Thursday, June 19, 2008

Socialization and Camp

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.


SuzyQ said...

Only went once or twice - and didn't actually ever stay the night - it was more like a day camp. Not sure how I would have hadn't a real camp - I was really shy when I was younger - still am. Not sure if it would have helped or just made it worse.

Laurie and the rest of 'em said...

CAN I GET A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR MRS. SHERRY, PLEASE?? Well said and amen! I'm with you wholeheartedly. Our kids have been pressured to some degree over the years to attend camp here or there. This year, Mel's friend, Maddy, asked her to come to camp with her but the ONLY reason we agreed (reluctantly) was because it is only for 2 full days(leaving Sun. morn. home Wed. afternoon). Now I'm super duper uneasy and will have to give it some serious prayer! thank you for posting this...this has been bugging me as well and it's like your post was an answer to a prayer I've had over and over!
Love you, sister! Glad you got that off of your chest! I need to have David read this!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I didn't ever go to camp. I didn't want to. My Mom tried to get me to go. I wouldn't do it. My children didn't want to go to camp. They went to visit Grandma and Grandpa. They did sports day camps when they got older. I can see your point. If your kids don't want to go don't make them just to get the pressure off. Camp isn't for everyone. I have heard nothing good about an overnight camp. I am sure there are some that had good experiences but I have never heard them.

This reminds me of that old song that goes 'hello mother, hellow father, How's my precious little brother..."

Missy said...

I used to go to a YMCA camp, for a week, every summer for about 6 or 7 years. While I enjoyed it for the most part, it was very cliquey and I was definitely ready to get home. I am sure that some camps are worse than others, but I think that mine was pretty good.

As far as kids being saved at a church camp, you have a really good point. While I think that it is good for them to be around a positive influence for a week, and educating the kids about our savior is a good thing, it may be short lived, and kids do feel the peer pressure.
Good post!

Eleanor said...

Stick to your guns Sherry & don't let anyone tell you what you should do with your own children. You're the ones who know them best. They are intelligent, caring, kind & considerate & the people responsible for that is you two, their parents. You may not have lots of money or live in a fancy home or take expensive vacations, but you love your children & they know it. They know it because you are there for them, let them discover their world with pets & critters, & at night you always let them climb into bed with you so you can read out loud to them. That in turn has made them book lovers & good students. Every family has their own way of raising their kids, & your way is at the top of the list, as far as I'm concerned. (I'm not just prejudiced, I'm their grandma.)

Christine said...

I went once, was wearing a back brace, didn't have a great time. My daughter went once, last year, she was eleven. The only reason she got to go is I knew her conselor person, and that person would be sleeping in the same bunk house. And the young lady(20ish) was very sweet, encouraging, energetic, Christian woman. If you knew the conselor, I'd say go for it. But it sounds like he wouldn't have a good time, so I agree, why should the Sunday they pounce the hardest. went once, was wearing a back brace, didn't have a great time. My daughter went once, last year, she was eleven. The only reason she got to go is I knew her conselor person, and that person would be sleeping in the same bunk house. And the young lady(20ish) was very sweet, encouraging, energetic, Christian woman. If you knew the conselor, I'd say go for it. But it sounds like he wouldn't have a good time, so I agree, why should he go? To be sick for a week? Be firm, Mom, and maybe miss the Sunday they pounce the hardest.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Sherry, this is a great post. I went to Baptist camp several times when I was a teen. It was a very good experience for me. The kids were well behaved and no hanky-panky went on that I know of.

Times are so different now though. Our kids, (girl 20 and boy 16) have never been to camp, because we have never done spend the nights away from home. Shocking to most people I'm sure. But I have a close relative who is a convicted child molester and when that happens in your very own family, it makes you not trust anyone.
You are right on about the socialization.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Thank you for saying it. I sometimes feel like we don't let our boys do anything. Just this evening my husband and I were outside talking (our alone time) and there were kids running around everywhere at 10:00 at night. What is up with that. We allow sleep overs only with immediate family and friends so close the seem like family. I can't see sending them someplace for week with teenage counselors and questionable supervision.

Mary said...

Sherry, Bravo! Only you know what's right for your kids. I never went to a camp when I was a child. I probably would have been homesick if I did. There are probably just a few very good camps available with excellent teenage/adult counselors. But, I don't have good feelings about them, either.

