Why Overnight Camp Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

This is the 1st in a three part series about why I send my child to summer camp.

photo by Jill Butin Neuman

It happens each summer. People ask about our plans, and when certain folks learn that our child spends several weeks each summer at overnight camp, I am met with looks of incredulity and sometimes horror.

More often than not, people gasp and say things like: “I could never do that,” as if to imply that I somehow force my son to pack his trunk and duffel and get out of our house. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if I didn’t let him go, he would consider that the biggest punishment – ever!

Sometimes I get a variation on the theme: “I would never do that.” This response is extra excellent as it is packed with a little judgment, which I really appreciate. This response implies that I am somehow harming my child, perhaps inviting trouble into his life because I won’t be there to oversee his every move 100% of the time. (Can you imagine?)

When people respond this way, I sometimes get a little snarky and say, “At least this summer he came home with nine fingers.” (Insert a dramatic pause.) “Last summer was a disaster.” I know they are imagining pedophiles lurking around the showers or picturing their own children drowning, their heads being held under water by rowdy unsupervised troublemakers.

These are their issues.

For me, overnight camp was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me, and I feel fortunate that my husband and I are able to pay this gift forward to our child. Here’s what overnight camp gave me and continues to give children who attend each year:

1. Continued Independence. Each August, sonny boy and his posse of buddies hop on the camp bus and return with a kind of “we-can-survive-without-our-parents” vibe. I once asked my son if anyone ever gets homesick. He shrugged, “Usually, our counselors keep us too busy to even think about being homesick. If it does happen, it is usually the new kids – but once they get into it and get comfortable with the routine, all that homesickness goes away,” then he added, “Plus, we take care of each other.”

2. Benefits of Communal Life. Living in a bunk with 8 or 9 “summer siblings” affords kids the opportunity to develop some amazing problem solving skills.

If there is an argument, instead of a parent swooping in to the rescue, the boys generally have to work it out by themselves.

That means using their mouths to directly communicate their feelings. Sometimes they aren’t so great at expressing the subtle nuances of their emotions, but – again – they have each other to lean on. If things ever escalate, they have counselors and Unit Heads to help them.

There are other benefits of living in a large group. The boys learn to respect each other’s property, tolerate each other’s quirks, and appreciate each other’s boundaries. Everyone sees each other at their best and their worst selves. Summer camp goes a long way towards undoing that horrible “entitled” attitude. The spoiled girl quickly learns when her peers have had enough of her whining. Kids are patient to a point, but when an entire bunk is angry at you, it is time to take a look in the mirror. Campers quickly learn that despite the fact that a person cannot always get what he wants, everything usually turns out okay in the end.

3. Time Away from Technology. Okay, so when I was young, there was less technology, but I still missed Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and General Hospital. These days, chances are that your children know how to do things on your computer and cell phone that you had no idea could be done. During the school year, older kids are addicted to their social networks (Facebook and MySpace), their email accounts, their Apps, the Internet, and IMing. They are used to the constant buzz-ping of each new text message as it arrives. Being unplugged from most technology allows kids to connect with each other, a valuable skill that seems to be getting lost a bit these days. My son reminds me, “We’re not totally cut off. We can have iPods (there is no Wi-Fi access), so if someone needs some alone time, he can just pop in the ear buds.” But staff members have told me that after a few days, many kids begin to prefer people to gadgets, and rather than tune out, they start to look for other campers to “hang out with.”

4. Connection to Nature. While our family is fortunate to live in an area with plenty of access to great parks, during the school year, many children just do not have a lot of spare time to go outside and play. My son says, “At camp, we are kind of forced to appreciate nature. It’s easy to forget, but once you start walking around, you can’t help but remember.” Camp Seneca Lake has over 200 acres to explore. Trails to blaze. There are squirrels, field mice, lots of ants and millipedes; there are raccoons and skunks and deer. There is a beautiful lake with a beach that consists of zillions of flat shale rocks, perfect for skipping. What more could a kid want?

5. Opportunity to Try New Things. I like to think of CSL as a “liberal arts” camp.

Unlike sports camps where kids learn the skills necessary to specialize in one venue, at CSL kids have the opportunity to try new things simply because they have access to so many opportunities they may not have at home.

The “non-jock” can try floor hockey or excel at Ga-ga, a weird game I’ve never seen played outside of summer camp. There are plays in which kids can perform; an art barn where children can make jewelry, throw on the potter’s wheel, batik, make candles, draw, paint, make just about anything. (A far cry from boondoggle – although they have plenty of that, too.) At Athletics, they can practice archery, basketball, tetherball, softball, tennis, ping-pong – and any other land sport you can think of. The waterfront offers canoeing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, sailing, banana boating — even opportunities to swim-the-lake! Picky eaters might even try something new because the kids work up a real appetite trying all these incredible activities.

There is more to say, and I will, but I would also love to hear from you.

Would you allow your child to attend overnight camp for an extended period of time? Why or why not?

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127 responses to “Why Overnight Camp Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

  1. This summer, I had mentioned to a few of my friends that we should all send our girls to CSL next year. It was met with the same reactions you described! “I would never ship my daughter off.” Ship them off? It’s summer camp! The best time of their lives! And I was so excited that my youngest will be old enough to go next year!

    All I could think of was the wonderful friendships she would make. The independence she would feel and maturity she would come back with. Sure, I also like the idea of being childless for a few weeks. It’s been 14 years. (I have 3 girls, one who is special needs, one who tried CSL but wasn’t ready, and one who will be perfect for it!) Next summer is the summer they will all go away to camp.

    I loved camp. I still love camp. I love my parents for sending me to camp! I got to experience things I would of never done! I think there is such merit in spending time learning to live with others without all the conveniences of modern life. And to not have mom micromanaging every choice. Will they always shower and wear clean clothes? Probably not. Is that so bad? No. If you didn’t go to overnight camp it’s hard to understand just how fabulous it is.

    • Alison:
      Amazing the way people respond, right? Don’t let those Debbie-Downers sway you and your friend. Your kids will love you for it!

    • I have two boys aged 9 and 14. I would absolutely send them to camp for the summer! In fact, my 14 year old has asked in the past and we haven’t been able to do so. After reading your post, I am going to seriously consider this option for next summer as I agree, they can learn so much and benefit from the experience in so many ways. Good for you!

