This was recently sent to me - I think it is self-explanatory!
The Boston Globe
August 9, 2004
A LOST WORLD OF FAMILY TIME
Author: MICHAEL THOMPSON
I WENT TO VERMONT FOR A WEEK THIS SUMMER AND REDISCOVERED A FANTASTIC
WORLD OF FAMILY TRADITIONS.
A world where people sit down and eat three meals together every day,
serving their food from platters and talking with one another
the meal. A world where 10-year-olds set the table for dinner and clear
it, without complaint. A world where 13-year-old boys don't play video
games every night or watch TV or sit in front of computers.
Instead, they lie in bed and read - comic books, novels, sometimes even
grown-up novels. In this world 11-year-old girls walk together holding
hands as easily as they laugh and talk. No frenzied instant messaging
here. Instead, they sing. Every morning, as they make their beds and
out their rooms, they sing together. One girl starts a song, and the
others join in spontaneously.
Of course, this fantastic world isn't a lost one. It is summer camp.
When I visited a camp for a week ! last month, some 40 years since I
attended one, I was struck hard by how rarely children engage in these
activities anywhere else: not in schools, not in neighborhoods, not in
families. Summer camps are one of the last places that kids can learn
so-called "family values" that hard-pressed families no longer have the
time to teach.
Doubtless, fun and friends are an important part of a camp experience,
the children I saw were having fun. But fun was not at the core of the
campers' psychological experience.
From my viewpoint, three valuable elements dominated the campers' days.
They were living in a multi generational community, they were following
hallowed rituals that were universally respected, and they had a lot of
downtime. Ritual surrounded every aspect of the day, from wake-up
and tent inspection to the day's end with taps and a lullaby.
Yes, a lullaby. At 9:30 p.m., we senior staff members stood together
singing a version of t! he Brahms lullaby with camp lyrics to a circle
tents in the woods. The children were asleep by 9:45, and they slept
solidly until 7:30 when the ritual clanging of the bell woke them
Is there anywhere else in the United States where children, ages 8 to
hear a lullaby every night? Is there anywhere where 14-year-olds
get 10 hours of sleep at night?
Whatever else our children find at camp, the painful truth is that we
often send them away to experience aspects of family life they can't
at home anymore.
After all, there can't be too many family dinners when you're driving
children to the 90-game ice hockey schedule required of 13-year-olds on
the select ice hockey teams of North Andover.
You can't have much of an evening ritual when children watch TV or play
computer games right up to bedtime. And there isn't much downtime in a
family where the children are immersed in music lessons, tutoring,
arts, town sports, SAT prep courses, and more.
The only place a child from a hig! h-pressure family can enjoy some
and quiet and perhaps a good night's sleep (with a lullaby) is away
Why does it matter? Because children need it. Children don't develop
because they are pushed, prodded, and pressured to develop for sports
teams or "good" colleges. Development is their biological and
psychological imperative. It is the job of adults to create
where children have the time, freedom, and safety to grow up at their
In Vermont I was struck by the fact that summer camp provides something
that is in short supply in our fast-paced worlds: respected ritual,
for the generations to get to know one another, and the opportunity to
take a nap or read a book after lunch each day. I hope camps like these
can maintain their traditions in the face of the frantic, competitive
zeitgeist of modern America.
I'm worried they will all become specialized (and driven) learning
teaching Division 1 sports skills ! or computer skills. I hope not. I
to go back next summer and do s ome singing. I don't seem to have time
it around my own house.
Michael Thompson is author of "The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child
Achieve Success in School and in Life" and co-author of the New York
bestseller "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys."
Copyright (c) 2004 Globe Newspaper Company
Record Number: 0408090015
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