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Action Steps

Find Summer Opportunities to Balance the Big Picture

Many families make summer plans long before winter snow melts. Summer programs offer a variety of experiences that significantly differ from what fits into a traditional academic year. Now is an opportune time to take stock of what an individual child might need or want to do next summer that would help balance his or her overall education.

For some students, summer brings the chance to film a documentary, program a video game, conduct scientific research on the ecosystem of whales, or develop another personal talent or interest. When students are with like-minded peers, engaged in a common purpose, they learn and grow at a different level of intensity. During the school year, students may nurture particular passions amidst a full slate of academic classes, athletics, and clubs. Summer programs, however, provide the time and mentoring to focus. Students live and breathe their passions for an extended period, surrounded by friends who are equally enthusiastic.

Other students use summer programs as a strategy for academic enrichment. Perhaps a child would like to learn a new language, boost writing skills, change a math placement, or explore more electives than can fit into a tightly orchestrated class schedule. Some camps specialize in serving students with learning differences. Still more options include travel, service programs, traditional summer camps, study abroad, and wilderness adventures.

Any sleep-away experience offers tremendous potential for emotional growth by making it safe for students to test the waters of life away from home. Children broaden their horizons, reach out socially, and build self-esteem and a strong sense of identity from this accomplishment. Some children start with a one- or two-week experience after third or fourth grade; then extend their time commitment in subsequent years. Once summer camp has been experienced, the concept of boarding school is considerably less intimidating.

Starting around sixth grade, students can even sample boarding school in 4-to-6-week summer sessions where they attend classes, play afternoon sports, and participate in dorm life. This is an invaluable opportunity to build confidence in this setting before applying. Many boarding schools offer such programs and attending a summer session does not influence admissions for the academic year, so students are free to consider summer programs at any school.

Any summer program offers opportunities to develop leadership skills, make new friends, build relationships with adult mentors, and cultivate self-reliance. As part of our broader educational planning, we often talk with Bertram families about what types of summer experiences would benefit their children. I can assure parents that whatever their child’s interest, and at whatever level he or she wishes to engage, the perfect program probably exists.

Audrey Noyes Ludemann helps families seek independent school education, ranging from day schools to boarding schools and from elementary to secondary grades. She also is an invaluable resource for planning across different learning styles—serving families whose students are gifted and/or have moderate learning differences. She can be reached at