Which Session Should I Choose?

First and Second Sessions at Pemi provide a full experience within each three-and-a-half-week timeframe. However, events and opportunities differ with each session, whether they are First Session’s extra week of instructional occupations, 4th of July festivities, and Birthday Banquet, or Second Session’s Tecumseh Day, special trips, and Pemi Week, and it is luck of the draw as to when our Visiting Professionals are with us. About half of the boys each summer (around 85, ages eight through fifteen) are at Pemi for full season, joined by 85 in First Session and 85 boys in Second Session. Full Session boys enjoy all that Pemi offers, and rarely does a boy choose to scale back to a half season after experiencing Full Session. However, many campers happily return year after year for either first or second session out of preference, or because school, family, travel, and/or finances make it impossible to do Full Session. The three-and-a-half-week session is a solid camp experience and boys who have acclimated to camp routines are able to take advantage of every minute.

That being said, as with a college year abroad versus a half year abroad, there is no doubt that Full Session allows boys—who by the fourth week have fully settled into Pemi and feel comfortable with routines and friendships—to step further out of their comfort zones to try more new things and/or to refine expertise in a given area. Though this is counter-intuitive, a Full Session is an excellent choice for first-time campers. Transition from our familiar surroundings and routines to another setting takes time—even for those of us who return year after year—and can be all the more true for first time campers. The extra few weeks of Full Session lead to increased development in confidence and self-management skills in an almost magical, exponential way.  For this reason, we strongly suggest that a family consider a full session, if schedule and finances allow.

Pemi’s educational mission is to help boys develop into independent, good citizens and to fully-support parents as they navigate the essential skills of “letting go.” We like to think we do so by providing excellent mentoring and instruction, with the hope that campers will return for several summers, each summer building upon past accomplishments, whether that is for seven weeks or three-and-a-half.

-Dottie Reed

24 thoughts on “Which Session Should I Choose?

  1. Our experiences with Pemi had always been “first half,” as we have inflexible family commitments during August. This has worked well for us, and has always been terrific for our sons. Last summer, our middle son TH decided to try the full season experience. In doing so, he missed out on some family time–however the sacrifice was well worth it for him. He ended up building on and deepening what was already an important formative connection with all things Pemi. His experiences were even more varied than in years past. His growth while in the care of the wonderful Pemi staff and in the company of the unique Pemi community was a joy for us to see! All the good things he had experienced at Pemi were compounded by being there for the full seven weeks.

  2. Our oldest son just finished his 5th and final summer at Pemi. He went only for the first half when he was 11 and I clearly remember how upset he was when we showed up in mid-July to take him home. He begged us to let him stay at camp, but at that point it was too late to change the plan. After this, we opted to send our other 2 sons for the full summer right from the start. Close friendships with other campers and staff are the highlight of the Pemi experience for our boys and I think their relationships are really strong because they come for the full session. They love their Pemi friends and talk about them all year long.

  3. As wonderful as the half-session might be, the full session is exponentially greater. In his first year at Pemi, our son attended the first half and had a terrific time. However, the depth and breadth of that experience was even more special when he spent the full session at camp this year. Not only did he get the opportunity to try many new things that he’d never had the chance to try, but his connections to the place and people were further strengthened, enhancing his experience yet again. He loved it. We can’t recommend it enough to Pemi parents. He’ll be back for full session again next year!

  4. We have sent three sons to Pemi. Each started with a half season and then stayed full season for each of their following summers. To me, staying full season is simply getting more of a great thing. Spending their summers outside, unplugged, with a phenomenal staff of great role models has been good for our boys. Our third son came home after his 4th full season at Pemi this year and explained to us that he really has two homes – one with us, and one at Pemi! His favorite thing about Pemi, he said, is that everyone can be themselves and not feel they have to act cool. There are very few environments that offer this to boys today.

