While I wrote up the course description for School Of The Forest’s Family Bushcraft Week, I couldn’t help but think of the families in the neighborhood I grew up in, and our yearly “backyard campout”. Once every summer, all the fathers, and their kids would pitch tents in the small common ground behind our homes and sleep out for the weekend.
This wasn’t a remote camping experience, or a grand adventure of any kind obviously, but I know every kid in the neighborhood looked forward to it as soon as summer started to roll around. We enjoyed all the typical camping experiences; cooking over a fire, making smores, and telling ghost stories. I remember being awake and outdoors long past a kid’s normal bedtime, playing games and listening to all the dads catching up on each other’s lives.
This was a simple, inexpensive way for families to bond as well as a community building experience. As a kid, it was just a fun weekend around friends, but now that I’m older I see it as something that fed a deep-seated need in most people. Over the fall Wilderness living Semester, I read a book called “Tribe” by Stephen Junger. Junger explores the growth of human culture, and how we relied on each other on a day to day basis, and through overcoming adversity and daily challenges, our small social groups grew closer to each other. Modern life doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities like this, and when it does it can be somewhat contrived (I’m thinking of events like “mud runs”).
So that’s a big basis for the programming philosophy behind the Family Bushcraft Week. Families can come out and work together every day to meet their needs. We don’t do team building exercises or anything like that, but I feel confident in saying that a week of chopping wood to cook meals, building natural shelters to sleep in and working on outdoor projects and skills together will bring you closer together as a family, and help form friendships with other families on the course. My hope is that after attending this program, families might go home and start their own “Backyard Campout” tradition with their neighbors and watch their communities flourish for it.