By Zerline Hughes
Summer seems nowhere in sight now that donning coats, gloves and hats is a daily thing for the next 90 to 120 days. But don’t let the after effects of Winter Storm Jonas fool you. It’s time for summer … well, summer planning that is. I’ve written about it before, but here I am again, writing about it, and huffing and puffing after successfully waiting in line online for the second day at 9:55 a.m. for summer camp registration to open up for Girl Scouts overnight camp. Score! I don’t recall my mom doing anything like this for me (of course, time has changed), but I darn sure let my children know that this annual event that requires precision scheduling is not a labor of love. It’s a labor of necessity.
If you know anything about summer programming for kids in the city, then you know the early bird gets the worm. But that bird has got to come out realllllly early to get the good stuff – and good rates and scholarships, too.
For years, I’ve sat at the computer making notes, planning a strategy and waiting for online registration systems to let me know when I’m in the cue to place my summer camp order for the kids. For those of you with lives, it’s kinda’ like when TicketMaster opens up its site for coveted Beyonce or Stevie Wonder concert tickets, and you’ve got to be at the ready before seats sell out or your timer dings and locks you out of the system.
I remember a few years ago in February, I had to take off work to stand in line to secure a summer camp spot for these two. Last year in January, while at the Sundance Film Festival on west coast time, I synchronized my laptop AND cell phone while standing in line for movie tickets at 6 a.m. so I could get my daughter a spot in Girl Scouts horseback riding camp. When registration opened at 10 a.m. EST, I was ready!
It’s no joke, but it’s worth it. Not only for their happiness. And not just so they’re outta’ my hair during the summer months. It’s because enrichment and activity makes all the difference in the development and success of a child’s life – especially during out of school time.
I mean what I say in my blog title. “Not these two” kids of mine are getting caught up in the wrong crowd. They won’t be hanging on the street corner because they’re bored. They will not be without an organized schedule during the summer. Are my kids gonna’ get swept up in the justice system just because I kept them idle? No, NOT THESE TWO!
Unstructured free time during out of school time (afterschool and school breaks) is considered to be a threat to the safety and security of kids living in urban and rural neighborhoods, according to an archived report by the Carnegie Foundation’s Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs entitled, “A Matter of Time: Risk and Opportunity in the Nonschool Hours.”
Staying at home may seem more affordable, but there’s ways for our kids to continue to hone and build on their goals and desires at a discount, or even for free. Further, registering youth in summer programs promote reading, math and social skills. And according to research conducted by the Wallace Foundation, investing in enrichment services during summer months in order to keep youth engaged is more affordable than finding programs and tutors during the school year.
Finally, two points that stand out for me from the National Summer Learning Association include the following:
- Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).
- More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).
Last year, if you recall, our summer was dictated by a spreadsheet. But I’m not the only one! Check out this spreadsheet a fellow parent sent (courtesy of Susie Cambria) that lists various camps to choose from – some free, some that provide scholarships – in the DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) area.
Oh, and consider allowing the kids to try two – maybe even three camps to help them figure out what they like, see different parts of the city and make new friends every one, two or four weeks.
Last year we may have over done it, but the kids experienced a lot and now how lasting memories – and skills – as a result. The girl always kicks off summer break with Girl Scout overnight camp (they provide scholarships) while my son does Washington Performing Arts jazz camp (free with lunch included). Then came:
- Apple Camp (As in Apple Computers – free!)
- DC Public Library Maker Camps (2 hour daily free programming)
- Washington Architecture Foundation Design Like a Girl architecture camp ($25 for one week!)
- Washington, D.C. Department of Parks and Rec (DPR) swim camp (need-based scholarships offered; registration opens in February)
- Sports camp in New York
- Washington, D.C. DPR Boys and Girls club camp (need-based scholarships)
Phew … and we still found time (and money) for two weeks of down time, road trips to Michigan and Ocean City, Maryland, and library visits for summer reading.
Even though it’s bleak out, it’s time to starting thinking about sunshine, water play and enriching out of school time for the kids. Time – and their futures – are of the essence! Don’t get caught without a summer plan for those kids!