A road map for choosing summer programming for your child
Summer is fast approaching, now what? Choosing summer programming for children can be overwhelming, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Now with the complexity of virtual learning and social distancing thrown in, it can make even the most seasoned parent lose their mind! Just a few of the questions you may be asking yourself are:
- Are summer programs even necessary, or is it okay for my child to take the summer off from organized learning?
- What kind of programs will help my child with academics and social-emotional well-being?
- What do I look for in a program?
Childhood learning is 24-7 and every moment of the day offers a child something to discover. Though children gain valuable skills during the school year, lessons stretched beyond the classroom are where the real assimilation starts to happen. Sure, taking the summer off from organized learning gives a child a break, but being without structure can also cause the “summer slide.” Summer enrichment programs can keep learning happening but with a fresh perspective.
This doesn’t mean that to strengthen a specific reading or math skill a student only needs to read books or do repetitive math problems; rather, finding new paths to explore concepts already presented provides the child a means to try out these emerging skills in different ways. For example, participating in a creative writing program can engage a child to use language expressively; or, enrolling in a summer music program can offer an opportunity to stretch basic math skills by exposing a young child to rhythmic counting and patterning. It’s not just an apple to apple or orange to orange approach, but instead, the whole fruit basket.
In addition to exploring individual art forms, exposure to multiple art experiences increases the benefits even further. As expressed in the USA Today article Arts Education has Academic Effect, though children benefit academically from any singular artistic endeavor, exposure to multiple artistic disciplines provides even greater benefit. Going even further, the article How Arts Education Supports Social-Emotional Development: A Theory of Action by Camille Farrington and Steve Shewfelt, expresses the ‘intrinsic’ way in which the arts can support the social-emotional well being of children from both advantaged and low income or at-risk environments.
Now that we’ve identified the benefits of summer enrichment and the value of an arts education, let’s break down the needs to keep you from veering off the road when making your choice. Consider the following five areas as you sift through options.
Safety: Investigate how the program will protect your child’s well-being and privacy. In a world riddled with internet hacks, constant social media sharing, as well as health considerations, it’s important to make sure that the programs you choose have procedures in place to protect your child. Things to consider include:
- Look for the privacy statement on the program website that you are considering. This document should outline how information is being shared digitally.
- Find out if the organization has a photo/video release waiver so that you can decide how your child’s identity will be shared.
- What policies are in place to protect my child physically?
- Are background checks completed on all staff?
- Is the program inclusive and does it offer my child a safe place for being their true self?
- Are safe practices being followed regarding COVID-19?
Structure and Approach: The pandemic has thrown education on its heels and forced teachers and students into new ways of learning. Though it’s been tough, these new ways have not been all bad. Finding out how a program approaches both traditional and virtual learning offers insight into the flexibility and creativity in the educational approach. Regardless of classroom structure, learning should be active, inclusive, and offer opportunities for success.
Joyful Play: We all started by learning through play. Finding programs that emphasize social connection and hands-on learning helps a child internalize skills while keeping summertime meaningful and joyful.
Love: The old cliché, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ is as true today as it was when we were young. Most of us adults can point to several mentors beyond our parents who guided us through our growth to adulthood. Programs offering positive moments to expand a child’s circle beyond family and school are crucial for children to feel socially supported. Appearances aren’t always what they seem, so finding out the credentials of the mentors who will be working with your child is important.
Nourishment: We all want the best for our children and are looking to get the most bang for our buck regarding their educational development. Academic and emotional development are not separate endeavors and finding programs that fill up a child in a variety of ways can make learning more engaging, and ultimately, more beneficial.
There’s no shortage of options to choose from over the summer, especially with the addition of innovative technology. Whatever you choose, keeping the basic needs in mind and finding programs that view education from many angles offers benefits that can serve your child as a whole and fill the summer months with discovery, growth, and most importantly, fun!
~Kari Engleson, PMA Executive Director