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Summer Camps: An Opportunity for Exploration, Focus, and/or Fun

What's the best way for your child to spend an enjoyable and satisfying summer? At the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), we find that children are able to best develop their potential in an environment that offers experiences suited to individual needs. That's why it's worth searching for a proper fit. It's obvious that not all children thrive under the same circumstances. Well-matched and appropriate educational programs give children opportunities to develop their talent potential, and the summer months can provide powerful learning options that extend well beyond regular classroom fare.

At first look, you'll see an abundance of summer camp options from which to choose. The challenge is to sort through this almost overwhelming array of possibilities. Of course you need to be concerned with basic questions about safety, cost, location, and staff training. Checklists can be found through organizations such as the American Camping Association (www.acacamps.org) or the National Camp Association (www.summercamp.org). What else can you do to assure a good fit? Here are some ideas to help narrow choices and make camp shopping much more productive.

Begin by talking with your child about his/her hopes for the coming summer and compare them to yours. The words exploration, focus, and fun can be useful guideposts for these conversations.

Exploration:

Children perform at their highest level when they pursue an activity in which they have both interest and ability. In other words, they will show more willingness to put in effort when the something they are good at is also something they enjoy doing. While some children are lucky enough to easily connect to such a passion, other children need to be exposed to a smorgasbord of activities before they will select. Summer camps can be the perfect place to dabble in a number of different domains. Think of camp as an opportunity for discovering a new interest area.

Focus:

The school year can be frustrating for children who have a strong focus, especially in an area not addressed in the regular classroom. What if your child wants to pursue music, drama, archaeology, or even advanced math? These children want to experience the pleasure of delving deeply into a subject without distraction. Finding a camp with high-level training in a focus area can help a child not only master specific skills, but also develop persistence and self-discipline. This type of camp can also be a place where your child finds true friends and interest-peers.

On the other hand, you might be looking for a place where your child can develop necessary skills missed during the school year or to work on problem areas. Don't think of this as remediation or drudgery. Instead look carefully and don't stop until you find a program that primarily focuses on strengths and interests, but also recognizes and addresses deficit areas. This can help your child regain confidence in his/her abilities.

Fun:

Maybe your child just needs a real break from on-going lessons and tight schedules. Summer camps can be just the ticket for regenerating the mind and body. And, don't forget the importance of cultivating a spirit of adventure. The unexpected moments of discovery will create vivid, lasting memories.

With careful thought and consideration in advance, it's actually possible to combine the three objectives of exploration, focus, and fun. The key is for both you and your child to agree on how they are to be prioritized.

Once you have them in order, it's time to begin a search. Check the NAGC website (
www.nagc.org) where you will find information about summer and enrichment programs across the nation, including two articles with tips for researching summer camps.

The good news is you will likely find a match for your child, if you take the time up front to carefully consider what is most important.

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