PAM: Welcome. I am Pam Laricchia from LivingJoyfull.ca and today I am here with Laura Bowman. Hi Laura!
PAM: Laura is the founder of the East Tennessee Unschooled Summer Camp for Teens. I have heard wonderful things about the camp from various teens and mentors over the years. I am so glad she chose to join me on the podcast to share her experience.
So, to get us started Laura, can you share with us a bit about you and your family.
LAURA: Yes. So, Scotty and I have been married for 25 years. We have three kids, Samuel, Silas and Sadie. They all started out at camp as campers in 2010 and are all three now staff. That has been pretty exciting. Samuel is 24, Silas is 21 and Sadie is 19.
PAM: Oh cool. So, was 2010 the first year?
LAURA: Yes. That was the first year.
PAM: I could not find it when I looked. That is awesome. Look at that. Ninth year, yea!
So, before we dive into camp, I am just curious how you discovered unschooling and what your families’ move to unschooling looked like.
LAURA: When we first had Samuel, we talked about what we would do. We initially thought we would want to send him to a private school but we do not have any money. So, we talked about homeschooling. So, that was our first toe dipping into the whole idea of keeping our kids home.
It snowballed from our natural parenting to sort of this gentle relaxed homeschooling because Samuel was only about five when he first actually asked to have workbooks or things. So, we would get those fun things that you can get at the store for counting or coloring, things like that. He wanted me to teach him how to read. So, we did these whole-lesson things and we got about half way through. It was like a hundred lessons and he got really bored. He was reading fine and just wanted to continue on. We always read lots of books but I guess it sort of naturally evolved into following what he wanted to do each day.
It was a lot of playing. I used to joke that Legos were our curriculum. Because it was just everything, colors, sorting, following directions, all of that. I guess at some point I saw a book, a book at the library and it said something about unschooling on it. I was looking through it and I was like, ‘Oh this sounds like what we do.” It was pre-internet and all of that and yes it was a gradual discovery of how to let go of a lot of the things that we learned growing up.
Not just about school but also about parenting because I still had a lot of control things with food and thinking certain things were too violent. Like I used to think that Pokémon was violent and I was like, you can’t. My kids like to make fun of me for that now. Because I was like wow but – so yes, I guess it was just a natural evolution to eventually finding online communities and becoming more involved in homeschooling groups. We move to Charleston when our kids were little. It was in about 2004, I started a Charleston unschooling/homeschooling group there because there was not really one for that. I do not think that is still going, we only lived there for three years but it kept going for a little while but I do not think it is anymore.
PAM: I love hearing those stories where you know it all just came to you, but no, what I love is noticing how you are just paying attention and open, open to seeing things in a new way. You were parenting in a different way and it is like, ‘Hey, we do not want to bring school in.’ You were not even knowing that what you were doing next, I really love that. You were pretty much unschooling before you heard a thing about it. I feel like we, like I was kind of attachment parenting before I heard, I did not hear about that until after I discovered unschooling. But yes, I was always kind of the odd parent out. It just felt more right to me than what other people were doing.
PAM: That openness to seeing that and thinking your own thoughts and trusting yourself somewhat. I mean you notice the difference, right? You are different right, but it still feels better.
LAURA: It was definitely an evolution from attachment parenting because we did have you know, extended breast feeding and co-sleeping and home birth and all of those things. It just seemed like the natural progression. Mutual respect you know.
LAURA: Treating your children with the respect that you want to be treated. I think that one of the things about unschooling that I hear a lot is people want to do unschooling because they want “X” outcome. They think, if I do this then I’ll make this perfect child and they think they will just follow all that.
But the one thing that you learn as your children grow and change is that they are individuals. They are their own person. Yes, your nurturing and all of that plays a big role in it but ultimately, they are. You have to learn to let go a little bit of expectations and outcome because I think if you hold to tightly to expectations and outcome, ‘If I do this, this, and this, then this is what my child will be and this will be successful.’ If you hold on to tightly to that it is very easy to find yourself in a situation where you are like, ‘Oh wow, that did not turn out how I thought it would or I was told “this” would not happen if I did this.’
That has been a huge learning experience for me as my children are going into the adult years, is to let go of ideals and realize they are not going to be exactly like me or exactly like the you know, the poster child for unschooling and that they are their own amazing, individual.