  2. Kirk Fleischer

    This was the first year my kids went to overnight camp. I will say that I was a bit of a nervous parent initially (despite having spent years at the very same camp when I was young). While my daughter had been traveling before with her BFF, my son had never been away from home for more than a sleep-over. Whether I was traveling on business or not, I was never more than a phone call away. Whether I knew what they were doing or not at any moment, I could always know. Now, they were heading off for a whole month! This became as much a learning lesson in “unplugging” for me as it was in independence for them. Ultimately, I think we all had a great experience with them away. My kids loved camp and it will always be a part of them. They grew, both emotionally and physically, and are more confident kids, knowing that they can go someplace where they do not know a soul and make good friends, not depending on their parents. My wife and I realized that having time away from the kids is incredibly healthy for us and we’re looking forward to next year when we can be on the same coast while our kids are away.

    So, to answer your question, yes, I would definitely send my kids to overnight camp.

  3. My parents did a great job of parenting, but camp taught me independence and and gave me the confidence to be myself. I have always wanted that for my children, and sadly, they are not “camp” children, nor was my husband when he was a child. For the first time, at almost 17, my daughter spent 2 weeks away from us this summer, in Israel, and had an amazing time with 15 other teens her age. Maybe now she understands the value of time spent away from Mom & Dad, exploring new things and places and a stronger sense of community, but on her own terms.

    As for me, I still feel CSL, with all that it offered me as a child, teen and young adult, has been unrivaled by any other experience to date. It shaped the person I have become and my outlook on the world. It is, without a doubt, my childhood “happy place”. And I learned to be a great jacks player!

  4. I think one of the biggest things I look for as a parent is the opportunity to build self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-reliance. I took the same approach when running the waterfront at camp. When a kid learns to sail, finally gets up on waterskis, gets to the top of a climbing wall, or stands up in front of the camp to do something they learn all of these lessons. Try something new, even fail a few times, practice, then accomplish – if you learn that through practice you can learn, I think it is a big life lesson. Camp does that in so many ways.

  5. I, too, am met with similar remarks when people hear that we send our kids to summer camp. For our kids, it is something we have talked about their entire lives! My husband went to the same camp when he was a kid, and my children have spent at least a weekend there almost since the day they were born. Most people know this about us, but when they hear “3 weeks” the look and the judgmental tone are there almost instantly! What really gets me is when I say I will miss them – I often hear “well, why would you send them?” When has it become all about me? I feel that the summer camping experience is amazing for children, and I wish I could go back and do it again. Maybe if more people sent their kids to camp, they would be more prepared for the world, a little more independent, and self-reliant. We are always here for our children and I have a very close relationship with mine. I feel privileged to be able to send them. It is one of the greatest things I can do!!

  6. I’ll say “ditto” to just about everything– my social circle today still includes mostly people that I spent time as summer camp with. Those are the only friendships that have seemed to remain after all these years.

    Another comment: I remember when I was a staff member at camp– there was a certain boy camper that was athletic, well liked, funny, smiley, and just a natural “camp kid”– always joking with the staff and almost a leader among the kids. Well, one summer I met his older stepsister– who told me that he loved his summer experiences so much because they were SO different from his school experiences. During the school year, this fabulous kid was almost an outcast– he was classified as having behavior problems and learning disabilities, and had a therapist that had almost given up on him. Yet every summer, he was given the ability to shine– and to reinvent himself. My kids do just fine during the school year– but the summer gives them a real chance to figure out who they really are– pick a style, define their likes and dislikes– all without mom & dad overshadowing their choices. Every summer, the kids that I pick up from the bus coming home have grown (and grown up) so much since I dropped them off for the bus to camp!!

    OK– one more comment: I also know that my “little baby boy” has grown up because the male bonding at camp includes “smelling like a man” — my then 10 yr old came home last summer smelling like Axe and Speed Stick! Whatever happened to the Tom Kitten baby shampoo smell?

  7. After camp, life has been a search to recreate camp in my life. I still spend summers with camp friends recreating that feeling of fun and greatness all around. Life is one big mass program as its been said (by Sir Paul I believe). I would not want my kids to miss this experience of fun and friendship.

    I think your #1 – 5 are right on about camp.

    When I went to visiting day, I realized something about camp that I hadn’t really thought about before. Well maybe I did, but I forgot … not sure. Anyway the thought was that camp is its own world with its own language and cheers that everyone knows – where for a specific period of time all that matters is exactly what’s going on there – and what’s going on there is larger than regular life. Since everything going on is at the experience of 11 (on the scale of 1- 10) its a chance for each person to be famous for being themselves.

    That said, this is the first summer I sent my older son to camp. I never realized how hard it would be and how much pain is involved. He’s having a fantastic time but we miss him soooo much. I feel like an empty-nester, though I still have one bird with us. We did 7 weeks this first summer (his cousins and aunt are at the camp). I think 1 month might be a better balance … we’ll see.

    thanks gosh for bunk1!

  8. I think summer camp would be great. I especially like that fact that they are basically cut off from technology. That is very important right now, since so many people are caught up in facebook and twitter. Plus…I think it’s great for parents to get some alone time…it benefits both sides.

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

  9. Absolutely! Some of my best memories are from being a camper and then being staff at summer camp. I’ve gotten the same things you all have, “How can you stand to be away from them!”, etc, etc. Easy! They want to go! I think the questions that need to be asked of scared parents is: Why aren’t you willing to let your kid go? Too scared they may learn something without you holding their hand? Too scared they may become independent? Too scared they may go the whole week without showering? WHO CARES! 1. They need to learn that mom and dad won’t be there all the time. 2. Independence is good! Look at what we (as Americans) did in 1776. 3. You’re not going to smell them.

  10. Camp is definitely a healthy decision for children. They meet new people, spend lots of time in the fresh air, learn new things, get to do the dishes of a hundred other messy messy children… haha

    I was a shy kid, and somehow never ended up being sent to camp with any friends joining me, but it forced me out of that little bubble and I made friends. I think camp is a great character building experience… as cliche as that sounds!

  11. My daughter is 14 year old and still I get the “I would never send MY child away for so long” (2 weeks). She left for Canada to see some friends, mind you, and I am very happy that she is becoming so independent. That’s what children do, day after day, learn to be more independent. If you are restraining them and keeping them up close, you’re not doing a good job at parenting, and that’s it.

  12. Camp CHANGED my life. As you said Renee…it was the best gift my father ever gave me. I dream of one day bestowing that on my children! I had no idea so many parents were off put at the idea. It is funny though, as a 28 year old and someone who last worked at CSL in 2004, I constantly get smirks & jokes when I tell friends I’m going to camp for the weekend. “You STILL go to camp?!!?” they ask me. Whatever, I know in my heart…they will never understand, and that truly sucks for them, lol.

