How old were your children when they went on their first school camp? Caspar and Otis were seven before they stayed overnight at school camp. For both of them, it was their first night away from home. Their class had a camp when they were six but neither of them wanted to go and at this age, I wasn't going to push them. Independence inside or outside of the home cannot be forced, rushed or pushed. It can only come when the child is ready.
Otis' first camp was only one night (Caspar's was two). Otis stayed in a tent on the school grounds (pictured above). I love this approach, the children don't have to travel, it's only one night, and the children are already familiar with their surroundings. The children felt safe and secure and had a fantastic time.
When children reach the second plane of development (6-12 years) they look for more social interactions outside of the home environment. In school, they may be planning 'going out' activities which requires the children, often a small group, to plan an outing that they will execute by themselves usually with an adult supervising.
When it comes to independence outside of the home, there is only so much we as parents can do. We can teach them how to plan, we can prepare them, we can give them skills and knowledge, then we must let them go. We can make the most of this experience by following the child! It is important that parents don't interfere, take over or lessen the experience. School camp is such a wonderful opportunity for exploring this new-found-independence outside of the home but within the safe confines of the school/class structure.
We must allow, as much as possible for the child to:
- Source items required - like sleeping bags, blankets, equipment.
- Make lists or organize themselves in their own way.
- Pack their belongings so they are easily accessible but can be carried independently.
- Look after all of their belongings.
School camp provides the opportunity for:
- Greater autonomy, children will have greater control over themselves, what to eat, what to wear, more so than at home.
- Additional learning for example learning about camping activities such as putting up a tent, making a camp fire.
- Greater independence for care of self activities such as showering, brushing teeth, assisting with food preparation and clean up - outside of the familiar home environment.
- Following the instruction/guidance outside of the home and regular school environment, for example following the direction of camp leaders, other parents.
- Developing and using problem-solving skills, a new environment means the children will encounter new or different problems.
- Working closely with others/classmates, learning/developing/furthering social skills and forming bonds. Promotes teamwork, problem-solving with others and conflict resolution.
This year Caspar's (10yrs) school camp is in France. This requires a whole new level of 'letting go'. It also requires a whole new level of independence. Caspar could not be more excited and most importantly he is ready. It's hard to believe the six-year-old who didn't want to go to camp is now ready to spend a week at camp, in a different country. My message is don't rush it, children will explore this independence in their own time!