Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mindful Parenting: Choosing a Summer Camp

Summer seems a long way off, but it's not too early to start thinking about summer camp. With kids home for the summer, there's a strong likelihood that many of them will turn to digital devices for entertainment. But there are summer camps that can nurture a love of activity and non-digital entertainment in children too. To find them - or any camp that is right for you - you need to ask yourself several questions.

- What is your camp's philosophy? A camp’s philosophy should mesh with your personal values and parenting goals. 
- How are your activities scheduled? Every camp approaches activity choice and scheduling differently, so it’s important for parents to understand each camp they consider. Many parents justifiably fear that the entire summer will be spent making lanyards or playing games that could be easily done at home. You know your child best; many campers do better with specific schedules, others prefer to choose their own activities so they can specialize in those they most enjoy. No parent wants their child to fall through the cracks. 
- Is your camp co-ed or single gender? This is a personal choice and there are advantages to both formats. While boys and girls learn differently and have much to gain from single gender experiences, complete immersion in a single gender environment sometimes doesn’t provide a real world experience.

- How involved are your directors? The directors set the tone and safety mindset of a program. You should be concerned if you can’t make an appointment to speak with a director as you compare camps. From a quality control perspective it is imperative that directors spend time not only getting to know your child, but also supporting counselors and being involved in day to day operations. 
- What is your camper-to-counselor ratio? For a good summer camp the maximum student-to-staff ratio should be 6:1 or lower. Lower ratios mean a safer experience, better supervision, greater opportunities to learn, and most importantly more interaction with role models who should be mentors and heroes to children. 
- How do you select your counselors? The best camps provide such significant experiences that their own campers return as counselors. Great counselors create a great camp. Some camps rely on staffing services to recruit counselors from overseas, or attend staffing fairs at colleges. 
- Is your staff medically trained? Are there medical facilities nearby? You want the highest level of medical training at the counselor level. Most camps only require first aid and CPR and many camp directors have surprisingly little medical training.
- Is your camp licensed, permitted, and accredited? To operate on public lands (national parks and forests), which allows a camp program to include activities beyond its facility, a program must possess Special Use Permits that involve a rigorous screening process from the federal government.
- Do you promote any particular religion? Obviously this is an important personal choice but you don’t want to be surprised by either “too much” or “not enough” religion. 
- What are the extra costs added to the tuition? Many camps have hidden fees and even charge extra for field trips and special activities. 

These questions to consider were provided by Camp Pinnacle. At Camp Pinnacle, their goal is to partner with parents to help raise caring, independent, and capable young people equipped with skills for 21st Century success. Their mission is to ensure the safest, most substantive and most exciting summer camp experience through personal attention to every camper, caring, and competence. They stress respect, responsibility, resiliency, appropriate risks, and becoming members of a kind and inclusive community. The program carefully balances scheduled and free-choice activities. Camp Pinnacle is a non-denominational camp that promotes values that parents from most religious traditions can be excited about. Camp Pinnacle hosts an optional non-denominational chapel service on Sundays and provides opportunities for Jewish campers to attend Friday evening services and Catholics to attend Sunday Mass.

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