Preparing for Camp

Embracing the Disconnect


As the mother of two daughters on the brink of embarking on their own adventures—one heading off to college next fall and the other recently accepted to the Island School for next spring in the Bahamas—I find myself grappling with the notion of giving them the freedom to launch and not being a part of their day to day lives. Of practicing what I am so passionate about and disconnecting from technology more than ever.

In a world where electronic connections to people and places outside our immediate community often take precedence, the philosophy of the Island School resonates deeply with me. At the Island School, they believe that electronic connection to people and places outside their immediate community detracts from the all-in ethos of being there, and they disconnect from cell phones and Wi-Fi with the thought that building connections with the environment and the people in their community are paramount to the success of their community and deep learning.

This philosophy contrasts sharply with the pervasive phenomenon of parental monitoring in schools, as highlighted in a recent article I came across. The author recounted stories of students whose parents expected constant updates during class, regardless of school cellphone policies. From texting to FaceTiming, parents found ways to maintain a virtual presence in their children’s lives, often at the expense of their independence and autonomy. As a camp owner and director, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this trend and the challenges we face in fostering a technology-free environment at camp.

At Cheley, we believe in providing a sanctuary from the constant noise and distractions of the digital world, allowing campers to immerse themselves fully in the wonders of the mountains and the camaraderie of camp life. Our technology-free policy is not just a rule; it’s a fundamental aspect of the Cheley Experience—a chance for campers to unplug, unwind, and reconnect with themselves, their peers, and the natural world around them.

One of the most significant benefits of our technology-free environment is the opportunity for campers to live in the moment—to truly be present without the constant buzz of notifications and distractions. Whether scaling a peak, paddling across a crystal-clear lake, or simply sitting under a canopy of stars, every moment at Cheley is an opportunity for adventure, exploration, and personal growth.


Moreover, our technology-free environment encourages campers to engage in meaningful face-to-face interactions and build genuine connections with their peers. From shared meals in the dining hall to late-night conversations in the cabin or wagon, campers have the opportunity to forge deep and lasting friendships that transcend the digital divide.

This is a catalyst for fostering a sense of independence and self-reliance in our campers. Without the safety net of constant communication with home, campers learn to navigate challenges, resolve conflicts, and make decisions on their own—an invaluable skill set that will serve them well throughout their lives. Of course, I understand that being out of touch with your child for an extended period may be daunting for some parents, and can certainly empathize with this adjustment—I would be lying if I did not acknowledge that the thought of not having daily contact with them for months makes me teary even as I type it! At the Island School, Kate will only be allowed to make one 20-minute phone call a week, and she has already told us that we need to share this allotted time with her friends.

At Cheley, we prioritize creating an environment of trust and openness where campers feel empowered to speak up and take ownership of their camp experience. Our counselors serve not only as authority figures but as trusted mentors, available to listen, support, and guide our campers through challenges they may encounter, and our directors are available to address concerns or questions you may have.

While you may not be able to communicate directly with your child during their time at camp, we encourage you to stay connected through the timeless tradition of letter writing. There’s something special about receiving a handwritten letter from home, and these tangible reminders of your love and support will mean the world to your camper.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for entrusting us with the privilege of guiding your child’s summer adventure. In a world where parents are increasingly tethered to their children’s daily lives through technology, from incessant text messages during school hours to remote surveillance of classroom activities, the idea of sending your child to a technology-free summer camp may seem like a radical departure; however, by embracing the disconnect and immersing themselves in the camp experience, your child will embark on a transformative journey of personal growth, discovery, and the creation of lifelong memories. Here, amidst the breathtaking natural surroundings and supportive community of Cheley, your child will have the opportunity to thrive, forge meaningful connections, and truly savor the joys of childhood.

And so, as we embark on this journey together, I want you to know that you’re not alone in missing your campers. As a parent myself, I can completely empathize with the mix of excitement and apprehension that comes with sending your child off to camp.