My children are very creative driven and so I think that there is this acceptance of that in the unschooling community. It’s is not the typical, ‘Oh, I expect my child to go to college and be a doctor,’ or whatever. If they want to be a musician or an artist it is much more accepting. So, that has been really great for me because that is the direction my children fall and tended to go in.
Anyway, realizing and accepting from an early age that your child is their own person. And that this path to unschooling even though you hear all these amazing stories and people talk about all these wonderful things that you have to accept your child where they are at every stage in their development and who they are and the individual they are.
PAM: Yes, that really is that is the root, the most important deschooling piece or just paradigm shift. Yes, you know we choose unschooling for reasons, right? We want certain outcomes or we do not want to do certain things. There are reasons for choosing it and we listen to experienced unschooling parents and read books and this X, Y, and Z happens, you know what I mean? We have great relationships with our kids, you know what the things are that we are looking for. But yes, that moment you are going along, going along, you are unschooling this is great and then when you can make that shift. It is like a whole new world opens up doesn’t it? I mean, you are still unschooling, you are still everything but it is another layer of realizing this unschooling is not about me.
PAM: Right. It is really about them and who they are. And then you can step, I always say step back, and it feels like that. Yet again, you are not literally stepping away, you are still engaged with them, you are still helping them, you are still living side by side with them but, but you can see them more clearly.
With their choices, it is that trust level to release enough to get to that spot where you can see and you can realize, ‘I would have suggested this or I would have made this choice if it were me,’ then recognizing that they made that choice because it is so them.
It is awesome and it is so much better than I could have done. Even though it is not my ideal, it is not the expectation. Unschooling is easy to like but then there is imagining your child as an adult, right? That whole idea of what is successful. But yes, when you see them being themselves, just being themselves out and about in just everyday things, the things that they choose to do. Why they made that choice, why chose not to do this or that, all those things. It is really them just shining even in their challenges too, right?
Oh my gosh, you got me all excited here. Even when they are going through hard times you see them shining through it. Right?
LAURA: Right. There will be hard times. I think there is that illusion that like I said before, if I do X, Y, and Z it will be this outcome. That there will not be any hard times.
PAM: That realization too that, we are trying to get through these hard times to get to those perfect times and then realizing that oh my goodness, these hard times are our lives. It is not that our lives are on hold during these hard times to get to the good times, they are all valuable important parts of our lives. They all make us who we are, right?
PAM: Even in the bad times or the harder times we are still making choices. It is not that we lose our choice in those times it is just, you know, more difficult environments, more difficult things have happened that are out of our control, all those things but we still get to choose what foot we put forward that day.
PAM: That is cool, Laura. Okay so let us dive into camp because you host, as I mentioned before, the East Tennessee Unschooled Summer Camp for Teens. In the last few months, Alec and Max have actually been on the podcast and both talked about how much they have enjoyed the experience and they’re mentors now.
I would just love to hear the story behind how that camp came to be back in 2010.
LAURA: Okay, so, I have a handful of memories from my childhood that are really good. Some of those were spent at a lake where my grandma had a camper set up. Those were some of my very best memories. I always loved this idea of the community that was there, the games, the fires, the people that would just come out and hang out by the lake. That has always been kind of in the back of my mind as this ideal life.
Even when our second child was born, we just had Samuel and Silas, we bought a camper and moved into our camper and lived in it for about three and a half years. Sadie our youngest was actually born in that camper. So, we had this life that we really loved, this whole camping lifestyle.
I always loved the idea of summer camps. When I was younger I had seen this movie and it was just about this summer camp that was getting old, I think it was Indian Summer, or something. I cannot remember the name of it now. But I always thought it would so cool to own a summer camp. You know I just had these ideas.
Cut to, I guess, 2009 we were trying to find another location for our biannual event that we have in the spring and the fall. It is a family gathering. We were trying to find a new location and Scotty was out on a bike ride and he went by this camp. He was looking around it and he thought it was really cool. He said, “Oh, this might be a cool location for ARGH (Autodidactic Radical Gathering of Homeshoolers). Me and my friend Ren (who is the one who started ARGH but I took it over later) we went out to look at the location. I was just like, “No, this is not for ARGH, this is my camp.” I just knew it in that moment. I was like, this is my camp.
