|Dick increased the number of programs and types of children served.|
|Chewonki is on more than 400 acres on the coast of Maine, and added more property under Dick's leadership.|
The process of finding the right program is seldom direct. This is why Dick is in such high demand. Here is what he said.
Summer Camp is Important
First, for a lot of children, the role of summer camp has been really important. Children who have summer camp experiences, and this is shown both through tests and just stories, generally are more confident. They just have a richer set of experiences. They have done more.
Summer camp also provides children with a balance to school. Children can shine in different ways, and perhaps more importantly, different children shine. Chewonki, for example, has provided early opportunities for many performers to practice in front of very friendly audiences. Some of these people later became quite famous.
It can also be a clean slate for some children to get away from preconceived roles and redefine themselves. If the camp is far enough away from their school and home, they can be whoever they want to be.
|A Working Organic Farm|
|Preparing for 10-Day Canoe Trips|
|A Fresh Start|
However, finding the right summer camp, or the right summer camps over the span of several years, can be a bit tricky, and be as much art as science. There is no one answer for everyone.
Some things to take into account for each child:
- Age (8 to 16)
- Length of program (One week to eight weeks)
- Skill specific vs. general; academic vs. recreational
- How far away the program is from the family (Next door or a plane ride away)
- Single gender or both
- Overnight (residential) vs. day
- Same as siblings and friends or not
- Non-proft vs. profit; alignment of philosophies.
|As children get older, they may want more specialized programs.|
|.Here is an opportunity to nurture lifelong passions.|
- 6,7,8 year old: some sort of general day camp, with periodic overnights at friends or grandparents
- 10 year old: start overnight experiences, such as a week or two, at a more general camp
- 12 year old: use longer programs and/or more specialized programs. At this point, going away to camp, many hours away or even a plane flight away, can make it a very special and transformative experience.
- 14 year old, more intense, focused on a specific skills set
But obviously many, many variables should impact this. All children are different. Just some examples:
- Regarding age: Look to see if the child is doing overnights with friends and grandparents, structuring his or her own play without needing adults
- The length of program should align with what is available (more on that later)
- Skill specific vs. general: While as a rule, younger children should be exposed to more general programs; a first round of camps should be more generalized. However, if a child is passionate about a topic, that makes sense to let them explore it.
- Single gender or both: There are no rules here, and it depends on the child.
The Process of Finding the Right Camp
Parents should start the process by casting a very broad net. They should look online, such as at the American Camping Association. Also, parents should talk to their friends, and parents of their children’s classmates. Ideally, parents should get a broad list of 20 programs, perhaps in a few different categories.
Then, talk to the camps. A first question is, is it easy to talk to the people in charge? Or do you keep getting a phone answering machine. Are messages not passed on?
Next, talk to alums and other parents. A camp should be able to provide opportunities to meet up with other people who know the camp. This is often in the form of meet ups, but it can just be local parents. Parents really want to feel good about the program before moving on, and this can be for both tangible and intangible reasons.
|Parents and children have to be comfortable.|
There are common mistakes. Here are ways to avoid some of them
First, involve the children as much as possible. What is a good fit for what the parent wants is not necessarily a good fit for what the child wants. Obviously an 8 year is different than a 12 year old in ability to make decisions, but work closely with him or her. Find specific activities the child is most excited about doing.
|Find specific activities that excite a child.|
Third, though you want to learn about summer experiences from family and friends, don’t assume your child should go with friends to Camp. Part of the experience is self-esteem and confidence-building. Some parents will not even recommend “their” Camp to their friends, wanting to insure a unique experience for their child.
For many children, summer camp becomes as critical or more than schools for setting up skills, interests, knowledge of self, even lifelong passions and mission. Finding the right one, while requiring work, can lead to some of the most enduring accomplishments of childhood.
In this post, pictures 1, 4, 5, and 8 came from Dick's archives. The rest came from ours.