The Full-Season Camp Experience

Last week we started our discussion of choosing which length of camp is right for your child. Sometimes making that choice is downright easy, especially when it comes to the to the full-season camps. For those children who wish to be at camp for the seven weeks, a full-season camp experience can be an extraordinary time in their lives.

So, how do you know if a full season camp experience right for your child?

Remember our discussion of “Is Your Child Ready for Camp?” If you can answer a confident “yes” to all of the questions about readiness, then a full season camp may be perfect for your child.

As 7 week camps, Camp Laurel and Camp Starlight provide ideal opportunities for children to:

1) develop relationships and bonds with other campers and counselors with whom they are living,

2) explore new activities which they have never done,

3) refine and develop skills and focus so that by the end of camp they are, as an example, not just getting up on water skis…but skiing barefoot; not just hitting a baseball… but mastering the sport; not just participating in a one-act play for 20 minutes….but being part of the cast of a full length musical.

Children who go to Camp Starlight or Camp Laurel return to school refreshed and ready to tackle the new year ahead. They have achieved great success at camp – not only in making great friends – but also in developing and refining skills during the summer that can last a lifetime. Many children who wish to make their middle, JV or high school teams can practice and refine those skills all summer long. They also create beautiful and meaningful pieces of art and have greater outdoor educational experiences during their time at camp. All because they have time and opportunity.

PBS’s camp expert, Bob Ditter, M.Ed., puts it this way:

Camp is about making some of the best friends of your life. It’s an exercise in self-reliance and social learning. Kids not only make some of their best friends at camp, they learn what real friendship is. Since campers live in groups, it is also about learning the give-and-take of making decisions and getting along with all those “brothers” or “sisters” you suddenly inherit when you arrive. In a time when resilience–the ability to stick with something and recover from a setback–is a great quality to cultivate in our children, camp is an increasingly attractive option.

Susan

(Photos: Thanks to eyeliam and zappowbang for the great shots.)

Access all of our blog archives here

When 3 or 4 Weeks is Just Right

Choosing a camp involves much more than just choosing a location or even the camp with the perfect activities and feel for your child. Camps also come in different sizes, so to speak; depending on how long their sessions are. Sleepaway camps range from two-week to two-month sessions, and choosing which one is best for your child depends on several factors.

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at three-week camps (profiles of longer, 7-week camps will be posted next week). First, some reassurance. Campers don’t “get less” because their camp is shorter. The schedules for the day and the special activities are very similar or exactly the same as longer camps. The programs are just as well rounded and varied, and you’ll be amazed at how much swimming, sport, adventure and creative arts can fit into three weeks – and the kids still get a one-hour rest period after lunch! We should all be so lucky!

Most importantly, the camp counselors and staff are as involved, caring and competent as they are for the longer camps. I know that for my children, their camp experiences are flooded with activities, but it’s the people they keep talking about (and talking to!) months later. Lifelong friendships can be forged and nurtured in the shortest of camp experiences.

So which camp for my child?

Take a look back at my earlier blog post, “Is Your Child Ready for Camp?” If you feel that your child is ready for camp, but you’re still feeling a little trepidation, why not try a shorter camp — for many new campers (and their moms), three weeks is the perfect amount of time.

A three- or four-week camp may also be perfect for your family if:

  • You need to fit in camp among other family plans and vacations
  • Your child is nervous about a longer camp but a shorter one gets him or her excited
  • Your child may be ready for more weeks of separation, but you’re not
  • Your child lives out west, where school schedules can make a late-summer 7-week camp out East difficult (my children get out of school at the end of May and start back in the middle of August!)

Two of the AFSC family of camps offer three or four week sessions: Camp Weequahic and Laurel South.

Camp Weequahic offers a complete traditional co-ed camping experience. What does this mean? Think of every wonderful image you have of summer camp – great times playing sports, spending time in the lake, learning new arts and crafts (friendship bracelets anyone?), going on new and exciting adventures, and, if your child is up for it, they can take guitar lessons and be the next campfire sensation. And it all happens with your new best friends right beside you.

The other AFSC camp that offers short sessions (4 weeks only) is Laurel South. With its beautiful location on Crescent Lake in Readfield, Maine, Laurel South is able to offer the same kind of dynamic programming that you can find at longer camp sessions. They even have the added bonus of an equestrian program.

Whatever you want your child to get out of camp: tradition, family, spirit, adventure, time in nature, and lots of fun, all can be found inside these three-and four-week camps. Because shorter doesn’t mean skimpier!

Susan

Life, Unplugged

I don’t know about you, but my kids are constantly plugged into something, whether they are texting their friends (does anyone talk anymore?), bopping along to Lady Gaga’s latest, updating their Facebook status, researching a school project online and creating a multi-media presentation, or playing games on my iPhone while I desperately try to finish a conversation at the vet’s office.

Some days I can win a battle or two (no texting at dinner!) but the war is ongoing. And honestly, I’m not the best example. That iPhone I mentioned is never far from reach, and right now I’m surfing online, listening to my own brand of pop music, answering text messages as they come in and writing this blog.

Don’t you wish there was a place where we could all live life unplugged? We adults may not be so lucky; but for our kids, that place is summer camp.

