Two years ago I drove my then 13 year old daughter to Not Back to School Camp in Vermont for the first time. As we neared the entrance to Tamarack Farm & Wilderness where the camp takes place, she got very quiet. This was the first time she stayed away from us for more than a night or two, and the first time she’d ever been away overnight at all without easy access to phone, text or email. It felt like I was dropping her off at the end of the world. She was nervous and I was a hopefully well concealed wreck.
The only person she knew was Brenna McBroom (thank god for Brenna!) who had stayed at our place for a few days the year before, and was on staff at NBTSC. After we arrived and checked in she showed us to the cabin Maya would share with 10 other girls. “Rustic” is a somewhat romantic term for the three walled open air shelter in which my daughter – who prior to this first camp session considered a hotel with no pool “roughing it” – would sleep for the next nine days. When I said good bye and walked to the car, I thought she looked so out of place among these mostly gregarious, hug-happy camp veterans, and it was a very long drive to my hotel that night.
Only after she was home – after she told us about all the friends she’d made and the amazing-ness that is NBTSC – did she admit that the first three days were so difficult she considered calling me to come and get her.
How happy she is, and I am, that she didn’t.
Tomorrow I will drive up to Vermont to pick up her and three other girls from her fourth session of NBTSC. The nine days of that first session seemed endless; this year I blinked and it was over. So many good things came out of that nerve-wracking first trip, and three that followed. Joshua and I were astonished at how much more independent and confident she was after that first camp session. Now I have no doubt she could navigate almost any scenario she encounters in travel or social situations, largely due to her experiences at camp.
She’s made friends who will be with her forever, and last winter took part in the first ever NBTSC in Joshua Tree, California. (Thank you, Grace Llewellyn, for giving me such a great excuse for a 10 day California road trip with Ben while Maya was at camp.) Camp has quickly become a tradition and integral part of our year.
I’m doing a poor job of describing how this unschooling camp differs from all the rest, so let me say this:
If you are looking for a place where your kid can test their wings; be accepted, independent and loved; where every day there is a daily hug quota but where boundaries are acknowledged and respected? This camp is your ticket.
And that’s still just the tip of the iceberg of great things that has been our experience at NBTSC.