  5. I agree – our son started at age 11 with a half session, and was clearly not satiated when I picked him up – he felt keenly aware of all that he was missing leaving mid-way. So his second summer (last summer) was a full session – by far the longest he’d ever been away from home. We were more apprehensive than he was, for sure. Surrounded by campers, councilors and instructors, while participating in such a rich variety of sports and activities – there’s nothing we can do at home to give him all he gets at Pemi. Attending for a full session felt “complete” – he made great strides in new areas as well as improving some old favorites. We loved the opportunity to visit for parent’s weekend – just to “hang out” together, as well as to participate in Pemi life and see him in action. Sitting for a camp fire session is all the validation we could ask for of why he’s there. When he returned home (with a list of I think 37 or so email addresses of new friends), I was sure he’d dive into his own room and bed and close the door. But no, he asked that we pitch a tent in our yard and pile in together for one last night of communal living. Clearly, even after 7 weeks (or perhaps especially after 7 weeks!) the Pemi spirit holds on. We feel that Pemi summers are truly the best parenting we can do for our son.

  6. Our son completed his 2nd summer at Camp Pemi this past summer and has always gone for the “first session” only. This has to do with the fact that we have a family getaway in northern Michigan where my extended family has gone for generations and this, too, is an important part of his summer. We also enjoy some “down-time” before and after camp at home. Camp Pemi provides a warm, friendly, nurturing environment that instills confidence, self-esteem, independence and happiness in all the boys there. In our experience, the magic of Camp Pemi sets in on the very first day and only gets better with time. That being said, we feel (as does my son) that three-and-a-half-weeks (one session) provides him with the “core” of the Pemi experience – he has never felt as though he has missed something. There are undoubtedly events and experiences that he does miss out on by not going the full seven weeks, however, Camp Pemi does a fabulous job of making both sessions “special.” Who knows? He may very well attend Camp Pemi for the full seven weeks at some point.

  7. Our son, Hugh, has had two Pemi summers under his belt, both times first session. He lives for his time at Pemi! Next summer he will be joined by his younger brother. Hugh loves the first session and while he wishes to go a full summer, he is happy when he comes home to be with all of us again. He loves keeping up with the camp photos and newsletters and talks about his experiences everyday. Truth be told, his mom and dad are not ready to give up vacation as a whole family in August–which is a bit challenging to change. We fully expect that the boys will be going full sessions in a few years. We are so grateful for the extraordinary leadership at Pemi. We know that Pemi allows Hugh to grow in a way that he can’t grow at home. I think you have to go with what works for your family and for your child. No matter what, sending your child to Pemi for one session or both is the best gift you could ever give to your son!

  8. My older son, Nathan, has attended Pemi for the past three summers, each time as a half-season camper. With next year being his last, he got off the bus and announced that he needs to go for the full season next year. My younger, Caleb, attended two summers ago as a half-season camper, but this year would have nothing less than the full-summer experience.
    Both boys have flourished at Camp in ways beyond my imagination. What they obtain during a half or full season goes beyond anything that they could obtain, achieve, or acquire by being at home, traveling with the family, working, or participating in academic programs. We’ve tried them all, so I’ve been able to compare Camp-Pemi-growth to development in each of those situations. However, having seen Caleb, at the end of seven weeks at Camp… well, I am still beyond words.
    Caleb’s experience at Camp this year went beyond even his own expectations. During visiting weekend, he told me, “I can’t believe my summer at Camp is real because it seems to unreal to be real.” He had tremendous fun and whenever he wrote he talked about new things he was trying, his camp counselor and friends (those within and without his cabin).
    Both boys came home at the end of this past summer with healthier eating habits; greater desire to exercise and be fit; a larger sense of responsibility at home (Can you imagine that?); more caring, thoughtful, and sensitive to others. They even stepped up their initiative-taking tendencies. Whoa!!
    As a mom of a pre-teen and a mid-teen, I actually “talk” less. Parents, you know what I mean. They also grew in their self-esteem and self-confidence. Trying new things, and working diligently at things which are difficult, are no longer things from which they shy away. It’s amazing! The safe environment which Pemi provides enables our boys to sort of become all they can be. Then, each summer they take that up a notch. Nathan’s teachers at Peddie have positively commented on the growth they have seen in him since his return at the end of August. Caleb, is attending a NYC public middle school, and the opportunities for him to be unfocused or distracted, in a class of 30+ students, can be many at times. Yet, the resolution that he brought home from Camp Pemi, – the resolution that he cannot afford to waste one minute by making poor decisions – has remained strongly with him. When he left for Camp he was age 10. He had a birthday there, but came back 100, and with matching maturity to boot. He is working like never before. In this past month, only once have I had to say, “You’ve got to get that homework done.”
    Something transformational happens to our sons while at Camp Pemi. Half-season is great!! Full season even greater!!! Either way, Camp Pemi is PRICELESS!