In the fall, I guess it was in November of 2009 I created a FaceBook group and said I am going to start a summer camp to see if anybody was interested and then by morning I think we had about 60 members. It was five o’clock, four or five o’clock in the morning, I could not sleep and I got up and did that. By the time I got up the next day it was already starting. I was like, “Okay, I guess I am going to do this!” and we had our first one August 2010. That is kind of the quick version of how it happened.
PAM: Oh, I love that it was something meaningful for you. You were trying to bring that idea of camp that you so enjoyed growing up. Then you came across this place that fit that perfectly. Then all of sudden it is like okay, let just go see if anyone is as interested as I am.
PAM: That is awesome. So, I will have a link in the show notes to the camp website. I was looking through it, I have looked through it before, but I was refreshing it for our call and daily meetings with the campers’ mentor group is one of the very few things that are required of campers during the week. I imagined that was because you found those to be a valuable part of the camp experience for them.
I was wondering if you could share more about what those mentor group meetings are about and how they help.
LAURA: Okay, so the mentor group is after breakfast and you meet with your mentor. It is a small group of anywhere from eight to ten campers. The idea behind it is that camp can be a big place with anywhere from sixty to eighty kids running around at any given time. That can be really overwhelming to think, ‘Oh, now I have to go make friends and who do I meet and how do I meet them?’
Although we do have all types of activities to facilitate those types of meetings; like our icebreaker games and then different workshops and stuff like that. The mentor group gives you the same kids to meet with every single morning and play games and have discussions so that you are meeting people on a smaller scale that is more comfortable than just feeling overwhelmed by trying to meet all of the people at camp. The mentors facilitate conversations and games and just make it a place that they can count on each day that is going to be the same. So, that is basically what that is.
LAURA: The core.
PAM: Yes. It feels like it is a grounding spot.
PAM: Like you said, it takes the pressure off the meeting people. The having to approach people or having to be open to it. This is a spot and yes so, the people are preselected, so it is just a different dynamic. Depending on which one works or fits better for them, for each individual camper that comes. They have both those experiences.
Then the mentor is a place a camper can make a connection to someone who wants to make a connection with them. They want, as a mentor, I mean, that is part of their job, part of their work. That is why they have chosen to be a mentor because that is what they like to do, they want to connect with them and help them feel more comfortable there and help them figure out a way to be comfortable there, right? Does that make sense?
LAURA: Yes, and someone they can come to if they just even need one-on-one time and guidance.
PAM: Yes, I thought that was a really cool idea to give them that space and having it every day. You know what I mean, it makes that consistency that moment that they know they are going to touch and then having it in the morning too so that they just feel a little bit grounded before they go out and approach their day.
PAM: I thought that made a lot of sense. Speaking of the day:
What does the day at camp look like?
LAURA: Well, we have our morning check-ins, one of the other required things is our check-ins. The campers come and they find their mentor and check-in and let them know, I am up, I am ready for breakfast, you know, I am ready to start the day. That way if there is anyone missing we know right away. When I say missing, I mean still in bed. (laughs) Because the last thing we want is for campers to come to this week with all these great opportunities and then miss them.
I know that a lot of kids getting up in the morning is not their favorite but they do it. They get up, they come, sometimes you know, we will send our junior mentors if there are some kids who have not come in yet. We will send them to check to make sure they are okay. Sometimes they are just getting out of bed, just a little groggy, sometimes they were running behind in the showers or whatever. But for the most part it is not too big of a struggle, even when they have late nights. They still come, they show up and make sure that they check-in with their mentors so we know that they are okay.
Sometimes they will say, “Can I just go back to bed for a little while and skip breakfast?” And that is totally fine because we always have food out. Sometimes Scotty will make, Scotty is my husband he runs the kitchen, sometimes he will even save a plate for kids if he knows that they had to go get a little extra sleep during breakfast. Then they get up a little later and go to their mentor group.
That does not happen all the time but we do give room for that because we know how important sleep is. Eating is important too but food is going to be there all day long. They will always have food available. Any time of the day there are snacks and things like that. So, if they miss that in need of sleep, that seems more important. But they get used to it through the week. They find a rhythm. We have breakfast, then after breakfast they go to mentor groups and then after mentor groups, we have our first workshop slots.
That can be anything from just a discussion about a specific topic or it can be an artsy-craftsy type of thing or it can be learning a dance. It can be a hike, there are lots of things always going on and then after that first slot we have our next slot. That is a little bit longer one for workshops that might take a little bit longer. After that we have lunch.
