It is a snowy and blustery day here in Toledoland, as I am putting the finishing touches on this column. Summer seems a distant dream, but for many parents of GT kids, it is time to start perusing the myriad enrichment options available for your child. So, where do you begin? And, what are you looking for in a camp program? I offer a few suggestions that were provided by GT kids and teens rather than my (so-called) expert advice. After all, aren't kids the ones who have the most at stake in the summer program?
How should parents decide whether summer camps or programs are right for their GT kids?
"First off, decide with your child what sorts of camps she is interested in. Then, get information and ask people who have attended the camp if they enjoyed the experience. Look for camps that are at colleges, since this also gives your family a chance to see the college in more detail before a decision about applying comes up." (Sabrina, 16 years old).
"One problem I have faced is that you get a great expansive experience at summer camp, then have to go back to your humdrum school in the fall. It makes the experience seem hollow when I have had to go from working in a chemistry lab with a professor doing high-tech experiments to sitting in the classroom watching a teacher fumble through a demonstration. Most parents and kids I don't think realize that zooming ahead causes a lot of payback when the school year begins again." (Clark, 14 years old).
What is the most important thing to you about choosing a summer camp?
"Variety. Don't pick a camp that focuses solely on one topic exclusively. Having the chance to do what I am interested in learning about is important, but so is seeing other options. I might develop an interest in those areas if I get the chance to see what goes on in them as well." (Bill, 14 years old).
"Parents, don't expect camp to be a mini-college experience or a way to push your kid ahead of others. This isn't what camp is about for gifted kids. Camp should be balance between a high-powered learning experience and having fun being a kid. It's summer after all!" (LaNeesha, 16 years old).
What advice would you give to GT kids who have never been to camp before and might be afraid to' give up summer time to attend a camp?
"Fear is a big reason lots of GT kids don't excel as much as they could. Camp is a short time over the summer where you can really sink yourself into an area and go as far or as deep as you can without having to make this your decision for a profession. [Camp 1 is a good place to test the water and see if an area is really interesting to you, or was a mild interest." (Doug, 16 years old).
"Expand your horizons. Go to a camp where you can meet other kids. If it is a camp specifically for GT kids, you'll get to meet more kids like you and probably make some friends who accept you for all your weirdness, since they are probably weirdoes too. This is the best part of camp. And, you'll probably keep some friends who can help you laugh off life during the doldrums of the regular school year." (Denise, 15 years old).
Day Camps or Residential (sleep overnight) Camps? Why?
"Sleep over camps. But, only if they have people teaching and in charge who get GT kids. If they don't know gifted, I would stay away completely. If they do know gifted, and the camp is for gifted kids, this can be a wonderful experience." (Tracy, 15 years old).
Returning to School
I return to the response shared by Clark to the first question. I have run several camps for GT children and teens over the years, and Clark's comment is one that resonates strongly with me. I have had attendees share this same worry after what I believed was a wonderful summer experience. Indeed, the summer experience was wonderful; it was the academic year that was the big letdown for the kids.
The camp programs we run include a "boot camp" option for parents at the beginning of our program that covers what to expect and look out for in the coming academic school year. My staff and I give parents the opportunity to see behind the scenes, to see how our camp experience is geared to the nature and needs of the gifted, and what their child is experiencing during our camp program.
Campers also get a "boot camp" experience at the end of our program to talk about some of the issues they faced during our time together. During this session, we bring the parents and kids together and discuss pitfalls and possibilities the camp experience provided as well as how to advocate for their needs in their home school.
There you go-a kick-start to your search for an appropriate summer enrichment option. Take away from this column the guidance provided by gifted kids who have attended summer programs. They have unique expertise that can help you and your GT child make an informed decision about summer enrichment. Heed the advice; ask questions about programs you are interested in before enrolling your child. Good luck with your search!
Permission to reprint this article was granted by the author, Robert Schultz.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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