Making vacations learning experiences Courses: As the demand for parent-child lessons grows, more folks are finding that the family that learns together has fun together.

Taking the Kids

November 09, 1997|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Rod Kramer only agreed to take the lessons to please his teen-age son. He never figured on having so much fun.

"I hated snowboarding. I'm a skier," the Coloradan explained. "But we learned to snowboard together, falling down and laughing and feeling inept. I had a ball."

That was two winters ago. Kramer and his 16-year-old son, Andrew, have since become committed and accomplished snowboarders. The best part, they agree: sharing that learning curve.

More parents and kids are using vacations to do exactly that, learning to scuba dive and rock climb, windsurf and sail, even to skeet shoot together.

"It's growing every year," said Joan Boza, a spokeswoman for the Cloister golf and tennis resort in Georgia, where skeet and trap shooting has proved an especially big hit. Call the Cloister at 800-732-4752 and ask about the summer Family Festival.

The demand for parent-child lessons has prompted L. L. Bean to add family kayak, canoe and fly-fishing weekends to its Outdoor Discovery Program for next season. The parent-teen wilderness courses offered by the nonprofit Outward Bound, the largest adventure-based educational organization in the country, continue to grow in popularity, said Outward Bound spokesman Barry Rosen. There are now more than 30 courses designed especially for families.

Rosen noted that in situations where parent and child are both novices -- dog sledding in Minnesota, white-water canoeing in Texas or rock climbing in North Carolina, for example -- parents will find they can learn plenty from their kids.

"It helps for the kids to see that adults don't know everything," adds Rod Kramer, who teaches mountain biking and sees parents and teens in his Dirt Camp classes around the country. Call 800-711-DIRT for information about summer Dirt Camp at ski resorts. Call L. L. Bean at 800-341-4341, Ext. 26666 or visit the Web site ( Call Outward Bound at 800-243-8520 or visit its Web site (www. outwardbound .org).

"Sharing a new sport is an excellent opportunity for your kids to get to know you as a person, not just a parent telling them what to do -- as someone they enjoy spending time with," agrees Los Angeles psychiatrist and UCLA professor Bari Stryer, an expert on children and sports.

That's as long as you refrain from being so competitive with your child or so critical about his efforts that he feels he can't live up to your expectations or admit he's scared. "What's important is having a good time together," said Stryer, "not winning."

A new sport can offer a stepfamily more than just a fun time. Just ask Melissa Gullotti. "I was 8 and really mad about my parents' divorce and my dad's remarriage, but when I saw my stepmom rip down the slopes, it helped me to respect her. Skiing became something we shared as a new family," said Gullotti, now 26 and an advanced skier who works at Vermont's Mount Snow, where many families learn together to ski, snowboard or mountain bike. Call 800-245-7669 and ask about arranging a family lesson.

Other families, including many with younger children, will devote entire vacations to a sport they already love -- honing their hockey, tennis or baseball skills at parent-child sports camps or resort programs.

"It was the sweetest time I've ever had with my son," said Bruce Adams. Adams, a University of Maryland public policy researcher, took his then 6-year-old son, Hugh, to a father-son baseball camp near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"I learned more about baseball than I've learned my whole life," continued Adams. He already knew plenty as a Little League coach and co-author with his wife of "Fodor's Ballpark Vacations" ($16.50, Fodor's Travel Publications).

There was an extra bonus -- four straight days without any whining.

"That was an incredible experience," he said.

Send your questions and comments about family travel to Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053 or e-mail to

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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