Today, January 23, is John Hancock’s birthday. This prominent patriot played a starring role in opposing British rule in the American colonies, and today he is best remembered for one specific act of rebellion – signing a large, loping autograph on the Declaration of Independence. This powerful signature – supposedly written largely and clearly so that the King would not need to put on his glasses to read it – has had a lasting effect on American lore: today a “John Hancock” is another term for a signature, and January 23 is National Handwriting Day!
However, over two hundred years after Hancock signed his infamous signature, the rise of technology and the keyboard’s conquest has meant that the importance of the art of handwriting has dwindled tremendously. Today, proper penmanship has become something of an archaism – handwritten homework certainly still exists, but more and more time in schools is dedicated to helping children master typing on their QWERTY keyboards. Handwriting has been shunted to the side, and cursive has joined the dunce camp as relics of a bygone educational era.
However, for Maine Camp Experience (MCE) campers each summer poses an opportunity to practice that handwriting, as writing traditional letters is the primary way that campers communicate with their families. While letter-writing may seem like a method of communication best left to the days of the Pony Express, it actually is a crucial part of camp life and is invaluable for help creating the camp experience that thousands of children enjoy each summer.
One major advantage of communicating via letters, is that it is a wonderful way to reinforce the idea that camp is a haven removed from the wider world. In ways, a summer spent at camp is like a step back in time – so many camp values, traditions, and buildings have endured decades (or centuries) of Maine summers. Letter writing, specifically because it is an “outdated” mode of communication, helps create this sense of camp as a special, unique place – and it’s truly amazing how campers who spend their school-years texting suddenly light-up at the prospect of sending and receiving old fashioned letters.
Letter writing is also a really useful tool for helping kids who might struggle with homesickness. As many camp directors will tell you, one of the greatest cures for homesickness is to immerse yourself in the world of camp. By focusing your mental energy on the present, you don’t leave as much headspace to dwell on what’s going on at home. Many MCE camps, including the one I work at, allow parents to schedule occasional short phone calls with their children throughout the session – but while it’s always nice to reconnect with home, these phone calls can sometimes catalyze a bout of homesickness. Letter writing simply occurs at a different speed than digital correspondences. For kids at camp, there can be real advantages to primarily receiving news from home that is three or four days old. Always being a few days behind allows children to have some built-in emotional distance when reading their letters, which allows them to stay connected without pulling them out of the swing of camp life.
Perhaps the most magical aspect of summer letter-writing is the simple fact that physical letters stand the test of time. When I was a camper, I saved the letters I received from my parents, bringing them home each fall and putting them in a box in the closet of my bedroom where they still reside today – my parents, likewise, have kept many of the letters that I wrote home. These letters provide specific memories of summers gone-by – each letter carries the imprint of a day in Maine, and reading descriptions of activities I can hardly remember and friends who are still friends is an incredible way to reflect nostalgically on many wonderful summers as a camper. And my handwriting’s not too shabby, either.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth. Next, be sure to contact our Maine Campcierge™ to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child. You can share your own Maine camps memories & expressions of gratitude on our Memories of Camp section of our website.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.