Summer is in full swing. As a parent, I’ve found it a fun time to reminisce about my summers as a child. I was very lucky that I lived oversees as an expat in London for Kindergarten, and then nine years in Stavanger, Norway. It gave me opportunities to experience other cultures that I never would have had otherwise. My oldest is nearing an age where she might want to consider sleep-away camp which ignited several discussions between my mom and me. It inspired her to pull out an old file from International Summer Camp Montana where she sent me two summers when I was ten and eleven-years-old. She proceeded to write about the experience from the perspective of a mom sending her child off to sleep-away camp in another country for three weeks. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did!
By Lavelle Carlson
I think back on my life of parenting and now watching my own children parent. I marvel that I ever allowed my children to go off and leave me. Age does give one a different perspective on life. I am not sure that I would do it now. I do remember fears and always researching daycares and any place where my young children would be staying without me. Even before Google there were ways to research, although it did take a lot more planning and time.
My daughter was then ten years old and I wanted her to experience other cultures at a summer camp. I researched summer camps and came up with Summer Camp Montana Switzerland. It sounded like just what my shy daughter needed to overcome some of her shyness. They provided field trips in the surrounding areas. They also taught French, horseback riding (which she loved), curling, tennis, and other activities. The bonus was that she would have to meet other children from different cultures. My fears of sending her were allayed somewhat by the fact that we were able to enlist a friend, Denise Gault, to share the experience with her. Furthermore, my husband and I would drive the girls from Norway to Switzerland and we would be able to see the camp firsthand before leaving the girls.
After a couple of days of travel – one night spent on the ferry crossing from Norway to Denmark and then another day or so driving through Germany and northern Switzerland we arrived at a magnificent setting – beautiful buildings with natural pictures of mountains in the background.
The arrival at International Summer Camp Montana was pleasant. We were greeted by staff that took our daughter in and made her feel comfortable. We then returned to Norway to await letters coming from her to see how she was doing. Here are just a few snippets that reassured us that she was doing well and was not encountering any problems or homesickness.
“Dear Mom, Dad, I am not going to write every day now. I got your letter last night. We are having a carnival today. I had fun on the 2 hour ride. Love, Liana P.S. Have a happy anniversary. P.S.S. Say hi to everyone.”
After three weeks we returned to retrieve her and her friend. We drove back and spent one night in a small inn in Amsterdam. During the night my daughter’s friend awakened us. She let us know that our daughter was sick. Luckily it was not serious. We had given our daughter spending money at the beginning of camp. On the last full day of camp the children were taken first to the bank to convert any money they needed to Swiss francs. They were then taken to a chocolate factory where my daughter felt the need to spend all of her money on chocolate.
The International Summer Camp Montana was such a positive experience that we sent her the next summer with three other girls this time and a couple of years later sent her to a horseback riding camp/farm in Wales. Were we lucky that this was a positive experience for our daughter? I do feel that checking all credentials of a camp is important. Maybe relying a little on gut feeling helped as well. Perhaps the most important thing I learned later is the importance of ensuring that your child has access to contact you and to take their word if things are not going well.