Magic Camp at Bryn Mawr College


In ALL, NETFLIX by Stephanie Klein7 Comments

I‘m a huge believer in separation between church and state. That is, I believe the pious love of camp shouldn’t touch your life at the stately institution of school. Camp friends should be separate from your school friends. A random handful of kids who happen to attend your school, sure, it’s inevitable I guess. Parents want a short drive. If you’re on Long Island, you select camps in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, upstate New York. Maine if you’re daring and want to make a vacation out of visiting day. Canada if you want nothing to do with anyone from school.

Ideally, I’d choose a camp with a uniform, so kids can shine by way of their talents and personality. The focus shouldn’t be about what you’ve got, what you wear. No technology. Disconnect and re-connect with nature and simple pleasures. I wish public schools had uniforms, especially in middle school.

Each kid is different, and you know your child. But I adore spending time with my beans while they’re young, and I want to keep them with me for as long as they’ll stay. Do I think sleep away camp is an extraordinary experience? Absolutely. I went the summer after 4th grade, and it was too early for me. Then again in 6th grade, where I promise you, promiscuity bloomed.

Abigail says to me, “We’re eight, lady. Which means you’ve only got ten more years to raise us and teach us stuff. Better get crackin’.” Yes, her actual words, I swear. I tell her that your parents usually get more than 18 years, and that the bigger life lessons can come at any time, especially in and after college. I don’t know that the teaching ever stops.

Last summer, the kids rolled on home with atrocious manners, repeating nasty remarks they learned at camp, and we spent $10k on those loverly lessons. It’s the price of day camp around here for two kids. Of course manners unquestionably are learned at home, what’s inappropriate, what’s not to be repeated. But here’s my question: there are sports camps, science camps, religious camps, music camps, drama camps, fat camps, but there aren’t any manners camps. Etiquette camps. Most camps dip into all the wells, but they somehow skip the ethics. I like simple, bare, camps, without fancy activities. I like the camps where children use their minds and imaginations. But it’s too early for me to let mine go. Maybe I’ll head back to a camp from my childhood and be a counselor, kids in tow. It’s not the same experience when a parent is present, but it’s at least a taste.

I have no idea what I’m doing with the bean sprouts this summer. Camp, no camp? Camp Stephanie? Travel some. Maybe Abigail will spend time at drama day camp. I’d really like to send them to an outdoor adventure day camp, where they work on ropes courses, figuring out brain puzzles, like how to move their whole troop onto a wooden raft in a forest without touching the ground. Classic “Project Adventure” or “Outdoor Education.” We’ll see. Maybe I’ll join the country club where I grew up and spend our summer with my cousin and her four children. But saving to buy a house doesn’t really play nicely with these ideas. I can’t do nothing with them all summer, what with my ban on TV and all electronics. I don’t know what we’ll do. And there certainly won’t be any book writing to be had if I have the kids with me all day long. I don’t love these decisions, and making no decision is actually a decision.

To get my mind off and on to the joys of camp, I’ve been watching camp movies lately. I share with you my list, because sharing is caring, unless it’s an STD. Meatballs, obviously. Wet Hot American Summer, sure. But these are camp movies you likely haven’t seen…

Camp Takota

Camp Takota

With her personal and professional life in shambles, a young woman seeks refuge by working as a summer camp counselor with her two best friends.

I was so surprised by how good this movie is. The writing is actually good, like Pitch Perfect good! That is, this isn’t some B movie fit for ABC Family. It’s sharp and snappy, witty banter. It’s one I want to watch again! Definitely check this movie out; I dare you not to like it!

Camp Movie

An investment adviser gets more than he bargained for when he spends a week as a counselor at a camp for troubled kids and bonds with an abused boy.

Okay, so this one is a type of Lifetime TV, Hallmark Channel movie. Still, I cried. Though, it doesn’t take much.

Magic Camp at Bryn Mawr College

Magic Camp
This inspiring film goes inside the world’s most prestigious magic camp and lets you in on the ambitions, stresses and dreams of the kids attending. Or as the tagline goes: “Welcome To The Real Hogwarts.” This is a documentary, where kids are invited to let their freak flags fly. It’s basically American Idol for young magicians.

As a Netflix #StreamTeam member, I receive a complimentary subscription to Netflix in exchange for sharing 1 post each month about Netflix movies and TV Shows, though I often share more often because, let’s face it, I own the verb “overshare.” As always, all opinions are mine, though you’re welcome to agree with me.


