Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Top Secret! The Power of Homeschooling Camps

Robin and I are heading off to the annual Milang Homeschoolers Camp on Friday. We thoroughly enjoyed the inaugral camp last year, organised by Stephanie and her enthusiastic family. The camp was well attended, with a host of homeschoolers heading down from Adelaide for Saturday.

Few people realise the power of a homeschooling camp. We attended our first one way back in 1990, at a place called Bridgewater in Victoria. The camp was organised by the Alternative Education Resource Centre, now HEN (VIC) and I found out about it through their newsletter Otherways. Dozens of families enjoyed the week long camp. For the first time I felt that I had finally found my 'community', such was the strength of the camaradie shared at the camp.

If you've never been to a camp you've missed out! It's hard, at first, to ease into camp life, especially when some of the campers are already familiar with one another, or if the camp is held in the same place each year and draws the same families who know the place inside out. I remember feeling like an outsider, but went with the flow, accepting that, yes, I was a newbie and like newbies everywhere I needed to take a deep breath and sit and watch, feeling a little uncomfortable, listen to the conversations, venture a few words here and there and slowly, but surely, I warmed to camp life and the 'old timers' gradually drew me into all of the activities.

The children, of course, took a lot less time to integrate, make friends, and generally have a good time!

Most of the camps I've been on have been unstructured: the structure evolves as each day dawns. We've camped in tents, slept in dorms and cabins and a mixture of both. Daily activities usually include going for walks, visiting local places of interest, art and craft, singing, cooperative games, concerts, shared meals, workshops, and chatting. Lots of chatting!

Nothing beats living closely with others over a few days to get to know each other and make firm friendships. I remember my children not seeing kids from camp from one year to the next, but when they got together again it was as though only a few days had passed. For parents worried about the social outcomes of home education - get thee to a camp! You'll be reassured.

Belinda Moore writes about a camp she attended on the Homeschool Australia website:

"The company was wonderful – old friends we love to catch up with, and new friends to meet. For us, the company of like-minded homeschoolers at an annual camp is a huge boost in our confidence in the decision to home educate. And being with the older home educated children and teens is always inspiring and encouraging. They are a beaut bunch of kids!"

I'd love to hear about your homeschooling camping experiences.