8 Reasons To Send Your Kids to Overnight Camp at Concordia Language Villages
Published: October 5, 2019
It’s approaching the time of year when I start putting together the family jigsaw puzzle that is our summer. Like many families, our three kids participate in a variety of summer programs, camps, and sporting activities. But for our family, the central piece of the summer puzzle - the one that all our other plans have to fit around - is overnight camp at Concordia Language Villages (CLV).
Why CLV? My own experience as a villager and counselor at Skogfjorden, the Norwegian village, inspired a love of languages and an interest in global affairs that led me to a career as an international human rights lawyer. Being back on staff as a parent has allowed me to witness firsthand the many benefits of sending my kids to CLV, but I’ve also asked other parents of villagers. Here are the top 8 reasons that we choose to invest in our kids by sending them to overnight camp at CLV.
1. Learning about another language and culture (and heritage).
The CLVway of providing language immersion programming is pretty incredible to see in action. CLV staff members are trained in experiential, activity-based, and child-centered teaching methods, a pedagogy that encourages kids to really live the language. The talented CLV staff make living the language low-pressure and FUN. And it works! As one mom of two CLV villagers told me: “My kids are excited that they know another language. When they’ve had the opportunity to use the skill, you can see the pride that they have in being able to communicate and participate in another culture.”
2. CLV teaches kids the value of respect and tolerance, as well as the importance of celebrating our differences.
Learning about another language and culture raises a child’s awareness that s/he is part of a larger humanity, a wider world in which there are 2.3 billion other children who may speak, dress, and look very different from them. CLV reinforces these positive messages through session programming focused on peace-building, thematic evening programs, and even village ground rules that center on values like “respect.” The result is that most kids who go to CLV have an experience that broadens their horizons.
3. Kids do things at CLV that they may never attempt at home.
Being outside of their normal social circle allows kids to try new things. Sometimes it’s as simple as a picky eater like my daughter, who gobbles down food at CLV that she would flat out refuse at home. But kids also get to stretch their wings and explore different aspects of their personalities at CLV. I have seen kids do incredible things at camp, things that they might never dream of doing at home. One session, parents briefed me on opening day about their shy daughter. And she WAS painfully shy. But exactly one week later, I saw her stand up in front of the entire camp and sing a beautiful a cappella solo in the talent show.
4. CLV helps kids learn how to problem solve and make decisions for themselves.
One of the things that I have learned from parenting is that kids actually have very little control over their lives. Understandably, that is frustrating. In a lot of ways, camp helps children feel in control of what happens to them. At CLV, kids get to choose between activities, choose what they want to do during free time, choose how much money they will take out of the bank and what they will buy with it. These experiences make kids feel competent and independent, which in the end will help them to be better problem-solvers in any new situation.
5. At CLV, kids get to take a break from ever-present technology.
One of the benefits of sleepaway camp is that today's plugged-in kids are forced to unplug and commune with nature. That's true, of course, but it doesn't capture the sheer beauty of some of the things I have seen at CLV, where nature is embraced and Minnesota’s North Woods incorporated into the learning experience. Last summer, the girls in my cabin were constantly bringing me the caterpillars, inchworms, moths, shells and frogs that they had discovered. A 7-year-old told me that the most important thing for her about being there was that she "had seen more animals than she had in a really, really long time." She was seeing so many animals, she realized, not just because she was in nature but also because she was paying attention to it.
6. At CLV, kids benefit from relationships with trusted adults who are not their parents.
At overnight camp, kids have to create new relationships - on their own, without parental influence. New friends among their peers are important and perhaps what they will remember most. But the relationships that they forge with trusted adults who are NOT their parents is hugely important. “The staff seems to appreciate the best parts of each kid,” said one parent. “It seems like every kid finds a friend.” While counselors are not parents, they are more than teachers. They are positive role models who have time and energy to listen, talk, and laugh with our kids. Non-parental authority figures who are closer in age, they reinforce the messages and values that we parents are trying to instill, but - unlike us parents - they are inherently cool.
7. Being at CLV helps kids find their own way as they navigate the challenges of growing up.
The truth is that putting a kid in the somewhat uncomfortable situation of living with a lot of other people in a small space helps them learn not only about cooperation and teamwork, but how to respect others and negotiate. This helps kids build confidence, courage, independence, resilience and flexibility. As one mom described it, “This provides them opportunities to be responsible for themselves in a different way. They come home with better tools to manage themselves and their environment.”
8. Kids feel they are part of a supportive community.
When I asked my 14-year-old son what keeps him going back to CLV year after year, he said without hesitation, “The loving, supportive community.” Other parents agreed that their own kids have formed strong connections with other villagers as well as staff members, as well as a sense of being a valued member of their language village community. As one dad described it, “It’s difficult to find an environment that is both supportive and rigorous. And that’s what CLV is. It’s a tricky balance but CLV provides the supportive environment that kids need in order to want to meet the challenge of doing something as intensive as learning a language.”
The other thing that happens at this time of year at our house? My kids and I start counting down the days until summer, when we get to head back to the woods of northern Minnesota - and the warm embrace of the Concordia Language Villages community.
Jennifer Jenni”Prestholdt is the mother of three villagers who have participated in one-week, two-week, and four-week high school credit CLV programming. A longtime Skogfjorden staff member (1984-1988 and 2010-2019), she was a co-organizer of the Skogfjorden program 50th anniversary celebration. She received the CLV Circle of Peace award in 2019. She also serves on the CLV Thought Leadership Team. In real life, she is an attorney and Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights.