Summer programs provide kids with fun learning opportunities that help them continue to develop during the summer break. If you have an elementary-age child, there may be several summer programs for kids in your area that they could attend. Here are some tips to help you find the one that's most suited for your child.
Tailoring to Your Child's Interests
Summer is a time when children are free to explore whatever interests them. During the academic year, students and teachers must follow a set curriculum that prepares students both for standardized tests and the next grade level. In the summer, though, students don't need to follow a particular curriculum. Instead, they can delve into a subject matter they find interesting.
Even at the elementary level, there are summer programs for kids that focus on particular interests. Sports camps are popular, but there are also more academic programs oriented around the natural sciences and math, literacy, music and the arts, and multicultural experiences.
Your child has undoubtedly expressed interest in certain academic areas by the time they're in elementary school. Some children will say outright what their favorite subject is. If your child isn't as vocal about what they like, look at the library books they bring home or areas they get the best grades in -- these are likely the topics and subjects they're most interested in.
Whatever your child's interest, sign them up for a summer school program that focuses on that interest. Attending a program that has a focus gives your child an opportunity to connect with other kids that have similar interests, and it lets them explore the subject in creative ways. These friendships can last long after the program, for they're founded on a common interest. The additional learning can serve as inspiration in the coming year to remain engaged with the subject matter after school resumes.
Following a Montessori Approach
In order to promote curiosity and creativity -- and to keep learning fun -- look for a program that follows a Montessori approach. As the American Montessori Society explains, the Montessori approach is a scientifically based teaching style that's been used by teachers for more than 100 years.
The Montessori teaching philosophy encourages children to learn together in multi-age groups, encourages independence within limits, provides order, and builds on children's natural eagerness to learn. These traits are especially appropriate for learning in summer -- when children are often with other children, have more independence, still need some order, and want to explore what they like.
A summer program for kids that's tailored to a particular subject can still employ a Montessori teaching philosophy. For example, a science and math program might have stations set up for watching tadpoles grow into frogs, mixing baking soda and vinegar together, solving geometry puzzles, and building bridges from blocks. These stations would promote learning in Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics. Students could be allowed to choose which station they wanted to work at, thus providing freedom while still guiding them towards subjects within science and math.
Going Places and Welcoming Special Guests
Finally, look for a summer school program for kids that includes field trips and special guests.
Field trips take learning outside of the classroom and provide real-world educational opportunities. For instance, going to see a kid-friendly play at the local theater gives kids in a performing arts summer program a chance to see what they could do with their learning as they grow up.
Special guests offer fun breaks and give kids opportunities to ask specialists questions about what they do. Talking with a professional musician, for example, can help kids at a music program learn about what it's like to make music and how to do it well.