"Homesick and Happy"

May 1, 2012

On today's edition of StudioTulsa, an informed discussion in praise of summer camp. Our guest is Michael Thompson, PhD, a consulting school psychologist and author who's widely known for his bestselling study of contemporary American boys and their emotions, "Raising Cain." Thompson's new book, just out as a Ballantine Trade Paperback Original, is "Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow." In this work, he offers an engaging and well-researched consideration of both the traditions and advantages of summer camp. Ours is an age when less than 20 percent of American kids walk or bike to school each day --- a generation ago, however, 80 percent did --- and, obviously, given all the laptops, cell phones, and video games that they're fixated on these days, our kiddos simply aren't experiencing the natural world often enough. They're also not doing enough exploring/adventuring/playing "on their own." Therefore, in this book, Thompson argues that it's vitally important for our children to be away from home --- if only for a little while --- and that overnight summer camp programs are perfectly suited for this. Moreover, as Thompson asserts, summer camp ushers our youngsters into a thrilling world --- an ideal environment --- that differs from both home and school in meaningful ways: going to camp means being in an electronics-free zone, and in a multi-generational community, where daily rituals like group meals, cabin clean-up, and such shared activities as skits and sing-a-longs not only enrich lives and create cherished memories but also foster independence and emphasize moral development. Amid all those bug-infested woods, icy swimming ponds, and late-night campfires, children really do have emotionally significant and character-building experiences. They also make friends, of course, and --- perhaps most importantly --- they grow in ways that can surprise even themselves.