MARCH | APRIL 2019 43 OPPORTUNITIES How will you fill your child’s summer?  In choosing a summer program, a parent will need to begin with some practical considerations: type of program, duration, location, transportation, and tuition.  Does your child need a traditional program or one that has a particular focus? Are you looking for a 2-week camp or an 8-week program? Co-ed vs. single sex? Is there a particular religious affiliation or is it non- denominational?  Would Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont be too far?  Or, would you prefer Texas, Wisconsin, or Michigan?  When looking at program fees, check to see what is included.  Airfare, uniforms, horseback riding, and other fees may not be included in the tuition. Programs in Texas, Colorado, and the Midwest tend to be less expensive than East Coast camps.  When is your child ready?  Most sleep-away programs take children as young as seven, but it is more common to enroll them at eight or nine.  Children are often ready to attend overnight camp well before a parent is ready to part with them.  If your child expresses an interest in going away, encourage that feeling because there is much to be learned from the experience.  Length of stay depends on the maturity of your child, but shorter is not necessarily better.  Two weeks is definitely better than one.  It takes time to learn new skills and build friendships.  Four- and eight-week sessions increase the benefits of the camp experience.  Most kids may feel a little homesick in unfamiliar surroundings, but all good camps have built-in mechanisms for dealing with those issues.   Mostparentsaresurprisedtolearnthemanydifferent possibilities for older children, from 6th grade to 12th grade.  Your child may have outgrown camp or is looking for something other than a traditional camp experience.   Community Service is often an exciting option.  It gives students a new appreciation for who they are by exposing them to new and different cultural experiences.  A teenager can help rebuild our communities in need in the U.S., work at a day camp in the Dominican Republic, study sea turtles in Puerto Rico or volunteer on a Native American reservation, to name only a few.  These programs satisfy school community service requirements and are often used as the basis for college essays. Does your teen need to learn to work with a group, stretch limits and gain confidence? An Adventure Program will develop leadership and communication skills through physical activities such as biking, rock climbing, scuba diving, hiking, and kayaking in the U.S. and abroad.  These same programs can include a home stay with a local family in a foreign country and a chance to learn the native language. An Enrichment Program on a College Campus—located at many colleges throughout the U.S. and abroad—is specifically designed for high school students who want to explore the feel of college.  They offer a good balance of freedom and choice with supervision appropriate for this age group.  Programming can include SAT preparation, college visits, and study in many areas.  The summer can be as academic as a teen may want, choosing from courses such as foreign language, psychology, computer science, and journalism to cooking, photography, or how to interpret dreams.  If your child already has a specialized interest, there is most likely a program out there to meet his or her needs.   Sailing while living on a boat in the Caribbean.  Community service in an exotic foreign country.  Farm Camp.  Language immersion.  Specialized programs in studio art, music, circus, or theater. Teen tours in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand. The opportunities are endless. Do some research.  With more than 11,000 summer programs in the U.S. to choose from, where do you begin?  Attend a camp fair, read local parenting magazines, search the net, talk to friends or use a consulting service. Onceyouhavenarroweddownyourchoices,itisimportanttoget to know the director and the philosophy that guides the program.  Each type of program warrants different questions.  What are the goals for the campers?  How are discipline problems dealt with?  What are the qualifications for the counselors and staff?  Who are they?  What age?  How are they trained?  What is the ratio of staff to campers?  How does the program communicate with parents? Quality summer programs offer much more than a recreational experience—they are educational institutions that teach life skills such as developing independence, relating to peers, coping with fears and challenges, and problem solving. Summer opportunities can help your child develop new interests, open their mind, choose a new direction, and make lifelong friends.   Editor’s Note: Helene Abrams is a camp specialist with Tips On Trips and Camps. She offers free advice about hundreds of summer camps and programs. Reach her at DISCOVER ENDLESS SUMMER Summer Camp Planning Guide