I find it interesting that one often hears or reads testimonials from parents (or alumni) about how transformative their experience at a certain (usually- but-not-always “overnight”) summer camp has been, but yet they are equally attached to the school they are sending their kids to the other 9-10 months of the year which in many ways expouses the polar opposite in ideals and structure.
Camp: play, freedom, age-mixing with teen-age counselors
School: sitting, following someone else’s agenda, no age-mixing — spending the entire day with other kids who are exactly the same age (or at most 1 year’s difference)
How does this make sense? I guess the idea is that the school year it’s time to buckle-down, but then I would think you would hear lots of testimonials about the transformative effect of school. “It was so hard to sit still, but wow it was an amazing experience!”
At least swap the 2 and 10 months. Not too long ago, kids went to school for only a few weeks a year. Like summer camp today.
Or go whole hog and send your kids to a democratic free school, like Sudbury Valley School (SVS) and let them have a transformative experience all year long!
I’m not saying there isn’t value in mixing things up and doing different things at different times of the year — e.g. our kids enjoy having a break from SVS to do other things, and I enjoy the seasons in New England — skiing for part of the year, swimming for part of the year, etc.
I’m also not under the delusion that a democratic free school / Sudbury school is trying to serve the same purpose as a summer camp. My sense of the summer camps that have such rave reviews (from my kids as well) are the ones (in additional to having ample time for free play and freedom to choose activities instead of following a set plan) also have excellent teen-age and college-age (or older) counselors who excel in their roles as active mentors within their cabins/tents and during free activity periods. That’s not exactly the same thing as a Sudbury School either where any mentoring is absolutely student-initiated. My sense (again, from my kids) is that the active mentoring aspect is nice to have for a little bit — a few weeks per year, OK– but my kids (even when they were 4 and 5) end up MUCH preferring the complete freedom they get at SVS for a few hours each day (now it’s 5 or 6 hours, but when they were little it was just a few.)
You should see the excitement I see as they get ready for school (there is often a lot of gear! They are WORKING on things!) and head off toward the main building to sign in each morning.