Then, after lunch we have a siesta. Which is a time that gives everybody a chance to just go. Sometimes they will go lay in hammocks, we set hammocks up. Or, they will go back to their cabin or they will sit on the porch of the lodge or they will come inside. You can do whatever you want. Which is pretty much all day long you can do whatever you want. The workshops are not required but it is a time where nothing else is usually scheduled so that they do not have that conflict between, ‘Oh, do I want to rest and just hang out with my friends or do I want rush off to this other fun thing?’
So, they do not have to choose, they can just rest or talk with their friends or whatever. Then, after the siesta we have our afternoon activity which is usually a bigger event. It can be the climbing tower and ropes course, swimming, like a two-hour slot where you have this big outdoor type activity. We have had ultimate frisbee games, and we have our field day. That is when we have our big outdoor activity for the day is during that time. Then a lot of times kids will go take a shower and then be back in time for supper.
Then after supper the mentors and I, we go to our staff cabin and we have our little mentor meeting I guess is what it essentially is. We sit down and talk about the day and see how everybody is doing. During that time, our junior mentors are running activities which is like signing postcards so that they can send home. I have one right here, this is from last year actually.
LAURA: Yes, they will write post cards and send them home or to friends or wherever. They sign their camp directories, here. Camp directories people will sign, it has got pictures and a little bit about each other, they will sign it. So, little things like that. Flashlight tag or, I guess we do not do flashlight tag anymore, we used to do flashlight tag then we realized it was not really dark enough so we play game like sardines. They just have a lot of fun things going on while myself and the mentors are in our little hour-long evening get together.
Then after that we have our big evening activity. Which at the end of the week is things like the dance and the talent show and skit night. During and at the beginning of the week we have more of the icebreaker games and improv and things like that. There is always some event scheduled in the evening. Then after that they just hang out and have fun until they go off to bed. We have late night mentors. They do not do a morning group like the other mentors do but they stay up with the kids and play games and talk and hang out until the kids are gently persuaded, usually around one o’clock, they start encouraging them to go to bed. That is gist of the day at camp.
PAM: I really love hearing about the way you put it together. It really sounds like you just accommodated all the flow you know what I mean, that can happen. Having late night mentors because you know some kids are going to want to stay up. They are going to be excited. They are going to want to chat. Some kids are night owls in general. I noticed that your night mentors stay up until the last child or teen goes to bed right, so they are never on their own.
PAMP: They have always got company and that is why they are not the morning mentors too. I mean it is brilliant. Then having junior mentors as well so they are in training. They are pared up with a mentor as well so they are seeing what the mentor does then they have their opportunities in the evening for an hour to try leading things on their own as well, right?
LAURA: Right. Yes.
PAM: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. So, for the workshops and things during the day, are those hosted by campers usually or…?
LAURA: The staff usually do the majority of the workshops. I do workshops, the staff does workshops, every now and then we will have a camper who wants to share something that they are excited about and teaching other campers. So that happens every now and again and it is always is really fascinating to see how confident they are and just something totally new that they just brought to the camp experience. That is exciting.
PAM: Yes, because it is something that they are excited about right and it is just always fun to see somebody take that on when they are excited about something and they want to share it with people. So how many in those slots, how many activities is there usually, two or three going on that they are choosing from, or?
LAURA: Yes, usually there is about, we try not to have too much conflicting as far as what like campers might be interested in but yes there is usually a couple of things going on at each time but we try not to have too many more than like two or three.
LAURA: We have had discussions on how to go to school or, not how go to school but, how to go to college. It is usually a college discussion for uschoolers. This past year my son, my oldest, he actually did a discussion that we have never had before which was, “What if you do not want to go to college?” He was really surprised at how many kids turned up for that discussion. He was thinking nobody would be interested. I was like oh, there are a lot of kids who may be interested. That was pretty cool. So, we will try not to have something like that conflict, we would not have both of those going on at the same time, if that makes sense.
LAURA: I try, in scheduling them, try to make sure that the interests are not conflicting.
PAM: Yes, that makes a lot of sense. It really does because you do not want to put them in that situation often where they have to choose. They feel like they are missing out on something when they are doing something else, right? Because you have got the week, you have got the time to play with. Them also knowing that none of them are requirements. These are for you to choose because you are interested because you want to participate or even if you just want to stand back and watch what is going on.
