The Blog of the West Wind

The Blog of the West Wind

Are They Challenged?

Saturday, November 10, 2007/by Chuck Mills/Go Back

A prospective family writes:

"So, yes, the kids get to choose from many activities at Kabeyun, but are they really challenged? Do you work with them to set goals and achieve them? One of the things we felt was lacking at his previous camp... Another thing I wonder about is do the kids and the counselors have some kind of camp honor code. Again, something that they can be proud of to try and achieve in their camp life and beyond. This thought is somewhat a reaction to my boy saying that poor language was tolerated at his prior camp. I am a believer that boys (and all of us) need to be encouraged/reminded to set a higher level of behaviour than might be commonly accepted. We want a camp where our boy can really be proud that he is with a group of boys and young men who are stiving to become the best kids they can become. Finally (for now!), do the kids have chores? Yes, we are paying for the services of a camp, but we also believe a child should learn to appreciate the tremendous opportunities he has been presented with, and one way for this would seem to be to have the kids pitch in at camp. How do you instill in the kids a responsibility for the camp, beyond them just treating it as a country club?"

One of the primary goals of the Kabeyun program is to provide boys with opportunities for experiences in activities they don't have exposure to during the rest of their year. There is, in each activity area, a strong focus on skill acquisition. Our counselors focus not just on supervision and fun, but on real teaching, aimed at giving the boys the sense of progressing toward mastery and the subsequent sense of accomplishment that accompanies success. A natural part of this focus is goal-setting and guidance toward achieving personal goals. Counselors work with the boys in their respective activity areas as well as in the context of the cabin group - home - to monitor progress with the guys, provide encouragement, and celebrate their successes. The elective system of programming allows boys to pursue new experiences according to their own readiness; invitations to new experiences, nudges toward expanding personal boundaries, encouragement toward new challenges are all a part of daily discourse.

Beginning with the opportunity to set their own daily plan each day, the boys really develop a strong sense of ownership in the place. After a week or two they really feel the place is theirs; once they return summer after summer, the place becomes a part of them and they take pride in becoming a positive member of the community, including a strong sense of wanting to pass on the values to others. We hold a high standard for our treatment of one another and the place, working hard to make sure our counselors are trained in managing the less appealing aspects of the "street" or, better, media culture they bring to camp. We spend a lot of time problem solving with the boys, not because we have more than our share of problems, but because we believe that there is opportunity in conflict. We do not shy away from problems, whether between two boys, or within a group and talk a lot together as problems arise. We believe that emphasizing the problem solving process teaches kids that every problem has a solution and every solution is worth pursuing. They learn the value of respectful discussion; learn empathy as they have the chance to hear other points of view. What grows out of this fundamental commitment to the goals of respect and understanding is a camp culture that is safe and positive.

Another part of ownership is the way the boys are expected to care for their home. Every day after breakfast they return to their cabins and spend time together cleaning their own areas and sharing in the cleaning of common areas in the cabin. While they are not scrubbing toilets, they are tending to the bathroom houses each day maintaining a reasonable level of cleanliness and care. They share in the serving and table cleaning responsibilities at meals and chip in in innumerable ways every day to help one another and their counselors with routine chores.