Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Managing Your Child's Summer Break

Working parents struggle to manage summer break

For working parents, the challenge to fill their child’s daytime schedule in the summer can be a daunting one. My Wife and I have recently completed (mostly) this activity for our son for the summer of 2009 and I thought it might be interesting to share our formula for success.

You Are Probably Not Prepared You This

If you are new to the experience, there is almost most that can prepare the working parent for task of filling a child’s schedule in the summer for approximately ten weeks. From around 8 am to 5 pm every weekday give or take an hour either, you want to fill your child’s day with fun, interesting, and perhaps academically stimulating activities.

The only point of reference for most of us is the Winter and Spring week long breaks that come earlier in the school year. For Winter/Spring break, our school district does not time these breaks to coincide with the majority of other districts, thus leaving us without the option of the “one week camps” that are offered. (mostly sports or other type of entertainment camps) Instead, we have opted to each take vacation time from work and develop a customized day to day plan for our son. With ten weeks of summer break, this option could not work for us, so we decided to explore some other options. In the following sections, I’ve provided our detailed steps to organizing and executing your child’s summer camp plan.

PS: If you have more than one child, please keep in mind that you will most likely need to multiply the “steps” below times the number of children. Unfortunately, there are no real shortcuts to build a successful summer camp plan.

Step 1: Information Gathering

We are constantly on the lookout for summer camp options and sometime not much later than January 1, we begin to collect information. (websites, brochures, etc.) We find that most providers of the summer camp experience announce (plans, dates, prices) anywhere from the beginning of January through the middle of April.

Remember what worked and what didn’t from the previous year.
Get on the mailing list of summer camp providers if the option is offered
Create a summer camp file and organize all this information
Make assumptions about whether you want all fun and games, all academic, or some combination of the two (aka nirvana)
Challenge those assumptions by talking to your child
Let your child know what options are being considered
Determine if there is some goal that you or your child wishes to accomplish
Is there something your child would like to learn? (academic, sport, music, dance, theater, etc.)
Another important consideration, do you want to go with one provider for the entire summer period? Some reasons you may want to do this include:
One provider provides stability in location, drop off/pick-up time
Only one place to sign up
May cost less since you are “buying” bulk
You have actually identified one place the covers all your needs
This is easiest choice there can be.
Determine what your maximum budget for summer camp can be.
Don’t forget meals including lunch and snacks. How are these provided? What do they cost?
Bay Area Parent usually has a special summer camp issue and also schedules an event with many camp providers who will be very happy to pitch their experience.
Search the internet, ask friends for recommendations.
It is normally not an option to “visit” a camp, since camps are looked at by the provider as an “event” and the staff is not in place until it needs to be. At most, you may be able to arrange an interview with an administrator or director.

Step 2: Choose The Best Alternatives

Having completed the information gathering, you need to figure out if you’ve covered the entire period. Here’s how we managed this activity:

Create a calendar for the entire summer period week by week (don’t forget to factor the family summer vacation into this)
List all of the choices with the drop off time and pick up time
Determine if there are any gaps in the schedule that cannot be accounted for in your normal commute routine. (i.e. drop off or pick up time is too early or too late)
Call up the providers and ask any questions or deal with any concerns that you have. Takes notes and put them in your summer camp file.
How to fill these “gaps”?
Ask Grandparents, other relatives, or friends for help
Hire someone you would trust to transport your child (professional, babysitter, etc.)
Attempt to negotiate with camp for “extended” hours
Rearrange your schedule to manage being “away from work”

We’ve found the only option that can consistently work for us to negotiate with our respective employers to get a very flexible schedule for the summer period. We offer to come in earlier, stay later, or work extra hous from home or if all else fails, take more bits of vacation to cover.

Finally, it is a very good idea to go over the proposed schedule one last time with your child to insure you’ve identified and dealt with any questions or concerns from the young person’s perspective. Remember, they are going to spend a good deal of time at these camps while you are spending a good deal of money! Ideas for discussion:
How/when the child will be transported to camp
Daily schedule of activities
If appropriate, the transition in certain weeks from one camp to another

Here are some examples of summer camp types that our son either attended or considered: Basketball, Theater, Tae Kwan Do, Tennis, Racquet Ball, Math, Story Writing, Golf, Explorers, and Science.

Step 3: Get Signed Up

Don’t leave anything to chance if you want to fulfill your dream schedule of camp activities. You need to sign up as soon as possible. Here are some reasons to sign up sooner rather than later:

Save your spot in case the camp should fill up. (you won’t have to scramble to replace a spot in the schedule)
Discounts offered for early registration
Show of interest in certain activity helps lessen the chance a camp might get cancelled
Piece of mind. You’ll have the feeling the things are under control

Step 4: Confirmation of Camps

The final step in the process is basically to insure that things are happening as planned. You won’t be sorry if you invest a bit of time to insure that you remain on the “same page” with your chosen camp provides on the with regard to schedule and activities.

Make sure you get an acknowledgement (email or written confirmation) of you payment
Call up the camp and tell them in a nice way that you’ve made an investment and are counting on them to fulfill an important part of your summer schedule.
Request to be notified immediately of any changes to schedule and/or check back on websites or write an email to confirm everything is happening according to plan.

Learn From The Experience:
Keep all the information (brochures, contact names, etc.) and put it away until next year. Chances are you’ll be managing this summer project for a few years to come. Make sure you find out what your child liked and didn’t like so you can start the discussion anew next year and help the young person remember.

Created by Bill Keys

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