LAURA: Right, yes.
PAM: Yes, I love that. It sounds amazing and I can just see how you brought that enthusiasm for camp that you had when you were younger and have brought all of it in. It sounds wonderful.
What advice would you have for parents who are just as excited about the idea and they think it would be awesome for their kid but maybe their teen is a bit reluctant?
You know they bring it up, hey you want to go to camp or hey you do this, this and this and they are like I don’t know or that really doesn’t sound like my thing. I can imagine parents might be a little…I don’t know, I don’t want to go to pushy, but really.
LAURA: I, yes, and it comes from a place of excitement. Because we see that, as an adult, and we go, “Wow, that looks like fun, I want to go!” So, we want our kids to be excited about it too. We have had situations in the past where parents have had their kids come reluctantly and it has turned out great and then we have had other situations even though the child was having a really great time they felt like they needed to go home after a couple of days. They just were not ready. That is fine too.
I really encourage parents to listen to their kids, like they do in all the other aspects of their life. This is the same because if a child is not ready to come to camp, they might not have a good experience and then they might not be willing to come back at a later time when they actually would be ready.
It might spoil it for them to be in a situation that they are not quite ready for. Whether it is sleeping away from home for the first time because a lot of times kids come and camp is their first time sleeping away from home and usually, they are fine. For the most part, if a child is not excited about or wanting to come and it is also scary and all of these other new things going on, it is going not going to be a great experience for them.
Like I say, we have had kids come and it was fine and they are like, “Oh I am so glad my parents made me come.” But, I do not think that is ideal, you know because you are taking a chance.
PAM: Yes. That is not under your control, right?
LAURA: Right, yes. I mean, just listen to your kids and be excited and put it in front of them each year. But, as far as saying, “Oh, come on just do it, you will have a great time,” and trying to convince them over and over again, that might backfire. The enthusiasm is fine because that is how you introduce things by sharing your enthusiasm for it but after mentioning it a few times, if they are really not into it, just drop it. You know and kind of wait.
PAM: I love that point because you know if we get over enthusiastic a couple of things happen. Number one, you can get them to a place where they are thinking they keep trying to get me to do this thing that I do not want to do, they do not really understand me or know me if they think that is something I am going to enjoy.
You put that hurdle in your way. Then, also, if you keep encouraging it so much, you are going to have fun, you are going to have fun, you make that choice to go to camp more about you than it is about them. It is more about satisfying you, ‘My mom is sure I am going to have so much fun if I go. So, I am going to go to satisfy her.’
Either way you have kind of taken that choice out of their hands. That is just an extra hurdle to overcome once they show up. They have to work through that for it to become their own experience at that point, right?
PAM: I think that is great. Like you said there is so many years where it is an option, right? So even if it takes a couple of years or three years until they feel they are ready or it connects with them in a new way. It is like, “Ah, that does sound like something I would have fun doing now,” you know what I mean?
PAM: Just sharing it and then that seed is planted. They know it is there. You can mention, “Hey registration is in a month or two, let me know if that is something you would like to do this year.” Just mentioning it so the ball is still in their court. Of course, you can tell when you are having that conversation if they come and say maybe, do they want to have more conversation with you. Do they want learn a little bit more, do they want a little bit of encouragement? You know that is something especially as unschooling parents, we have that connection and relationship with our kids that we can do that dance. We can figure out if they are looking for more information, if they are looking for a little bit of encouragement and we can do all that. But that is the whole difference, right? It is at their, it is their motivation. We are helping them we are not making it about us trying to convince them.
PAM: It is kind of the same thing but the motivation is so different it ends up being an entirely different thing.
LAURA: Right and some kids have parents, I have had parents contact me and they said my eleven-year-old is ready to go now. You know and I am like eleven might be a little too young even if it is a mature eleven, there are still so many things that are going to be discussed. We have gender and sexuality discussions and not that eleven-year-olds shouldn’t be exposed to that because I think those things are really important but just that independence and that autonomy is still really developing at that age.
So, I am always like “Well, let us just wait another year, maybe twelve will be fine.” We have had several twelve-year-olds who have come. They are just ready, they are so ready. But for the most part, I encourage people to come when they are thirteen. Although that sounds arbitrary you know, oh now they are a teenager, but that is what we have learned. There is some validity to that concept of readiness to be in a group setting, especially with kids who are much older.
