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Finding the Best Summer Camps for Homeschoolers

by Jessica Parnell | Apr 10, 2015 | 4 min read

Homeschool parents know all too well the pressure that comes with choosing a homeschool curriculum, and often, parents apply those same pressures to themselves when choosing summer camps – but they don’t have to!

For many homeschool families, summer provides the much-awaited chance for everyone to get a breather, and a change of scenery, and you can enjoy your summer without losing ground academically. The key is using the summer wisely, and if you’re planning on sending your kids to camp this year, that hinges on finding the right camp to help your child grow physically, mentally, and, oh right, have fun!!

Before You Start the Search

The first way to make your summer camp search a success is to go into the process your goals first in your mind. This may require you to spend a little time thinking and talking with your child about what he/she wants to take away from their experience. Whether you are looking to send your little one on an adventure-filled week of physical activity, or into a more academic setting where they can broaden their horizons and dive into their favorite subject, the right camp is out there and, if you keep your goals in mind, you’ll be more apt to find a great fit.

Once you have outlined your goals as a parent for the summer, it’s important to correctly identify your child’s interest. This seems like a no-brainer, but there’s more to it than you think. A student’s best subject in school doesn’t always mean their interests lie in that same area; the child who gets outstanding grades in reading might also happen to love science, and the summer is the perfect time to explore that new curiosity!

Summer camp is a great alternative way for kids to catch up on a subject they could be struggling, as it is removed from the academic setting and in a brand new, fun environment. Kids are more apt to engage and even find newfound interest in a subject that they’ve struggled with in the past. For example, your child might need to look at a certain area of study differently to grasp it, and there are camps specifically dedicated to one subject that can do just that. This is also a great way to fill in gaps in learning and requirements from the previous year. So, don’t forget to log your hours, take lots of pictures and have your child keep a journal about their experiences!

Is your child an overnight or day camper?

As homeschooling parents, we are with our kids for the majority of their days, watching them grow, play, and learn. Because we are so invested it’s hard to surrender that responsibility and privilege to a camp staff, whether it be for just a day or a full week! Sending my son to overnight camp was a big step for him, and an even bigger leap in trust for me! At the same time, we know how important activities outside of the home are to building confidence, new friendships, problem-solving skills, and more. So if your child is ready to call their new summer camp home for a week, I encourage you to let go of your fears and embrace it. They’ll grow in new and exciting ways, and so will you!

The key to being safe is to interview camp staff well, make sure you discuss appropriate relationships, touch, etc. with your child beforehand, and to be really sure they are readySo, talk with your child and see what they are most comfortable with and be ready to truly listen. Ask them questions like , do you feel ready to stay away from us for a few days? If you are feeling scared, what will you do? Their answers will tell you a lot about whether or not they are ready and areas you should . . I wasn’t positive that my 8 year old was ready for a weekend, overnight camp but my husband had attended the camp as a child and was fully confident in the staff and felt our son was ready. And, after talking with our oldest and deciding to let him go, I learned my husband was right! Our son had an amazing experience and came home more confident and begging to go again.

See What’s Out There

Armed with the work you’ve put in about what will be best for your child this summer and their interests, now’s the time to dip your toe into the pool of summer camps!

Start locally, right in your own community – local colleges, athletic associations, community centers, and churches will all have information on camps they are running. The local paper is also a great place to start. And, never underestimate word of mouth and social media. Other parents are often happy to recommend camps that their children have enjoyed. Bonus tip: If you decide to send your child to a camp that another parent recommends, have your children meet beforehand. That way, there will be a familiar face waiting for them on the first day.

If you’re still having trouble, take your search to the web. Lifehacker recently rounded up the six best sites to use when finding the perfect summer camp. Don’t forget to check out community websites as well as they often have listings of local camps and links to webpages.

Ask Questions

When you think you’ve got your list narrowed down to a few camps, the real foot work begins. If the facilities are close enough, visit! Look around, be observant. Make an appointment to interview the director and to meet with a few of the counselors. Have your questions ready and take your child with you so that they can become familiar, and excited about the experience.

If you can’t visit, there are some things that you can inquire about over the phone or in person. On our list of inquiries: a broken down detail of the expenses, safety rules, qualifications of staff, medical care, typical daily schedule, and where to go for references. And keep your child’s unique needs in mind. My son is on a specific diet so we had to find a camp that would accommodate him. All camps should also have a nurse on staff and clearances ready to show you to put your mind at ease.

Once you’re satisfied with the above answers, it’s time to make the final decision. I hope that this helps you get a jump on summer camp-planning – summer is right around the corner! Those of us that remember going to summer camp likely cherish it as a precious childhood milestone, and I’m so excited to see that passed down to future generations!

Jessica Parnell
Hello everyone! I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and CEO of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers that take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. The one constant that always remains true is that there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter child.” Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and as a result, learns and functions differently. It’s our job to ensure that we’re raising each child to fulfill their individual purpose and when we can teach in a way that inspires them, we are on our way to homeschool success. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
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