  9. Our son Will has been at Pemi for the second session of camp for the past three years. He started when he was 11 and ever since his first trip he declared that he is a second session guy. He would never dream of missing the all important Tecumseh Day!!! In fact, when he plays baseball at home in Chicago during the first part of the summer I sometimes wonder if he is just warming up for Pemi and all the fun of Tecumseh Day. Will looks forward to working hard and playing hard at Pemi. Having the chance to unwind for a few weeks from the stresses of school and really relax, I feel that he is then ready and wanting to be at Pemi to “take it up a notch”. When he comes home in mid-August he is full of good memories and seems to then be ready to apply himself to school and his sports. Pemi has been a wonderful place for Will to spread his wings and just be himself.

  10. We have had three boys, Myles, Eric and Oliver each go 5 years to camp starting at the age of ten. Since we live in Germany and our boys go to year-round school, we often didn`t have a choice but to send our boys only on a half session. We soon learned, though, that if given a choice, it would always been a full session. There has not been a year yet that we were not greeted by sons with tears in their eyes-they never wanted to leave.
    Pemi has been the best, lasting experience for all three boys and the memories of the summer carry way over in to the winter. During many lunches after school something is said or done to trigger a memory and the boys start collectively telling stories, singing songs or wondering what a counselor or camper is now doing.
    As parents, we have never had second thoughts about sending the boys to camp. In fact, our vacations, or absense of them, are based on the time we can give the boys at Pemi. The community life, the friendships, the bonds, the openness to others has been great. Pemi is something you can’t just quite explain, it has to be experienced.

  11. For our boys, Michael and Andrew, there is no place like Camp Pemigewassett: cold morning “polar bear” dips in the lake, sounds of excitement rising up from the dining hall the night before Tecumseh Day, grassy playing fields, wood cabins, lifelong friendships. They live for it!

    Until this year, the boys have always been Second Session campers. For his fifth year, however, our oldest, Michael, convinced us to let him go Full Season. He absolutely loved it. While the Second Session is tremendous with Tecumseh Day and Pemi Week, the Full Season allows him more time to take advantage of everything camp has to offer. By attending Full Season, Michael was able to embark on more extensive overnight trips, gain valuable work experience by taking on a “job”, truly master activities such as sailing, try new occupations, and build deeper bonds with friends and staff. He thrives on everything, and hopes he can always go for the Full Season.

    Whether the boys choose the Full or Half Session, Pemi expands them. Each summer, they come home from camp with enhanced physical skills, a greater knowledge of the natural world, and a terrific bond between the two of them. It helps build their character and teaches them life lessons. The boys grow in so many ways but, the best part, is it allows them to be kids. To them, Pemi is just fun! They are counting the days until next summer…

  12. We have had two boys at Pemi, one a current camper, the other a graduated camper. They started attending at age 11. We started with half season because I was reticent to have them gone for such a long time and unsure how they would do with the full 7 weeks. It rapidly became clear that they prefer the full term! When I tell non-camper acquaintances that my son is gone for 7 weeks, they react with pity, amazement, and suspicion (and sometimes perhaps envy). As much as I miss our son while he is gone, I would recommend the whole session for those who can. There are differences between the halves. The first offers more instrucutional opportunities and the second contains more Pemi traditions. If your son is new to Pemi and going for half, I would recommend the first half. If he is a returning camper it doesn’t matter. Our kids have enjoyed new experiences, matured, become more responsible, and had a great time at Pemi. I wish I could somehow figure out what makes it such a unique environment and bottle it for home use!

  13. Our 9 year old started at Pemi 2nd session when he was 8. During the first summer he was quite homesick, and if his letters home were to be believed, we feared that Pemi was going to be a one time experience. To our great surprise, when we picked him up, he leaped into our arms announced “I’m coming back full session next year!”. It took him two full weeks to round the bend on homesickness and really get into the camp groove. Unfortunately, those letters arrived after he was back from camp. One camp director we met while visiting camps told us “during the first week the kids are running on adrenaline, during the second week homesickness sets in”. In my opinion this leaves little time to really experience and enjoy a shorter camp session. This past summer, now as a “seasoned” full session camper, our son had the opportunity to participate in all of the wonderful Pemi traditions and to perform in the G&S production of HMS Pinafore which is available only to full session campers. The transformation was unbelievable. He returned more confident, more independant, kinder and better able to work cooperatively with his peers. We truly believe this is the greatest gift we could give our son. So, if you only have 3 and a half weeks, Pemi is a fantastic place. If you are lucky enough to have 7, it is a super fantastic place.

