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The crucial 8 life skills that our summer camp in NH teaches you!


I saw this really interesting article on earlier this week. It was written by Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University. For more than a decade she watched incredibly bright, accomplished young people arrive utterly unprepared for life outside of their nurturing homes. She saw some of our best former high school students go on to completely fail at college because of their lack of independence, resilience, and other 21st century skills. Based on her breadth of experience, she suggested that there are 8 life skills that all young people should have as they leave home and enter college: 

1. They must be able to talk to strangers.
2. They must be able to find his or her way around a campus.
3. They must be able to manage his or her assignments, workload, and deadlines.
4. They must be able to contribute to the running of a household.
5. They must be able to handle interpersonal problems.
6. They must be able to cope with ups and downs of life.
7. They must be able to earn and manage money.
8. They must be able to take risks.

Looking at this list, it occurred to me that at our summer camp in NH we teach our campers 7 out of the 8 life skills mentioned...and all 8 once they become counselors. That there is so much overlap with her list is not an accident.

Overnight camp may be the greatest laboratory for learning these crucial life skills (which also fall into the category of 21st century skills). Simply by being away from home for 7 weeks, our campers engage almost every day in:

  • Meeting new people
  • Making friendships
  • Navigating in a new location
  • Being responsible for showing up to things like play practice or sports clinics
  • Helping keep the cabin tidy and maintaining track of ones own possessions
  • Learning to adapt and compromise
  • Solve social conflicts
  • Experience a range of emotions, and
  • Learn how to properly assess risks 

And most importantly, our campers learn all of these life skills away from their parents. Based on almost 20 years of observing kids thrive in our brother-sister summer camp environment, I believe that children acquire these skills so rapidly at K&E because they are spending a summer without their moms and dads. Developing these skills requires an intentional balance of true independence, incredible counselor guidance, and a camper culture of constant mutual support. It allows each of our campers the opportunity to practice these life skills over and over again...with encouragement when they fail, and recognition when they succeed.

Year after year, as our former campers head off to college my inbox fills with the same incredulous sort of messages: 

"You would not believe how easy it is to tell who in the dorm never went to summer camp!"

"My roommate has never been away from home before now, and she's on the phone with her mom all day and all night."

"I'm so glad I learned this stuff when I was 9 and 10 at Kenwood and Evergreen!"

I love Dean Julie Lythcott-Haims' list, as it so clearly demonstrates the power and importance of what we do here every summer at our little brother-sister summer camp in NH. Simply put, if you want to help your child be prepared for life outside of your home overnight camp is a necessary part of their education. 

Jason Sebell