Re: DSM: Summer Camps

Roberta Glass (
Mon, 21 Dec 1998 10:00:20 -0500

I went to a Camp Fire Girls' summer camp called Nawaka which gave campers
complete freedom in activities. The only requirements were that you show up
for meals (I suspect so that they could count heads) and keep your tent space
clean so the animals wouldn't move in. I was in high school, but there were
also younger campers. I don't know if it still exists, or still allows that
kind of freedom, but it hadn't changed between the time I went in the 70s and
when I sent my niece in the mid 80s. The camp is in East Otis, Massachusetts,
in the Berkshire Mountains. Camp Fire has dropped 'Girls' from its name, so
the camp may also serve boys now.

We have also struggled with summer activities for our child. My son is 10
years old and has been at Sudbury Valley for 5 years now. He has no tolerance
for being told what to do by adults, and has little interest in the arts and
crafts that day camps use to fill up the day. The rest of his 'gang' doesn't
go to school during the summer, and our car-pools tend to dissolve for the
summer as well. For him, sports day camps work best. He has enjoyed one and
two week tennis, basketball, and baseball camps the last two summers. The
reason that these camps work is that he is an athlete and he wanted to learn
or get better at each of these sports. It was his choice to go. The camps are
run by men who have played or coached professionally, and staffed by college
athletes. They treat the children like they would treat adults, as athletes
making a dedicated effort to improve a skill. There was basically no choice
in activities, the campers were grouped by skill level and did drills and
played scrimmage games all day.

Camps are not the only way to go. This past year he was selected to play on
the town's traveling baseball team, which filled three afternoons and evenings
a week with practices, games, and travel to the far reaches of Massachusetts.
Again, he was doing something he loved, was being challenged to play at an
advanced skill level with others dedicated to playing the game well, and had a
coach who helped him to improve his skills. There were side benefits as
well. The baseball league fee of $100 was far less than a week of day camp,
and our son made friends in the neighborhood.

We had a disasterous experience with a day camp run by a public school phys-ed
specialist two years ago. Stay away from such camps!!!!! She promised
individualized attention, a well trained staff, and a choice of swimming,
basketball, soccer, archery, and aerobic dance. What they really did was herd
the kids around to dumbed-down sports stations and give them fake choices (do
you want to do this or sit and watch?). The staff were college phys-ed majors
with no experience with live children. When we complained she mailed us a
five page, single spaced diatribe on what terrible parents we were.
Apparently giving birth to a child with an introverted personality was bad
enough and our choice of an educational philosophy which was going to 'ruin
his life' was worse. But pointing out that what she said and what she did
were worlds apart put her sanity right over the edge. Fortunately for all the
children involved the camp went out of business.

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