    CSL was amazing, it created my entire world & I need more than my two hands to count the number of close, close friends I still have all because of that place and the memories I will always have. So parents, do your children a favor, actually give them LIFE and send them to camp. The longer the better, in my opinion. :)

  13. I wish I could do summer camp as an adult – I had so much fun and so many good memories in the summer as a kid!

  14. The independence a child develops at camp cannot be duplicated anywhere else. The child you send to camp is never the child that comes home, even when they are staff. I agree that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the chance to go to overnight camp. My daughter is a third generation camper and that’s an amazing feeling. So I hope we all make sure that “our camp” is here for generations to come. And it’s so cool that she loves camp as much as I did. It hasn’t changed much – the fun, the friends, the intense feelings, and all the life lessons you learn when you’re there.

    I too got stunned looks when I told people we were sending our daughter to overnight camp. People that didn’t go will never “get it.” My husband, who never went to overnight camp, still doesn’t but he’s been a trooper about sending our daughter because he sees how much fun she has and how positive she feels about herself when she gets home.

    Overnight camp…….there’s NOTHING like it!!

  15. Joanne Serling Fisher

    What can I add that hasn’t been said by so many. I always wanted my boys to want to go to camp. They’ve finally expressed an interest and are going to my husband’s camp next summer. Never mind my total shock and awe that they will not be going to Seneca Lake!! I’m just glad they want to take this giant step towards independence, happiness and fun! And, we’ll all get to experience Family Camp at CSL this summer.

    • You are going to have the best time! Who says you can’t go home again? Your family will have a blast … and maybe your kids will wind up loving it so much that they’ll want to go one day. It’s a good way to transition them!

  16. adventuresomeentrepeneur

    Camps are a great way to help kids, especially the ones that are having trouble adjusting. The skills that they learn are invaluable!

  17. Ahna Rebekah Hendrix

    I loved your post, and commend you for giving “those” parents something to think about!

    When I was a young girl my parents sent me away to summer camp every year, and I loved it! It was a place that offered me the opportunity to find a piece of myself and exercise my independence.

    It was the first place my young heart fell in love and the first place I learned to dance ~ I would not change those experiences for anything.

    Also, I think special emphasis should be put on the fact that kids should have to part with their electronics.

    I grew up playing outside ~ we weren’t allowed to watch much TV and I am grateful for that.

    Kids nowadays need to be shown just how wonderful outdoor activities are and gain respect for nature ~ I think it is imperative for the future of our planet and the future of our kid’s health.

    Thanks again for the great post!

  18. People balk at sending your kid to three weeks of summer camp?!

    I have no idea what they’d do, then, if they found out i force my daughter to leave our rural African home with no real destination, left only to wander the mountainous countryside foraging for berries and mushrooms. And she wishes it were only for three weeks… that’s just her appetizer of quiet and rest before the true wilderness survival time kicks in.

    But talk about continued independence, time away from technology, and connection to nature — she gets those things in spades.

  19. I enjoyed reading this article and your writing style. I agree with all of your points – and do not forget in connection with #2, the lasting friendships/bonds that occur in an overnight camp setting that a day camp does not allow for. Bunk mates becomes your family for the summer.

    Also, summer camp helps develop necessary budgeting skills you need in the real world. If campers use their canteen money too quickly, they get to watch others eat candy the rest of the summer or until their parents replenish the canteen account. Budgeting canteen money over the summer, helps campers later in life budget their mortgage/rent/car payment etc. :)

    Finally, in Florida it has become a reality that specials such as music and art are being cut from school programs to save districts money. I hope New York State does not follow suit, but if they do camp is a great place to get this enrichment.

    Do they still sing James Taylorr’s “You’ve got a Friend” at CSL? I recall a Joanne used to sing that and still love JT today.

    Here is a link to an article I wrote about choosing a sports camp many years ago.
    http://ebasketballcamps.com/choosingacamp.html

    • Such a good point! With so many wonderful programs getting cut – programs that we took for granted as being part of the regular curriculum – summer camp is sometimes the only place where kids can learn about ceramics, try a certain sport or hobby.

  20. Get Stitchy with Sarah

    Amen, sister!

    Once we found a good camp, you couldn’t have kept me out of there. One year I stayed for 8 weeks. I spent a lovely summer working as a counselor at that same camp after I left high school.

    My own daughter was both mentally and physically handicapped and could not go to traditional overnight camps. But I worked up the courage to send her to a UCP summer camp for special needs kids in our city and she loved it. Last summer she attended every session. Our sweetie passed away in September and I am so glad she was able to have such fun filled summers during her short life.

  21. Amen! My son has Down Syndrome and I send him to overnight camp for a week every summer. He has a great time and they do all the same things typical kids would do. His “summer siblings” are great for him since he is an only child. The counselors are wonderful. He is more daring at camp. This year he went down a zip line in the woods! Some people have asked me the same things as you as far as fear, but I was more fearful the first year I sent him than he was. Silly me! It’s the highlight of his summer and he talks about it all year. I had a great summer camp experience myself and am so happy my child can have the same.

    North Coast Muse @ http://sally1029.wordpress.com

  22. I have great memories of summer camp. Just wish my teens would consider it….

  23. I can’t stand judgemental parents. Let’s just stop that. Everybody’s family is different, you don’t need to pretend like your way is best all the time. (sorry, rant over)

    The only exposure I had to overnight camp as a kid was watching Friday the 13th. Maybe that’s why I never wanted to go. ;) I was contemplating sending my 12-year-old next year. Your post made some good points in the “pro” category. Thanks.

  24. I worked at a camp for a summer. The kids would show up scared, but by the end of the week they didn’t want to leave. Not only was it a great experience for them, but it exposed them to new activities like photography (they loved developing their own pictures) and archery.

  25. I think it is an amazing opportunity for kids and hope my son will be able to have this type of experience in the future!

  26. EXCELLENT post!!! I was just expounding on the virtues of summer camps the other day to some non believers. You have defined the positives so perfectly here (including the gratitude for 9 fingers…LOL!!!) My oldest has gone away every summer for a week to a camp like you describe and has always loved it and learned so much. And the friendships are intense and last forever. Great post!!!!

  27. Love your post. Kids really do need that time away. My two oldest went to a Christian teen camp for a week this summer. It gives them a chance to be away from us while building their own lives and personalities. Just punch those nay-sayers in the nose. I bet they are helicopter parents.

  28. My oldest has been flying on a plane by herself from Hawaaii since she was in 4th grade to get to California to go to camp. That’s how important we think it is.

    She’s there right now, that’s why I have time to read this blog! Great post.

    Summer camp played a huge role in my life. I went to a 20 year reunion last fall.

    We send both of our girls to camp for 3-4 weeks in the summer and it is the highlight for them.

