Needed: Your Camp Stories!

Hi Readers! I’m going to be giving a speech next week at the Tri-State Camp Conference — country’s biggest convention for camp owners — and I’d love to include some stories about how camp helps kids come into their own. I didn’t go to overnight camp but my husband did and he said it was THERE that he got to become a “grown up.” (Well, if by “grown up” we mean young man who could admit he was interested in girls.) It took him about three years to catch up with his summer persona in the real world.

Spending a chunk of time away from one’s parents, however loving, does seem to present a great opportunity to become independent (and not just learn how to short sheet a bunk bed). Also, the summer is the time to get in touch with nature, and learn some new skills. So if you have any stories (that you can share) about camp and growing up, do tell!

Thanks and I will now let Red Rover come over. — Lenore

Let's hear it for kids, bunks, free time & summer.

90 Responses

  1. Last summer when my daughter had just turned 8 we sent her to a one week sleep away camp. She was very nervous to be gone from home and especially me that long. I have always been a stay at home mom so she is pretty used to being with me. I assured her she would have a great time and make some new friends. I sent her with some stationary and stamps and addresses so she could write to us and her grandparents. She was almost crying the morning she left, so nervous that she would miss us so much that she would not have any fun and just be sad for a week. The first letter home I received 3 days later read “Dear Mom, you were right, I’m not homesick at all!” She went on to describe all the fun she was having. That letter cracked me up, nothing like getting a note from your daughter that she doesn’t miss you at all 🙂 She had a great time, and is looking forward to going back this summer. It was a great opportunity for her to have to spend a week taking care of herself and being in an environment where, even though there were counselors, there was no mom figure looking over her or reminding her what she needed to do for herself.

  2. Loved-loved-loved Girl Scout & church camp. Was never homesick. I was always happy to have an opportunity to “do something,” as we were fairly poor and didn’t go places the kids today get to do.

    Being away from parents. Out in nature. Having responsibilities for the rest of the camp. Sing-a-longs. Campfires. Smores. Every kid needs to go to camp – away from their parents!! Fond memories.

  3. While I don’t have any stories to share myself, SCOPE’s blog Campers Say thanks (http://camperssaythanks.blogspot.com) has letters and stories from the children we send to camp every summer that you might find interesting.

  4. A few years ago my then eight year old daughter went to Girl Scout camp for a week. She and her friends decided not to change their socks the whole time.

    I loved the fact that they took their freedom in both hands (feet?) and decided to exercise it by being kids.

    With so many good memories of her time at the camp, the socks are what she’ll tell you about first.

  5. i went to camp every summer starting when i was 8. i worked at the same camp starting when i was 13 untill i was 18.

    i hated camp the first time i went. i cried everyday and felt isolated and alone.

    it was only upon returning home from that first session that i realized i wanted to go back.

    i didn’t formally recognize any freedom i felt at camp untill i was older, i only know that summer camp sustained me during the school year. it gave me a reason to deal with peer drama with a detatched sensibility. i had my camp family. i could weather the icky social stuff at school.

    camp absolutely changed me and pointed my life in a much more independent direction. by the time i was 12, i was attending at least 4 weeks of sleep away camp each summer (weekends home). and while i loved my weekends home with my folks, i relished every moment of autonomy i got in the protected, but by in large peer-run, atmosphere of camp.

    the woman who was the director of my camp the whole time i was going there and working there just died two days ago- so i’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on how important she was to me. she was the person who, away from my parents, told me to stand up and participate in my community, who held me to high standards and expected me to meet them.

    i miss camp. there’s never quite been anything like it for me- the adventure of being away from home with the comforting boundries of being in a group and with supervision (by teenagers mostly, but they still weren’t going to let any scary boundries be abused).

  6. I first went to overnight camp when I was 7 (for a week) – my mom still tells the story of how most of the other kids were crying and clinging to their parents and I ran right up the trail yelling “Ok, bye!” over my shoulder. She said she was a little afraid right then that I would never want to come back, and she was partially right – I continued going to camp as many summers as I could. Even today, I’m a counselor, and I get a kick out of watching all the things kids do all by themselves (especially when they think the counselors aren’t watching) – stuff like evicting the creepy-crawlies from the showers, making their own meals, and establishing and enforcing “cabin rules”, even making their own beds! Not to mention nature hikes, swimming, capture the flag where (gasp!) it is possible to go into the woods for HOURS without being in direct sight of an adult (We can still hear them, of course). A lot of these are firsts for campers and I can only hope their families encourage these steps toward independence when they return home, just like my mom did.

  7. I started going to overnight camp with Girl Scouts when I was 7. Now, as a parent I can’t wait to give my children that independence and that trust. I trust them to make the right choices from food to not stepping into the fire, lol. My children (now 5 and 3) know to stay on a trail, with a buddy, and never touch the three leaves. For now we go on the weekends in the summer to our trailer. The boys, who are city kids, are learning how to ride a bike, be careful around a fire, go fishing and touch worms, dress accordingly for cold mornings and warmer afternoons, and how to swim. It’s the little things that build the trust that will let me send them off to summer camp for a week with confiedence and 100% turst in a few years.

  8. When I was 8, our school sent us for a week to a “farming school”, something that’s very fashionable for urban kids over here.
    We were so busy learning to make our own bread, weaving baskets, feeding the animals, tending the gardens and orchards, milking cows and foraging the nearby woods, we didn’t have the time or the energy to miss our parents.
    We had a night-time treasure hunt, that ended when someone took out a walkman with attached loudspeakers (no idea where he hid it till then), and we all stuck leaves and clothing to our flashlights, shaking them so we simulated the coloured lights at a nightclub. It was about three in the morning when everyone was accounted for and back in bed. I don’t recall anyone finding the treasure…

  9. I was the kid who cried when it was time to leave camp after four glorious nights away from home … even as young as 8 when I started and all the way until I was a teenage camp counselor.

    It’s hard to put a finger on all that I learned at camp … things like a profound love for nature, how to cook at a campfire, songs that I now sing for my kids and how to work as a team and being independent. I found my first love at camp and also had my first heartbreak from camp. Both the same people. : )

    If you are ever interested in a guest post on this, I would love to write one for you. I grew up a free range kid and I am determined to let my twins grow up that way as well.

    I am a huge camp fan.

  10. I went to multiple church and boy scout camps every year since I was 8 (BSA since 11). Then years later I worked at some of them. Let me just say it’s great to see FRK addressing camps. They had changed so much that I had a hard time working at them. Overprotective, full of structure-by-the-minute, 10x as many rules and much heavier consequences for breaking them than when I attended as a kid. They had for the most part turned into babysitting camps.
    I hope my experience isn’t common. But I suspect it is. Free Range Camp Kids… What a great, overdue, idea!

  11. The first time I got beat up for being different was at camp. That’s a learning experience in itself. Not great, but it was the first time I couldn’t hide behind my siblings because they were in different cabins. I got beat up for not rising to someone else’s anger. That is a good lesson! Others will get angry if you stay calm!
    I also learned skills like chopping wood and starting a fire that have served me well. I can still make bisquick donuts over an open fire. My kids haven’t yet reached the age for overnight camps. Soon, soon…

  12. 2 Summers ago I sent my daughter to sleep away camp in Wyoming, we lived in Maine. She flew out to Wyoming with her Grandfather who drove her to camp and dropped her off. He was visiting family 40 mins away from the camp so I was supposed to not worry. She had the best time of her life. She will never forget it and she begs every year to go back. Even though she traveled with her Grandfather she wtill felt like she did it all on her own. She is convinced she can fly anywhere alone and has no need for someone to “watch” her. At camp she learned to ride horses and shot guns….thank God for those Wyoming conservatives! The horseback riding I would have done with her but I am not sure she would have been shooting guns anytime soon. She has a tremendous respect for these wepons now and she understands the danger and nesscesity. There was a change in my little girl after her camp experience and we are so thankful we were not to afraid to let her go.

  13. Camp was one of the most amazing experiences ever! I went every year from age 10 until 17. Camp Fire camp, church camp, dance camp and then one year I was a counselor at a camp for special needs kids. I had to save all my birthday money and allowance to be able to go and it was sooooo worth it!

    As a young child, I wasn’t particularly popular – or even liked by most of my classmates. I had moved into a small town where relationships were heavily established. Even in elementary school, the cliques were mean! Going to camp gave me a chance to meet new kids and experience things without the stigma of being the “new kid in a small town”.

    I can’t say enough about how wonderful of an experience camp was for me!!!!!! I just wish it wasn’t so darn expensive now (or competitive — I’d like my kids to be able to go and just have fun).

  14. I never went to sleep-away camp when I was a kid, but I did spend extended time with my mom and dad, primitive-camping all over the country.

    I had responsibilities… it was my job to figure out where in the campsite to pitch the tent, my job to go out in the woods and find firewood (this was when it was still ok to pick up wood for burning)… which required me to be able to identify and avoid things like poison ivy. Often, on these wood-gathering forays, I found onions, dandelions, and other edibles that I’d pick and we’d add to our dinners.

    I learned about the stars, I learned to watch and interpret the weather. I learned to build a fire by myself and prepare a meal for my family. We fished, then cleaned & ate the fish we caught. I learned to identify trees, plants, tracks. I even learned how to use a map, since we’d get in the car, and my folks would say, “We’re on vacation, YOU tell us how to get there” – and I’d have to navigate us from Colorado to California.

    The point of this, as it’s a departure from the counselor-led experiences of other readers… ANY experience that gets a child out of the safe and snuggly confines of their living room is a beneficial experience.

  15. No real stories of my own, but there was just an article in our local alternative paper about sleep-away camp…
    http://www.thedailypage.com/isthmus/article.php?article=32622

  16. I went to church camp as a kid, and I would love nothing more than to go back!

    As a teenager, I worked at Girl Scout Camp. Now, looking back, we probably could have given the kids more freedom than we did, but I think we gave a good bit. Girls were responsible for their own clothes, waterbottles, swim gear, etc- do you know how rare that was for many of them? THEY chose their outfits, packed their bags, and kept track of their things.

