Saturday, October 13, 2012

Homesick and Happy Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow
Author: Michael Thompson
Genre: Nonfiction, Parenting
Publication Date: 2012

My Star Rating: 5 stars = I Love It

Summary Statement: Tells How Sleepaway Summer Camp is Beneficial to (Most) Kid’s Development

Michael Thompson is a school counselor and an author of eight parenting books about childhood development. I have read some of his other books and respect his opinion and am always open to reading his new books. Thompson is involved with summer camps and has fond memories of attending secular sleep away camp as a child. He is agnostic. This book focuses on secular camps, not religious camps and not Scout camps. The focus is on two, four or six week camp programs. I have been a volunteer at Boy Scout summer camp and have seen myself the positive benefits of sleep away camp as well has having personally helped some boys through homesickness, so I wanted to hear what Thompson had to say about this topic.

The book kicks off with some positive elements of summer camp but quickly gets into the issue of homesickness, which has piqued Thompson’s curiosity for years. There is a long discussion of what it is, how many kids get it, how most get over it and how some do not. This part reads a bit negative and I had to push through it. (If any reader feels bogged down by this and considers abandoning reading the book I encourage you to persevere or at least skip ahead to the other chapters and then consider going back to the skipped parts to finish it.)

Later the book gets much more positive in tone and goes into detail about some specific camps and what makes them unique and how those types of situations can be uniquely beneficial to children. There is a chapter on a camp for kids with certain disabilities or medical conditions (i.e. HIV positive). There is a chapter on an art colony type of camp and another on very long canoe trips that can change and get more challenging as each year goes on. He also discusses how camp can help a teen bridge into young adulthood, as a rite of passage.

Today now more than ever before parents are involved and monitoring their kids, they are tethered to us by mobile phones with tracking devices and we can call or text them to communicate. Sleep away camp allows children to break away from not just their family but to break away from everything in their regular life in order to have a chance to make a new social life for them or to forge a new identity. Camp allows children a safe environment which has safety rules and just enough structure to help keep them from getting into trouble yet allows more freedom than most kids have while at home living their regular life.

A downside to the book is that it does not discuss religious camps or Scout camps. The fact is that many kids only have access to a Scout camp (which is usually just done for one week) and that church attending kids sometimes access religious camps instead of secular camps (or they are religious and a Scout and go to only a Scout camp). Boy Scout camp is sometimes done with the Troop (with the leaders and Scouts they know from home) so it is not the same as going by oneself into a group of strangers, so some of the issues in the book would not apply.

Thompson does not get into the discussion of what age is the right age or how to determine readiness. Sending a seven year off to camp is not the same as sending a thirteen or fifteen year old to camp. Something could have and perhaps should have been said on that topic.

I agree with Thompson that summer camp can change a child in a positive way, especially the ones who got homesick and who got over it. To my knowledge this is the only book that thoroughly discusses homesickness, so if that is what you want to learn about, this is the book to read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about how attending sleepover summer camp can benefit a child and teen’s development.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from's Vine program. I was not paid. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

1 comment:

dstb said...

I went to 4-H camp for 5 years starting at age 8. I was very shy, but never homesick (probably happy to get away from my 3 younger siblings). I loved 4-H camp.

With my kids, we never sent them to camp and I think that is too bad. We considered sending them to a YMCA camp, but you had to sign up for 2 weeks and we go back and forth to Maine during the summer. 1 week would have worked, but 2 just never did.

They have been away to church youth group weekends, but they know everyone. It is not the same. I'm hoping to send my younger one to Hulbert Homeschool camp. I do think separating from mom & dad is important and he would get a lot out of being on his own.

Maybe other people still do this, but I never hear about it.... When my dad was a kid, his parents sent him to Maine from Ohio for the entire summer! (And I think they may have even said goodbye at the train station - not taken him the whole way). He did this for quite a few years and even worked for the camp. At age 17, he bought property near the camp. The place he bought is where we spend a lot of our summer - 60 years later. Thank goodness my grandparents sent him to camp!