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Poland
Poland

February 14, 2013

Family Camps Connect Generations

By Zbyszek and Danka Borys

It is year 2007. My husband and I are going on a one-week Montessori course to the mountains. The director, a young-looking, charming woman shows us around a small, homely village school. We find it magical though a little bit run down. We know from the very beginning that there is something for us to do here, but what? We ask if it is possible to rent the house for part of the summer holiday. We think of organizing an educational family camp, perhaps a homeschooling camp, and the place is simply appealing.

“Are you homeschoolers?” she asks.

“Yes, we’re homeschooling our two sons and are interested in all forms of alternative education,” we answer.

“Let it be,” she said.

We made a plan.

Celebrating a birthday during one of the family camps

A few months later we welcomed about 20 people to the camp, each was eager to participate in the two-week educational gathering in the rented school in the mountains. The first meeting was simply about getting to know each other. We started off with a low-key public speaking exercise. Everybody had three minutes to talk about themselves, and this was enough to inspire others to ask all kinds of questions concerning the speech. It quickly became evident that all of us were fascinated with education. In addition, we each had a variety of life experiences and professions and were ready to share our knowledge and experience with one another.

For our family, there was a background in art, music and English classes and sign language and live music played by our son. Lucy and Bodo, an English-German couple and the parents of two sweet kids, had traveled the globe and were ready to prepare classes concerning the exotic countries in which they had visited or lived, such as Japan or Bhutan. Kacper, a ten-year-old child prodigy in chemistry from eastern Poland, brought his whole chemistry set to do experiments and put on spectacular shows. Ania and her son were thrilled to show us two professional films made by Polish TV about their walking journey in Georgia and Russia. In addition, Ania led us in a number of games for the brain (from her profession as a psychologist). Some of them were real fun.

All together, we made a film based on the story "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." We had everything we needed for that story-a wooden bridge, a shed, and a flowery meadow. This was a perfect set for the film. Our son and an artist friend of ours also produced a musical set in the nearby hills and meadows. Everybody took part in the performances, improvising on homemade instruments plus the accordion and the flute.

An art workshop

When we reflected on our first family camp, it was clear that the homey, friendly, sharing atmosphere made the event something more than a typical holiday rest. The fact that everybody shared something—knowledge, ability and passion—brought the group together. We and others felt happy that we could be those who also give and share, not only those who take and expect.

Since 2007, we have organized and hosted eight more family educational camps in two settings—in the mountains and in Cracow. We hosted people from Austria, Israel, Germany, England, Poland, and Arizona and Florida in the United States. The workshops offered by participants have expanded to include such fields as math, art (sculpture in real stone, clay, painting, furniture renovation and more), English, folk art, chemistry, astronomy, psychology, finances, music, drama and cooking. These educational activities were accompanied by numerous and attractive trips either in the mountains or in Cracow.

The basic principle of the camp is that everybody is somehow engaged in providing educational stimuli to the other participants. This is not a must but an invitation. Those who are shy, stop being shy when they see others doing things for the benefit of all in a friendly way. It really works and affects all participants positively.

Family camp participants are united in diversity

Our camp gatherings are different from other workshops in that they are aimed at exchange. Most workshops are organized for participants to acquire specific knowledge and learn from one particular lecturer, and the focus is typically to gain new abilities or knowledge. Yet in our case, the focus is developing relationships through exchange in the field of art and other educational activities through the setting of a typical holiday.

The most unique feature of this project we feel is the participation of three generations. In the modern world, the link between the generations is often broken and this brings a great many problems for the whole of society. These meetings are a kind of relationship-training and the experience gained can be an asset in later real-life situations. The elderly discover and learn to understand the ways of thinking, problems, joys, fears and passions of younger persons. On the other hand, the young gain much from the experience, wisdom, common sense and knowledge of those who are older. Children are also very important members at our meetings. They naturally learn new skills and at the same time build relationships with older members through participation in the workshops and observing the adults working and cooperating.

We look for donations or organizational help to continue the idea of promoting free education through organizing more meetings in new places. If interested, please visit our website and click on “Galeria-Filmy” to see some short films from previous camp gatherings.

Danka Borys and her husband Zbyszek support families and homeschoolers in Poland and Europe through their organization REGION Ling and the family camps that they host each year.

 Other Resources

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Poland page.