I love Michael Thompson. Everything he writes is wise and practical and refreshing. His book, Homesick and Happy, is the reason we sent our kids to camp. (You can read more about that decision here, here, here and here.) So I hope he’ll forgive me for saying this, but I didn’t buy his idea that camp can somehow make up for what he calls “A Lost World Of Family Time.” He writes:
We all want to create this feeling [of family] for our children at home, but often cannot because of other circumstances or priorities in our lives: two careers, homework, academics, sports, church activities, and a focus on skills building of all kinds. Divorce may have complicated the home front. Camps create a natural time machine that evokes an earlier time and a different kind of family than we have today. That lost world of family time includes: an electronics-free world, family-style dining, intimacy between older “siblings” and younger “siblings,” a multi-generational community, meaningful daily rituals, and a place where time slows down.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate all of those aspects of camp. I do. The problem is not with camp; it’s with our lives. There are aspects of camp that we can’t provide at home, but a sane home life should not be one of them. The answer to too many electronics is not camp; it’s fewer electronics. The answer to not having a multi-generational community is to immerse yourself in a multi-generational community. The answer to not having family-style dinners is to start having family-style dinners. You get the idea.
Several years ago, I read Simplicity Parenting, a book by Kim John Payne, in which he observes the same problems Michael Thompson writes about in his book: stressed out kids with behavior problems. And like Thompson, he notes that children today suffer from too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too little time. His solution, though, is to simplify your home life, a goal Thompson seems to have written off as impossible.
It is not, however, impossible. It’s critical, because spending summers away from home cannot undo all the damage we do at home all year. So while we may never reach levels of simplicity recommended by Payne, we can go a long way in that direction.
Payne’s book influenced our family to make several big changes. You can read about some of them in the posts below. When you’re done, write in to let us know what you think. Is it impossible to recapture the ‘lost world’ of family time? If not, what does your family do to slow down and connect?