  1. Camp is a non negotiable for us. I knew that before he was born. I’m just a huge believer in it especially being that now, letting your kid go to the park alone can earn you a visit from child services and the label “free range parent”. How are they supposed to learn any independence with parents up their butt every minute?

    I never went to sleep away camp. It’s something I definitely regret. I was so afraid I’d “miss something” going on with my home friends that I didn’t go. What a colossal mistake. My friend sends her daughter to Echo Lake. They seem to be all about working on personal growth and development.

    I also agree on the separation thing. Even in day camp for the past three years I have had him separated from the kids from school that go there. Just because I want him to have a different experience. Know there are people outside our small town bubble.

  2. Have you looked into USDAN or Mid Island Y? Both great camps and I believe more affordable than the typical ones on LI.

  3. My mother used to say that children need a vacation from their parents and that parents need vacations from their children. She was right. I went to sleepover camp at 6, too young, but went back again when I was 8 and continued almost every summer either as a camper or counsellor, until I was 21. To this day I can sing camp songs with full recall of lyrics and have reconnected with camp friends on Facebook. Our older son went when he was in 4th grade (I think) and the younger one, aged 4, went with us to visit, climbed up on a double decker bed, & directed me to send his clothes to Maine because he was staying. We only got him down from that bed by promising that he could go the next summer. He was the youngest child in the camp. He adored it and continued until he was 12 or 13. I’m a firm believer in the camp experience and have wonderful memories of my summers spent there.

  4. I went to Girl Scout Camp at age 10— is that a possibility for Abigail? I had a great time, GREAT! The very first evening, we all gathered in the huge dining hall and went over table manners. Everything! How to pass things, which fork to use: all of it. As a grown-ass woman, I still think back to those table manner teachings—-> and I had a very strict upbringing with respect to manners at home.

    1. My first 6 years of camp were spent at the now defunct Girl Scout camp, Te Ata, in Bear Mountain, New York. I adored it! No hot water, no indoor toilets, no electricity in the cabins. I loved sharing a tent with others and even didn’t mind the required “fatigue duty”….cleaning latrines, cleaning the bugs off lanterns, etc.

  5. I went to sleepaway camp for four years, starting after I turned 13 and was getting into a lot of trouble in middle school. When I asked my mom about whether or not it was a possibility to go away for the summer and believe me, she was all for it. Thirteen was the hardest year. The vacation was much needed on both ends.

    The thing about camp is that it affords children the opportunity to be someone different than they are at home, perhaps a version of themselves that’s more true and free – at least that’s how I felt. So I couldn’t agree more that sending them to a place where they don’t have any friends is ideal because it is absolutely a clean slate for kids to be themselves in an environment where creativity and independence is encouraged.

    The first camp I went to was Camp Waziyatah in Waterford, Maine. I live in the Bay Area of California, so trust that I did not know a single soul there. It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I still think so fondly on the days spent outside, waterskiing, riding horses, making arts and crafts, doing theatre/talent shows, coming back to the bunk absolutely drained from the exhilaration and the sun, flopping on my 1.5in thick mattress and just sleeping harder than a fucking rock. Then waking up at 6:45am and doing it all over again for the next four weeks.

    The second camp I went to was Snow Mountain Camp in Nevada City, Ca. When my previous camp was at capacity and couldn’t take my registration I knew that I had to find another place to spend my summer, that’s how much of an impact it had on me. I still remember comparing brochures with my mom (back when websites were merely secondary and printed collateral was king) and trying to decide where my new summer home would be.

    I could go on and on and on about camp, but you know. You went. It’s absolutely magic, and if you could bottle its essence your pockets would be lined with endless money from generations of people who are still trying to get high off nostalgia.

  6. I wonder if camp is a regional thing, because I am from the Midwest and lived here most of my life, and camp is a pretty rare thing. Maybe people would go to the occasional sports-centric week long camp. But for multiple weeks, it just isn’t something I am really familiar with. I can definitely see the advantages of it, but I don’t think it is the only way to foster independence or keep kids occupied during the summer. One thing that I’m really glad my mother did with us is make sure we were bored sometimes. Seriously. It helped me and my brother learn to entertain ourselves and be creative. It’s okay to have an afternoon or two (or all of them…) per week where your kids are left to their own devices.

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