  29. Couldn’t agree more with you!! You’re spot on ;)
    I was a counselor at a camp in the States a few years back and the kids absolutely loooooved staying at camp :) Ok, maybe 1 or 2 kids actually got a bit homesick, but that’s like less than 1%…
    I’ll definitely be sending my kids back to the States one day to attend an overnight camp :D

  30. I’ve just hit “publish” on a bloggity-blog post about summer camp, only to discover yours! How serendipitous. And re-affirming, that there are few substitutes for the life lessons our kids discover on their own at camp, away from parental over-lording and the clutches of the techno landscape. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. The comments, as well, are all brilliant!

  31. I don’t have kids, so I can’t comment in that regard. But, I went to summer camps as a kid, and not only was it extremely good for both me and my parents, but it was always an awesome experience.

    As someone stated earlier, though, each situation and family is going to be different. So what’s good and beneficial for some, might not be for others.

  32. I wish my parents had been able to send me to camp for three weeks each summer. If they had maybe I wouldn’t be afraid of the trip I’m taking to NYC in September. I’m going all by myself! And I’ve never been East of the Mississippi River. I’m sure I’ll be fine… *gulp*

    http://crystalspins.com

  33. My two oldest children go to Camp Ramah in Canada. They are six hours away across a border and we would not have it any other way.

    They love it. We all love the change of pace, they love living in a bunk with other kids and living Jewishly every day, every minute at camp.

    I think they would live there year-round if they could. They have friends at school, but there is something special about the friends you make at camp. I met my husband at camp. My father and mother in law met at camp as counselors, and my parents, when they first married, spent a summer working at a sleep away camp.

    My only lament is that they are developing summer memories that don’t include the whole family, and we don’t get to travel much — okay at all- to far away places like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon together.

  34. Thank you for posting. I have to admit I was one of ‘those’ people who sort of turned up my nose at summer camp. I never even considered it because as a kid I was too afraid to even sleep at my grandparents’ house a mile away from home. Now I hear and see about so many people sending their kids and every kid I know that goes to camp loves it. Changed my whole perspective.

    My kid is only 5 months old so we have a while, but my mind has already been changed.

  35. My granddaughter Fiona went to one of those “day camps,” so I had to take her camping in my new pop up trailer to show her how camping is done the right way.

    The Codger
    http://thecodger.wordpress.com/

  36. I started going to Camp Wahanowin in Orillia, Ontario when I was twelve years old and kept going for six years. What is more, excepting the first year, I always went for the full eight weeks.

    My close friends and their families sometimes said negative things about it and tended to treat me like the poor abandoned child, but I REALLY needed camp.

    Sixth grade was a rough time for me. I didn’t have that many friends, and a lot of my classmates (even some of my few “friends”) picked on me. I’m a huge extrovert, yet I spent the majority of my time reading (I mean to the extent that teachers started to take away my books during free time).

    Before I left for camp, I was expecting it to be a lot of the same, but when I got there, I found that people at camp actually liked me. I came to realize that a lot of my classmates were just really nasty and that they were nasty to me had nothing to do with who I was as a person. After all, people who weren’t my classmates actually thought I was really cool. It’s been almost a decade since my first summer at camp, and people who I knew just for those four weeks still track me down on Facebook to tell me how cool they thought I was when we were twelve.

    When I got back to school in the fall, I was a different person. I had so much more self-esteem because camp made me realize that I was a person of value. Without camp, I would still be that little mouse of a girl who desperately wanted to talk but thought she was too much of a loser to open her mouth. Not to mention that when I got to college I had much less of a transition to make and was one of the only people in my freshman hall who never got homesick.

  37. If you ask me, the 2nd thing I miss most about summers as a kid is my time away at camp. What a glorious time… away from parents and getting to meet new kids. I LOVED summer camp. I went to 4-H camp, language camps, swim camps, I would have gone to any camp I could have. Then I got paid for going to camp and became a counselor. It was the time of my life and would give anything to have a week or two of summer camp again.

    If I ever have kids, I will make sure they can attend summer camp as soon as they are old enough. It give kids a chance to learn from others, learn more about diversity, and gives them a sense of independence. I say way to go giving your kids a chance away! :)

  38. I used to be involved in Girl Guiding and went on three camps on the years I was there. As we didn’t have a ‘camp license,’ we had to stick to staying in houses rather than doing ‘proper’ camping in the woods.

    I survived each camp and well, pretty much enjoyed them. They were a week long each and mostly disaster free — apart from the first one where a girl had to be taken back to mainland (we were staying on Brownsea Island) as she was really ill; the second one, where I spend the rest of the summer with a sprained leg as I tripped up during a wide game; and the third one where a whole bunch of us got sick and one of our Young Leaders had to be airlifted (we were on Brownsea again) as she knocked herself out pretty badly, and I came home with a giant bruise on my leg from an assault course accident.

    I wasn’t homesick, I didn’t really miss the tv (kind of missed the computer though), and generally had a good time there. I think it may have been as we were too busy to think of anything else, especially as each day you were on a different chore type, either ‘house’ (cleaning), ‘hygiene’ (bathrooms), ‘cooks’ (cooking and trying not to make [the chef] angry)

  39. Awesome! I and my husband believe parents are too overprotective of thier children.

  40. Well said, children need to be allowed go go out and forge their own experiences by which they can learn from. Good post.

    Simon @ http://simplesimonsaid.wordpress.com

  41. First and most important: find the proper camp for your child. And be sure there is good supervision. My one child adored it; my other child said once is enough. That fine. My experience with camp was that it was scary at first, but I found I had to learn to be self-reliant and make decisions that were best for me. I LEARNED THAT IT IS A BIG WORLD OUT THERE WITH MANY TYPES OF PEOPLE. I may still have moments of insecurity and fear, but camp taught me to be brave and make new friends. I realized I could survive in a completely different surrounding and cope. Growing up is not easy! Obstacles get in the way, but they can be solved. Camp can be one of the ways to find this knowledge. You even find some of your greatest strengths at camp. You also realize you can not please everyone. Life is full of ups and downs and what better way to grow self esteem and self confidence? A good respectable camp, with good recommendations can make even a nervous parent feel at ease. At the end of the experience, the child can make a good decision about if he/she wants to return or not. But without trying something, someone might always wonder “What if?”

  42. Camp Supporter

    I used to run an after-school elementary program for children in a “comfortable” section of Brooklyn. I spent MONTHS trying to talk the parents of my older kids into sending them to summer camp for a bit. They were appalled. “My daughter is ONLY 10! A week is too long”. Apparently, it’s better for their kids to spend the summer indoors with nannies.

    So I tried the kids. They were horrified at the idea of leaving their parents. HORRIFIED. They couldn’t believe I’d done it for so many years. I had a fifth grader tell me she’d rather go back to “the same old boring church day camp” than go to a sleep away camp.

    These kids NEED camp- they are so coddled and clingly. Camp could be the best thing that ever happened to them! Too judgmental?

