In March, my husband and I enrolled our son in the Ohio Wilderness Boys Camp. This was a drastic move on our part, but one that we felt was necessary.
Our son was always an adventurous, push-the-envelope type of boy, with a tendency to talk back and disobey. We did our best to curb this behavior by first...time out; then...grounding; then we took everything away, play time, TV time, video games, you name it; we discontinued it. We saw him get angrier and angrier, and this boy who was determined to be "gifted" intellectually, began not doing his homework, not turning in homework that was done, and his grades started falling. We were very disheartened. We tried homeschooling and what a fiasco that turned out to be.
He went out west to spend a week with his grandpa over Christmas holiday, and we began to do some remodeling in our basement only to find: Beebe gun holes all over our basement walls, furniture slit by knives, and other destruction, and he had taken a machete (given to him by a friend of ours) and hacked little hunks out of almost all of the beautiful "old" trees on our property.
We despaired of what action to take and were contemplating a military school. I contacted a friend who is a psychologist/counselor and asked him what he thought about military schools. His advice was to can the military school and consider one of the wilderness camps for boys or girls of which he had been a part when he was younger. So, we investigated the camps. We found out that it was sponsored/underwritten by the Anabaptist's and the Amish, so we figured that it must have some biblical components. We were so desperate that we called and asked if they had any immediate placements available. They advised us that they first had to come to our home and meet with us and our son. We were asked if our son realized he had problems and was he willing to admit it and did he want help in overcoming his anger. We set up our home visit.
Two gentlemen from the camp came out and explained the camp program; how it was developed, how it was implemented and what the average length of stay was and what the approximate success rate was. We were encouraged, highly encouraged; and we signed him up.
When we delivered our son to the camp site in the middle of March, it was hard to leave him because the year and half (the estimated length of stay) loomed long and all I could think about was what a huge chunk of his life we would be missing. He was leaving a 12 year old boy and would return a 14 year old teenager.
Each session at camp is six weeks long and during the session the boys choose their focus of study for that time period. For instance, the current focus is geology and the prior one was astronomy. We are required to write at least one letter per week to our son, and vice verse. We are also required to attend one parenting class during that time. At the end of the six week period, the child comes home for a four day "home visit" which it is suggested we keep as close to the camp schedule or rhythm as possible.
Our son came home for his first visit at the end of April, and we were thrilled really with the improvement we found in him. Not everything was perfect, of course, but it was far, far better than it had been before he went. So, back to camp he went at the end of the four day stay.
Today we were invited to the camp for "Families Day". (It is highly suggested that you send your child to a camp in your home state due to the amount of driving for /picking up/delivering and parenting classes involved. My husband and I left our home at 6:00 a.m. in order to arrive for the festivities which were to begin at 9:00. It has been unbelievably hot for May here in Ohio with today's high temp topping out at a lovely, sweltering 93 degrees! Fortunately, we were going to the "wilderness" and there are lots of trees and shade around, but there are also foothills in the southeastern section of the state! Foothills which had to be climbed, no less! My poor husband had to do the climbing which I (because of my PD) got to be transported via an ATV.
The camp is SO impressive. The things they are teaching the boys; not just how to work out their problems, handle their anger and plan, do and evaluate each and every day, but how to build a place to live, eat, cook, study, craft, go the bathroom, with emphasis on being a team, having your friends' best interests at heart, cleanliness and personal hygiene, but also how to chop kindling, make fires, how to clean and cook fish, and how to manage a checkbook (they are allotted $4.50 per week for expenses like soap, toothpaste, etc., at a camp store).
A lot of the therapy is done by peer pressure, for lack of a better term. The unit consists of a ten boy and two men (called "Chief"s) team who live together, work together, play together, deal with anger, outbursts, rudeness, cursing, whatever together 24/7!!! If one of the boys is having a bad day with a bad attitude and anger outbursts, etc., the whole team works on it until it is resolved, come what may, or maybe I should and miss what may until it is resolved, e.g., meals or bedtime. If the problem's not solved by a meal time, the meal is missed; BY EVERYONE, including the Chiefs. If it's not worked out by bedtime, no one goes to bed until it is, even the Chiefs. Oh, and by the way, did I tell you that the camp is on 400 acres, and while they are working out their problems they are marching all over that 400 acres?
There is no TV, no computers, no iPods, no cell phones, no radios. I guess they do have movie night once a week where they watch movies like Old Yeller and such, but that's it. They do have books; good ones, the classics and wholesome ones, no magic, no witchcraft, sorcery, werewolves, vampires or mythological gods and goddesses. Thank God my son loves to read.
Families Day was really nice, too. The boys got to show off their campgrounds to us; how they'd cleaned it, stocked it with wood, kindling and shavings, where they slept, how neat and tidy their beds and footlockers were, where they prepare their own meals twice a week and eat them, where they bathe, use the bathroom, brush their teeth and have their end-of-the-day pow-wow each night before bedtime to evaluate how their plans for the day had worked out.
I'm sitting here crying as I write this because I'm thinking all children need to experience camp; maybe not for 18 months, but maybe for a couple of months. The learning experience is priceless, and the leaders say when the kids re-test to go back into school, they are almost never behind and almost always ahead of the ones who go to public schools every day.
After we got the grand tour, we went down to Pine Pond where the boys swim, fish and sometimes bathe. They built a suspension bridge, too; a very nice one I might add. Where does a child have an opportunity to learn things like this these days?
The boys sang a couple of songs they had learned...songs with meaning; I think the one my son sang was something about being a diamond in the rough. I wish I had the words to re-print here; they were beautiful and very touching.
All the staff at the camp was introduced and each of the Chiefs talked a little about their team of boys. One thing that one of the Chiefs from my son's group said was how in preparing for Families Day all the tarps had to be taken down and cleaned and the first few were easy but after a while it got boring and trying. They took a four day camping excursion down the Kokosing River where they had some difficulties which bonded them closer as a group and when they got back to camp, they found that cleaning the tarps had taken on new meaning and purpose and once again was done with enthusiasm. There's something to be said for bonding in the midst of turmoil and trouble, isn't there?
After the program and prayer, we all enjoyed grilled chicken, potato salad, lettuce salad, homemade bread and jam and desserts that were brought by all the parents. The food was delicious and the fellowship was fine!
I was so impressed with the young people who are dedicated to this camp. The people who run the camp (administrators) and the Chiefs get paid VERY little for their efforts. Some stay a long time (a couple in excess of 15 years) and some not so long (a couple of years' service), but there is no doubt in my mind that they give of their best during the time that they are there serving and that they all have hearts for healthy (mentally, physically and emotionally) children.
I realize this is quite long and if you have read this far, wow, you must have a child or know a child who needs a program like this. If so, please click on the link above, and it will take you to their web site and you can get all the information you need. I feel (at least for now) very blessed to have found this outlet for our son. I will let you know more later, Lord willing.
For now, I leave you with these words:
Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians: 4:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
James 1:20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Anger is NOT a good thing and followers of Christ are called to lay down their anger because it does not produce the righteousness of God in them. We are not to provoke our children to wrath! This is a hard word, is it not? May God bless you with His supernatural strength in overcoming this tool of Satan. Amen.