    We also played with FIRE. Literally. We taught 6 year olds to light matches, gather wood, light fires, use knives, and cook! (and they LOVED it).

    Girls also led activities. Every camper loved to lead a favorite song or teach a favorite game. Older girls, (over 10) routinely led and assisted with camp activities.

    I think that camp is also an incredible learning experience for the STAFF. I was 16, and I had babysat for about 2 years prior, but that is nothing compared to working at camp. I worked at Day Camp, and there were 15-30 kids in my unit with 1-3 staff, each week. I had to know them, care about them, corrall them, teach them, guide them, feed them, etc etc. I had to learn to interact with parents at bus stops, co workers, the director, council staff- and all for about $250 a week. I dealt with tears, vomit, blood, ambulances, lost camper drills, lost campers, water search drills, fires, etc. I can only imagine how many adults think that was “too much” for a 16 yr old.

    The four summers I worked at camp were some of the best of my life, and every summer I wish I could be back.

  17. I only got to three times because my parents couldn’t afford it, but I had a wonderful time on all three occasions and they are definitely some of the happiest memories from my childhood. Finally having the freedom to run around, be loud, laugh with new friends, and act like a regular kid was wonderful. I also got to do things my parents never would have allowed, like midnight hikes and polar bear swims.

    One of my overnight camps was at a friend’s bible camp (her parents paid so I could attend.) I’d grown up being told by my parents that Christians were evil (or stupid) hypocrites, so it was eye-opening for me to meet Christians who were kind and caring and pretty much like everyone else. Family can be such an echo-chamber when your parents have strong beliefs like mine do, and it was great for me to be exposed to other lifestyles and worldviews.

  18. I am a working parent. I sent my kindergartner and second grader to a YMCA camp (not sleep away) for 3 days/week last summer every week.
    They learned (not by anyone teaching them) to put on sunscreen and bug spray. It worked out for me since when we went to the pool on our off days they could do this themselves. They learned to ask each other to spray their backs. They learned to keep their wet towels and suits in another compartment of their bag than their dry clothes. They learned to put their socks in their shoes or they might not find them.
    After camp I had them empty their bags, hang their towels out on the porch etc so we wouldn’t have smelly bags in the morning.
    It taught me not to do these things for them because I didn’t need to.

  19. I loved camp! It was a religious camp ( the only one around that was actually good) and we would play mission impossible, which consisted of running and hiding in the trees in the dark( at midnight), with the councilors looking for us with flash lights. I ran around, banged my head, got scratched, had adrenaline pumping. It was so awesome! I can’t wait until my kids can go and experience that!

  20. My older brother had gone to camp, and I was so excited when I turned 6 and was officially “old enough” to go. Camp was 4 hours away from home, we took a bus up there, and I didn’t know anyone else that was going. So yes, I was 6 years old going away to camp for a week without knowing a soul. And I was thrilled. My mom still tells the story of my jumping on the bus with my suitcase, and not even looking back to say goodbye because I couldn’t wait to go (and yes, I had a very good homelife 🙂 ). I spent the week in a cabin with new friends, horseback riding and swimming every day. I went back every year until I was 14, sometimes with people I knew and other times trusting that I would meet new summer friends up there. It was awesome, and a defining moment of my independent life.

  21. I began attending overnight camp for a week at a time in the 4th grade and loved every minute. One camp I went to had elementary schoolers in with high schoolers, which I thought was the COOLEST thing ever! I remember watching a girl in the cabin one afternoon shave with a bucket of water by her side. I felt so grownup knowing that my cabin-mates did something so womanly like shaving. I know it sounds silly now, but I truly think that’s when I first realized that I was my own person, that I could take charge of my own life, that I wasn’t an appendage of my parents.

  22. When I sent my first son to camp at 12 years old, my parenting skills had to grow up. 🙂

  23. the one time I went to sleep away camp, my sister and I (along with the rest of the girl scout troop) were playing tag in the woods by the lake and we found a dead body. I was 7. I’m not sure that’s the story you’re looking for. But it does explain a lot, now that I think about it…

  24. I went to sleep-away Girl Scout camp for a week when I had just turned 7 or 8 (can’t remember!). It was my idea–and I loved it.

    This is hard to explain, but I’ll try–

    For me, the outdoors was always my own place, away from the rules and structure. I decided which direction to go, what to touch, what activity to do. So, in hindsight, camp was like a whole new place to explore and make my own. Sure, there were plenty of rules and a schedule to the day, but they were mine to learn, follow, and enjoy.

    I got to choose my own activities–canoeing, archery, swimming, drama. The woods and river felt like brand-new territory, different from the vast territory I’d explored around our home…alluring. Magical.

    I was a great swimmer. When I told the counselors how many Red Cross swim badges I’d earned, they smiled and said I’d need to dive in and prove I was telling the truth. I did, and I still remember the feeling I had when they said I should take lessons with the 10- to 12-year-olds that week. I’d stood up and proven myself, and it felt great.

    Hilariously, my mom says that camp was pretty cheap and rundown–she says she felt awful leaving me there. It was in southern Georgia. Snakes and mosquitoes ruled the place. (I knocked more than one snake on the head with my canoe paddle.) But I thought it was pretty close to paradise.

    – lea

  25. We sent our oldest child to camp for the first time several years ago. When he got home, he told me he cried every day from homesickness, and can he go back next year? That was the last time he cried from homesickness, and he’s gone every year since. Things they do at his “Lord of the Flies” camp:
    -Sleep outside at least one night with nothing but a sleeping bag.
    -“Raid” the camp store (pre-authorized and paid for by parents, but the counselors pretend they’re doing something naughty).
    -Have duck poop fights in the swamp.
    -Have contests to see who can eat the grossest food items.
    -Hide on top of the girls’ bathrooms and throw water balloons and mudballs at the female campers
    -Shower. Once (Usually the day before pick-up).
    -Gamble with candy as currency.

  26. Two or three camp stories from the ’50’s and ’60’s:

    1. I worked (for free) at a day camp for inner city kids. The place had NO BUILDINGS!. Way out in the woods, pit toilets, etc.. There was a partially finished house (floors and roof but no walls, plumbing, electricity) that we could take the campers into if it was raining really hard. Once each session, on a date chosen at the last minute to make sure it would not rain, we did a sleep-out under the stars with the campers. This was heavy-duty stuff for these children, and it involved staying awake all night for the counselors to reassure the kids and make sure none wandered off and got lost. The campers loved this camp; every year we had a few try to come back who were too old. We also had a few for whom the camp represented a chance to avoid gang recruitment.

    2. My own Girl Scout camp experience: living in tents, outhouses, and (most exciting of all) having to evacuate when the creek rose too high.

    3. My daughter’s GS camp (now we’re in the ‘early ’90’s). I was late arriving to pick her up; she walked down the road to me crying her eyes out. I thought, oh no, it didn’t go well. Wrong; her first words were, “Oh Mom, I’m crying because I had such a good time.” Complete with not combing her waist length hair for 2 weeks.

  27. My daughter has been going to sleepaway camp for 4 weeks every Summer since she was 8! She is 11. The camp offers 2 week sessions for the 8 year olds or the regular 4 week one. When we applied the first time all the 2 week slots were filled. I was unsure about my 8 year old being away from home for 4 weeks. She’s already spent a week away from home with Grandma in the Summer since she was 5, but this was 4 weeks. She begged me to let her go and I am so glad that I did. She loved it and it was so good for her and for me. She goes to a Y camp in the Berkshires. It’s all girls and they learn how to do all kinds of things. They live in cabin groups with 8 girls and 2 counselors who themselves are usually 17 and 18-22. They are expected to keep there belongings together, dress themselves, and even get to their activities on time by themselves. The camp is pretty large, but is self contained and they have the run of the place and lots of freedom — within the guidelines — in other words they learn about safety and responsibility too. She’s already talking about this Summer. She’s an only child so it also gives her a chance to share a room and have “sisters” for 4 weeks! I’m so glad I was brave enough to let her go the first time!

  28. Just one thing to add. The camp my daughter goes to also give their staff — usually girls and women ages 17-22 a lot of responsibility and experience. They are basically running the activities and cabins and mentoring the younger girls — it’s just as great an experience for them — and the competition for spots as counselors is always very tough. I have been extremely impressed with the maturity, creativitiy, fun, nuturing and organizational ability of these young women — many of who started as campers there when they were 8-11.

  29. Okay — I thought I was done. I just have to share that the vast majority of my daughters friends thought I was insane for letting her go to sleep away camp for 4 weeks (or even for 1 week) when she was only 8! They didn’t actually come out and say it — but it was in their expressions!

  30. My son didn’t go to summer camp because they don’t really exist in Germany. But last year he went with his class to the “Schullandheim,” which is very similar. It’s a large camp house in the country. There is a working farm associated with the house and several different trails for hiking and exploring including a muddy, boggy trail. Kids sleep on bunk beds, six to a room without adults (the teachers sleep in a separate room). Parents aren’t allowed; each class is accompanied by two teachers plus the Schullandheim staff.

    Fifth graders between here and Munich go to the Schullandheim from Monday to Friday. Each 5th grade class in every school has a designated week that they go. In the mornings the kids do activities as a class, such as a hike or help on the farm. In the afternoons and evenings they can choose their own activities (soccer, American football, drawing, reading, board or card games). On one of the nights there was a flashlight hike and the kids baked cookies on the last day. My son loved being able to sleep in the same room with 5 of his friends. The boys had nightly competitions to see who could stay up the latest. My son enjoyed being able to choose what he wanted to eat from the variety of foods offered. He also learned that wet and muddy clothing and towels dry better and keep the clean clothing clean and dry when they’re put outside and not stuffed in his duffel bag.

    My son is looking forward to 8th grade, when his class will go to Austria for a week of ski camp.

