Start looking now for summer fun; deadlines are looming

It's not even time for spring break, yet spots in summer camps, enrichment programs and summer school are already filling up.

The deadlines are looming for many of the summer activities that can entertain and educate your children from grade school through high school.

When I think about summer camp, my memories take me back to Camp Hantesa. We learned crafts, how to make dinner over a campfire and lots of great songs. You can still experience places like Camp Hantesa, of course, but there is a huge variety of camps available today.

The summer before sixth grade, my son spent a week at an entrepreneurial camp sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation and hosted by a local university. By the end of the week, he and his buddies had business plans that really made lot of sense.

My son not only learned the basics about starting a business, he also developed a new mindset and still considers starting his own business as one of many career options.

Summer activities can be much more than a way to keep the kids occupied while they're out of school.

They can help younger children discover new passions. I know an eighth grader who spent a couple of weeks last summer taking a web design class through a program at a local college.

He then took some computer classes during the school year and has since decided that he may be interested in pursuing a career in some kind of computer programming or information technology.

Students who need help in specific subjects in school could benefit from intensive learning over the summer.

By looking over your student's grade reports and standardized test scores, you can see what areas could use some more in-depth study.

Summer school may not be the way most students dream of spending their summer, but the programs and classes offered over the summer are often a lot more 'fun' than the classes offered during the traditional school year. They usually allow students the chance to get out of the classroom and apply the skills they learn.

One high school sophomore I know spent a month at summer school last summer, earning an extra science credit. She tells me, "I wouldn't do summer school for just anything, but this was really cool."

Normally not a big fan of science, the chance to spend a week on the beach in Texas and another week camping and hiking in the desert at Big Bend National Park pushed her to check out the ecology class.

While her favorite part of the session was the free time on the beach, she had to admit that taking the class allowed her to better understand what she'd learned in her freshman biology class.

Summer programs can also help high school students decide on a college or a major. I recently spoke to a high school senior who spent a week last summer at a university as part of an engineering enrichment program for high school students.

She said that living in the university's dorms, walking around campus and interacting with students and professors helped her decide that was the college she wanted to attend.

She's been accepted to that university and plans to attend in the fall.

While many parents and children would never give up the weeks spent at camps like Camp Hantesa, summer classes and programs that help students when they return to school could be just as beneficial.

Talk to the school's counselor to find out what's available for students in your area. And maybe your student will come home ready to start a business that will pay for college and not only the best s'mores recipe from camp last year.

• Rose Rennekamp is vice president of communications for ACT and can be e-mailed at


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