honey, and the doubler was ecstatic. The thirteen-year-old butter omitter substituted banana to make her crumble. The other thirteen-year-old added thyme and rosemary to the recipe. His leftover apples were abandoned by all. I built my ramekin pie with the crumble on bottom with severe doubts that it will be crumbly.


When Lin-Manuel Miranda created Hamilton, he changed parts of history. The most difficult for me: his friends weren’t at his wedding, at least according to Ron Chernow. But the opportunity to return to the original friendship song and to continue the thread of Aaron Burr versus the remainder–golden and waiting and right there.

In Hamilton: The Revolution, Miranda writes about Philip and Angelica both having more siblings than their songs would have you believe.

But the best example for the young writers in the house: the folks who confronted Hamilton about the Reynolds payments were not Jefferson, Madison, and Burr.

Miranda changed details to fit the effect he desired. Whether that was a rhyme, a clever twist on a familiar song, or the double duty of recognized villains–the changes matched Miranda’s palate.

Making Connections

Today’s experiment was forced. I gave a limited number of changes to the bakers. Because it can be hard to think outside the recipe. It can be daunting to imagine something different from what already exists. Later this week, the kids will make their own baking (and authoring) adaptations. This gentle prod brought them a bit closer.

Adaptation Planning

The kids decided the source material they would adapt and the format in which it would be adapted. Yay!

We talked about copyright and ownership. It’s a common discussion during book camp, because ownership means creativity can continue. The kids learned that for private home educational use, we can use any source material. We do not intend to publish the adaptations or share them beyond our own little circle, and we are learning. We talked about the need to ask permission, and in many circumstances the need to purchase rights, to adapt another person’s work. Then we looked at some examples of works in the public domain that may be adapted without legal ramifications.

Fort Night!

Yes, I know it’s not spelled that way. But then again, I’m not arming the children with axes and sending them out to their enemies either.

I’ve never felt more left out of my own home! The fort has subsumed the four biggest bookcases.



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