  31. My son has some learning disability issues. He is also rather disorganized most of the time. When I sent him to Cub Scout camp for a week this summer, I was convinced the kid would come home naked. But he brought home every single thing he took. Even brought home someone else’s socks by accident. He dealt with wet sleeping bags, unfamiliar tentmates, and “the worst bathrooms in the UNIVERSE!” Since then, he has not lost a single thing at school this year. Not one. He has been voluntarily taking more responsibility in many departments of his life.

    This summer, I’m sending his brother too!

  32. I’ve always said that someday I would write a book entitled “Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Life, I Learned At Summer Camp”. What exactly did I learn? Well, I learned a lot of the same stuff everyone else did, like cooking over an open fire and how to tie knots. I also learned some specialty skills like how to jump horses bareback, that a lot of folks don’t usually get to do at camp. But the most important lessons were the type you don’t read about in the glossy camp brochures. For instance, nobody cares if you don’t like the food, you eat it or go hungry. Mean girls get the best care packages (in other words, life isn’t fair). Sometimes the fun of breaking the rules is worth the inevitable punishment. At the end of the day, those mean girls are your friends.

    I had always been afraid of razors, one week of shaggy legs and horrendous girl teasing cured me of that forever. I learned how to pack myself for 2 weeks away from home without consulting my mother. I learned that bee stings aren’t that bad and that a sore throat shouldn’t stop you from participating. I learned how to play hearts and euchre; how to raid someone’s cabin (and how not to). I learned that sometimes life isn’t fair for adults (counselors) either. I learned that honey goes well on saltines. I learned that girls my age were having sex, and that they could be both mature about it and safe. I learned that llamas spit, peacocks are obnoxious and horse manure really isn’t that bad.

    Growing up, the best weeks of my year were those few magic summer moments spent away from my family and having the time of my life.

  33. My camp stories would give helicopter parents a heart attack. All we had to do was get a permission slip signed by our mother or father, and we were off.

    3 nights and 4 days at Boyne River. A class of 9-10 year olds.
    Things we did:
    – traverse a kick ass jungle gym, consisting of ropes (one to grab and one to walk on), rope nets, and a zipline.
    – walk a trail, which also included having to do a little bit of rock climbing and walking through rock crevices which had 2 feet gaps that we had to jump over or scale the side rock face to get over.
    – learned hands on about birds, snakes, and types of bushes.
    – collected rocks that we later polished ourselves. yes, we used a grinder and a polisher with our wee hands. Not new to me, as I was already experienced in using a bandsaw and other electric cutting devices from shop class in school.
    – partnered up with a classmate and was sent of into the woods, field to collect samples from our list (my classmate and I were Omnivores, which was great because we collected anything and everything).
    – learned how to make maple syrup. Used a hammer and a spike to tap the tree. A hammer and a metal spike folks.
    – took a hay ride. no helmets, no seatbelts.
    – various arts and crafts which included using scissors, utility knives, and even the oven.
    – we baked bread, which we got to take home. My very first loaf of bread I made myself from scratch. At 9 yrs!
    – we also learned survival skills, and rafting.

    I went on this trip 2 years in a row. And both times, NO ONE got killed. I do remember one kid getting sick from eating berries, we were told NOT to eat. He had a stomach ache for most of the day, but was ok by dinner. Of course there were some risks, but there are risks everywhere, everyday, and the only way to avoid them, is to lock yourself in a padded room. Even then you risk the chance to poke your eye with your own finger (who hasn’t done that). But what we learned and took home with us from those trips, far out weighed any of those risks. It help make us more confident in ourselves, it taught us new skills that we still use today. It gave us new ideas and inspirations to pursue as we got older. In a sense, it helped us prepare for our future.

    My parents were totally fine when I got back. It’s not the first time I was away from them for extended periods of time. I used to spend the summer at my cousins’, and they were FR as well.

  34. Summer Camp… I LOVED it!!
    I started going to camp when I was 6 and went every summer for at least 4 weeks until I was 15
    I went the year I broke my arm when I was 10, with a cast, that was the year of the most incredible food fight I have ever enjoyed.
    I went the summer after my Mother died when I was 12, being back at camp helped me. My Father was unsure about sending me then, but I came back happier .
    Summer camp is awesome, every kid should try it at least once.

  35. Growing up in a small town in Alaska in the late 70’s and on, camping was a regular event for us. It wasn’t rare for us to pack a backpack and hop on our bikes and just ride to various camp spots on the edges of town or hike down single track trails to the good camping/fishing spots. We gave our parents general directions, but more often than not the locations we gave were general guidelines and rarely the spots we ended up staying in. Essentially, they had no real idea of where we would end up camping that night. We started our own fires, cleaned our own fish and cooked our own food, all with sharp knives and often with a rifle present for small game. It continued as I got older, but the bikes were replaced with vehicles and we would add canoes and nicer gear and larger guns, but the end result is the same. Incredible personal development time that would absolutely help shape the person I am today.

    We made bad decisions while camping, everyone has to learn one way or another. We’d find holes in our tent floors (late) and spend sleepless nights in cold, water-soaked sleeping bags. We’d go nights having to eat our emergency ration of Spam because we didn’t get to the campsite or didn’t catch any fish. We’d get scrapes and large open cuts on various body parts from the harsh environment. All those risks are there, and it was all done without flares, without signal blankets, without 30 lbs of emergency gear and without phones of any kind. The only things we had were a healthy helping of common sense, the ability to not be afraid of failure, and very supportive parents.

    Sure I did the summer camps and boy scouts as well and while those organized events would allow my mother to not worry about my health and safety, they couldn’t measure up to the independence I felt from camping with just me and a friend or two.

    My mother would worry, but she knew it was important for me to grow and develop this way and she was right. I’ll readily admit it was a different time. It was a time when, if you cut yourself the response wasn’t an immediate white-knuckle race to the hospital, it was, “Don’t bleed on the carpet!”, but nothing says it shouldn’t still happen, and I look forward to giving my daughter the same opportunity (should she want it and assuming I can help cultivate that desire).

  36. The first time I went to overnight camp I was 11, and hated it with a passion. I wasn’t homesick or anything, but we were forced to do things as a cabin, and my cabin only wanted to do arts and crafts, while I wanted to play softball or go canoeing.

    In any case, I tried again a few years later, at a completely different camp where you could do your own activities, and without a doubt it was the best experience I’ve had.

    In school I was always the quiet, never-talking, shy one. Camp helped me learn to bond with my cabinmates, open up to other people, get out of my shell. We played softball against other camps, pelted each other with paint covered sponges for wargames, watched fireworks on 4th of July, and were able to explore different activities we wanted to try. Without camp I never would’ve learned how to waterski, know what to do when the canoe in front of us got struck my lightning and my canoe-partner freaked out, or felt comfortable talking to different people.

    After 8 weeks there, I cried when I got home – not because I missed my parents, but because I wanted to go back to camp.

    I went there all the way through college (and became a counselor), and even to this day, I still think about it constantly. There’s a few people whom I became close with that are some of my best friends, and I’m convinced I’m a better person for having attended.

  37. I went to camp ALL the time. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED it. I went to every type of camp imaginable, I went to church camp in the Ga and NC mountains, I went to regular old sleep away camp in the NC Mountains, sleep away gymnastics camp, winter camp, my boarding school had a summer session that was very much like camp. Oh the things we did, the crawdad and salamander hunting, the camping, the hiking the running around in the woods for tajer day, riding on horses, riding on the back of Jeeps through the back 40.

    The main camp I attended was in NC and supervision was great, there was a counselor in each cabin, 5 girls in a cabin. She was there when we had lights out and there when we had wake up and other than that we probably saw her randomly through out the day because our paths crossed and only for that reason. I was entirely responsible for the make up of my day. I signed up for swim class at a certain time, tennis, horseback riding, canoeing and I was in charge of getting my butt there on time. I was in charge of my equipment for all of my activities. You’d get in trouble if you were found repeatedly just “cabin squatting.” I don’t think many of use could be found cabin squatting unless it was cruddy weather (and even then we were probably handling sharp scissors in the Arts and Crafts cabin…or using heavy wood looms…oh I miss camp) Our swimming ‘pool’ was a roped off area in a pond with water coming down from Icicle Falls, there was ICE mixed in with the mud on the bottom. There was a rope swing (and WOW that was always a shock to the system…fly fly fly COOOOLD!). on the other side was the canoe and sailing bay…where kids who passed their skills test went out in canoes together…without a grownup. Hell they went on giant canoeing trips down the Natahala river. I wasn’t so keen on the canoeing, I could never get the damn thing to go straight. Instead, I signed up for every camp out I could, 1 day 7 day and everything in between. We’d spend seven days hiking through the Appalachian mountains. We’d cook our own food (horrors), purify our own water (OH EM GEE), put up our own tents (which were tarps and string and sticks…not fancy buy a tent tents), use our own knives…we packed our own backpacks (old school pack and frames) and if we packed too much, our bad, and if we didn’t pack the right things, oops.

    And here’s the thing….we were taught how to do all of this. There was not a just pushing us out into the woods, but teaching us how to be responsible patrons of the woods, We were given the tools and the skills and the education and then we were expected to use them.

    I hated school. It was terrible for me, for my self confidence. Both the actual academics and the other kids. I was bullied ruthlessly. But camp, that is where I was safe. These kids came from every back ground, from all over the world. There were scholarships so that kids from low income families in the area could have a chance to come to camp. Camp for me was the great equalizer. (This is why I fight so vehemently against year round school. My life would have been much different had I not had the chance to go away for 7 weeks and forget school existed.) And what was most telling was the comment made by my mother years later that was along the lines of this “when you’d visit our relatives or be in school you felt you couldn’t do anything, you were combative and wanted stuff done for you, you went to camp and when you came home, you just DID.” I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to go there (technically I think they are, but we live in Chicago now, not close to the mountains of NC at all), but until then…I’ve signed my kids (6 and 5) up for Circus Day Camp.

  38. Did eight years of one-week sessions of a church camp plus a bonus week as a volunteer dishwasher there for the 3rd-4th grader session. Too many camp stories to tell, but to answer your question…

    * I learned about the birds and the bees. Somebody had left a bloody tampon in the cabin garbage and the boys discovered this — we were like 12-13. So Bob, my counselor, explained things that we likely should have been told in health class by then but had not been.

    * My daily life at home was not that happy, or in my opinion; my family could hardly be called compassionate. Camp got me out of their clutches for a week so I could be -me- for awhile. Granted, culture shock was getting back home since they had no idea what joy I’d been through plus had left all of my chores alone for me to catch up on. But this is important: I attribute that week that I looked forward to every summer from ages 11 to 18 as what saved my very life if not my mental health… and I did indeed think about it daily, even reciting the camp’s name first thing in the morning as the goal that I had to get me through the day.

    * I met my first real girlfriend there. There were a LOT of flaws to the person which I didn’t know about, but you don’t know what to look for or look out for when you’re 15. (When she moved in with me at 19, I found out what I hadn’t known about… suprise!) Point being, camp introduced me to the concept of love being more than just holding hands and flowery talk, though that is mostly what we did.

    * I’m not promoting any sort of spirituality when I give you this part: Camp was where I felt closest to my beliefs; I may have gone to church every Sunday but I didn’t feel much connection to the people or the deity there, but when I was at camp I could actually see and feel what all the talk was about. I still consider myself a “Camp Christian” rather than the standard variety, though I haven’t been to camp since I graduated in 1986. (And I still keep up with a friend or three from the camp years.)

    * Final thought, summer camp granted a little bit of responsibility and growth that school did not. I think a lot of that is how camp was voluntary to attend while school was compulsory, but there was more doing what you should be because you want to rather than because you were told/demanded to. Things were scheduled yet soft enough that if you wanted to skip something you could without having to make up an excuse and not get much static about it; this didn’t happen in school, usually didn’t happen at home, and surely wouldn’t happen once we hit the world of work and haivng families.

    Camp was where the heart was.

  39. I was a camp councilor for a couple of years when I was in university. One memorable camper (lets call her Sally for ease of story telling) was so homesick the first night that her parents had to be called to come an pick her up. (She cried so hard she was making herself physically sick). When Sally’s parents came to collect her, her mother commented that Sally had really been looking forward to the camp and asked if they could bring her back the next day as they only lived 25 min from the camp. We didn’t see a problem with that and Sally was back at camp just after breakfast the next day. The second night at camp, I was doing a final tent check before I went to bed and I heard crying from Sally’s tent. I knocked on the ridge pole and asked if everything was all right. Sally said “They’re all homesick. I’m the only one not crying.” She helped me settled her tentmates down and stayed at camp quite happily for the rest of the week. At the end, she made a point to thank the councilors for letting her come back.

  40. Having read everything posted prior to my report now, I am inspired to add an anecdote:

    My first day of my first summer at camp, I did what I thought people stereotypically did at camp… I’d packed a pocket knife, and I wanted to whittle. No one had shown me how, and I managed pretty quickly to put a huge cut into my left index finger. I didn’t wig out, I just bandaged it up. Adults would have claimed it required stitches, which may have been true. The big scar is there and once in awhile I can feel the injury, but I look upon it as a learning experience, that I did something fun in my life and I have a sort of tattoo in that scar to remind me.

    I might have been homesick that first day of that first year, the day I cut myself, but I think I bled that out with my injury since every day after that that week I was happy, and from that week on camp was something I valued and looked forward to… you’ve heard of homesick while away? I learned to be campsick while at home. And that one pushes a knife blade away from one’s body when carving, not toward. 😀

  41. My daughter struggled with separation when she was younger, so she had to work up to Girl Scout camp–first she went as a day camper, then she stayed one night, then a whole weekend. I knew she’d reached a turning point when I arrived to pick her up after three days of camping and she greeted me with “Hi Mom, I didn’t even think about you once.” She’s going to a week-long sleepaway camp this summer and I know she’ll be fine.

  42. I was never a camper, but I was a camp counselor for many years in both Alaska and Arizona. My first year ever as a counselor I was just barely 18 and right out of high school. It was a camp that had a ‘ropes’ challenge course. I am not a small person. I’m 5″7′ and at the time at least 150 lbs. (There’s a point to sharing these embarrassing details I promise) 🙂

    As part of the ropes course, we had to do trust activities and I did them with the kids. They begin on the floor and you progress to doing a trust fall off a table to be caught by the campers. I am not a trusting person by nature. I couldn’t even do the floor exercises, which is bad for the kids to see. So the head counselor sent me up to the table. 15 – 20 girls lined up to catch me facing each other arms stuck out to break my fall. I fell. I screamed. They caught me and were amazed at themselves for doing so. The proper way to do this is to fall stiff and straight and the kids responsible for the feet let go first and the ones responsible for the head kind of push you upright. The next group comes in a week later. I get up on the table. The girls are not positive they can catch me. They do, but in all their excitement the girls responsible for my head forgot that they weren’t supposed to let go right away and I ended up with my first ever on the job injury (a concussion). The girls are freaked. I’m freaked. The GS director of outdoor programs is freaked. Two days later, I get back up on that table with the same group of girls catching me and they remembered everything they were supposed to. It was hugely important to them to do this a second time since they had dropped me they were all scared about doing it themselves. But once they realized they COULD catch me and do it right, they were all okay with doing it themselves.

    A second story, the next year but different camp, I was in my cabin in the evening when there is a little knock on the door. Two of the girls, coming back from the bathroom, had seen a male stranger in the creek. This is an all girls camp. There were no males except the ranger in the camp and it wasn’t him. With the girls there, I called on the radio for advice about what to do since we were the closest unit to the creek. We were instructed to have all the girls gather sleeping bags and pillows and come up to the lodge to sleep. We quietly went to each cabin and told the girls to gather their belongings and we quietly made our way across the bridge up to the lodge where we slept. It was amazing because the two girls who saw the person in the creek didn’t panic or cause chaos. All the girls were quiet crossing the bridge and up to the lodge. They were frightened, of course, but not panicked. It taught the girls a lot about reacting to a frightening experience with a cool head. We slept in the lodge with no incidents and were able to go back to our unit in the AM.

  43. Camp is where you grow up, figure out who you really are, and dont have a care in the world. I used to go to camp every summer for a week. Throghout the years I had made many friends and saw them every year. Camp became my home. The last summer that i went to camp i met my best friend Shea. She was my camp counselor. She was the same age as my old er sister so i really looked up to her. We always walked around the camp holding pinkies and telling eachother stories but the most memorable night was when we shared a bunk.

    It was probably past midnight but me and the girls we still up laughing and joking around. we thought it’d be funny to put gold fish around the outskirts of our cabent to see if any critters would come. Sure enough after waiting a few minutes they came. 7 raccoons filled our cabent, one of them decided that my bunk (the bottom one closets to the bushes) was the best! After we shooed them away I was still too afraid to get back in my bunk so i shared with Shea instead

    That night we told eachother our life stories, which was something i never thought i would do. You see before camp i was always afraid to open up to people. i felt like i couldnt trust them and that they would alays let me down. Shea proved that wrong.

    Shea and I have drifted since that summer, 2009. but we still send eachother letters from time to time. Overall at camp I grew up. I learned that i could trust people, and that they wouldnt always let me down.

  44. Not exactly a camp story. But Mushroom’s post got me thinking. In my elementary school, we actually had “sex education”. Grade 6 and up, if memory serves me well. Diagrams and all. We talked about contraceptives and STDs. We also discussed this during our time in camp. We had a lot of co-ed activities. Has this remained or removed from the curriculum in schools today?

  45. I worked at an all girls camp that brought inner city girls into the Catskills, and they learned about Native American way of life. The first couple of days where tough, but after that, they forgot all about their life in the city and it really transformed them. These girls had a really tough up bringing and to see them transform, was amazing.

  46. Hi Lenore! Yup, I was a camper — and yes, it helped me grow up and blossom. It also helped me on my career path. Here is a post I wrote about camp:

    http://grassstainguru.com/2009/04/01/finding-my-path-naturally/

    Cheers- Bethe @balmeras

  47. I never actually attended summer camp as a kid, but when I was a teenager, I worked at several Girl Scout and Boy Scout summer camps. As a teenager, I loved the semi-freedom i had away from my parents, the late night hijinks, but also the interaction with the kids. I loved the fact that I could eat whatever I wanted at camp, and play all day. I got to craft and create with my charges. i also learned about talents I didn’t know I had – apparently I have mad skillz when it comes to archery! Working at camp taught me a lot about myself and my limits (one horse camp I worked at had me getting about 4 hours of sleep a night)–at one camp one year I got really sick and pushed myself too hard. I found out later I had mono…whoops! But that experience taught me to be kind to myself and what I was capable of. I also learned a lot about conflict resolution. When ou bunk 6 girls in a 10 x 10 room, you learn really fast how to share and work out your problems. Lastly, I learned a ton about responsibility and being a role model for younger generations. It hasn’t happened often, but there have been a couple of times in the years after when a kid would recognize me and come running to hug me. I’d lost count of all the faces I’d worked with, but some of them remembered mine! Summer camp is a great place for kids to grow up and explore their world within a safe boundary…and without mom and dad hovering over them! Good luck on your speech!

  48. I never had the opportunity to go to sleep away camp when I was young. I was the last of 4 and there was no money.

    When my kids were 8 and 10 I sent them to a week sleep away camp for the first time. I made sure they both went the same week, so they would have a familiar face there, even though they were in seperate groups. They had been away for us before for weekends at grandmas or their aunts, so it wasn’t new for them to be away, but a week was the longest they had done. The one thing I loved about the camp was that we were not to tell them that we would pick them up if they didn’t like it. That makes it 100 times harder for the counselors to help them get over their homesickness. Anyway, since that summer, my 8 year old has gone every year since. My 10 year old only went twice, but moved up to a 3 week camp, plus a week with the boy scouts, and a week mission trip with the church. He’s away more in the summer than he’s home. Before he went to the 3 week camp (it’s not really camp, it’s on a college campus) for the first time he had to learn how to do laundry. That was 4 years ago and he still does his own laundry all year.