  14. I spent 12 full summers as a camper, waiter, and dishwasher (more money than a counselor and no curfew) at a Camp in the Catskills. My first full summer (Camp was a full 8 weeks back in 1969) was when I was 7 (Turned 8 that October). That summer was magical and it was not just because Woodstock was happening a scant 5 miles away. (Didnt realize that till I was much older.) The lessons learned in a group living environment even at that age were priceless. When it came time to send my boys to CAMP PEMI as they entered 2nd Grade I was surprised to find that only one other boy that age was going full season. There was no question in my mind that my boys were ready on many different levels to handle a full summer experience, but that may have to do with my “cheerleading” the full summer experience since they were old enough to walk. At Camp, there was no homesickness, seperation anxiety, etc. Having no experience at changover I was pleasantly surprised how seamless the transition was for both remaining and new campers. Every family and boy is different but for me the lessons learned and time spent with my boys at home for 10 months compliments the independence my boys experience during the 2 months spent at Pemi every summer. The two days of tears at home after camp every year are replaced with big smiles during our after camp Presi Traverse Hut Hike. My boys get a huge kick out of reading the Hut Logs signed by former Pemi Campers. As stated by all previous families, Pemi will be a great experience for either half or full session campers, but know that your child is ready for a full camp experience at any age (even if the parents might not be :))

  15. I am the mother of 4 sons who have attended/are still attending Pemi, and our experience has been that by attending full session, the boys get the very most out of their time at Pemi. (That being said, we have had an occasional half session boy, and those also have been positive camp experiences). As a family we have moved around the country a bit, so Pemi has been like a home away from home for our boys over the years. It is because they have spent so many full sessions at Pemi that they been able to form truly valuable friendships with boys/men from all over the world. Because of Pemi our 20-year old has best friends he has known since age 9, and there is no question that these young men will continue to be among his life-long friends. Our youngest was in the youngest cabin for the second session this past season, and he hopes to return next summer as a full-time camper. He claims that he just has too much to do to squeeze it all into one session. (Currently he practicing “Heart of Gold” on his guitar so that he can play it at camp next summer.) He also recognizes that by staying for the whole summer, he increases his chance of forming deeper friendships with the campers/counselors there at Pemi. Though there are a gazillion more reasons to send your child to camp for the full summer, I will sum it up by saying that the longer your child stays, the more he gets out of the activities, being tech-free, friends, role models, cabin inspection, games, wearing no shoes, competing, sleeping outside, climbing mountains, bathing in a lake, finding turtles, learning new skills, wearing the same clothes 4 days in a row… OMG, I could go on forever. Footnote: if you have no choice but to do half session, go for it. It’s still the best way for you boys to spend their summers!

  16. Our 13 year old son, Dan, just finished his 3rd season at Pemi and his first as a full time camper. I cannot say enough about how much he loved the full term experience. A week before he was scheduled to come home, we received a note saying he wished he had more time at Pemi. For any parent on the fence, I would encourage them to listen to their son. Dan really enjoyed the half season experience his first 2 years but after that second summer, he really wanted to go to Pemi full season. There was so much more he wanted to do and try and 3.5 weeks were not enough. Also an added plus to going full term is that you will be able to go up for visiting weekend and get to experience the magic of Pemi first hand. All the way home after visiting weekend, my husband and I couldn’t stop talking about how lucky our son was to be part of Pemi…and now his cousin is too!

  17. Harry has tried both first and second sessions at Camp. Since returning from his first full season at Pemi , Harry has proven himself here at home – and during the first weeks of school – as extremely helpful, interested and mature. The change (in addition to turning twelve!) occurred at Pemi.

    Harry had a great summer of growth. A large part is due to Harry himself, but also great thanks go to Henry, his levelheaded, supportive cabin counselor, and the entire Pemi family looking out for him.

    Thank you for giving Harry the chance to take on new responsibilities at Camp. He cherishes Pemi, speaks of it often, and proudly wears his Pemi t-shirts, shorts, and sweats all weekend during the “off season”!

