The financial decision taking up most of our time lately is planning summer activities for our children.
Since we are a homeschooling family, summer ends up looking a bit different for us than most people. Instead of being “off” in the summer, our educational activities tend to ramp up. Many of the very best educational opportunities occur during the summer. You can find intensive camps on just about every subject imaginable. For our children, it is also the opportunity for them to interact with a wide variety of children who may be homeschooled, in public or private schools.
Many colleges and universities offer educational programs for children in the summer and it is a terrific way to check out a prospective college. You get to know the campus and the types of students (it is usually college students who teach the classes) the college attracts.
The great thing about summer is the wide variety of experiences available. The downside is the expense. Since these summer experiences are so valuable to us, we don’t mind skimping on other things (like buying second-hand toys or making Easter dresses) in order to afford summer camps. There is also the cost of time. I have to budget my energy carefully to do all the driving to and from these camps, to pack the lunches and snacks and buy any supplies needed.
We are now in the thick of the enrollment process begins for all of these summer activities. Here are a few tips I have learned over the years.
1) Enroll early. Many of these camps and classes book fast. Swimming lessons started filling up just three days after enrollment opened. Try to decide quickly which activities you are willing to commit to and block the dates out on your calendar.
2) Look for cost savings. Many camps offer a discount for early enrollment paid in full or for enrolling more than one child in the same camp. If you have more than one child, each with different interests, consider whether you can have one child “expand their horizons” by joining a sibling in another activity.
3) Be realistic. Summer is a time for relaxation as well. Don’t overbook your child (or yourself!) and make sure at least some of your summer educational activities are areas your child is passionate about so the camps don’t seem like “work” to them.
There are also many free or cheap alternatives for summer enrichment and education.
1) The local library. Probably the very best summer educational activity is reading. Our local library (and most local libraries) provide excellent free summer reading programs. Be sure to sign up in June and read as often as possible.
2) Churches. If you don’t mind a religious bend to your education, many churches run free or cheap “vacation bible school” or other programs that are full of learning and activities.
3) The local parks and recreation department, school system or YMCA. Generally the least expensive summer programs are offered through the parks and recreation department. There is a large dose of sports but also activities ranging from arts and crafts to science camps.
4) Free concerts. Summertime is usually packed with free musical events. Here in the Washington area, the military bands for each of the armed services perform at least once a week at various memorials throughout the area free of charge. There are also jazz concerts at the National Gallery of Art.
5) Museums. In Washington, we are fortunate to have the Smithsonian museums available free of charge. You could spend your entire summer exploring them. In most cities there is at least one day in the summer where museums are available free of charge. Check the websites of your local museums and pencil in the free dates on your calendar.
6) State, local or national parks. Just being outside can be an education in itself. Take advantage of the warm weather to go for a hike or a walk with your kids. Even hanging out at the local park offers the opportunity to run around with some new friends.
7) Workbooks. You can find inexpensive enrichment workbooks just about everywhere. We have found them at office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot, at pharmacies like CVS, in grocery stores, big box stores like Target and Walmart and even at Toys R Us. Find one for your child’s grade level to keep them sharp in math and English skills so they are ready for the next school year.
What are you planning for your child’s summer enrichment activities? Please share in the comments.