    He’s taking an extra year of German language in school so that he can go on the exchange program trip which is held only every 2 years. We’ve already talked about where he’d want to go to college and he really doesn’t care how far away it is. So he’ll be able to look for the program that best suits him, not the one that’s closest to home.

    My daughter wants to be a counselor at the summer camp when she’s old enough, that means being up there all summer at some point. Do I miss them? Of course. Would I want them to not do what they love just so they’re near me? Never!

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  50. […] Needed: Your Camp Stories! « FreeRangeKids […]

  51. Wow, the things I learned at camp…

    I attended Interlochen Arts Camp, which in some ways was pretty hardcore, and in other ways just taught me the lessons I would have learned at any camp:

    – campers cleaned their cabin every day, including scrubbing toilets and showers. Inspection was done once a day. If you didn’t pass inspection with a certain mark, you had to do it all over again.

    – Camp was the first time I realized how sheltered I really was. At the end of the summer I had no idea how to pack my bag to go back home. My mom had always packed for me. I figured it out, and have been packing for myself ever since.

    – I had always been “the girl with the best voice”, but at an arts camp that attracts students from all over the world, that doesn’t quite cut it. Camp was the first time I understood my talents within the entire spectrum of “talented”.

    I could go on, but it’s bedtime. More later.

  52. My first “camp” was a church camp for girls. I came out of my shell, learned about nature, developed spiritually and mentally. I later worked 5 summers for a Scout camp. The youngest employee age is 14, and I was excited to see the younger boys and girls survive, thrive, and flourish as they were handed responsibilities such as self-management, cleaning, building, being available at any hour, digging out dams, building fences, teaching boys their age and older, leading hikes, living in close quarters with people they may not like, developing close friendships anyway, learning the world is so much bigger than they think it is. I also watched boys learn in a week’s time. We had young boys who came up never having been far from their parents and having a grand ol’ time. I ran the waterfront, and according to BSA policy there are swimming standards. One boy spent days working for the high standard of “swimmer”. He was so proud when he made it. We’ve had small boys work hard to swim our mile challenge.

  53. Camp, whether you are a camper or staffer, is healthy. You play/work hard, you get fresh air, you eat because you are famished, and yoy sleep because you are exhausted. It’s how it should be. I remember a lifeguard training day where June snow hit and eating a sandwhich I did not like merely to absorb the heat.

    I learned how to deal with people, be friendly, and seen annoying songs. I echo spirituality lessons: camp and nature are God’s country.

  54. I don’t have a great camp story for myself. I sincerely wish I did. I had an extremely overprotective father who just knew I would be murdered most horribly if I went to camp. (No, I am not exaggerating.)

    Finally, when I was 17 I asked to go to Los Angeles to study art for a month. I think my parents finally realized I would be leaving for college in a year, and that maybe I should be able to be away from home without them. After years of overprotecting me, they stuck me on a plane (I’d never been on a plane before.) and off I went to LA. (I’d never been in a city before.) It was terrifying, and exhilarating. I walked in neighborhoods at night with no idea of the danger. I did dangerous things I hope my kids will not do because they will have some experience with cities. Sadly, my parents spent the entire month in terror, knowing they had not taught me to swim, but had just thrown me in the river.

    Fast forward to now. I have a 7 year old who spent a week last year at girl scout camp and loved it. She is fearless and I hope she stays that way.

  55. I went to GS and church camps as a child, but where I think I’ve had some of the greatest “free-range” experiences at camp have been my experiences as a camp counselor. From ages 19-22 I spent my summers working at overnight camps and LOVED it! I was amazed at the responsibility I was given over my campers, yet I embraced it and I have wonderful stories from those summers…and my campers do too. Actually, while stopped doing overnight camps once I got married, I STILL spend my summers working at summer educational programs and I’m 30! (I’m a teacher; so I have summers free) In the past twelve summers, I’ve not worked at some sort of summer camp program only twice.

    Camp is good not only for the campers, but also the counselors…and parents. 🙂

  56. I was a scout for years and we learned how to light a fire with only 2 matches, in the rain. We built structures with roap and wood that could hold our weight. We did first aid and emergency responce and we did all the meal planning, shopping and cooking ourselves, over fires. We got sent into the Aussie bush with maps and told to find certain points. Wfound a few snakes on the way but we were prepared with first aid kits and the knowledge to deal with a bite, it never happened though. It was incredibly empowering and taught me so many skills that I still use today. I was in a mixed scout group with lots of sleep overs and I learned to relate to boys and see them as peers. None of that stuff would be possible today and that’s just sad.

  57. In Australia we don’t really have the same camp culture the US does.
    Further to this, on school camps, I was never the kid to cry. Always figured my parents would be there when I got back, and if they weren’t I would get to go live with my grandparents, which didn’t sound too bad.

    But what I did learn on our week long school camps – hugs are awesome.
    I didn’t have a kind or nurturing bone in my body. I just wanted the crying kids to shut up, so I could go to sleep.
    If the teachers were fetched, the light would go on, talking would happen for ages, which is not conducive to my sleep at all.
    So, crawling into bed with the cryer, giving them a big hug and a ‘there there’, maybe make them laugh, stopped them from crying – this let me go back to the serious business of sleeping much more quickly.

    It was on ‘camp’ that I learnt to emulate empathy, to the extent it has now become habit.
    And I am a better paramedic for it.

  58. I had never gone to camp. But two teachers at my high school who were husband and wife were going to be the directors at a Goodwill camp for elementary school kids and needed counselors. I was picked, and it was my first time away from home by myself for that length of time where I wasn’t visiting family. The camp was Monday-Friday for the kids; we could either stay in town with the local counselors or go home (it was about four hours away).

    I started out doing a great job; my bosses were often complimenting me. And then I started taking more of an interest in one of the boy counselors than I was in doing my job well. After a few weeks of that, they fired me. I had to tell my parents. I had to take a Greyhound bus home at night alone. I remember sitting alone at a fast food stop and having some creepy guy ask me if I wanted to go get high. Fortunately, he accepted my “no” and went on his brain-fogged way (I had also been smart enough to make sure I sat where the counter staff could see me). It was all a very sobering experience. I had been a straight-A student who never got into trouble. But, yes, I’ve always been a little boy crazy.

    It truly was a valuable experience and it helped me to grow up some. I saw one of the teachers a few years after I had graduated and gotten married (No, it wasn’t to the other counselor; I dumped him after about a year when I met my husband-to-be.). I told her that she had done the right thing in firing me because I deserved it, and what a good growth experience it was for me. She was so glad to hear me say that because she felt so bad about it.

    We go camping about every other year and I’m hoping to send my son to a two week long church camp in a couple of years. It’s a boys’ camp run by seminarians, so I won’t have to worry about whether he’s girl-crazy or not. 🙂

  59. Camp was one of the best things for me ever. I went to an arts camp in the Adirondacks for 10 years and then worked there. I still have many friends from there and I also met my husband there (although we didn’t get married until 21 years after we met).

  60. My 13 year old son has gone to a sleep away camp for two years (and will go again this summer and next until he can’t go anymore). Its a special camp for kids with epilepsy here in Arizona (Camp Candlelight). It’s even more important for kids with an issue that make parents more nervous to have a place where they can be without us. We know that the kids are being looked after, but it is different when it isn’t us. We can relax some. And the kids get to really enjoy themselves. It’s probably the most free-ranging some of the kids get.

  61. I grew up in Southern California but had some great experiences camping in southern Quebec thanks to a Wider Opportunity offered through the Girl Scouts. We went on 100+ mile trips over a 8-day period through the Canadian wilderness. We pitched camps every night, treaded on nature as gently as possible and did our best to leave no trace and clean up after hunters who did not know any better. I became proficeint at chopping wood, paddling in the wind and rain and setting up camp in the middle of no where. My parents were not back country campers by any stretch of the imagination. They supported my going on those trips but the experiences of those camps have stayed with me. I met friends who I still stay in touch with 30 years later. I married someone who found me interesting partly because I could keep up with him in the back country. And I proved I could take care of myself in just about any situation. Those camp experiences are an enormous part of who I am today and why I love raising my own children to be independent and free-range too.

  62. I hated sleepaway camp, so my parents kept sending me to a new one every two years. Know what’s worse than being homesick at sleepawayy camp? Being the new homesick kid at sleepaway camp. So, one summer my mom says to my dad at visiting day (btw camp was always 8 weeks) “we should take her home, she’s miserable.” My dad says, “if we take her home, she’ll never go to college.” I tried to remind him I was only 9, but I stayed anyway. Funny thing is, years later I moved to Hawaii and my mom was very unhappy, “how can you do this?” That’s when I told her, “if you’d taken me home from camp, I probably couldn’t.” she didn’t laugh at the time. She does now, but that’s because I have my own kids now and live closer to her again. Btw, my kids begged to go to sleepaway camp and loved it. But when my older daughter was no longer loving it, we didn’t send her back. My younger daughter is buying the camp someday.

  63. I first went to a 4-week camp at age 10. My mother sent my brother and I because they had a program for low income families, and it was cheaper to send us to camp than keep us at home. I didn’t want to go, and cried for the first 2-3 nights. But, I made new friends (I wasn’t too popular at school), participated in tons of great activities (arts, drama, swimming, canoeing etc), and learned all sorts of new skills (including washing my own laundry by hand). At the end of the month, I cried because I didn’t want to go home.

    I went to the same camp until I was 13- at that point, I liked it less because a lot of the girls became more concerned with brand-name clothing etc that I didn’t have. It wasn’t too bad because I wasn’t the only kid without them, but it divided us from the rest. I still cherrish the memories of those first few years though.

