As an advisor with Tips on Trips and Camps, I pride myself on knowing more than the average parent about summer opportunities for children. Yet, I still struggle with which direction to go for my middle school boy. He thinks he has out grown the traditional overnight camp, and frankly would rather sit in front of the xbox all summer playing with his remote friends. One thing I do know– that is not going to happen! I don’t want a couch potato who occasionally whines about being bored two weeks into summer. As children reach 7th and 8th grade, their options really open up: domestic or international travel with some wilderness adventure or culture thrown in; academic enrichment or study skills to prepare them for the rigors of high school; language immersion if they have completed some language in middle school and want to really learn outside of a classroom environment; community service to open their eyes to the world around them. Even I struggle with which direction to go. My older son did sailing in the caribbean while learning to SCUBA dive. He loved that! However, each child is different, and sea sickness rules it out this time around. The possibilities are endless and the time is now to decide… I must get busy and apply my knowledge and expertise in order to help my own child find the right summer program.
I went to an interesting presentation recently by an academic advisor about how to get your child into the college of their choice. It turns out 8th grade is when you should really get them focused on school and start to prepare them, so they start out in 9th grade with good grades, instead of trying to get their sea legs under them. As a parent of three school aged children, I thought it was interesting, and true. As 9th and 10th graders, children often struggle in school as they face a huge developmental stage in their adolescent lives. If they don’t have good study skills at the beginning of high school, they can become overwhelmed.
Colleges are looking for a child who is passionate about something and who shows leadership skills. The advisor called it being “hooked”. Does the child have a thing they are truly good at or passionate about? Does he or she show intellectual curiosity? Perhaps it is academic enrichment; exploring a career field like computers, marine biology, medicine or model U.N.? Or perhaps it is working with children or animals in an intensive community service summer program.
He also mentioned that while most colleges require 3 years of a language, he believes that the only way to truly learn a language is to do language immersion. Sitting in a classroom 3 or 4 days a week for 45 minutes won’t be enough to truly learn how to speak a foreign language. You must experience the culture and be fully immersed.
So many of the overnight summer camps and teen programs we represent fit so well with his advice. They are building children emotionally, intellectually and physically. They provide new experiences and exposure to international culture and global awareness. Taking a child outside of his comfort zone often gives him great self esteem (ex. wilderness adventure with leadership training). The programs design their trips with growth in mind; empowering kids and reinforcing self reliance and social skills. Of course children don’t think of it in these terms; to them it is all about having fun with friends.