Homesickness at Camp – Let’s Discuss Transitions

First time at camp? First time away from parents? First time your children are away from you? It’s a great time to get some perspective on homesickness, and where you fit in.

Let’s look at the first two questions. They’re for your son. The third… for you. But there’s a connection that you need to make. It’s a time of transition for your son – and a time of transition for you. It’s prudent for you to do some research on what causes homesickness… because it’s completely natural for us to feel this.

Get comfortable with the subject and realize that we often project our emotions on others. If you need some time to get cozy with your feelings – then do so. And then find a time to address this. Has your son done a sleepaway with friends or with family? Maybe stayed with grandparents or cousins? Those are excellent first steps. But remember – if your son says he wants to go to camp, that he’s excited, and that he’s ready – then try to support those feelings and encourage his independence. Still concerned? Talk to us and we’ll see if this is actually the best time for him to start his camp journey (sometimes campers are more ready than their parents).

But pay attention to the transitions! It’s important to set up expectations and to address them. Homesickness often manifests itself when there’s a “sudden” transition or separation from home. Work on eliminating the “sudden” part and find a way to transition the fear of the unknown into the excitement for new adventures.

And homesickness at camp hits at different times of the day. For some, it’s morning – others meal times, others before bed or quiet time. Those are all transition times. At camp, we acknowledge that transitions are difficult for some campers – and we ensure that counsellors stay aware and see how your son is dealing with his feelings. And we don’t ignore them! Many of our counsellors are former Nominingue campers… they know what it’s like to be at camp, and they have been trained on how to help campers manage these feelings and focus on the positives… adventure, friendship, learning, exploring… and more!


Autism Spectrum | The terrible diagnosis, then the hope

As seen on

Just over 17 years ago, we received a diagnosis that placed our twins between moderate and severe autism. For those unfamiliar with the autism spectrum, it is the penultimate rung in terms of severity on the scale that defines this neurodevelopmental disorder.

In addition to the fact that this diagnosis sawed us both legs, it forced us to act quickly. The boys were just over 3 years old, they didn’t converse, they weren’t toilet trained, and they could burst into bloodcurdling tantrums at any moment.

We worked with a team of professionals in occupational therapy, speech therapy and applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy). In the bigger weeks, we were juggling over 20 hours a week of therapy. We also had support from the age of 4 from the Riverside School Board who placed the boys in an adapted class.

The boys integrated into regular classes in primary school. By the age of 10, their language and motor skills had progressed to the point where they were up to the appropriate standards. The hours of therapy decreased and gradually the boys integrated activities without requiring special supports.

The choice of activities in which the boys participated was dictated by two simple principles: have the boys shown an interest in the activity and is the organization providing the activity ready to host them? We have never hidden the fact that the boys were affected by the autism spectrum. In the vast majority of cases, agency representatives were very accommodating and wanted to understand how they could contribute. The list of people and organizations that have helped us is long, but the following organizations have contributed significantly to their progress: Baseball Saint-Bruno/Saint-Basile, Hockey Saint-Bruno, Camp YMCA Kanawana, Club Olympia Longueuil, Montreal Children’s Theater , South Shore Athletics, Saint-Bruno Figure Skating, Camp Nominingue.

They are on the way to achieving full autonomy. The two have even managed at different times in their careers to represent their college or university in sport while maintaining good academic results; Andrew in cross country and Johnathan in fencing.

Family support was also instrumental in the progress of the boys and helped to provide moments of respite. In particular Grandma Michèle who allowed us to continue our professional journeys. The efforts required to support the development of children with special needs can lead to a feeling of isolation because they make it difficult to practice social and sporting activities. We were very lucky that the boys had an older sister who understood their reality. Alexandra understood the impact of the specialists who surrounded the boys so well that she chose to progress in a graduate program in research and clinical psychology to help other children and families.

We are aware that our journey is unique and that each family with children with neurodevelopmental disorders has a different experience. We wanted to share our journey because at the time we received the diagnosis, the prognoses were very vague and it was difficult to formulate any real hope on the success of the interventions and the investments related to them.

A Franklin Find

The December 2014 edition of Canadian Geographic is dedicated to the discovery of the HMS Erebus, one of Sir John Franklin’s two ships, on the ocean floor in the Arctic this September by a team of Canadian archaeologists.


On May 19, 1845, Sir John Franklin and 128 sailors and explorers left London in two sailing vessels, the Erebus and the Terror, with the goal of crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Northwest Passage. They were never to return. By 1850, the first rescue missions set out from Britain, the United States and the Canadian colonies in attempts to find the Franklin expedition or to solve the mystery of their disappearance. Although the first successful passage of the Canadian Arctic by ship occurred early in the twentieth century it wasn’t until the twenty-first century that one of the lost Franklin ships was found.