    Sleep away camp was the most formative part of my childhood. It taught me independence, communal living skills, responsibility, and of course a healthy respect & understanding of the opposite sex. And it introduced me to a world of opportunities day camps & sitters would be hard-pressed to provide.

    I think all parents should encourage their kids to at least give-it-a-go.

  43. Yes, as a 22 year old female, I love this post! I notice a few things about parents and their kids. Actually, I notice it in my friends and sometimes I wish their parents did a few things differently. One would be to teach their kids how to live with other people! I cannot believe how inconsiderate friends can be in the morning or in the evening or when traveling in the car with people trying to sleep! It’s RIDICULOUS!

    Also, independence. Please, people, learn how to make your own choices without having to freak out and call your parents because you didn’t make the BEST choice but you made a pretty okay choice.

    Lastly, it would be the opportunity to experience new things! I wish my friends were able to be open to a little more diversity. Able to go hiking and learning about new things, visiting museums, etc. Ugh, more life and fewer “I wishes”!

    • There are actually studies that show that kids who go to summer camp tend to do better as they head of and transition to college as they have already had a similar life experience! They have left home, everyone they know, for the unknown and had to learn everything new. Most people who attend overnight camps LOVE getting away from their parents for a little while and having more of a peer relationship, which is really what the college experience is about. Studies show summer camp kids tend to “go crazy” a little less as they have had to act independently and responsibly without hovering parents. Kind of interesting, no? Glad you are open, independent, and ready to take on the world!

  44. I love it when my daughter goes to camp. If only they would allow longer than a two week stay.

  45. As a child and teen my parents sent me to camp.
    I looked forward to it all year.
    In retrospect, Although it is a well known, well respected camp, I learned many things there that my parents weren’t paying for. Smoking pot, Falling in love and lust at way too young an age to name just 2.
    As a parent of six kids we could never afford to send our kids away to camp.
    They worked summer jobs from young ages starting with babysitting and moving on to other “real jobs”.
    Despite their not having the “awesome” summer camp experiences they all turned out okay, none are sucking their thumbs are in jail or dilinquent.
    All are college educated or are in college presently one in law school one just starting medical school.
    The comment about campers getting an intelligence “edge” is laughable.
    Have a great weekend fellow campers.
    Nice post.

  46. Couldn’t agree more. My parents sent me to camp and I loved it! Now I want to give this gift of fun, tolerance, independence, individuality, nature, competition, sharing, acceptance and curiosity to my children.

  47. This is such a great post. I look forward to reading parts 2 & 3… I have two sisters with kids who are constantly arguing about whether or not to send their kids. I’ll definitely forward this on!! Take care!

  48. From an ex-campdirector… Thank you SO MUCH for writing this post! I hated camp as a kid, and fell in love with it as an adult. I used my personal experience to train my staff everysummer about the power they held as the “cool” camp counselors and how they could change a life in a simple moment… I wish more parents would stop hovering and just let GO. It does the child SO MUCH GOOD.

  49. Excellent points! I will be a counselor for a week in August, and the same advantages apply. Camp is a great experience; sometimes people need to step outside their comfort zones! :)

  50. I have no kids yet, but summer camp was always a highlight of my summers.

    Also, Ga-ga is amazing, and I’ve also never seen it played anywhere but camp. For that alone, I would say “YAY camp!”

  51. I work with middle school students, and every year we take them to a week long camp in Prescott, AZ. It always makes me sad when I hear students who couldn’t make it say it was because their parents wouldn’t “let them.” Camp is an awesome place for kids to come out of their shells, try new things, face their fears, and get to know their peers better. Thanks for this post!

  52. First off, in terms of fair disclosure, I am a camp director….so, you are preaching to the choir!

    I was just posting my every other day wordpress update for our parents, alumni and interested parties when I noticed your posting….

    You have totally nailed it….You have hit on just about everything that is wonderful for children (and young adults) about the camp experience….

    The only thing that I would add is the sense of belonging that kids get from a healthy camp experience. That is to say, most camp kids are around the middle school ages. It is a time when kids can be cruel and unkind to each other. Camps provide and advocate a healthy environment that is centered on treating each other well….They work to intentionally create communities in which kids can be accepted for who they are. And THAT is excactly what kids of that age need….

    So…BRAVO for your post…thanks for spreading the important good word.

    And, if you are dying for a taste of camp in your post camper years, feel free to read all about it at:

    http://nebagamon.wordpress.com (sorry….couldn’t help it!)

  53. Great article. We have a summer camp for kids and it’s in France. We had 9 parents who sent their kids with us for 18 days. It changed their lives. I have many friends who send their kids to sleep-away camps and believe it makes their child more independent, encourages their child to make new friends, etc.. some go for the whole summer. I loved going away to summer camp, although mine was gymnastics camp. But I made great friends, had a wonderful time and came home a bit more mature.

  54. I wish I could be a kid again at summer camp. It was some of the best times of my life. Any parent who makes those kinds of comments is an idiot, and I bet their kids just want to get the hell away from them.

  55. How about 7 weeks? I almost always get looks from people about that. All 3 of mine are at camp now. My youngest just started and will only be there 3 weeks. We just got a very unhappy letter from him, although he loved camp last year. He is already doing better, and we know that this will be a good life lesson for him. He is learning how to deal with people he doesn’t like and he is learning how to transition to a new situation. It will be his choice whether he goes again next summer.

  56. You could not be more RIGHT!! Summer camp one of the best gifts you can give your child. My daughter is off for her very first year at an overnight camp in the Northern Woods of Wisconsin, and her fantastic letters filled with all of the new things she has tried plus the beaming photos of her on the camp website let me know that she is creating incredible, lifetime memories. It is my hope that this if the first year of many for her to be at overnight camp, and children to do not get this experience truly miss out.

  57. Camp…each summer I channel myself to be in the circle of trees, water and community where human beings come together and mirror the beauty of nature. Singing outside in groups with the voices young children and teens with adults — a spiritual experience that has translated into medicine for me. I do it still — carrying it to the lifeworld of the ill. Honored that Stu remembers “You’ve Got a Friend”-someone just sent it to me on FB. The summers at Camp Seneca Lake still live in me. The best part of my young kid life…has kept me young, actually — am ‘camp sick’ perpetually in the summer.

    • You have no idea how alive you still are in so many of us, Joanne. My first summer was in the late 1970s, and I still hear your name in my head when we “just call out your name” (Joanne) — it is burned it there, forever, with some half-charred stick from the waterfront campfire. Those summers were just right. You were just right. You were our love medicine. The people you sing to, though ill, are blessed to have your music in their lives.

  58. Yes, yes, and YES!!!

    BRAVO!!

