In today’s digital, fast-moving, ultra-competitive world, raising kids who grow into healthy, happy, well-adjusted, independent adults has become more challenging for parents. Gold Arrow Camp on Huntington Lake offers a traditional camp experience that many parents have found to benefit their child’s development of important life skills.
In partnership with parents who are focused on their child’s healthy development, Gold Arrow Camp offers a positive, child-focused outdoor camp program that counteracts some of the negative experiences children are facing in school, sports and cyberspace.
“Gold Arrow Camp took my city kid, who could barely ride a bike, and returned a sailing, camping, climbing, in-love-with-the-outdoors young man.” — Jennifer Lansing of Chicago
Parenting Challenge No. 1: Too Much Screen Time, Not Enough Outside Time
In our increasingly digital world, children are spending less time outside and more time in front of screens. The negative impact of our digital lifestyle is evident in kids’ expanding waistlines and lack of interest in being outdoors. Whether texting, communicating on Facebook or watching TV, our children are being inundated with constant digital input. The attraction of all the media is hard to resist, so most of us (including parents) simply succumb to having the near-constant presence of our electronics.
Many of us find it hard to drag ourselves away from our laptops and cell phones, and often our schedules and lifestyles don’t allow for adequate time to just be outside and enjoy our natural surroundings.
Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods to describe the alarming trend of children spending less and less time outdoors. Whether due to sensational media accounts of lost hikers that have fanned parent fears, or simply a lack of time in overscheduled lives, children simply aren’t outside playing as much as they used to.
“I learned to live without technology.” — Gold Arrow camper (2009)
Gold Arrow Camp gives kids the experience of two weeks of electronics-free fun in a rustic, natural setting. In the heart of California’s Sierra National Forest, campers sleep in large tents on wood platforms, enjoy nightly campfires and watch the sun set over beautiful Huntington Lake. At night, campers count shooting stars and share stories with camp friends, and don’t even think about their TV, video games and cell phones!
Parenting Challenge No. 2: Helping Kids Become Independent Adults
Whether due to parenting trends (“helicoptering”) or being so connected to our kids (both in our close relationships and via our digital leashes — i.e., cell phones), children are much less independent than we as parents were at the same age. Twenty years ago, we were babysitting infants at age 13. Now, we’re hiring babysitters for our 13-year-olds!
Ironically, kids are experimenting with drugs, sex and other high-risk behaviors younger than ever, possibly as a result of feeling so little independence and control in their own lives. College freshmen are struggling to adjust to being away from home, and many who start school away from their parents end up back at home.
Colleges have staff dedicated to orienting and communicating with parents, who are closely involved from the application process right through to job interviews post college. Many college graduates move back home and slide right into a dependent lifestyle. This “endless adolescence” just isn’t natural. As a society, we are not doing a good job of launching our children into independent adult life.
“My shy, quiet 9-year-old went to Gold Arrow Camp not knowing a soul. Two weeks later, my daughter came home transformed. She blossomed. She made friends, learned a multitude of activities, felt safe, loved, confident and happy, really happy. As hard as it was on me, it was all worth it for her. I know this is the single best thing I have every done for her.” — Cheryl Epstein of Long Beach
Gold Arrow Camp parents understand the value of giving their children early, independent life experiences. While knowing that their children are well-supervised and in a safe, supportive community, parents feel great about giving their child the opportunity to have a few weeks of independence from them.
Children as young as 7 years old successfully complete two-week camp stays and feel a great sense of pride and independence as a result. Without having their cell phone to immediate contact their parent with every question and need, kids learn to rely on themselves and seek support from their counselors and cabin mates.
Parenting Challenge No. 3: Everything’s a Competition
From the first conversation about whose child learned to walk first, parenting today (and life in general) seems to have become one big competition. Who’s in the top reading group? Who made the “A” soccer team? Who’s top of the class? Who got elected class president? Who got picked for cheerleading? Etc., etc.
In trying to help our kids keep up, and leave opportunities open for them, we often end up pushing too hard for our kids to do well in too many areas. Many kids are taking challenging course work at school, competing on high-level sports teams with demanding practice schedules, learning a musical instrument and being involved in clubs (to make sure they are well rounded). Often, finding something they are passionate about or truly enjoy goes on the back burner. With little free time to explore and try new things, many kids don’t even know what they like. And, much of the time, kids feel bad because they are not the one picked for the team or deemed “the best.” Most of us aren’t.
“Everything you do is made into fun. There is no competitiveness. There is this sense that I am able to let my kids experience some of what it was like to grow up in safer, less congested, slower times, where they have independence and low-tech fun.” — Stephanie Kaufman of Pacific Palisades
Gold Arrow Camp offers kids the unique opportunity to relax and have fun in a noncompetitive environment. All of the camp activities are recreational activities where campers support each other to improve their individual skills. Whether cheering each other on to get up on water skis or a wake board, or learning to skipper a sailboat together, camp is all about enjoying life, learning new outdoor skills and enjoying the company of friends.
Parenting Challenge No. 4: Good Friends Are Hard to Find
We all want our children to be happy and find good friends, but it’s often not as easy as it seems. With kids competing for the same spots on teams, and eventually the same spots in colleges, many friendships become competitive. Some children simply don’t have time to spend building strong one-on-one relationships. They spend time with friends, but often in structured settings. Some kids are shy, socially awkward or get bullied at school.
“I learned how to be a good friend and how to be social and outgoing.” — Gold Arrow camper (2009)
At Gold Arrow Camp, our focus is on building community and helping campers develop close friendships. Campers are assigned to cabin groups of eight to 10 similar-aged kids. Two counselors serve as cabin leaders and help campers get to know each other. Team-building games at the start of camp, similar to what corporations use to build teamwork, are used to help foster good communication and teamwork.
Gold Arrow Camp is unique in that we have a structured camp program, which differs from the “free choice” programs most camps offer. While “free choice” sounds good on the surface, it requires campers to individually sign up for activities. With our structured program, campers do activities as a group and do not have to have the pressure of finding kids to sign up for activities with or trying new activities for the first time without the support of cabin mates and their counselor. Many kids at “free choice” camps simply choose not to try things they haven’t done before, for fear of embarrassing themselves. At Gold Arrow, all of our campers try everything in a supportive, group setting.
— Audrey Monke has owned and directed Gold Arrow Camp with her husband, Steve, since 1989. They have five children, who range in age from 8 to 18. Monke was president of the Western Association of Independent Camps from 2008-2010 and is an active member of the American Camp Association. Click here for more of her writing about camp and parenting.