  18. We have two sons that have attended the second session of camp. Our 10 year old has attended Pemi for two summers and our 13 year old has attended for three summers. Both have enjoyed their time at Pemi tremendously. Due to our school ending very late in June and early summer sports conflicts, the second session has worked out perfectly for our family. Although other campers have been there for the full term, our sons have always felt a warm welcome and enjoyed an easy transition into the daily routine of camp life.

  19. We love the 2nd session for our boys! They would go the full session if possible, but my wife and I like the balance between time home and time away that the 2nd session provides. We try schedule our summer vacation as a tag along after camp so they get 4.5 weeks in total!

  20. Our son Graham has done two summers at Pemi, both for only the first session. Our nephew Dylan did five summers at Pemi; the first four years were one session only and the last year was for the full summer, which Dylan really enjoyed. We have decided not to do a full summer for two reasons, even though we know boys get so much out of that. First, Graham is adamant that he wants to do only one session. Secondly, now that our daughter is in high school and must do 2 weeks of preseason sports practices before school starts, we wouldn’t be able to do our two week family vacation if Graham went for the entire summer to Pemi.

  21. Our son Noah attended Pemi for the first session last year and the full session this past summer. It was entirely his choice to go for the full session this summer. He has thoroughly enjoyed the Pemi experience and all that it offers. Having the flexibility of a full or half session is ideal for families that choose not to commit to a full summer session initially although they may choose a full session at some point in the future. I feel the half session still has plenty to offer boys in terms of activities, learning opportunities and bonding experiences with staff and other campers.

  22. I concur with many of the other parents of full-sessioners – our son Andrew went for the second session his first year and then insisted on going for the full session every year after. He just feels that he gets so much more out of the extra time, and as well gets to participate in G&S. We do have to say that our European friends can’t believe we send our son away for 7 weeks, but we’re rewarded with the smiles and memories Andrew comes home with. Additionally, it’s his one chance of the year to feel truly “American” which will certainly help him later in life.

  23. We had two boys at Pemi this past summer – one for the full and one for the 2nd half – and i can say that BOTH had an incredible and positive experience – Pemi is a magical place!!!
    I found myself in the interesting position of being able to see our full session son in July when we brought his younger brother up for the 2nd session – I will admit, that our full session son was just not quite “done”. . . meaning that there was a noticeable difference in him (maturity, growth, appreciation of his experience, etc) when we collected him in August than when we saw him in July. It would have been too soon for him to leave at 3.5 weeks – he still had so much to do!
    The younger brother is now clamoring for the full session, but he too will have to wait!

  24. Our son has been a full season camper for three years and wouldn’t have it any other way.

    From the beginning, he was adamant on a full session, despite our efforts to convince him that 3 1/2 weeks was MORE than enough. One morning while I was wringing my hands over this, the head of his school looked me in the eye and asked “Is there a reason why you aren’t listening to your son? It sounds like he is ready to me.” Sheeeesh, I felt like a crumb.

    And so we took the plunge. He went off to camp–his first year–as a full session camper, and had the time of his life. The full session has actually been exactly right for him. As each year goes by, we are glad to see his is not just sticking with his ‘best’ and ‘safest’ pursuits, but is actively trying things outside of his comfort zone….and loving the experience of trying it. He loves his sports (baseball & tennis), but he is becoming more well-rounded (sailing, wild foods, wooly critters). While boys love to be the ‘best’ at something, I also believe that the more things you find you enjoy in life, the greater the chances of happiness throughout your life.

    An only child, he is also making friends for life…this band of brothers is an important source of comraderie and security. That he has made these friendships on his own, independent of his parents, has been very empowering for him. The full session allows for a deepening of these ties that bind. He has always been confident, but because of Pemi, his confidence soars, and when he comes home, he is ready for a new school year and all of the new challenges that will bring.

    The only caution I give to parents is that if you–like we did–find it hard to let go, be prepared to see yourself turning into one of those over-the-top parents you read about in magazines. We spent hours stalking the Pemi website searching for a glimpse of our son and celebrating when we could identify the back or his head or a knee. We did in-depth analyses of the 12 word letters home. We conversed with the dog.

    Net, every child is different, but our experience has been a terrific empowering experience for our son; we are so glad we listened to him 4 years ago.

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