How many of you went to summer camp or church camp and came away with sweet memories to be cherished for a lifetime?
Or, are you like me…
I went to camp twice…the first time as a girl scout. Looking back on camp, I have two memories – getting a urinary tract infection, not knowing that’s what it was, and the teenagers who were my camp counselors yelling at me for going to the bathroom too many times (it didn’t occur to them to question why and to possibly send me to the nurse).
My second camp memory was church camp when I was in 6th or 7th grade. That experience was tarnished by memories of the girls in my cabin sneaking over to the boys’ cabin. I wasn’t cool because I didn’t join in on the fun.
Which brings me to my old boss’s memories….she got pregnant at 14 at a Baptist Church camp. She and her husband married when she was 15 and against the odds, lived happily ever after. She got her college degree and went on to have two more children. When I met her, her daughter was 28 and she could look back and laugh. But I remember my old boss stating that she would never let her own kids attend camp.
We have attended the same church for the last 6 years. For the last 3 years, they have been “strongly encouraging” the 3rd-6th graders to attend a week long camp. Each year the pressure is getting stronger and stronger to attend this camp.
If you haven’t already guessed, let me just state it right out…..We don’t send our children to camp.
Shall I go into more detail? (Since it’s my blog and this topic is really bugging me, I think I will…)
There are multiple reasons.
My son has severe allergies to green and growing stuff. He’s outside for 30 minutes and then he is miserable and wants to come inside. His allergies peak in July. The camp is in July so why would I want to send him to camp knowing this? Would they care that he was miserable? Probably not.
Need another reason? They can tell you that they watch the kids closely, that they are kept busy at all times. If this is the case, does all that hazing and bullying that you hear whispered about go on in FRONT of the counselors – after all, the kids are never out of sight – right?
AND, if that isn’t enough, what about those cliques? If kids are cliquish in Sunday school, why wouldn’t that carry over to camp? What’s your plan for that Mr. Counselor? AND if you have a plan, why aren’t you implementing that each and every Sunday. Why wait for camp?
You know, the amazing thing in our society is that many people think your child is not socialized if they don’t attend public school, if they don’t attend camp, if you don’t let them explore the mall on their own….. But I beg to differ…. Tell me, what’s socially stimulating about putting a child in a room with 30 other kids their exact same age? They start to look at anyone NOT their age, NOT their socioeconomic status, as an undesirable not to be associated with. They want to dress the same as other kids, talk the same as other kids, disrespect like other kids. I know it. I read about it on the blogs. I hear friends who talk about it. I see it often when I’m out in public. Dr James Dobson said, “I have seen kids dismantle one another while parents and teaches passively stood by and observe the socialization.”
What are we doing to our children?
One of Webster’s definitions of the word to socialize is: to make fit for companionship with others
So, what makes a fit companion for society?
My kids may not go to public school, but they can carry on a conversation with a 2 year old, a 12 year old, or a 20 year old, or another 12 year old’s mom. They are comfortable with all ages because they are around all ages. NOT just other kids born in the 12 month period they were.
A classroom filled with kids of virtually the same age doesn’t have an established rank as there is in a family. In a family if you’re the oldest you are the oldest. The youngest is the youngest. Children do not need to fight, manipulate, and claw their way up the ranks.
But rank in a classroom is established by an assortment of measures: good looks, wealth, academic success, athletic ability, talents they may have, or material possessions – whatever the current cool item of the week is. Labels may be applied at an early age, never giving a child the opportunity to move out of their caste system. And, what ever group the child has been forced into, jocks, band-nerd, beauty-queens, has its own unwritten code of conduct which may include drugs, shop-lifting, pre-marital sex or whatever else they deem as cool.
I don’t get it. I find peer pressure hard to deal with, and I expect my children to be stronger and handle it better than I?
And you know what? It is NOT realistic in society that you will forever be around and work with people your exact age. On the contrary many will have bosses their parent’s age. How do you learn to deal with all ages if you’ve been segregated with people your own age 8-10 hours a day since you were 5 years old?
People who are concerned with diversity wonder about those of us who keep our children close, wonder if our children will grow up to be bigoted or intolerant – this from a system who pre-sorts children by birthdates, gender and intellectual ability from preschool on. Is it the school’s job or the church’s job to teach children to love and respect people of different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds? I personally think it’s the parent’s responsibility to teach it at the kitchen table, while cleaning out a rabbit cage, or while riding bikes in the park. It’s the parent’s job to discuss this whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Families are able to teach their children to get along with siblings, with neighbors, with the grocery store clerk who bags meats with produce. The responsibility for raising children should be within the family, not the school, and definitely not by peer pressure. As a middle-aged adult, I have trouble with peer pressure, how can I expect my children not to unless I teach them to recognize it for what it is?
One form of peer pressure is the mantra that so many kids get “saved” at church camp so of course I should let my children attend.
Do these children that get “saved” at camp, profess their salvation in a moment of peer pressure and excited frenzy? Or is their salvation the same as needing that pokemon card, or the latest and greatest video game? Where is their heart? Is it a true repentance of sin, the realization of a need for the Savior, and the desire to serve Him? Hopefully it is.
But my fear is that these kids just return home to the unsaved family with no one to nurture their fledging spiritual belief. Do they return to the same social groups that put pressure on them to take drugs, or what ever? I suspect these kids are sent home with good intentions, but reality is they are often sent home with no follow-up, no support, and the spiritual fire will soon be snuffed out, maybe for a time, maybe forever.
But what if we take our resources and pour them into those same kids and nurture them on an ongoing basis, one kid at a time, one parent at a time, one family at a time? Then there is hope. Hope for our society, and hope for this world. But it starts at home. Not at school, not at camp, not with society, but with two parents and a family.
So, if we should decide camp is a necessary experience for our children, we will go as a family.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
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