Transcript of our interview with Samantha, Parent
What’s unique about Camp Nominigue?
I would highlight three things that are unique. It's a camp that has a very strong emphasis on tripping and outdoor living, but it's not a tripping camp per se. There are canoe-tripping camps, rather, that parents can choose where their children are just tripping the whole time. And then there are a lot of camps where canoeing and outdoor skills, outdoor living skills, they're offered among many things, and they can get a bit drowned out by the range of things that kids can do. And so this is a camp that has both a strong tripping program and a very full camp-based program. And so for us, that was the sweet spot of really having a strong emphasis on those skills, but, at the same time, offering a wide range of other activities that you could do.
It's also a camp that is quite rustic. And it's a largely off-the-grid camp. There is electricity, but in the common building—not in boys' quarters. And so that's also something that was pleasing to us about having summertime, where kids live more lightly and closer to nature.
One thing that's quite unique about it is, in my view, that it's the only boys camp in all of Quebec from as far as I can tell because gender-segregated summer camps are really an English language, Anglophone phenomenon. So we are a family that lives bilingual lives. We were speaking English at home, but we send our children to French schools. And so this was a way for us to encourage our son to make camp-based friendships that were with kids from both backgrounds.
And also, I noticed when I was doing my research into some of the Ontario-based boys’ camps that they draw a lot of American families. And there are international campers at Camp Nominingue.
I also like the idea of him making friendships at camp with kids closer to home. So having more kids from Quebec and from Ontario as well among the campers is a bonus. And also, he was as a young kid who goes to a French school and he drops a lot of French into his English. And we wanted him to be in an environment where he wasn't seen as being strange or weird by doing that. At Camp Nominigue, he could just be himself and people would understand him regardless of what language he spoke.
What would you highlight about Camp Nominigue?
Well, I'd say that the staff are wonderful from my experience. I got a chance to observe them upfront, up close with the family camp, since our family has also now been to this family camp for two years in a row. And from my observation, the counsellors are experienced in their instructional area, but they're also just genuinely warm and friendly, and lovely human beings. And it seems like they've really created an environment in which boys can be very rough and tumble and exuberant.
There’s also a lot of positive masculinity where there's affection among the male counsellors, and people seem very open and in touch with their feelings. And definitely as a feminist, I wanted to have him be in an environment in which it wasn't thought that masculinity makes you a man. I wanted him to be in a place in which he could express himself physically and make friendships with boys, and one where boys were very well-rounded and where they could be their full selves.
I love the outdoor skills and living that happens there and the skills that they teach. I found that they have a good range of activities, but without drowning kids with options like some camps that offer 50 or 60 and it's a bit overwhelming. And they also offer the choice to boys about what they focus on while still ensuring that new campers experience a bit of everything. If you are there for the first time, you spend your first week in a program that they call “squeegee,” where you try a little bit of everything.
You get the opportunity to pick two instructionals per week. Those are activities that you want to get instruction in every day. I find that that's a great opportunity to have them be able to pick some of their favourites and to go deeper in them enough that they can pass at an instructional level. This is in contrast with other camps—for instance, my daughter's former camp, where they rotated through all of the different activities. That can be a way to expose kids to a lot of things but it can be a bit frustrating if after a while, there are some activities you’re not really crazy about, or if you wanted to go deeper and gain more skills in some other areas but you didn't really spend enough time in them. So I like that Camp Nominigue offers the opportunity to further pursue your favourite activities. And my impression is also that it has a good balance between structured and unstructured time.
How did you know that Camp Nominigue was the right fit?
I had the opportunity to have a conversation with the past director. I called him and I sent an email early on because I wanted to know more about their camp.
We had a really great conversation about their learning journey. And I won't dive into all of that but it was just a good opportunity to get a sense for what the camp was like and their views on different matters. It then also led me into learning more through their information sessions. I then decided to sign us up for family camp as a way to experience it and get a chance to research it more. Also, by that point, by the time we knew that our son was ready for camp, it was a bit too late to sign him up for boys’ camp. So it seemed like a great opportunity to all go together, and he would have his opportunity to experience camp. And then we could just make a final decision based on our own first-hand knowledge of the camp.
Was there any noticeable personal growth in your son after his time at Camp Nominigue?
I definitely feel like he had a good development in his sense of independence. He's a pretty confident child to begin with.
He certainly expressed desires to do things more on his own afterwards. There were some j skills that he was really eager to share more. We went on our annual canoe camping trip afterwards, and he was sharing with us some of the learning from his canoeing instructional at camp and he was showing us the parts of a paddle and reviewing all of the different types of strokes like a bow cut and a cross bow cut. It was just really neat to get a sense of the learning he'd done there and to see it on display.
How can parents overcome hesitancy to send their children away to overnight camp?
I think for a lot of kids during the pandemic, they haven't had the same opportunities to have time away from their families as they would have before. I think that camps usually give us ways to build up kids’ readiness to be away from home. But if some camps offer a family camp like Camp Nominigue does, that can be a great opportunity because then you can go and you can be comfortable being with your family, and there's that element of security there, and you get a chance to explore camp and get to know it.
In our case, because our son had gone to family camp the year before, by the time it came to register, he said, “Sign me up for two weeks.”. And he felt like he knew the place so well. And he had that extra degree of confidence to be able to go off somewhere and to feel like he knew what he was walking into and he was already excited about it.
What would you tell other parents about the overall value of sending kids to Camp Nominigue?
I think overnight camps like this one are a really great opportunity to develop not just confidence and independence, but also to learn skills that your average family is not going to be able to teach or have the equipment or the means to instruct a child in. It's not every family who's going to be able to offer their kids the opportunity to learn canoeing and sailing and outdoor living and mountain biking. Your average family doesn't have all of the equipment and the time to be able to do all that. So it's a great opportunity: If you go back every year you can deepen those skills and develop these lifelong loves for things as well as ways to stay physically fit and to enjoy nature and be close to it.
And I think it's also a great opportunity to just be unplugged for a couple of weeks and be among friends and just enjoy nature and the community people around you. I think that's a wonderful opportunity.
What does your child say about Camp Nominigue?
Oh, my God. He just goes on ad nauseam to people about the camp. We had a friend here just the other day who he hadn't seen, and he just monopolized the conversation talking about camp. He talked about how they have this shield that they call a feather shield, where there's a crest and then you get a feather for each instructional. He was going through it blow by blow, how it all works, and just talking about his days and what the schedule was at camp. I think it's already this beloved tradition for him after having only spent one season there.
Any final thoughts?
For any family who's considering the option, but who isn't quite sure, I think that Camp Nominigue’s family camp is a great opportunity. It's also just a wonderful experience for families to have. It's like an all-inclusive for outdoorsy people.
You go as a family, you don't have to cook, and you're there for four or five days. And you yourself can enjoy swimming and sailing and doing all of these things. It’s an opportunity to really get to know the culture of the camp and to get a sense for the experience that your child would have there. And the family camp is a little bit different from the boys’ camp, and nothing is required.
There are opportunities where certain instructional areas will be open, but it's up to you to craft your day. There's more structure in the boys’ camp than that. Kids are shepherded along and given more guidance about what to do in the regular boys’ camp. But the family camp is a great family vacation as well as being a great opportunity to research the boys’ camp. So I think for anybody who's on the fence, it's a great way to just get an up close view before you commit.