    I would like to send my kids to camp, but my husband thinks its mean! He thinks its about getting the kids out of our hair, instead of allowing an opportunity for them. He never went to camp (as evidenced by his lack of canoeing skills 🙂 ), and always thought the kids who were sent to camp were not loved as much by their parents. Right now, they’re still too young anyway, so I’ll have to work on him over the next couple of years.

  64. I went to Girl Scout sleepaway camp for four years as a child, and I worked as a counselor for four more. In fact, this summer I’ll be going back on the administration staff (I’m a teacher). Like everyone is saying, as a camper camp gave me independence, confidence, and helped me to discover who I am.

    As a kid I had serious separation issues and was horribly homesick the first time I went away for a week at age 9. I cried every night and was pretty miserable a lot of the time, but I’ll never forget the one counselor who made me feel better. She never babied me or tried to send me home; she was from South African and told me that she was homesick too, and it was okay to feel that way, and if she could do it I could do it too. I still cried every night, but when the next year rolled around, I wanted to go back. I was homesick that year too, but less so. By my third and fourth year I was able to tell myself that even if I felt a little sad, I had to enjoy the fun of camp while it lasted. Now that’s maturity! No one could give me that. I had to experience it.

    I also did a lot of high ropes activities as a camper, which built my confidence enormously. I felt so proud of myself when I went home and told people about climbing around in trees and jumping down zip lines!

    I have a camper, an 8th grader, who said last summer that, “Everyone in her regular life treats her like rust, but at camp, people treat me like gold.”

    This is why I continue to work at camp. I believe it’s an opportunity to give kids who may be smothered at home a chance to be independent, discover who they are, and build courage, confidence, and character…which incidentally is Girl Scout’s motto. 😉

  65. I spent a summer as a camp counselor in the late 1980s just before returning to grad school. I had not been to camp, nor had a worked with kids much before that, so I learned quickly that summer camp is a lot of fun… for the kids that is. For me, it was a lot of responsibility to be accountable for kids 24/7. However, I did know a little something about bikes and biking. So, me an another more seasoned trip leader took about 12 teen girls on a bike adventure that covered about 50 miles and lasted 3 nights. Looking back, I can’t believe we did that. The kids did great and we rewarded them with medals at the end. When it was all over, I broke down in tears (in private). It was just so overwhelming. My hope is that those kids remember the trip fondly and with pride. We gave them a great experience and they really did accomplish a lot. I continue to get kids outside by teaching them how to bike and be independent. And, I am infinitely more able to deal with the responsibility of taking kids on trips.

  66. My parents did a lot of camping and back packing when I was a kid. It was fun to poop in hole in the ground, swim on the lake until at night you felt like you were still in the water, fish and boat and lots more. The first time I heard bagpipes was at a campground in Canada. I still think of the wildness of the area when I hear bagpipes.

    As a teen, I was a counselor for a 5 day 4-H camp. It was fun, and I learned to keep the kids active so that we didn’t have to deal with homesickness. One story, I think I was one of the oldest counselors at the time, (17 or so) and the other counselors said they wanted to meet after the kids went to sleep. I told them that the administrator would catch them unless they went really late after she went to bed – like, 2 am. So they all agreed to it. Only when 2 am came around, only two boys actually would get up – all the other girls and boys decided that the warm sleeping bag was better!

    After college I worked as a Drug and Alcohol Prevention Specialist. One group I worked with was kids over the summer going into 7th to 9th grades. Each summer they started with a trip that involved hiking, canoeing, or bike riding for 5 days. It was amazing to see the changes that the kids went through. The first meal of the week, most of the boys would not wash their dishes or put them back in their bag. After the 3rd meal, when they had to pick dirty dishes out of a sack in order to eat, they all became very possessive of their supplies. Girls gave up putting on makeup after the 2nd day when they didn’t have hair driers. They all encouraged their fellows to help them get through the last bits of hiking, canoeing and biking. They learned to pull their own weight. Kids went home and took control of their own clothing, dishes and personal hygiene. (By day 4, the boys were getting on each other at night about that – 4 to a tent gets pretty smelly after hard work and no baths!)

    On the down side, I also worked with some other groups (a school age day care and another school based prevention group) and I have to say that there is no substitute for trained and experience people. One “leadership camp” involved a day long hike where the instructor/teacher did not have the kids bring extra drinking water. (I didn’t go on the hike because I was pretty pregnant, or things would not have gone this way.) One kid passed out on the trail, and again on the bus back to the camp. The instructor did not call the parents until about 9 pm. Another kid passed out after the last night dance…I had to sit up with her all night because she had hit her head and we (the college age EMT and I) were afraid she had a concussion. The instructor was the only one that knew how to operate the radio phone. In hind sight, I probably should have taken the girl to the ER, the other boy I didn’t know about until later.

    Then there was the daycare thing – school aged kids, I was one lifeguard – the other was the owner’s niece who had a broken leg and was on crutches. Because of a feud between two of the teachers working there, one woman took her group of kids out in canoes, without me or the other lifeguard. A dad who was helping at the camp (and may have been having a relationship with the woman) did not put on a life jacket and ended up falling out of the canoe. He couldn’t swim. He almost drowned in front of his two kids, and twenty others. Needless to say, I was FURIOUS when I found out, when I was asking about his cough later. That happened to be the last camping trip that the daycare did. And again, shows why properly trained people are really important. Overall, both sets of camping experiences were great for the majority of kids, but that lack of common sense when outside their normal work conditions made things less safe than they probably should have been.

  67. For two summers in junior high, I attended ISYM, the University of Illinois summer Music camp. Looking at their website now, my collection tells me that they’ve changed over the past 20 years–when I attended, I believe that it was two weeks sessions (now 1 week sessions) and that we were housed in the Florida Avenue Residence halls, otherwise known as “FAR” due to their distance from . . . just about anything else on campus. It was a hike to any location where our various ensembles and focused seminars met, a hike we were responsible for making pretty much under our own power and direction.

    While the days there did have a lot of required things we had to do, we also had quite a fair bit of free, unsupervised time as well, and could wander the campus and near off-campus pretty much at will. I recall going to the student union with a group of other similarly-aged kids and figuring out how to get a bowling game set up and pay for it. I recall walking myself over to a bookstore on campus and losing myself in there for hours while still keeping myself aware of the next required session I needed to be at. I also recall a few times choosing to get myself up early and over to the pool in the on-campus gym to do some lap swimming (I was on the swim team at home as well).

    A lot about what I recall learning outside of music was about figuring how to organize my day to include the activities required by the camp, the activities required by biology, and the things I wanted to do. Nobody kicked us out of bed in the morning to make sure we had breakfast before our first session. We had to get ourselves out of bed and down to the dining hall, then out the door with enough time for our mile-ish walk over to where most of the sessions were held. We had to choose to either walk back to the residence hall for lunch, or figure out how to purchase our lunches elsewhere. We had to get ourselves back to the residence hall for dinner or once again, deal with getting ourselves elsewhere. And we had to get ourselves back to our dorm rooms for lights out . . . or else. I have no recollection of what the “or else” was.

  68. I spent every summer at camp. The best time of my life.

  69. I *still* go to summer camp – and I’m 24! I started with sleepaway camps with the YMCA when I was about 8 years old, and switched to Camp Ouareau when I was 11. After one summer there, I was hooked for life. Probably the most rewarding experience with camping for me has been giving back to the camping community by being a CIT (counselor in training), counselor, and part of the Leadership Team at my camp. I always loved the programs that we did as a camper, but being on staff let me CREATE that magic for others, and seeing kids’ faces light up with the magic of camp for the first (or thousandth!) time always warms my heart. This year I’m working on broadening our program for the oldest campers (ages 13-15, all girls), trying to introduce some leadership roles and gearing them up for the time when they get to be the ones in my shoes, spreading the magic of camp to the next set of kids to come along.

    The best part about my camp, for me, is that it’s an all-girls environment. Our motto is “Where young women can discover their true selves” and it’s exactly what camp means to me. Camp has allowed me to realize what parts of life are important to me, and how to keep them safe. Being just girls meant that I felt more free to try new things (like learning a new language), make new friends, and have more crazy fun!

    Camp has also taught me a lot of real-life skills, especially interpersonal skills, that mostly come from just having to exist in the residential camp environment – the whole camp becomes your second family, and you HAVE to deal with your problems that arise, or you’re going to have a lousy time. Problem solving and diffusing tension come VERY easy to me now!

  70. This isn’t about overnight camp, but last summer I wrote a post about how day camp prepared our barely five-year-old daughter (and me!) for kindergarten here: http://joejane.blogspot.com/2010/08/ymca-camp-otherwise-known-as-letting-go.html

    She is now going to camp every summer and I can’t wait to send her little sister!

  71. When I was kid in the 70s I went to camp through the Torrance, CA YMCA. I was surprised when I got to the camp and found that they mixed us with kids from the San Pedro YMCA, as the Torrance YMCA was white and the kids from San Pedro were black. Our cabins were mixed half-and-half. It worked out great, though. I talked to the black kids and got to see their junior Black Panther membership cards. I asked them about the Panther’s violent record, but the black guys emphasized things the group did for the community. I still don’t think of the Panthers as a peace-loving group, but learning that I could talk openly with people about controversial subjects was a great lesson.

    I also learned what word not to use. One of the black guys and I were having an insult contest. It was escalating some so I thought of insulting him with a particular racial epithet. He knew what I was thinking and told me: “Don’t you say it…” I remembered his junior Black Panther card and decided not to use the word, and never have since. Another good life lesson.

  72. I went to sleep away soccer camp when I was 6. It was a blast 6 hours of soccer and still plenty of time for swimming, crafts and shopping. We told ghost stories about the creepy house on the hill and snuck out one year to get a closer look. The director always woke us up in unusual ways (a guy, gasp) dressed as the devil in a blue dress with music blaring. I loved it so much they could barely get me to come to phone when my parents called to say my dad was in the hospital, I asked if he was going to be ok, Yes, ok I’m going swimming see you in a few days.

