Independence Day and Summer Camp

Note to readers: I will only be posting one blog this week, due to the Fourth of July holiday.

I just found out that New England was the birthplace of the summer camp during the late 19th century.

Aside from face painting, barbecues, and flag cakes, what does summer camp have to do with July 4th? It has me thinking about the value of giving young people independence and time away from home. Especially since I’ve just come up for air from the land of trunk-packing and clothes-labeling for my kids’ summer camp experiences.

According to Michael Thompson, Ph.D. psychologist and author of “Homesick and happy,” camp offers kids crucial development experiences. Thompson claims that time away from parents can help children grow in ways they can’t under their parents’ watchful eyes. He says today’s parents are “the most conscientious parenting generation, but also the most anxious.” (Listen to: Summer Camp Gives Kids Crucial Experiences)

The term “hovercraft parenting” was coined to refer to the mom or dad who is never too far from the action–just in case they need to swoop down for a save. The problem with that is that kids don’t learn how to trust their own  instincts and in turn they don’t always develop the perspective to truly value the guidance that comes from involved parents.

I remember as a child when I’d be off all day during the summer, playing with my brother and friends and finding rope swings to fly through the redwood canyons near our home. But those days of unsupervised play are all but gone.

Summer camp provides similar freedoms for kids, while still under the supervision of responsible adults and counselors.

When I was in college, my mom let me travel to Japan for my job as an English teacher. And that was before cell phones and email! The opportunity to live and interact in a culture where I didn’t speak the language and only had a bike for transportation completely changed my life. I know I relied more on my spiritual GPS than I ever had before.

For my kids, sleep-away camp has also provided an opportunity to learn more about their relationship with God and how to put their prayers into practice. As a parent, I strive to teach my kids the value of independent thinking, which is what prayer is all about.

“The time for thinkers has come,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy. Amen!

I’d love for this to be a thinking conversation. I encourage you to share your thoughts on the relationship between independence, spirituality, and health. Summer camp is just one perspective, but there’s so much more that could be said! Go ahead, chime in . . .

What are you thinking about this Independence Day?


  1. Christa Mountain says

    What came to mind, after reading your article, was these ideas and this week’s Christian Science Bible lesson combined! The fact that Jesus and his disciples wandered the earth in and out of all places, preaching the gospel and healing, makes me think of how church is really everywhere. The House of Truth and Love was first expressed wherever Jesus and his disciples “camp” was. They shared the Truth and brought freedom to all who listened. They were the first campers, in the Spirit of independence, spirituality and health. And the ultimate camp, was the Sacrement and then the breakfast that we celebrate by the sea. The final morning taught us to cast our net on the right side of our thinking and we will bring in more fish (manna from heaven) than we could ever imagine. I would have loved being at that early camp! Hope these ideas inspire sunny thought and Happy Summer! Love, Christa Mountain ( I teach camp! :)

    • Ingrid Peschke says

      Great ideas, Christa! How fun that you’re taking them with you to the camp where you teach :)

  2. says

    Happy Independence day – everyone! What fun to celebrate the freedom to love God, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to think healthy thoughts, to act with gratitude and generosity, and to rejoice!

  3. Sharla Allard says

    When I spent a summer in England my junior year of college and called my dad back in the states when things got tough on the job I’d taken in a London suburb, he said, “You can’t quit. You have a job to do.” Which I think instilled in me a rigorous work ethic that has lasted over the decades! This fall I’m going to Camp Newfound in Maine for the first time for their Creative Week–as a retiree, not a kid–because I think growth in character (and Godward) is valuable. And I’m sure I’ll gain increased independence through that experience as well, as I’m used to hotels!

  4. Virginia McCullough says

    That’s a great idea about listening and having God as our audience. I want to add the beginning of the quote from the Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” The importance of equality has been coming to me. Even though the founding fathers may or may not have really seen everyone as equal at least they gave us the words. I just listened to the chat “Freedom from racial hatred” on (it will be available 24/7 free for a week), and it brought out the idea of equality as seeing everyone as God’s child. It is freeing to see the God-like qualities in others — a work in progress. You really can’t have freedom without equality.

  5. Virginia McCullough says

    I’d like to chime in with this thought from our Declaration of Independence, which is also quoted in Mary Baker Eddy’s book, Science and Health — “Man is endowed by his Maker with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the
    pursuit of happiness.” “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that sounds like freedom to me — freedom to be the best self we can be.

    It’s interesting to have the info about when summer camps started; it’s neat to get a sense of the history of things. Thank you, too, for the ideas about camp life independent thinking. Bob Clark’s comments reminded me of when I started attending a Quaker Meeting (many years ago as an adult) and had to be quiet with my thoughts; sometimes it wasn’t easy getting beyond what I was going to fix for lunch. I remember feeling uncomfortable if I had time to think. Now I’m very grateful for the words you quoted “The time for thinkers has come” and knowing it’s not only okay to think, but it benefits everyone.

    • Ingrid Peschke says

      Mary Baker Eddy also wrote that “lips must be mute” in order to have “audience with Spirit”…I love the idea that when we stop talking and think in our silence, we have God as our audience, which is an active form of listening and communicating ideas. Thanks for sharing, Virginia!

  6. Dave says

    As you say Ingrid, Independence Day has so many levels. Just in the same vain as the world was ridded of the evil behind WWII for instance. Independence can be expressed in ridding our thought of all the supposed claims of evil today, that sickness
    is inevitable, lack, loneliness and the list goes on. Mary Baker Eddy says in her book Science and Health, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, — a spiritual understanding of Him,
    an unselfed love.” NOW THAT’S INDEPENDENCE!

  7. Ingrid Peschke says

    What a great spiritual exercise, Bob! Being alone with your thoughts (and God) really is a great way to describe prayer. Thanks for sharing.

  8. says

    I went to a religious summer camp in grade school that had an “alone with your thoughts” element. I wasn’t used to being alone and didn’t know I had thoughts, never having thought about it. We each chose a quiet spot in the woods to be alone, tried to think spiritually and then wrote down what we thought. It was the first time I remember deliberate spiritual thinking. At some point later on I learned that this process was closely linked, maybe even synonymous with, prayer. And I have found prayer to be an essential element of freedom and health.

  9. says

    What a great way to start the independence day week!

    I went to summer camp when I was young and am still actively involved in the summer camp experience. I love every minute of it! Camp has helped me grow in so many ways! It gives me a wonderful opportunity to trust God for my companionship and protection. To remind me that God and His Christ are everywhere and care about each of us deeply! What a freeing idea that is!!!

    • Ingrid Peschke says

      Thanks for sharing, Sue! I love how we don’t have to be kids to enjoy the benefits of summer camp :)