Much of Canada’s history revolves around big and small voyages of discovery, beginning with the first Europeans crossing the Atlantic. From the time of the early settlement in the St-Lawrence valley to the present, subsequent European explorers pushed ever further into the Canadian wilderness, as they followed the rivers and lakes across the country. Obviously, these European explorers did not really discover anything…they simply retraced routes that the Inuit and other First Nations had travelled for centuries.


Nevertheless, the December edition of the Canadian Geographic is fascinating as it analyzes the find of the HMS Erebus from many different perspectives. It describes the contribution of archaeological evidence, modern technology and Inuit oral traditions in the successful of the ship this September. It compares the historical impact on Canadians, on Americans and on the British of the Franklin expedition and its aftermath, and the modern impact on all of us. It is well worth a read, although it leaves one with just as many questions after reading the edition from cover to cover as when one started.

Since 1925, campers at Camp Nominingue have travelled the lakes and rivers of the Petite nation, the Rouge and the Outaouais river systems and their headwaters, living adventures and testing themselves against those who travelled the routes before them. F.M. Van Wagner chose the site of the Camp because of its location in prime canoe trip country. He felt that every Canadian should have the opportunity to travel the historical paths of Canada – its lakes and rivers, by canoe! Each summer, 85% of the campers that arrive at Camp follow in the tradition of earlier campers who paddled these waters. Today, 20% of the campers at Nominingue arrive from outside of Canada to live this truly Canadian experience.


J. R. Warren, who was a camper and counsellor at Nominingue from 1939 through 1949, described what he felt about these canoe trips.

I became Radisson and Des Groseillers, and all the explorers who wandered far and wide throughout North America searching for whatever it was that beckoned them. Every time I climbed into the canoe, I was off on an expedition of untold danger and indescribable hardship – the intrepid explorer shining light into the black hole of the still undiscovered New World. Every time I set foot on a portage, I was a coureur des bois off to Rupert’s Land in the quest of the wealth of limitless furs.


I know that my imagination has wandered this way on canoe trips as I paddled across a never-ending lake or hiked a trail with a canoe on my shoulders. One doesn’t need to be the first to experience the excitement of discovery nor the thrill of having met the challenge of the wild! These are daily occurrences on a canoe trip…

Passion, Connection & Creativity

After being silent for two years, I decided that the Quebec Camps Association Conference was a good time to begin blogging once again!

The opening speaker at the conference was Jean-Pierre Brunelle, a physical education professor at the University of Sherbrooke. The topic of his talk was “Arousing Passion”. He spoke about the growing concern regarding youth becoming more sedentary and he identified passion as the key element in getting people to participate in physical activities.IMG_4938

Each year, the ACQ aims to invite one special guest from the wider camp world. This year, Jim Cain was that special guest. He is the author of 10 books on team-building, teamwork and teamplay. I attended two sessions with Jim. The focus of the sessions was community building through various games, especially games relying on a minimal number of props. Each of the games that Jim taught us included, among its multiple purposes, the development of connections between people.

The closing speaker was Jean David who works currently for the Carnaval de Québec, but who spent 15 years as marketing director of the Cirque du Soleil. One focus of his presentation concerned the importance of creativity. Within a company, the only limitation that exists is that which we put on our own imagination and dreams. Pursuing this thought, he identified creativity as the frequently forgotten essential element when governments speak about the great issues that confront society – health, economy, education and the environment. His take is that, with creativity, solutions to problems in every sector become possible. Without creativity, there is little hope for change.IMG_4968

I left the conference with new ideas and new energy, with the certainty that Nominingue has all the elements in place to make a summer camp experience come alive for the boys that attend. Whether it is a game of pony express on the first evening of camp or Western Night or the Tribal Games, or the wide variety of instructional activities from nature study to climbing to woodworking to archery to lacrosse, there are so many opportunities to get kids active and moving, and to experience activities that arouse their passion.

Camp Nominingue is a place of connection – between the campers and the counsellors and between the campers. The small tent group of 5 campers and a counsellor, and for most of the younger boys a junior counsellor as well, ensures that there is a comfortable community of friends and adults for each camper to rely on. Nothing works better than a canoe trip, an experience that most campers experience at Nominingue, where age-appropriate challenge and adventure are encouraged, to build team spirit, trust and confidence in a small group. At the end of each month, the tribal games and voyageur games expand the connections of the campers to include both older and younger campers, as each camper’s community expands to include maybe the whole camp.

Camp Nominingue has been in operation since 1925. Campers have been enjoying a program that works for boys for 90 years. It would be very easy to continue doing the same activities and take the same approach that was used last year or 40 years ago. Each summer, approximately 70 counsellors and 100-200 campers attend Nominingue at any one time. Our goal must be to listen to staff both new and old, to give campers opportunities to express their ideas and opinions, to identify new ideas, to provide the support required to implement such ideas, to be open to taking a risk, and to take on new challenges to ensure that Nominingue stays relevant and exciting for the next 90 summers!

I thank Jean-Pierre Brunelle, Jim Cain and Jean David for reminding us about some of the key goals that we must set for ourselves at Nominingue and at camps across Quebec.