  73. I spent not enough summers at camp. As a camper, counsellor and a supervisor. I want to go back!!

    I have way too many memories of my summers away, but something that has stuck with me was something I was given when I first started to work at camp.

    What is a Camp Counsellor

    By Phyllis M. Ford
    Written in the ’70s, but much of it still holds true today

    Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood there occurs in human development an age which is physically and psychologically impossible. It is that unfathomable stage known as the camp counsellor, a creature undefined by psychologists, misunderstood by camp directors, worshipped by campers, either admired or doubted by parents, and unheard of by the rest of society.

    A camp counsellor is a rare combination of doctor, lawyer, indian and chief. he is a competent child psychologist with her sophomore textbook as proof. he is an underpaid babysitter with neither television nor refrigerator. he is a strict disciplinarian with a twinkle in her eye. he is referee, coach, teacher, and advisor. he is an example of humanity in worn out tennis shoes, a sweatshirt two sizes too large, and a hat two sizes too small. he is a humorist in a crisis, a doctor in an emergency, and a song leader, entertainer, and play director. he is an idol with her head in a cloud of woodsmoke and her feet in the mud. he is a comforter under a leaky tarp on a canoe overnight, and a pal who just loaned someone her last pair of dry socks. he is a teacher of the outdoors, knee deep in poison ivy.

    A counsellor dislikes waiting in line, cabin inspection, and rainy days. he is fond of sunbathing, exploring, teaching new games, an old car named Mrs. Beasley, and days off. he is handy for patching up broken friendships, bloody noses, and torn jeans. he is good at locating lost towels at the waterfront, fixing stopped up toilets, making friendship bracelets, and catching fish. he is poor at crawling out of bed on rainy mornings, and remembering to fill out forms.

    A counsellor is a friendly guide in the middle of a cold, dark, wet night on the long winding trail to the TLC. Who but he can cure homesickness, air out wet bedding, play 16 games of 4-square in succession, whistle “Dixie” through her fingers, carry all the cook-out food, speak Pig Latin in Spanish, stand on her hands, sing 37 verses of “You Can’t get to Heaven”, and eat four helpings of Sunday dinner.

    A counsellor is expected to repair 10 years of damage to Jill in 13 days, make Julie into a woman, rehabilitate Judy, allow Joan to be an individual and help Gertrude adjust to a group. he is expected to lead the most prized possessions of 20 adults much older than he. he is expected to lead them in fun and adventure, even when her head aches; to teach them to live in the outdoors, even though he spends 9 months a year in the city; to teach them indigenous activities when he can’t even spell the word; to guide youngsters in social adjustment, when he hasn’t even reached a legal age; to ensure safety and health, with a sunburned nose, a band-aid on her thumb, and a blister on her heel.

    For all this he is paid enough to buy the second text in psychology, some aspirin, some new socks, two tires for Mrs. Beasley, and some new tennis shoes. You wonder how he can stand the pace and the pressure. You wonder if he really knows how much he is worth. And somehow, you realize that you can never pay her enough when, as he leaves at the end of the summer, he waves goodbye and says, “See ya next year!”

  74. Just a quick note to mention a class of camps that I did not see mentioned among these comments: camps for kids with serious illness or disability. the most well known of these camps is the Hole in the Wall Gang camp for kids with cancer.

    My son goes to camp Dream Catcher which is a camp for kids with Epilepsy. He is able to swim, shoot, climb, sing around a campfire, participate in dances, horseback ride all without his over protective mother worry, canoeing that he will have a seizure. He has had seizures at camp but so have other kids and they are among a supportive environment where they meet other kids who struggle with the same problems. Ask around and I think you’ll hear lots of stories about camps for kids with disabilties that allow them to get dirty and have great camp experiences.

  75. OMG. Sleep over camp was the best. Our favorite activity that we waited for with great anticipation and excitement were night-time scavenger hunts. Yup. Kids running around. In packs. At night. In the dark. Outside. With no adutls escorting us 100% of the time. We would go to bed and then the couselors would rouse us and herd us outside. The game/scavenger hunt always had a cool spin like Starwars or the like. We were all back in bed within an hour completely tuckered out. We’d be allowed to sleep in the next day. Noone got hurt. Noone was overly scared. It was piles and loads of fun. I can’t even imagine this happening today. Parents would have a mega freak out. God forbid a camp even thinks of something like this. They’be sued for thier thoughts. The reality is that all of my (now adult) friends (with kids of our own) from camp who experienced this think it was THE BEST THING EVER. I’d be excited for my two daughters to have the same sort of fun!

  76. I went to Girl Scout sleep away camp every year. One night at Girl Scout camp, two girls got into a fight over something – there was even some pushing involved. The moms were downstairs in the cabin while us girls were supposed to be asleep upstairs in the loft. Instead of running downstairs for the adults, we calmed the fighters down and had them talk it out and everyone ended up hugging and crying. The problem was solved and no adults needed to be involved!

  77. Oh man do I have camp stories! I went to summer camp every year from the summer after 3rd grade to the summer after senior year. My favorite story?
    One year, around 6th grade (give of take a year) camp happened to fall over the July 4th weekend. This was unusual, and was the only time it happened. The whole week (camp let out on the 5th) we were wondering what they would do for the 4th as the couselors were keeping it a big secret. So there we were, late on the 4th, and we all got herded over to a large field and told to relax and watch over the tree line. We all thought we’d be able to see the far-off firework display from the nearest city, which was more or less in that direction, when all of a sudden we hear this *hisssssthump* and it starts snowing on us! *hisssthump*hissssthump* Turns out the counselors had snuck onto the rooves of the cabins immediately behind us, shaken and then popped a hole in the bottom of shaving cream cans, and were tossing them out over us. It was snowing shaving cream! Then the couselors attacked! They armed with more cans of shaving cream and we armed with handfulls of the already expelled foam from the punctured cans we waged fierce war upon each other, doing our best to make sure none left the field unsmeared.

  78. I LOVED CAMP. Can’t wait to send my daughter (9) for the first time this year for 2 weeks…I had decided between 2 camps. In part because they have a 2 week option. I checked that both could be extended for 4 weeks once she got there.

    Here the thing. We went to camp open house 2 weeks ago. She was very excited watching the video. Especially the part about swimming and about the camp show…then, while we waiting (about 20 minutes) to speak with a camp rep, she got a little nervous and weepy, saying 2 weeks was too long to be away…

    I know my kid. She can worry about new things. You know the kind that as a baby wouldn’t TRY to walk until she was pretty sure she would not fall…She is definitely a drama queen. What has always worked is showing her how much confidence I have in her. Standing back…building her confidence by reminding her of all the great things she has done…

    This is the kid that screamed “what kind of a parent are you?” when I took the training wheels off her bike (BTW, I told her “The kind that says you can’t go to college with training wheels and the kind that knows you are ready”. She shrieked the whole time “don’t let go”. Finally I said, “I wont let go, unless you scream, then I will let go so I can cover my ears” (screaming stopped)…and she was riding in two days…the riding around the block (herself)….this is who she is….

    SO here we are in the camp waiting room. I am telling her, “I love you and I would not send you if you weren’t ready.” As I am telling her how much I loved camp (and crazy stories…we also had to evacuate to a boys camp due to flooding), and reminding her how she sleeps over with friends, how she has has spent a week with my mom very year since she was 6…”IT IS GOING TO BE SO GREAT”….and the camp registrar walks in.

    The lady looks at my daughter and says: “What’s wrong?”

    My daughter says, “I wanna go to camp, but two weeks is too long”.

    Lady: (read with condescending tone aimed through my child at me) “Well, we don’t take registrations for children if they (the children) don’t think they are ready and we make sure parents know that” glares at me

    I was LIVID

    I should have walked out, but I didn’t. When we met with the camp director, my daughter was still a little weepy. BUT the more he talked the more she perked up. He was great with her. Then, when she asked about the camp show she was excited about, and realized it was scheduled for the 3rd week of the session (DD would be there for 1st 2), she says, “You know, I think I could stay for 3 weeks…could I do that Mom…if I want to”…like I said, I know my kid…

  79. Well, hate to fink on my little sister but… when Sis went off to her first weeklong camp (church sponsored) after 6th grade she started cranking out the “I hate this place I’m going to die please come get me!” letters (no phone calls or, this being around 1970, email) the minute she got there. We got a couple of those (actually I think 3 in two days) and then the next day it was “Well, I guess it’s not so bad, I’ve made a friend…” Guess who wound up singing at Sis’s wedding about 17 years later?

  80. My wife passed this along to me to answer as I was the summer camp (and after school camp too up to 6th grade) kid.
    The first summer camp when I was 7 Tocaloma and it was an overnight train from Los Angeles to Flagstaff Az for a 2 week camp. The train trip was wonderful and instilled a love of trains that continues to this day. The camp was basic for that time, some nature stuff, some sports, about 10 boys to a cabin. The only item of note was one of the sports was baseball with hardball and I got knocked out with a fastball to the temple, never played again that summer.
    After that every summer for the next 5 years I went to a horseback riding camp, Rancho OSO in the Santa Barbara mountains. The first year, I flew on a plane from LA to Santa Barbara by myself and was met by the owners at the airport and they took me up to the camp! No, this was the first time I went and we did not know them except as owners of the camp… ROFL… can you imagine that happening in this day and age?
    Anyway the sessions were 2 weeks long, 2 boys cabins and 4-5 girls cabins (depending on how busy it was) and 2 college age staff per cabin. We’d ride horses in the morning or afternoon depending on age/skill and then the other part of the day was swimming and then a choice of arts & crafts or nature hikes or my favorite archery and rifle, a 22. And with the archery and rifle there was only 1 staff member with however many kids. And they stressed safety but it was still pretty loose. Archery was every year but the rifles depended on the staff so some years there was none.
    The best part for me was the middle Sat when they had a square dance, and yes it was time for this boy to grow up and learn about girls. It was the first girl friend I had here, the first kiss, the first ‘rep’ and so on. Also if you stayed over from one session to another you had a free time from Sat morning when the old session ended to Sun afternoon when the new session started, very unsupervised so you could do and go most anywhere within the camp grounds which also included a trailer park!
    I wish we could send our kids to something like this, and of course that the cost could be within the range as that time. But for something this unstructured and long it is too expensive sadly, and most of the cost comes from Ins.

