Yes, you heard that right...
I don’t think I have ever been met with more confused reactions than when I told people we were going to family camp this summer. In all fairness, this concept is not something most people are familiar with, and for good reason. Summer camp is for kids, not adults right? Well, Pine Cove has been a long time host in bringing families together for what they consider the best summer vacation you can take. Have I got your attention now? Alright, lets dive in!
My husband grew up attending family camp at the original location in Tyler, Texas for his entire childhood (and some of his adult life. I won’t rat him out on his exact age of his final year but he was older than the college counslors for several of those last summers!) In 2017, they opened up a new family camp on the South Carolina/Northern Georgia border so being a southeastern family...we knew this would be a great place for us to go. We were certain we would be a Pine Cove family but it was just a matter of when we would start attending. Our kids are young so we debated whether or not this was the optimal time to start attending but Pine Cove will care for even the littlest of babies so we figured, why not now? Quint won’t remember his first year but one day he can hopefully claim that he is a life long Pine Cover!
We were placed on the waiting list in early September for both the Texas and South Carolina locations and got the call in late April that we were in for South Carolina! *if this is something you want to do with your family, I can’t stress enough how important it is to call on the open registration date and get your spot reserved/be first or second in line on the waiting list. Open registration for this year is on August 30th so be sure to call first thing in the morning to secure your spot.*
There is a lot I could cover but in order to keep things succinct, I have broken it down into the main questions I have recieved:
What is family camp? In a nutshell, its summer camp that you attend with your whole family.
What is Pine Cove? Pine Cove is a Christian camping organization based out of Tyler, Texas with additional locations in Columbus, TX (in between Houston and Austin) and just outside of Clemson, South Carolina (2 hrs northeast of Atlanta). They offer family camps and youth camps for kids ranging from 2nd grade to 12th grade. They just celebrated their 50th anniversary last year so they are well established in the summer camp world.
Which camp did you attend? Pine Cove Chimney Point. The other family camps in Texas are:
Columbus- Pine Cove Crier Creek
Do you stay in cabins with other families? The accommodations are much nicer than your standard summer camp cabin as each family has their own cabin that is shared with three other families. When I say share, I mean the building is shared but each family has their own private suite with two bedrooms (Room 1: queen bed / Room 2: 2 bunk beds) and two baths (one for each room). Each suite also has a mini fridge, porch and a washer dryer which is PARAMOUNT for any mother who knows how dirty clothes and towels can get when you are practically living outside for a week.
What do you do at family camp? Pine Cove is a Christian camp so everything revolves around the spiritual development of both the parents and children in a fun environment. The kids are cared for the majority of the day by the college counselors while the parents spend time together at camp activities (swimming, boating, ropes course, golf, dune buggies, archery, crafts, horseback riding, white water rafting, etc) and attending speaker sessions with the other parents.
How much do the counselors ACTUALLY care for your kids? One of the first conversations we had with the camp director when we arrived was begging us to LET THEM SERVE US that week were were there. That meant letting them walk with our fussy baby while we had dinner, cutting up the food for our toddler, coming to our cabin at 6:45 EVERY MORNING to help get our kids dressed and ready for the day and taken to breakfast, fighting our toddler to take a nap, etc. It took me about 48 hours to fully turn off my mom mode and just let them do their thing but once I did....I cannot express the gratitude and relief it was to have that precious time of regunivation with my husband and other adults.
Is the food typical camp food? Mass production of food is always tricky but I am not exaggerating when I say the food we were served at camp was just as good or better than restaurant quality dining. Two nights we had adult only meals which were fancier than our typical dinners and it was just as good as any fine dining restaurant I have eaten at.
What did you like most about family camp? Ah, there is so much!
-I loved having a shared experience like this with my kids. Getting to see the fun they were having first hand brought me so much joy.
-It was also great to meet so many other wonderful families who were pursuing the same Christ-centered values for their kids and desiring to grow in their marriage.
-Sitting under amazing teaching from Dr. Crawford Loritts and the conversations that came out of that with my husband.
-Having a stress free morning with Dwight all the while having the peace and comfort of knowing my kids were being taken care of and loved by amazing, Jesus-loving counselors.
- THE COUNSELORS! College kids get a bad rap (for good reason, sometimes) but Pine Cove scours the nation for the top quality college students to work at their camps. These “kids” not only could love and care for our kids on their level...but also could carry on meaningful conversations with the adults. I know when our kids get older, they will look up to these counselors and hopefully be encouraged to live their life in a way that they see them doing. Parents can tell kids the same things over and over that fall on deaf ears but have a 20 year old say it and suddenly they take it as gospel truth!
-Fun is fostered and welcomed. From theme night activities to dress up for to the cutest talent show in the world where anyone can do anything they desire and they are cheered on rigorously by the crowd!
Will you go back next year? YES! And the year after that and the year after that. We view this as not only a fun family vacation for us...but as huge investment for our family development and our kids spiritual life. We look forward to going as long as our kids have interest in being there and look forward to reconnecting with the same families committing to attend every year with us as well. It is almost like a giant family reunion every summer.
I’d love to answer any other questions you may have about Family Camp and hope that this encourages you to do something like this with your kids as well. They say you only get 18 summers with your kids at home so why not make them count...