You know, wanting to be able to connect with people. I used to think that I did not want to have that sort of school mentality of ages. You know, be friends with people of all ages and that was what I was really encouraging. Up until just a few years ago our mentor groups were all ages. Each mentor group was thirteen through eighteen, nineteen because I felt like that diversity and everybody could you know, you would have older kids who could sort of be like an older brother/sister situation the younger campers.
My kids actually convinced me a few years ago that they thought it would be better if the mentor groups were a little bit more age centered. So, I adjusted it a little bit to where this group is thirteen to fifteen and this group is like sixteen to seventeen and then we have, you know, that is not exactly the breakdown but the ages were closer. We have found that it does work out a lot better because they are coming together with a group of kids who they just naturally are at a similar place in life with experiences and maturity and ability to connect to each other.
Especially in the older groups where they are not having to hold back with like certain discussions that maybe thirteen-year-olds are not ready to have. That has worked out really well. And I pick certain mentors that are really, really good with the younger kids so that they can, in fact you had two of them on here, Alec and Max. They are so great with first year campers that I just sometimes watch them and I just want to cry because they are so, they have that ability to take these kids who are like, ugh, they come in and everything is new and they have never been here before and to just you know, break them in to the camp environment so gently and so beautifully that I am so glad that my kids convinced me to do that. To consider that my idea of separation by age was negative and that there were positives that could come from loosely being separated by age, age ranges.
PAM: Now that you say that, it makes a lot of sense now. When you are looking back at it because as I was thinking about that because these mentor groups are for more personal connections and they are seeing each other every day and engaging with this smaller, more personally group, I would imagine.
You know when I think of unschooling kids and teens they are so cognizant of their environment for the most part. I can imagine older teens not wanting to bring up certain topics or subjects or discussions when younger kids are around. Just because they are considerate of the people that they are with. That they would be looking for people to have those more personal discussions, people who are around the same level of experience, ages you know that are going to be encountering those kinds of situations so that they would have something to share something to add to the conversation and also might benefit from it, right?
PAM: Yes, that is cool. Yea kids! They are awesome. I learn so much from, my kids.
PAM: It really is not, they are my kids because yes physically they are my kids but they are people, they are wonderful, intelligent people that have are great to have conversations with and to listen to because they bring so many great ideas to the table, don’t they?
I would love to know what you are most looking forward to at camp this year.
LAURA: Well, I am not sure if you were aware of this or not, but last year we moved to a new location due to some, the location that we had been at for a long time was a church related facility. They started to express their, I get kind of emotional when I talk about this. They started to express their concern about the fact that we had transgender kids. That we have a paint wall. We have this paint wall that is this canvas that the kids can paint on all week long. It is beautiful and fun. Then at the end of the week I cut it up into these scraps and everybody can take home a piece of the paint wall. You know, sometimes they paint what they are excited about and sometimes they would say things like, “gay” or you know, different things. The facility was expressing their concern about that. They do not want to see that anymore. They told us that kids were to be in the boy cabin and the girl cabin and based on gender at birth.
So, after a lot of discussion with them and their unwillingness and basically saying that it would be up to me to make sure that that happened. To make sure that these rules were followed. I said, that would mean I would be taking a safe space and asking them to do what happens in mainstream society which is try and fly under the radar, try to hide who you are. I said I cannot ask my campers or my staff to do that.
So, we found a new facility that is amazing. When I came to them I said this is the situation. They said we support anyone who is out there trying to make lives better for kids and they were just like come on. And so, our new facility which is Mount Vale in Maryville Tennessee. They are amazing. They are not a church-based facility they are an adoption organization. It is just the camp that they use when they have camps for their families and kids who have been adopted. They are just amazing and they have dogs that they have rescued. I just love them so much.
So, last year was our first year there and this is our second time having to move to a new facility. The first time in a new space is always filled with a lot of anxiety for me. Trying to make things work in ways that they worked in our old place and still be just as enjoyable. So, the thing that I am looking forward to the most this year is coming back to a space that is now camp. It is not just, ‘Oh, this is a new place.’ Now this is camp and being able to just relax into that feeling of familiarity and routine and knowing how the days will go in this new place. So, yes, there may not be a particular theme or event but for me as a person with a lot of social anxiety in new places, coming back to something that is familiar is really exciting.