    I went to overnight camp when I was a kid and I loved it. And you know what? No one molested me, I wasn’t bullied or beaten up or injured in any way. Can you believe it???

    There is a book that should be required reading for all parents – Culture of Fear – and I can’t remember the author’s name right now.

  59. I spent 10 wonderful years at Camp Narrin, a Girl Scout resident camp in Ortonville, Michigan. I LIVED for the four weeks that I got to spend there because it was really the only time of the year I felt at ease – like I belonged. As an only child, I loved sharing the platform tent with 3 other girls. I even liked the “housekeeping” chores we had to do, cooking out – ALL of it! My parents were so afraid when they sent me away for the first time – it was a two week session and they were sure I would be homesick! NOT! In fact, I wrote them mid week and asked if I could come back for the NEXT 2-week session and they arranged it! I was thrilled! I went on to spend 10 more years camp counseling (after a 2-year Counselor-in-Training Program) at various G.S. camps in Michigan and Ohio. Best gift my parents ever gave me!

  60. Summer camp is a way to expose the talents of a child and one can get refreshment after the burden of lots of study.

  61. I agree- camps are a great bonding and learning experience- especially for the older kids!

  62. I don’t have a kid as yet, but when I do, I will make sure that he gets to spend days and if not months connecting with nature and with people. There have been many good weeks in my life, but when I was 16, I spent a couple of weeks with other 16 year olds, a night’s train journey away from my home and city, for a soccer tourney at this place – http://goethalite.wordpress.com/ . I have lost touch with all those 16 year olds. And sometimes when life seems a drudgery, a little boring, a little short of enthusiasm. I remind myself of those two weeks. I had the time of my life. It was magic. Sheer magic.

    http://ideasfororganizations.wordpress.com

  63. We have seem to have forgotten the mature way of upbringing kids. Camping happens to be just one of the wonderful parts of childhood. My mom never stopped me if I wanted to join the school trips. Oh and I learned a lot. Mom was actually worried when I said that I wasn’t homesick even a bit the 1st time. Even at a young age, camping ensures and exposes kids kids to new experience whereby they learn how to be individuals instead of being just a little one alone. Congratulations.

  64. I don’t have kids yet, but I know for certain that we will be looking into sleep-away camps as soon as my hypothetical future children are old enough. The two weeks my sister spent at our camp each summer are some of the fondest memories we have.

    I was a painfully shy little girl, and meeting new people every year at camp brought me out of my shell. Camp was where I finally learned how to be myself and not be afraid of meeting new people or speaking up. By my third year there I was one of the “old-timers” and I ended up taking other shy, scared girls under my wing. Without that experience I would be a different person today.

    I know my mom was nervous sending me off for the first time. This was her little girl who would stare at her feet and mumble whenever meeting new people. Her little girl who couldn’t even look at a waitress, and would be sent into near panic by questions like, “and what dressing would you like on your salad.” Her little girl who never played with other kids – just sat on the bench and read a book and occasionally looked up at the other kids running and playing and sighed.

    Imagine her surprise when she returned in two weeks and I was begging to stay, talking about how I couldn’t wait to come back, and introducing her to everybody in the camp – all of whom were my new best friends!

  65. Great post. Thanks. Yes I would definitely allow it, I think parents can protect their children too much if we’re not careful. They need to be able to learn to operate in a tough world early on, and turn out to be nice people in it too.

    I was just saying that we only have one summer camp that I know of in South Africa, and how I would love to get on started here. Maybe I should do so!!

  66. This is an awesome post you have here. I would surely let my boys attend camp overnight. The friends, adventures and stories they bring home are priceless. I so remember going to camp and was so happy to learn what nature was all about.

    In the meantime, my boys attend a daily summer camp called outpost summer camp in San Diego. Here they get picked up from my home in the morning, then brought back at the end of the day. They do tons of activities; they swim and learn to play with mud and nature. They come home singing songs and learn magic tricks.

    Keep up the great articles.

  67. In the winter, I used to dream about going back to camp. About a year ago I reconnected with friends from camp that I hadn’t talked to in 25 years and all the memories came flooding back. Made me wish I could go back.

  68. I agree as long as the child is ready to go. Forcing kids just “so they grow up” can be damaging. For example, we have one child who would love this, and one for whom it would be a nightmare.

  69. Camp is magic. I met my husband and dearest friends at camp. Our children say that we genetically engineered them to love it. They are now counselors/group leaders at the same camp they went to as campers.
    My daughter wrote her senior honors thesis for college about camp!

    Check out the facebook page “Because of Camp”. Camp absolutely changes lives.
    Also see the book “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” — let’s let our children experience life and learn about it by doing!

    Thanks for writing this and starting the conversation.

    • I am familiar with the Facebook page and SKINNED KNEE is one of my favorite books! Yay! So, apparently, there are a lot of choir members out there. Where are all the people who give me the looks? They are awfully quiet!

  70. Right you are! I had my first taste of overnight camp just a month ago. For the first time in my life, I was away from home for four days. It was great, of course. My parents were reluctant to let me go at first, but just like your son, I would have also considered it as a punishment if they hadn’t let me go! You have very nice points. I was deeply interested. :)

  71. I sent my daughter to camp every summer, actually she usually went to 2 or 3 camps a summer. There are lots of different types of camps, so think about what would interest your child, but allow them the opportunity to try some things they think they might not like. My daughter loved camp, but didn’t like being away from home for more than 1 week. But once she touched base at home for a few days, she was ready to go again, hence she went to several 1 week camps rather than one long camp. Also at about the age of 12, she didn’t want to do the nature thing anymore so we found some wonderful camps that are held on college campuses and the kids stay in the dorms, perfect for her. It’s just knowing your child and what they are able to handle. Did I mention she is now an attorney and credits summer camps for helping her overcome her shyness and building her self confidence?

    • Absolutely true! While I am (obviously) an advocate of trying an outdoor type camp (just because kids spend so little time outdoors these days), if it doesn’t work, let it go! But don’t be afraid to keep trying to find the right summer overnight experience for your child. I’m so glad you didn’t stop at camp #1! And I’m glad that your daughter sees the value in being allowed to go out on her own a bit. SO much hovercraft/helicopter parenting these days, and it isn’t doing our children any favors!

  72. Great Post! As a camp counselor/director for the last 8 years (and hopefully 8 more), I really appreciated this! I can think of a number of parents who could read this.

  73. When I was young I went to summer camp each year and I loved it! Two weeks no parents and only friends and fun, being outside and camping. There’s nothing greater than that and sometimes I wish I could go back! I think every child should go to summer camp or at least have the choice.
    Thanks for the post!

