Ask Us Anything: Why Two Week Sessions?
One of the most common questions we get is, “Why two week sessions?” But, it’s also one of the most distinguished features of Yosemite Sierra Summer Camp. This longer session length sets YSSC apart from many other overnight summer camps in California. Whether it’s a summer scheduling conflict, a child who has struggles with homesickness or perhaps a parent’s reticence to let their 8-year-old try new things out of their sight, parents commonly query about the summer sessions’ length or if their child can attend just one of the weeks. The answer is almost always, graciously, no. Here’s why.
Two Weeks is Transformational
YSSC is fun! However, in addition to being fun, two weeks at YSSC is transformational. Built into the DNA of YSSC is the expectation that kids’ lives will be transformed at camp. It’s been the expectation and joy of a lifetime to watch nearly 50 years of campers leave their time at camp deeply impacted in all the ways that matter. Camp aspires to create more than just a place to have fun and experience adventure – although that is so important these days. More than that, camp becomes a place that empowers your child to become their best self, develops tools for navigating their complex world, and nurtures awe and wonder through discovering God’s love for them. So when parents ask if their camper can attend for just one week, camp wouldn’t dare rob them of the joy to experience all of what takes two true full weeks. Simply put, the kind of transformation camp is after takes time.
YSSC is so convinced of this two-week model that the program, the hiring and training of staff, and parent resources have all been built around this value.
Two Week Programming
The life of a thriving camper exists at the corner of pace and space. One of the primary concerns parents have when considering overnight summer camps in California is their kids’ stamina for a two-week program. Some children can barely last through a sleepover, let alone two weeks of being away from home! YSSC has nearly 50 years of fine tuning a well-paced program. Pace refers to the consistent forward motion of the program, the clip at which the day goes by. Space is the necessary undefined, down time that fosters rest, creativity and imagination. YSSC intentionally programs the day so that campers are given the tools necessary to thrive. While “nap time” might not sound like a celebrated activity at home, after a morning full of engrossing activity, campers rarely put up a fuss when it comes time for the hour long, post-lunch “cabin kickback” that allows campers to nap, read, journal or day dream. The afternoon’s exciting activities are followed by a block of free time that gives campers the chance to relax with a snack from the camp store when they need it or simply select a more low-key activity to enjoy, such as crafts. And by the third day of camp, after the evening’s all-camp games or campfire, every camper is ready for some cabin reflection time and our 9:30pm Goodnight Song lullaby to help them drift off to sleep. With these ways of providing campers with adequate rest and down time, campers make more sense of their learning and experiences, and can show up as their best selves for two full weeks.
Two Week Training
Another prominent concern of parents is homesickness. For the last few years, the world has experienced an unstable, anxious and constantly changing environment. Most likely, your child spent much more time at home throughout the pandemic. All of these factors add to the fear that perhaps your camper will experience homesickness if they are gone for too long.
Dedicated to the two-week model, YSSC distinguishes itself from other overnight summer camps in California with its two week staff training. YSSA thoughtfully trains and equips staff to help kids not just manage, but overcome their homesickness. The research shows 97 percent of campers will experience some homesickness during their time at camp. Homesickness is more typically the norm rather than the exception and so camp responds accordingly. Even for adults it often takes a few days to settle into a vacation or new environment, doesn’t it? The first four days of each camp session are packed with intentional practices that help address and alleviate missing home. Helping each camper feel seen and known, building their sense of belonging and contribution, and helping them know what to expect are priorities for these early days of the session. Camp tours to gain familiarity, a consistent schedule they can become accustomed to and small group play are a few of those measures. Every night before campers fall asleep, counselors spend a few moments “tucking in” a child. A tuck-in consists of a thoughtful question, a chance to check-in on how the camper is feeling without cabin mates listening in and a time for the counselor to pray over that child. Because night time can be when homesickness is most prominent, YSSC moves toward those night time hours with care and consistent supervision. Even the 16-year-old boys look forward to it!
For 81 percent of those who experience homesickness, it heals itself. The majority of kids within the first few days experience relief and are able to experience camp to the full. A small percent of kids continue to feel the effects of homesickness through the end of the first week. When this happens, we partner with parents through a phone call and collaborate on ways to best support the child to conquer their homesickness and succeed in finishing their session strong. What an important life skill to master! No one wants to partner with you in giving your child the chance to build self-esteem in conquering fears more than camp does.
Two Week Parent Resources
Lastly, what parents admit is they hate the idea of being away from their kids for two whole weeks. It can be hard to trust your babies to other people and miss out on their “Ah-Ha Moments,” even if your babies are now in high school! Rest assured, many parents feel this.
Providing your camper with the opportunity to develop healthy independence away from home is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child. Camp is here to help parents cope with a “childless” two weeks. Not only does camp provide avenues for parents to fully inform camp directors about the ins and outs of their child through the pre-camp admission forms, but camp also provides meaningful ways parents can stay in touch. YSSC has invested time, resources and effort in providing parents with daily photos of camp. Camp hires three staff members each summer who are in charge of capturing photos of kids and life at camp, and uploading them to the parent log-in portal. We hope to include an image of each camper at least every other day. Parents have reported this resource is a lifeline to sharing in the joy and adventure their camper is experiencing throughout the session. A mid-session newsletter updates parents of fun details of the session. Camp also offers one-way emails from parents to their campers, as well as snail mail letters. As always, parents are welcome to call the office if specific questions or concerns arise. Our office staff stands ready to check in on campers, touch base with counselors and reassure parents about their campers. While many overnight summer camps in California are in the business of building campers’ muscles of independence, confidence and creativity, YSSC also is here to support and grow parents’ muscles of releasing their children to learn and develop in new ways. (The FAQ answers these questions ind more).
Your child has all they need to step into two-weeks of a lifetime. With all of these resources in place for campers and parents, the real question is not “why two weeks?” More than ever, our response is “why not two weeks?”