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March 6, 2011

Just the (Camp) FAQs

By Tampa Bay Parenting

What parents should know before choosing a camp

Every year parents are faced with the same question, how to make the summer both fun and constructive for their kids. More families are turning to summer enrichment programs as a way of adding value to the summer camp experience.

Not all summer enrichment camps are created equal and there’s much that parents should consider when evaluating programs.

Does the area of enrichment have any practical application to your child’s academic future?

Several camps position themselves as enrichment programs when they really are glorified and expensive vacations for the students who attend. Do the kids like these camps? You bet. Before signing up, take a good look at the program’s schedule of activities. Close inspection may reveal that there’s far more downtime and unstructured free time than there is quality enrichment. There’s nothing wrong with indulging your child in one of these programs, some of which are in Europe and tropical locations or on cruise ships. Just know that there may be little or no lasting value to the student.

What kind of training and expertise does the staff possess?

If a summer program bills itself as providing new skills to participants, then make a point to learn about the background of the staff that will teach these skills. Are the program leaders teachers or experts in a particular field? Also, inquire as to the training they receive. Many summer programs scramble at the last minute to hire summer staff. As a result, the experience and training of some staff members may be lacking.

Is there a balance between learning and fun?

The last thing a student needs in summer is more school. A good summer enrichment program gives students the feeling that they’re at camp, not back at school. While some programs try to combine learning and fun by giving the campers adequate free time, the best camps incorporate fun right into the learning. When a student enjoys the learning process, the brain does a better job of assimilating and retaining the new information.

In what ways can a program enrich a student’s life?

Typically, when parents hear summer enrichment they think of academic enrichment. Clearly, when students are able to acquire new skills in areas such as creative writing, reading comprehension, problem solving and critical thinking, they benefit. However, if a camp offers them growth in life skills areas that build their confidence, motivation and self-esteem as well as their communication and leadership skills, then you’ve found a summer enrichment program that can help a student grow in school and in life.

What’s a good length of time for a summer enrichment camp?

There is no set length that is best. Students do benefit from some downtime in the summer, so a program that runs three or more weeks may be excessive and expensive. On the other hand, camps that last just a few days will have limited value. Similarly, day camps don’t have the same impact as residential enrichment camps, where students get to stay on-site for the duration of the program. Teens, in particular, are nocturnal. Some of the best learning can come in the evening sessions of summer programs. Look for enrichment camps on college campuses. Middle school and high school students enjoy the experience of living in college dorms for a week or more. It can even prove to be inspirational as they begin to think about college.

Sending your child to the right summer enrichment program can pay long-term dividends. Honed academic skills, increased motivation or added confidence can translate into better grades as well as new academic and personal interests. In turn, this growth can lead to better colleges, college scholarships and rewarding careers.


Bobbi DePorter is a teen motivation and accelerated learning expert, serving more than five million kids through her SuperCamp and Quantum Learning school programs. Visit www.SuperCamp.com or www.QLN.com to learn more.

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