  74. Thank you for your share!I agree as long as the child is ready to go. Forcing kids just “so they grow up” can be damaging. For example, we have one child who would love this, and one for whom it would be a nightmare.

  75. I concur with all of the above.

  76. Beautiful post, Renee. Camp is such an essential part of a child’s upbringing, in my opinion, for all of the reasons you mentioned. And yes, the friendships you make at camp last a lifetime. Amazing how just a few short weeks over the summer each year bring so many of us together. One of your commenter’s said it beautifully; ‘It was the first place my young heart fell in love and the first place I learned to dance ~ I would not change those experiences for anything.’ Ana Rebeka..Poetic.

    All children should have the opportunity to experience overnight camp. Forget those crazy parents that give you a hard time…what losers. My kids are going next summer…no matter what! And, yes, I still talk to a lot of my camp friends till this day…[thank God for FB for that!]

  77. Sorry about that. You can see the interview I mentioned above here.

    Camp is a great catalyst of growth for kids. I hope many more people send their kids to camp because of posts like this one.

  78. Hey, this is a great blog and a great topic. I’m Michael from Germany, since 20 years I´m a professional traditional bowyer, before I had been a social worker coaching disadvantaged kids.

    During summers, I do lot of bow- and archery- classes for adults and kids. I teach kids to make their own wooden bow, arrows, to use them without endangering others, to take care of their archery- tackle. I´m coaching others how to guide or to organize summer-camps, I run my own summer-camps too.

    I find Renée´s article very important and double it as well as most of the comments.

    I am the father of 2 wonderful daughters, an adult one, who has left for university and her own life 8 years ago and her sister, now 11 years old. Both know summer- camps very well, they came along with me, when I was ordered for a camp. Maybe you should know what comes next: my little one has just left last Friday for her first summer- camp without me! Her first overnight camp without me! It is only for 9 days, I know the owners of the camp, I know 3 friends of her are with here, it is not far away from our home (a half an hour- ride). When she has left, I felt somehow sad and caught myself up on clearing up her room the whole afternoon, even though I should have done some other things. Saturday morning I came across this wordpress freshly pressed article, call it accident or not.

    Reading the article and the comments, the pro and cons: it is all dealing with children leaving their home. My adult daughter is living her own life since years, so I thought I know what it is all about my little one leaving for her first overnight- camp. But there are pains you’ve nothing but to accept. Every time my daughters are leaving, I feel sad. That´s it, that´s being a father too: I worry about what could happen to them, are they well? … even I know very well what summer- camps are … .one of the most important gifts parents can offer their children.

    I really advise parents to let their children go for overnight- camp, when it is the time and when it is possible. I would add, enjoy the time when your kids are in camp, it should be a great time for the parents too. Be prepared for the day when the kids come back home again; usually they´ll return with a new self- confidence, new friendships, new ideas, new habits, so there´ll be some trouble, for sure. You know, “In camp it was much better…”

  79. I’ve been a camp counselor for many years. I can tell you from watching the kids and counselors that it definitely changes you as a child, teen or adult.

    Communal living allows for growth opportunities that cannot be found elsewhere.

    You’ll deal with a lot of drama, but come out stronger and with deeper connections because of it.

  80. It’s nice to see all of the positive thought about summer camp. As a kid, I was sent to only a “day” camp at the local park and rec. It was fun, but not quite what I’m reading here. My kids have not gone to summer camp, but with all of the life lessons that are obviously being learned, next summer may include camp for at least one of the kids! Thank you for the info.

  81. I really advise parents to let their children go for overnight- camp, when it is the time and when it is possible. I would add, enjoy the time when your kids are in camp, it should be a great time for the parents too. Be prepared for the day when the kids come back home again; usually they´ll return with a new self- confidence, new friendships, new ideas, new habits, so there´ll be some trouble, for sure. You know, “In camp it was much better…”

  82. As someone who has worked in summer camps for over a decade, thank you for your thoughtful reflections – may they be heard (read) around the world!

  83. I advise parents to let their children go for overnight- camp, when it is the time and when it is possible. let parents join to it should be a great time too. All children should have the opportunity to experience overnight camp. Forget those crazy parents that give you a hard time…what losers. My kids are going next summer…no matter what! And, yes, I still talk to a lot of my camp friends till this day…

  84. Camp was my favorite – for 8 years; daughters went for 10 years. Best times ever.

  85. Well, first, hello from Brazil. I agree with you, there´s nothing to be afraid of. Camping is something magic, the contact with Nature, Mother Nature, is essential for a better life.I just think that people should less “couch potato” and try to do something different with their lives.But, I am not telling about taking a Traillertruck and travelling. Go to the forest, feel the air.
    Take Care
    André

  86. The best summers I ever had were at summer camp, hands down, no doubt. I would recommend summer camp to anyone who asks. I loved camp so much, I became a camp counselor myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back in years, but I generally start dreaming about camp in January, when applications start to get ready for the next summer! The camp I went to had 3 different programs: a one week program (for the little ones, 7-12), a two week program (also 7-12) and a four week program (12-18). It sounds scary, sending a sever-year old away for summer camp, and sometimes they do get homesick, but generally, they have a great time and learn all kinds of new stuff, even about themselves.

  87. My two kids went away for two weeks to a summer theater camp for years, and they loved it intensely. They looked forward to it all year long. They’re both in college now, but they still have many of their camp friends. My son found what will be his future career while in camp – theatrical lighting. He’s currently majoring in that in college. I used their away-time to practice for being an empty-nester. I enjoyed that time, but I also loved picking them up from the camp bus at the end of the two weeks. The kids learned very valuable life skills, and came home more mature every year. I wish I’d gone to camp myself!

  88. I totally agree that it’s ridiculous how some parents are put off by the subject. If someone were to say that to me, all I would hear is: “Well, I never want my child to have fun or be independent-especially not without me guiding their every move.” That’s ridiculous! I’m 17 and I wish I would have been able to go to summer camp. I don’t know if there are any for teens my age. The money would be an issue too. *sigh*

  89. I went to summer camp at least once and it was a good experience for me. Sadly, what you say is true – it’s partly because we’ve evolved into a sue-happy society (no wonder trial lawyers are getting rich) and partly because parents are terrified of their children being at the mercy of nature.

    I stumbled across this post by accident when looking for something else, but it got me thinking. I had spoken to some people recently about this because of the 1977 movie “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.” The Peanuts gang in that movie goes out into the wilderness for a rafting race – and the comments parents today say about it are similar to what you hear parents say about children going to summer camp overnight. They are terrified of their children getting mauled by a bear or drowning in the lake.

  90. Overall, camp is a great experience that helps kids become more independent.

  91. Thank you for your great article especially for parents who have young children. I was so surprised after I saw so many comments on this article. I also want to send my children to summer camp but I always hesitate because of my consideration on their security. Is my hesitation natural or something to be changed?

