The Summer Camp Search: How to find the right camp for your family

Winter weather means longing for summer, which ultimately means that the Summer Camp search time has begun. More and more families are registering as returning Farmers, and more new families are calling and emailing with questions about what Longacre is all about. I love this time of year, because I get to talk about camp every day when parents call me, and it’s not just Weeze and I talking about the Farm to each other. I don’t want to rush it by saying Summer is around the corner, but as it happens every year, it will be here before you know it!

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I have been getting a lot of questions recently about what to do during the Summer Camp Search process, especially when it is a family’s first time or they are switching to a new camp. I am going to use this blog to share my thoughts (and the thoughts of some sweet websites and other camp directors) on choosing the right camp for your family, both parent and child, so that everyone feels good about the decision, which will ultimately prepare you for the best summer ever. I will also share what we do at Longacre, to provide some context around these ideas. My biggest piece of advice is calling us at Longacre, so that we can have a conversation together about what a summer at the Farm will be like for your child!

So where do you begin? There are thousands of camps with thousands of identities and cultures and thousands of awesome things happening. It can be extremely overwhelming to get to know a camp if you don’t know where to start. That is why I recommend starting with what you do know: your child and your family. Why do you want summer camp to be a part of your family? What does your child want to experience during summer camp? What are important values to your family that you are looking for in a camp? Have you or anyone that you know been to summer camp? Are you looking for a day camp or an overnight camp, 1 week or all summer? It is important to start with the focus on your family, as it is a family decision after all. If you need any help deciding whether or not to send your child to camp, I recommend this article, or this book.

In order to make the best decision for everyone, involve your child right from the beginning. They may have some insight that you may not be thinking about, especially in regards to what they want to experience this summer. Have the conversation, especially with teens, and ask them what kind of community that they want to be a part of.  Let them know that you think they would benefit from a summer at camp, and make sure that they know that you want them to be involved in the process. What are you excited about? If you are looking for a summer camp, there must be a reason why you want your child to experience camp culture, so you should share it. And then ask your child what they are excited about too! At Longacre, we practice open and honest communication, so having these conversations are key to a successful Longacre experience as well as ensuring that you find the right camp. If your child is hesitant, ask them to practice for camp with sleepovers or school trips, as well as show them as many resources you can right from the beginning to generate conversations about what they may be nervous about. The more you communicate openly and honestly, the easier in the end the decision will be.

Once you have figured out what your family is hoping to gain from a summer camp experience, how do you find out where camps with these values exist? I suggest turning to people that you trust, in order to find the camp that you will trust. There are so many great camps out there, and the best way to get to know a camp is by hearing a camp story from someone who has experienced it. Literally ask everyone that you know. Talk to your friends and family, ask other students at your child’s school, or even work with Camp Consultants, who will recommend camps to you. When you tell these people what you are looking for, they may have one of those ‘light bulb’ moments, where they can connect you with a camp that you know. Please reach out to me if you would like to talk to any alumni or get a reference from Longacre! We have a lot of families that would be happy to share any information with you.

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If you are new to the area, or don’t have many connections to camps, many communities host Camp Fairs where families can meet over 20 camps in a few hours. It can help get you started in your search, and will give you a whole lot of resources that you didn’t even know about before. In any of these situations, it is important to make as many connections as possible, which will turn into opportunities to build trust and relationships with camp directors. You can also use the resource of the American Camping Association, to help in this camp search. The ACA is a community of camping professionals who share resources, knowledge, and an accreditation process to ensure that Summer Camps are of high quality health, safety, and program. They also have a ton of resources for families to help with the search process, including the Find a Camp database that helps narrow down your camp search based on certain elements you are looking for.

Once you’ve found a few camps that meet most of your dream camp criteria, really take your time to make your decision about which camp is right for your family. Don’t rush into the decision. Camp is a commitment, of time and money, and should really be a decision that you make together as a family. If you haven’t involved your teen yet, I strongly encourage you to provide them with choice in the decision. Camp should not be seen as a punishment for your teen, so really get them to be part of the process at this stage if they haven’t been already.

The most important part and the biggest piece of advice that I can give, is to get on the phone with the actual camp directors. We are the people running camp, and at the end of the day, camp is about people. As a family, you should do everything you can to get a feel for these people. Get on phone with ud, or even visit camp for a tour, or meet up in your city with us for coffee or milkshakes. At Longacre, we would love to have you visit us to see the farm, which would show you where farmers would sleep, eat and play. This can often make a nervous teen more at ease. We also are traveling often to various cities and would love to meet you, which is another way to decide if camp feels right. If you can meet someone from camp that will be there during the summer, teens will find a safe and familiar resource to connect them to camp. I hope that I can be that person for you and your family and I can’t encourage you enough to call me. Camp Directors are going to ask you all about your children so that we can best support them while at camp, and you should be asking lots of questions to camp directors as well. Here is a great list of questions to ask camp directors so that you can have some important conversations to help make your decisions.

Throughout this entire search process, follow your heart. Get to know the people who will be providing camp to your family. Figure out the culture that your child will experience and contribute to. Pay attention to the level of time and attention camp directors give to you. I hope that everyone who speaks to Weeze or I about the Summer Camp experience at Longacre knows how much we care about the farmers that join us every summer and care about the experience that is Summer at Longacre. Once you know which camp is right for you, don’t hesitate to call your camp director to tell them the exciting news! I personally get so excited by those phone calls, and would be happy to join in on the excitement with you!

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Happy Summer Camp Searching, and I hope I was able to provide a starting point for you all. I hope this has inspired conversations for your family, and has encouraged you to pick up the phone to talk to me about anything and everything summer camp search related. I truly believe that every child deserves a summer camp experience and that this article makes it easier for that dream become a reality!

With love,
Lindsay

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LINDSAY HUTCHINSON
CAMP DIRECTOR
LONGACRE LEADERSHIP CAMP
LINDSAY@LONGACRE.COM