My daughter went to a swimming camp for a week once when she was 11. It was a wonderful experience for her but she was surrounded by some friends and other young athletes with the same interest - competitive swimming. I really can't imagine shipping her off for a week of camp with total strangers with different lifestyles and values...

Tera Rose said...

This post that you write hits at least 3 major topics for me.

1)Being pressured by a group to parent in a way that you are not comfortable.

IMO- DO IT YOUR WAY PERIOD. Tell them to shut up- and don't fall to THEIR PEER PRESSURE. You need NO reason to give, you do what YOUR gut tells you.

2)Have I been to camp?
YUP. every year growing up. mostly, I LOVED it....but let me tell you about the year at girl scout camp (70s) when the counselors talked us into streaking. . . . . .(men staff and lesbian staff worked there).

...and how I found an arrow head and the counselor kept it for herself....

...and how the first year I was in first grade and wet my bed, and the "teenage" counselors made fun of me, made me hang the sleeping bag out back, and put a "pee pot" in the cabin while other's teased me. my step sister got sunpoisioning during the heat wave when we were all eating salt blocks...

3)Using our children as way to bring others to the Lord-

we PAID lots of money to send our son to a baptist school to get him AWAY from the worldly problems of our local public school...

apparently non christian kids having been kicked out of public, on the verge of going to juvie...were given scholarships to our school! all in the name of saving them...

so when my son was slapped in the face, clothes ripped while he was sitting outside doing his work...and other things....HE WAS TOLD TO LOVE THEM AND SHOW THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST. and when we asked about this....they said, we are loving them to show them LOVE.

4)socialization topic- I agree with you 100%.

5) IF you decide to go camping as a family- drop me a note- I've got great IDEAS and WE LOVE CAMPING!

Our kids sleep NO WHERE without us-unfortunately I have seen too much, and know that even in the most percieved safest hands- there can be perverse danger.

great post. stand firm, sleep well. You're doing a great job and those kids will love you for it.

Anonymous said...

We do NOT send our children to camp either. Even though I had AWESOME experiences at a 4-H camp, both as a camper and a counselor.

But, we actually CAMP WITH OUR CHILDREN as an entire family all of the time. With horses. With the dog. With the computer sometimes. **snicker!**

I read this aloud to my hubby and he said "Most people send their children to camp to get a break from them or they don't know what to do with them."

I have a almost 15 year old that actually ADMITS to loving "hanging" with our family. I think that is such a blessing.

This is Beth from the Funny Farm by the way! On my hubby's computer!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I'm camping RIGHT NOW with three horses, three kids, one dog! lol But it is "civilised camping" with RV living quarters!


Sherry at the Zoo said...

Wow! I had no idea what to expect when I laid my heart out there, but I knew I had to talk about this and get it off my chest. Thank you all for your words of confirmation and your support for this stand that my husband and I have taken. Blessings and hugs to you all.


AndrewG said...

You really need to get your hands on a fantastic audio teaching by pastor John Thompson called, How Modern Churches are Harming Families. It will serve to validate the legitimacy of your well-placed concerns about age segregation and the harm that does to kids and families. It will make you wonder what in the heck we have been doing in American churches for the last 100 years. Regarding church camp specifically, I know there has been a lot of good done by well-meaning people, but there has been a lot of harm done as well. And when there are truly moving experiences around a Cumbaya campfire, most often they are born out of a swell of emotion that dwindles and dies just a few days after. I've seen it time and again. Again, John Thompson's teaching, available at, will really make you think. But beware. If you listen to it you may never be happy in a traditional church again. You may become like us and REALLY "out there" by homeschooling AND homechurching. Now THAT's weird! :-)


Carol said...

Sherry, "You go girl", do your thing, and keep raising those three young'un's the way you have been. They are all sweet, good kids (except when they are fighting with one another, ha!) so you must be doing something right.

Jayne said...

Three words... trust your gut. Simple. You know what's best for your kids. Period. :c) Hugs to you!

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

Just call me... I'll teach you lots of camp songs over the phone! LOLOLOLOL

Beth said...

I'm with Jayne. Only you know what is right for your kids. Peer pressure is on parents too--go with your gut--good advice.

Diana said...

Sherry - I only had one camp experience, a good one and I've had good public school experience with my oldest son who's now in college. But more power to you for simply doing what's right for you and your family, not matter what it is. Your strong sense of family and the importance to teaching your kids is what's important and you've certainly got that covered. And I wholeheartedly agree that it's important to teach your kids to be polite and get along in all sorts of company at all ages. You go girl!