Choosing a Summer School

Selecting the summer school program that is best for your child isn't always an easy process. In fact, finding the right summer school can be quite overwhelming, especially if you've never had to deal with the process of summer school enrollment in the past. Fortunately, when it comes to summer school selections, there are specific elements to consider and these factors can help you choose the summer school that will best suit your child.

Understanding the Differences Between Summer Schools

The first thing a parent needs to understand is that summer schools can serve different purposes for different children. Because there is such a wide variety of students, each with his or her own unique needs, there is a wide variety of summer school programs available. Some summer schools cater to students who are ready for college prep while other summer schools cater towards those in need of help with their remedial studies.

If your child excels in schoolwork, a summer school focusing on basic math probably won't do much to stimulate his or her mind. Instead, a summer school geared towards advanced studies may be a better fit. On the other hand, a student who struggles to grasp basic math concepts probably wouldn't do well in a summer school structured for advanced students. It's important that you find a program that meets your child's individual academic abilities. This means that the first step towards narrowing down your summer school selection is to consider exactly which type of summer schools you should be looking for.

The Three Different Summer School Categories

Almost all summer schools fall into one of three categories. These categories include remedial summer schools, preparatory summer schools and elective summer schools. The key is in understanding the differences between the three.

Remedial Summer Schools
Remedial summer schools offer students assistance in the studies they find difficult during the regular school year. For instance, if you have a child who is failing science, he or she may be required to take a remedial summer school class to bring their studies up to speed so they can continue on to the next grade without being overwhelmed during science period. If your child is struggling with his or her coursework, your decision may have been made for you as you will most likely need to enroll your child in a remedial summer school program. Remedial summer school programs are also good for students who need a structured, educational environment during the summer months when regular classes are not in session.
Preparatory Summer Schools
Preparatory summer schools are geared towards students who excel in their studies. If your child needs continued mental stimulation and educational challenges, a preparatory summer school is likely to be your best bet. Children who thrive on educational excellence tend to do very well in these summer school environments and the summer months are not wasted when it comes to their intellectual endeavors. A student on the fast-track to higher education may want to enroll in a summer school that will prepare him or her for their future studies.
Elective Summer Schools
Unlike remedial and preparatory summer schools, which are academic in nature, elective summer schools are more recreational in nature. Classes such as archery, cooking, sewing and even video game programming can be taken at summer schools offering elective courses. If your child is one of those who needs time away from the rigor and the structure of the school year, yet still needs activities to keep them occupied during the summer months, elective summer school classes may be your best bet. Your child can take as many or as few classes as he or she likes and they can enroll in classes pertaining to their specific interests. For instance, if your son or daughter enjoys working on the computer, he or she may want to enroll in a computer course or if archery has always interested your child, an archery class may be available.

Sit down with your child and determine what he or she wants and needs, then go about matching those needs and interests up with the appropriate summer school. Once you find summer schools that offer the programs you are looking for, you need to research the program and the school to make sure it truly is a good fit for your child.

To Board or Not To Board

In addition to the three categories discussed above, there are two sub-categories that all summer school programs also fall into ? boarding schools and day schools. When a child attends a summer school that offers boarding, he or she spends nights and sometimes even weekends at the school, not returning home until the summer session is over. At summer schools that offer day programs, children attend their courses during a set period of time during the day and return home when the day's classes are over.

Deciding whether to send your child to a day summer school or a boarding summer school is a personal decision that needs to be made with your child's best interests in mind. Both programs have distinctive benefits and drawbacks, and which one is right for your child will depend on your child's personality and developmental needs.

Boarding schools can offer benefits such as allowing your child to become independent, giving your child a full-time educational environment to thrive in and a very structured summer schedule. However, a boarding school during the summer may also mean less time for your child to spend with family and friends.

If you do not think a child is ready to spend an entire summer away from home, a boarding school probably isn't the right choice for you and your family. However, if you feel that your child could grow and be enriched by a summer in an outside environment revolving around education, a boarding school may be something you want to consider. Other factors to consider include the maturity level of your child, your financial situation (summer boarding schools can be quite costly) and your summer travel plans.

Research and Due Diligence

Once you find a summer school program that you think fits the needs of your child, you need to research the program thoroughly. This means asking questions and researching the school's amenities, policies and procedures prior to enrolling your student in the school.