PAM: Oh, my goodness, that makes so much sense Laura, right? Because last year you went and it was all about not knowing for sure how things were going to flow how they were going to fit into the atmosphere you are trying to create but the routine, the flow of the days.
PAM: And the kinds of activities that you like to do. The kitchen, having the food.
LAURA: The kitchen, oh my gosh, Scotty he is just like wow, the kitchen is really different. That is probably the hardest thing is because when you are running a kitchen, the flow is super important. So, figuring that out has been really fun for him, not me.
PAM: I know how hard it is too. That happened to me one year I hosted a conference for like six years and one year after at a venue that was church based, they also were not too happy in the end and had some requirements that they wanted, but you know after moving through that I found an amazing space for the next time. It was like, ‘Wow this is more perfect!’
It is such a challenging thing to work through but I loved hearing how you worked through it. It is like we said, hard times come up but understanding these are the things that are really important to me and for the work that I am doing and these are the things I am not going to give up on. So, my next baby step is, ‘Oh geez, you know I am going to have to start looking other places.’ And those are scary things to do but, so often, so often things end up working out. You know what, even if you ended up with an interim one, you know you are stepping forward and stepping forward is the only direction to go, right?
LAURA: Right and it challenges you in a way that you had not been challenged before and that is part of me personally, that was part of a growth, a big growth spurt for me to have to come face to face with someone looking at me and saying all of these things and holding it together.
You know, when we left that meeting, my husband said he was surprised I did not cry. I was actually able to hold it together and stand my ground and I realized, ‘Oh, I have that in me.’ Whenever challenges arise like we talked about before, you know that perfect outcomes of our children by doing X, Y and Z, it is the challenges that we face in situations that are all part of that growth.
Part of the growth for us, part of the growth for the kids and going to a new facility I know that there were some campers that had similar challenges that I do. Oh, new space, scary, new space, scary—you know because it is. So, that was a challenge for them to be like, ‘Well, do I love camp enough to overcome my anxiety about going to a new space?
So yes, and just rolling with it, it is all about growth whenever these challenges show up, whatever they are in life. You know, you can either let it crush you or you can figure out a way to make it a part of your journey that is positive in the end. Even though it is hard during.
PAM: Exactly, even though it is hard. It challenges us to find new spaces inside ourselves. It really asks you what is most important to me, right? I have to ask myself those questions while am I working through why that hurt so much and there is nothing wrong with it hurting so much but that is where you find those pieces. It is because this is really important to me. I can understand, I know where they are coming from but it is not me.
You have to get that because at first it is hurt and it is oh my gosh and you can feel embarrassed. Then you realize oh, but no, no this is okay, this is something I want to plan for, be, encourage. Yes, big growth. So, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today Laura. I really appreciate it and it was so much fun, so interesting, I loved hearing so much more about your camp.
LAURA: Thank you for inviting me.
PAM: Before we go, where is the best place for people to find out more about camp and maybe register for this summer.
LAURA: Okay, you can go to etusc.com. I just updated the website this year and we are pretty happy with it. You can just look through the website and if there is anything on there that does not answer all your questions you can always e-mail me. My e-mail is on the contact page but I try to put as much information on the website as possible so people can get a feel for it and know what it is all about. There is a registration page and lots of information there as well. So yes, etusc.com.
PAM: Yes, it is a great website. There is lots of information there that explains a lot which I thought was great because you know we like to gather that information and start to feel out whether it feels like a good connection before we take the next step. They can do that themselves without having to keep e-mailing you with questions. You do not mind the questions but I know for myself, I do not like to have to ask a lot of questions because I feel like I am bothering somebody, right? So that is why I always like to put as much information as I can. Even when I was running the conferences, I put as much information out there so people can get a good idea first and then, then it is just little details here and there. Then they are more comfortable to reach out.
LAURA: I know that some in the past especially in the first couple of years it was the questions I got from potential campers or their parents that helped me know what to put on the FAQ.
LAURA: Oh, that is a good question I did not think about that, that is just the kind of person I am, I cannot think of everything.
PAM: That is the joy of experience, as we gain experience and figure things out, we can better put stuff out there. Thank you so much again Laura, have a wonderful day.
LAURA: You too, thank you so much Pam.