I'm jealous of my kids. By this point in their lives, they've had summer-camp experiences ranging from all-day art classes to summer-long drama workshops, from swim camps at West Point to dance camps in Toronto.

By the time I got out of high school, all I had to show for my summers was the ability to peel an apple into one long, uninterrupted ribbon.

You see my mother decided we should start a bakery business just as I was beginning high school. She's always claimed it was her way of "keeping you kids off the streets." Never mind that we lived in a rural community on the East Coast and the only thing we had to fear from "the streets" were seagulls with bad attitudes and tractors going faster than 15 miles per hour. My summers were spent peeling apples and rolling out pie dough.

Nowadays it seems to be a perfectly normal, nay even expected, part of childhood to spend some portion of one's summer wallowing in all sorts of new and interesting experiences. And, yes, I am jealous.

As I was compiling this issue's Summer Camp Guide along with Dispatch reporter Kevin Joy (who admirably managed all this at the same time he was managing what will go down as the Ted Williams chapter of his journalistic life), I found myself pausing periodically to take in the descriptions of various camps. Horseback riding, zip lines, creative writing, video-game design, bug hunts and "power a capella" singing. Yeah, let's upgrade jealous to just plain bitter.

And yet does any of this resentment stop me from pondering what I'll sign my youngest, still of summer-camping age, up for this summer? Heck, no. The way I see it, summer camp is a sneaky (and therefore highly effective) form of education - for everyone in the family.

There's the subject-matter education, the stuff your kid learns about art, science, soccer, etiquette and video production.

There's the life-skills education your kid acquires while trying to get along with strangers as quickly as possible.

There are the insights that you, as a parent, glean about what really excites your children because, let's face it, what your children should be steering the ships of their lives toward are the activities that excite them most.

And I love seeing what the freedom of summer-time learning facilitates. It's how I found out that my daughter really was cut out for a professional life in ballet and for that I am eternally grateful.

But I shouldn't minimize the value of what I learned during my summers in the family bakery either. I learned more there about business than in any classroom. My blueberry pie plays a pivotal role in the success of my marriage. And there is nothing like being able to peel an apple into one long, uninterrupted ribbon to strike awe in the hearts of your children. Which, if I'm not mistaken, is Goal #17 in the Guidebook for Excellent Parenting.

So enjoy perusing our Summer Camp Guide here and be sure to check out even more information in our online directory at ColumbusParent.com. And, most of all, enjoy figuring out what excites your kids!


Follow Jane Hawes on Twitter at @Jane_Hawes