Who's Teaching Your Child

One critical issue is the quality of the teachers at the summer schools you are considering. Because a teacher is the single-most important aspect of a child's education, the difference between a good teacher and a bad one can mean the difference between an A and an F. Ask about the background of the teachers at the school as well as their teaching methods.

There are a number of ways to research the background of the teachers who may be educating your child during the summer months. Many schools now have Internet sites and teacher bios can be found within the pages of the school's websites. If your school doesn't have such a site, contact the office and see if there are circulars or brochures with teacher bios and backgrounds. If all else fails, you can always write the school a letter requesting the information.

In addition to reading bio information, it's probably a good idea to ask the school a few questions when you go in for a visit. Some things you may want to inquire about include the tenure of the teachers, whether or not they teach full time during the school year, and how long they've been teaching summer school.

Philosophy and Reputation

Also look at the school's academic reputation. Is the school known for educating those heading towards the ivy-league or is it known for keeping the rowdy and remedial students under control. Academic reputation can tell you a lot about a summer school program you may be interested in.

The school your child attends during the year may be able to shed light on the reputation of the summer schools in your area. You may also want to consider contacting the PTO, since these organizations usually have members who are well informed regarding educational opportunities in the area.

A school's history should also be looked into when conducting research. Is the school known for its competence and educational benefits? What do other parents say about the programs offered by the school? Are parents of previous students happy with the school, or do they have less-than-positive things to say? Knowing a school's history can help greatly in the decision process.

In addition to teachers and reputation, a school's philosophy and disciplinary policies need to be in line with that of a student's parents. Because of this, make sure you understand the school's philosophy and agree with the disciplinary policies before enrolling your child in any summer school program. When you visit the school, ask them what their philosophy is and whether or not they have a mission statement. You can learn a lot about a school by reading its mission statement (if they have one).

Also make sure you ask about disciplinary policy. Be specific and ask exactly how certain offenses are handled. If the summer school has a handbook, ask for a copy. It can be a great resource into understanding the disciplinary policies of a school.

Other Questions to Ask

  • Will your child be able to contact you if they need or want to?
  • Will you be able to contact your child?
  • Will the school allow your child to carry a cell phone on them?
  • Will credits be transferable to the academic-year school your child will attend in the fall?
  • Are college credits offered?
  • Are outdoor activities offered, or are all courses conducted indoors?
  • Is the school in question a place that your child will enjoy spending his or her summer?

These questions will help you determine how well a school's policies and procedures fit into the ideal of what you expect from a summer school.

The Cost Factor

Many parents worry about the cost of summer school programs, and while it is true that some summer schoolscan be expensive, many are very affordable.

The cost of a summer school program will vary from school to school and even from course to course. The same course at two different schools may have a cost difference of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and even the cost of courses at the same school can vary by hundreds of dollars.

If you feel the summer school program that would best suit your child is out of reach financially, you may want to look into financial assistance options. Many summer schools have financial assistance programs in place. Some children, especially children in serious need of remedial assistance, may qualify for summer school enrollment at the expense of the school district depending on where the child lives, the income of the child's parents and/or the needs of the individual child.

If the cost of your child's summer school education is a concern, find out what programs are available in your area. Most school districts work hard to ensure that summer education is affordable to everyone in the district.

Once a Match is Found

Once you are sure that you've found the summer school that is right for your child, you will want to enroll early. It's not uncommon for good summer school programs to fill up fast, so you'll want to get your application in as early as possible if you want to ensure your child's placement in the program. The trick is in finding out when the school you are interested in begins accepting enrollment applications since each school district is different.

To ensure you enroll in time, call the summer school you would like your child to attend and find out when the enrollment period begins. You may want to submit your child's application the very first day enrollment opens to ensure he or she gets a spot. If the program is in high demand, you may even want to be there the moment the school opens on the first day of enrollment.

In Closing

While it may take some time and some effort to research which summer school program is best for your child, the benefits of your child being put in the right program are well worth it. When your child is put into the right summer school program, he or she can flourish academically throughout the year while making the most of the summer months. Just because the regular school year ends in June doesn't mean your child can't continue to receive the benefits of a structured education throughout the year. It's just a matter of finding a program that fulfills your child's needs and putting your resources to work to ensure your child is enrolled in the program that will best serve them.

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