  81. Loved loved loved camp and went on to be a counselor after I aged out of camperdom.

    Let’s see: learning to sleep outdoors, building fires, chopping wood with an actual axe, whittling stuff with knives, the occasional game of mumblety pegs (if the adults weren’t paying close attention), cooking all of our meals over a wood burning camp stove, learning to put out fires safely, encountering rattlesnakes, canoeing, poking sticks at dead frogs, singing, (and making up rude and profane versions of our favourite songs), archery, riding horses and shoveling horse poo, swimming in the lake with the (non-poisonous) water snakes, preparing to evacuate when there were forest fires in the area, climbing an actual mountain, and running down the trail at dawn so that I could keep watching the sun rise over and over, going backpacking and learning to pee in the bushes, dipping string into hot wax coloured with crayon stubs to make candles, cleaning the latrines, washing up after each meal while singing camp songs, learning how to do a flag ceremony at the beginning and end of each day, practical jokes, fierce rivalries and fiercer friendships, tears and goodbyes as the buses came to take us away at the end of the session – it was all one fantastic, busy, dirty, wonderful day after another.

    Bonus – it was Girl Scout camp, so I learned that there was NOTHING that couldn’t be accomplished by women working together.

  82. When I was growing up I was the kid everyone picked on. In my school there were no cooties. There were “Jennifer Germs”. Camp was the only place I got to be me. My parents sent me to a camp were there were no kids from my hometown so no one knew they were supposed to pick on me. I got to make friends and have fun and be myself. It was that shot of self-esteem every summer that got me through the dreary and awful school year. I even got to have a boyfriend one summer! Two girls liked him too, but he chose ME so when they picked on me it didn’t matter because all of a sudden I was the cool kid. I had my first kiss with him under a tree on the last night of camp. That camp meant so much to me that when I got my nurse’s license I started going back every summer to work for a week at a time. I have been doing that for the past 10 years. Every year I see get to shy, introverted kids just like I was blossom and grow (and get dirty and scraped up). I think it is so important for kids to get outside without their parents hovering and get dirty and see just how much they can accomplish.

    As the nurse I have to interview each camper at registration. Nowadays the saddest part of my job is watching moms and kids argue about whether or not their Ritalin can be stopped for camp week.

  83. Me again–I wanted to add that over the years I have worked as the nurse it is incredible how medicating children has changed. At first I would have kids come with a few allergy pills, their asthma inhaler, not much more. Anti-bedwetting drugs were really popular in the late 90s. Now I have to give out handfuls of drugs to some kids. Uppers in the morning, downers in the evening, drugs to settle their stomachs in between. I don’t know if it is just that more kids are being diagnosed sooner, or if people are coming to rely on pharmaceuticals to cope more and more instead of learning to modify their behaviour, but I am not sure if I like it very much. Further to my Ritalin comment as well–I have seen lots of kids with ADHD come through the doors and you can really tell the kids who need their meds–they literally vibrate and look really panicked in the morning after their dose has worn off and they need another. I have also seen lots of other kids who hate how they feel on it and could probably do just fine without it while running around outside in the sunshine.

  84. Last summer I sent my 9 year old son to summer camp in Calabassas (in the Los Angeles) area for 5 days with a very diverse bunch of kids, including inner city. A friend of his and his sister also attended. It was actually my way of letting go a bit because I am a bit overprotective and worry too much. He is my only child! My friends were quite shocked that I was sending him to overnight camp! I also thought it would be fun for him because we weren’t going on a summer vacation like we typically do. I rolled up a change of clothes for him for every day, however, when I picked him up he was wearing the same clothes he was wearing as when I dropped him off! However, he changed his clothes to swim and for bed and showered regularly. He also had a candy bar in his pocket from the canteen! Anyway, bottom line is I did have some complaints about some things that went on at the camp but he survived and really enjoyed the sense of independence — as he said “managing his own things.” I think he appreciated home and his parents a bit more afterwards also!

  85. This isn’t so much a camp story as it is an “independence” story. My son was by nature very timid and could have easily have been crippled by this nature had I allowed it. Instead, I kicked my kids out of the house on every nice day and made them find something to do rather than sit inside. Many a summer night saw my backyard filled with up to a dozen neighborhood kids in sleeping bags under the stars and unsupervised. Shockingly, they were never once kidnapped or molested. In spite of this, my son never wanted to go to camp and rarely stayed at a friend or relative’s house overnight.

    When he was fourteen and his sister sixteen, my husband had to go to New Orleans for work and I decided to tag along. We chose to leave the kids home alone to fend for themselves; we had many neighbors they could call on in an emergency and were trustworthy kids.

    The week before, we took them to the grocery store and let them shop for the meals they wanted to cook and eat while we were gone. Did you know there are seven different brands of frozen pizza so they didn’t have to once eat the same thing during the week? Neither did I until after that shopping trip. Though I was not terribly happy with their choices, this was their independence week and I was determined to let them be in charge.

    Armed with pizza, a $100 bill and my daughter’s driver’s license, they faced the week alone. As my husband and I said our goodbyes, I could see the concern in my son’s eyes, but we knew they could take care of each other. During the week, they checked in before school, when they got home and to say goodnight. We heard tales of burnt pizzas, trips to the market for milk and getting along and taking care of each other. That alone made the trip a success.

    But never did I expect what my son did when we got home. He thanked us. Always one to worry, he had apparently been thinking about college and had been concerned he would not be able to go because he had a fear of being away from us. He said his experience during the week had made him realize he could take care of himself. I could have very easily made him a mama’s boy, but instead I constantly pushed him to do something scary. Our trust in him gave him trust in himself.

    I was thankful for my freerange childhood and glad I was able to pass that onto my own kids.

  86. wNAnaj That’s the best answer of all time! JMHO

  87. I started camp at age 5 (turned 6 in the fall) at the club my family has a cottage at. It was supposed to be for kids 6 and up but my mom got me an age over-ride since she was going to be at our lot the week, so if I was homesick or really needed her, she could easily be found and take me out early, that did NOT happen, I loved it… I went to 3 different one week camps most summers as a child and I LOVED them all…

    Fast forward 2 dozen years or so, and there I was with my own son who was 5, we had just spent 4 days at the cottage and were thinking of going home, but then as we were riding our bikes around the grounds, we bumped into some of the kids who had cottages there, they were between 8 and 6 yrs old and happily picking raspberries up-to their eyeballs in prickly raspberry bushes(about 500 meters from their cottage, with no adult supervision) and my son wanted to stay with them, so I let him… The big kids said they were going to the camp that week (that’s when I remembered, how I got an age over-ride) and then my son asked if he could go to… I wasn’t sure if I could get him in last minute, or if I had enough supplies(clothing, food) for me and my 3 yr old to stay, but I figured I would give it a try… So I LEFT MY 5 YEAR OLD to pick raspberries with 6 and 8 yr olds and went over to the area that the kids were going to be checking in for camp later that day and asked if they would take my 5 yr old if I would stay up for the week… They of course said they would love to have a second gen. camper, and said I could drop him off anytime… So my 5 yr old was off to camp for one week, with just the clothing he had been wearing the four days before that (we do not have laundry avail there) not that it mattered in the least, since when I picked him up it looked as if he had not changed any of his clothing all week long… I saw him a few times in the week at the sauna or out and about, and he was at least using his other swim shorts:P He is now 8 yrs old and has done 5 weekend camps with boy scouts and 9 weeks of overnight camps at the same 3 camps I went to each summer and is looking forward to his next camps in August…

    I just found this site, and so far I am loving it;) I have ALWAYS referred to my kids as free-range kids (and babies) for 8 years now, I have said that! (I thought *I* was the only one), and I would not have it any other way!!! I Love that in this day and age I still have the freedom to let my kids go and experience things first hand for themselves… When my first son was 2 yrs old, I let a 6 year old bring him to the swing set 200 meters from my cottage down the dark twisty forest road, the summer he was 5 he was allowed to take his 3 yr old bro to the same swing set, now that he is 8, I would let him even take his 10 month old sister (if he wanted that responsibility) WHY would I let him take the baby? Because I have know my son and what he is capable of, and I know he knows his limits also, he has climbed 30 feet in a tree at age 3 (a lot faster going up then down) used a power screw driver at age 2 (carefully monitored, I’m not THAT stupid) has been slowly cutting down his grandmas plum tree, one branch at a time with a saw since age 4(and earning a few bucks in the process), been foraging for firewood in the forest since he could walk, passing the deep-end test at swimming pools since age 6, safely making fires (for food) with nothing but a magnifying glass and some twigs since age 7, building dams and forts in the bushes that I will most likely never see (even if I had the urge I’m not that into the forest in my old age, too many mosquitoes, I leave those for the kids now) for as long as he can remember! Thankfully some places still exist where kids can go out and play all day, and when they get hungry if they don’t find me at our cottage they know they can always find a hamburger or hot dog at a friends, or soon enough I am sure he will be asking to go off the club grounds to take the 2 Mile ride to the closest General Store (yes it is actually still called that) to get some chips!

    We may live in the projects now, but I will make sure no matter what my kids always have that experience…

  88. For 3 years now ive been going to the BEST camp in the world called Four Winds Westward Ho. This camp has been around since the 20’s and keeps its traditions alive. The campers wear mitties and bloomers ( for girls) and polos and shorts (for boys) ifor a full session its 4 weeks long but theres also a junior session for 1 week. You will make friends for a lifetime! there are no cell phones or computers! Surpirsingly not many people mind. We write letters to our family and friends and thats good enough for us. At camp they have a dark room for black and white photographary and they also have a barn, craft courts, dock, garden, and lsp ( land sports) its worth yyour lifetime to look it up.

    Love, A Gypsy 😀

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