    • James:

      I am glad you found this entry that is filled with people who have had positive camping experiences. i know that the MEDIA makes it seem like there are so many things to be terrified of, but really summer camp (and even daily living) is very safe — and, as you can see — many people credit overnight camp with helping them to make them into the people they are today: Strong, independent, people. Who wouldn’t want that for their children?

      That said, I do think one has to carefully investigate the camp you are considering sending your children to — especially learn about their hiring practice (how they hire their staff, where they get their applicants, what their qualifications need to be, minimum age requirements). You want to know how you could get in touch with your child if you has an emergency, as well as how they handle homesickness, medical issues, discipline, bedtime rituals, etc. Honestly, if you can meet a camp director and believe that you child will be in good hands, everything else is easy and you can rest easy knowing that he/she will have a blast.

      The camp bus rolled out today land tonight 12 happy adults (representing 6 families) got together for dinner. It was fabulous. We adults all met each other at camp, and now all our kids go to camp together. It’s a really special bond and we hope we can continue to grow these tight friendships so they might last a lifetime.

  92. I’ve met to many people of my generation who have never been camping, and when they go they can’t let go of their technology. I support parents who take their children camping or send them to camps, you go!

  93. Michael Mjollnir

    A couple of months ago we took our children camping for the first time. I must say that I was completely taken aback by how they took to it, we had an absolute wonderful time without technology. They ran around, played, told themselves ghost stories and fell right to sleep with no fuss at all. I was completely prepared to load up in the middle of the night and head home if they got freaked out in any way, but that proved to be completely unfounded. My children are rather young, so this was a definite possibility. All for the meek sum of $30.00 for a new tent from craigslist and $25.00 for a campsite rental for the evening. We are all looking forward to many more comping trips and eventually enrolling the kids in summer camps. Thanks for your article.

    Michael…

  94. Oooh, I want to be all of you. Blog writer & commenters alike, so brave and willing to let your kids go. I may be guilty of being the mom that responds with “I could never do that!” But it is not said with a judgement on your choice. It is a very real statement about mine. I am not imagining pedophiles hanging around the showers though. I am actually imagining a teary phone call from a homesick kid. And my intellectual need to have said child stick it out fighting with my emotional need to go and rescue. I am not imagining a drowning either. I am actually imagining a child loving camp more than home and begging to stay for even longer. Knowing we could (& should?) allow this independence and growth, but not being willing to sacrifice more time away from the family. My comment about not being able to send my child to camp, has little to do the kids and even less to do with your choice, it is incredibly selfish and all about me! So I wish you all well and hope your kids have incredible camp experiences….but, please, do ask them not to boast about it to my kids, as they would really love to go, and I COULD NEVER DO THAT! ;-)

    • Dear expressmom:

      I have to tell you, I KNOW that you speak for a bunch of people who have not chosen to speak here. And I appreciate your honesty. Frankly, I expected to hear a whole heck of a lot more negative comments — tales of woe about homesickness, falling into ravines, getting hepatitis, staph infections and (gasp) head lice. I have approved every comment that has come my way. I do wish that you would take the time to read and re-read your comments that you have written here.

      We all so love our children, but part of loving them is letting them go. It’s like . . . you give your kids swim lessons so they can learn to swim, right? But then you never take them near the water because they MIGHT drown or they MIGHT NOT be able to make it to the other side of a pool. Well, I look at it like this, you have to trust that you have given them the lessons and that they can swim! So then you have to take the floaties off and let them try! It is scary for them too . . . but wonderful as well: An amazing sense of accomplishment and confidence is born out of doing something that one has never done before.

      Summer camp is kind of like that: You let them go (maybe just for a week) knowing they are going to be okay, that they are going to come home to you. And yes, they will have incredible experiences without you. Entire days will go by unaccounted for. They won’t be able to tell you what they did or who they did it with or what they ate. But they do need to know what life without parents is like because mommies can’t always be there for their children. I mean, we can’t live forever. Why don’t you want your kids to swim?

  95. I LOVED Camp Tanasi (Girl Scout camp in Norris, TN) as a kid, and then I went back as Asst. Program director as an adult for a couple of summers. (I’m a teacher, so summers off). I think it’s a great experience for just about anybody, even if your child isn’t too sure at first. . . look around for a camp that does something they’re interested in–there’s all kinds: typical summer camp, horses, sports, dance, art, academic, etc. One summer I was gone for all but one week at girl scout, church, art, & then an academic camp!

    When I worked at Camp Tanasi, we did a shorter session for rising 1st – 3rd graders, 3 nights. The littlest ones were NEVER homesick (I got to deal with homesick, so I’m sure). It was always the 9 & 10 year olds that would get homesick at night. The 6-8 year olds usually wanted to stay the rest of the week. I always wondered if it was something about the age & not being homesick, or if it is the sort of 6-8 year old that parents are comfortable sending overnight that are never homesick.

    Not a parent yet, but I’ll definitely be sending my kids when they’re old enough!

  96. Congrats on the front page feature! :) I went to overnight camp as a kid, once for two weeks and once for three. Didn’t do me any irreparable harm, (besides losing a pinky) but definitely built character…

  97. I went away to camp almost every year from the earliest age allowed until I was in high school. It was a valuable experience for a kid like me, who was very shy and friendless most of the time, to be able to walk into an environment where nobody knew me. I could rebuild myself as the person I knew I was inside. The person I am today.

    Of course, there were little moments…mostly because my dad sat on the board of directors for the camp, and I knew I couldn’t get away with anything at all, especially the year my older brother was a counselor. There is something to be said for letting sibs experience time away from one another as well as with each other!

    I will be really keen to get my boys to camp – if for no other reasons than nights under the stars, games of capture the flag, being freaked out by the snapping turtles, and hearing about the ghost of the young girl that haunts the director’s lodgings. I also know that I’ll have to look harder, with one who is autistic, to find that *right* experience for each of them.

  98. Overnight camp was one of the best experiences in my life. It helped me become the person I am today. Both my husband and I went to/worked at camp for many years. We felt that overnight (or sleepaway for those of you who aren’t from Upstate NY) camp was the one of the best ways we could provide our daughter with the opportunity to develop her independence and to experience the “freedom” to grow in a way that we just can’t give her at home.

  99. I am one of those “I could never…” moms. But for the last 3 years I have sent my son away for scout camp (this summer it was 2000 miles away). He carries with him experiences and memories that he’ll have for a lifetime. And that NEVER would happen here at home, in our small town.

  100. Pingback: Why Overnight Camp Rocks: Part II | renée a. schuls-jacobson's blog

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