Knowing that someone out there is cultivating a culture of back-to-basics, low-tech life is an irresistible draw for me as a parent. My husband and I love the outdoors and frequently take our kids on short camping trips, but these offer only a short break from the world of “screen time”. Monday morning comes and before the sleeping bags air out, we’re all rushing to see what awaits us in our email inboxes.

As a mom, I worry about the long-term effects of all of these tech ways of communicating. I’m not alone. Several studies have suggested that kids who spend too much time plugged in lose some skills for interpersonal interaction. Let’s fight back.

At camp, social interaction is done the old fashioned way – face-to-face. Campers and counselors alike leave their cell phones at home and get back to a simpler life, when there is an art to conversation. If you were a camper, think back to your best memories. All of mine involve revolve around interpersonal interactions you just can’t get through an email: telling stories around a camp fire; sharing hushed secrets late into the night; telling the worst jokes you ever heard; huddling together to decide the best capture-the-flag strategy.

Friendship doesn’t need a high-tech interface. Don’t think your kids will get with the program? Check out this Seventeen article where teen girls share their favorite summer camp memories. Not one involves a cell phone, I promise!

Thanks to Pink_Sherbert_Photography and eron_gpsfs for the photos!

Susan

Is Your Child Ready for Summer Camp?

You’ve collected the brochures, visited the web sites, maybe you’ve visited a camp or two. You may have even have marked off a few weeks in July on your calendar. But you did it in pencil, because you just can’t get rid of that nagging question – is my child, my baby (sniff) ready for overnight camp?
There is no magic formula or age for camp, and every child is unique; but there are some tried and true signs of readiness. So before you pack the tennis racquets and the swimsuits, start by answering these five questions:

1. Is your child interested in and asking about camp?

Spring has just sprung – if your child is already asking about going away to camp, take that as a good sign. Children who are self-motivated and interested in attending camp have a greater chance of being successful once they arrive. Point your child to this: It’s My Life, a PBS web site for tweens, which has advice specifically for kids headed to camp. The site even encourages kids to talk to their families first. What mom doesn’t love that tidbit?

2. Can your child manage personal care needs and the tasks of daily living without mom around?  On their own?

Overnight camp involves independent living. Does your child get dressed for school without your help? Can he/she fix themselves a snack? Take a shower? Remember to brush their teeth? If they still need help or daily reminders, you don’t have to keep them home (remember, your child will have great camp counselors to care for them), but you may want to encourage more self-reliance, a good quality to have at home, too.

3. How long has your child been away overnight without you? Was it a positive experience?

If your child loves sleepovers and slumber parties (at other people’s houses) transitioning to sleep-away camp may be a breeze. A week at grandma’s isn’t the same as three or four weeks at summer-camp; but if an overnight without you has never worked, do some trial runs before registering your child for camp. My own personal role model, Supernanny, has some great tips for making sleepovers a breeze.

4. Does your child have a healthy respect for adults and listen to instructions?

Life will be much easier for everyone if your child is good at following instructions and is willing to go along with camp rules. Just keep in mind that our kids often reserve their worst behavior for us, their parents, bless them. If your child is well-behaved in school, with coaches and other adults in positions of authority, they should do fine at camp.

5.  Is your child willing to try new things?

Life comes at you fast, Ferris Bueller said, and the same is true for summer camp. Each day is filled with new people to meet, new surroundings, and new activities to try. For kids willing to give it a go, there’s no better place to spread their wings than summer camp.

The Bottom Line

No one knows your child like you do – even after you’ve completed all the quizzes and checklists and asked all your friends about their kids’ experiences, the best thing to do is trust your instincts. If you feel it in your gut that your child can handle overnight camp, you’re probably right.  Get ready… summer is on its way!

Thanks to stevedepolo and peterblanchard for their pictures!

Susan

A summer of fun, a lifetime of memories!

It’s that time of the year again. Time for me to start thinking about what to do with my kids over summer time. Summer time. Remember those lazy, hazy days spent jumping between friends, sports, ice cream, the pool or the lake, back for more ice cream, camping, back to the pool or the lake …? Remember how it was? Evenings spent running until dusk, toasting marshmallows around the camp fire or BBQ, sleeping under the stars and telling tall tales with your friends. Yes, those were the days. Days full of friends. Days full of fun. Days full of life. Those are the kinds of days I dream of for my kids. Don’t you?

This is a blog dedicated to those days and our kids. It’s a blog about friendship, good times, creating memories and building independence. It’s about getting back to basics and building healthy individuals and families. Our aim is simple: create a place where past, present and future campers and their families can share and immerse themselves in the spirit of camp, its culture, life and lessons over the seasons. We’ll cover the seasons of camp – from getting your kids ready and choosing a camp, through the active camp season and into the memories of camp experiences past. We hope you’ll ask questions and share your stories about camp and camp life. We look forward to sharing tips and hints as well as resources we have found to be helpful. We really look forward to your pictures and we hope someday you’ll come and visit and stay with us!

So read, write and please feel free to participate in our community and let us know what things you’d like us to cover here!

Here’s to making memories together!

With thanks to lyzadanger and saritarobinson for their fantastic shots of summer!

Kirsti