(The author is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are her own.)
By Kathleen Kingsbury
BOSTON Feb 28 Ah, summer. While warmer weather
may still feel far off for most Americans, for parents, late
February and early March has become the official start to the
race to find ways to keep their kids educated and entertained
once school lets out for vacation.
Last summer, according to estimates by American Express,
families in the U.S. spent some $55 billion on summer
activities, or an average of $856 per child. That was 40 percent
more than in 2012, making it easy to assume that costs will rise
once again in 2014. The American Camp Association (ACA), which
accredits more than 2,400 camps nationwide, reports the weekly
cost of day camp averaged about $300 while a week at overnight
camp averaged about $690.
Most summer programs offer some scholarships or merit aid -
$216 million in assistance at ACA-accredited camps alone - while
others may offer discounts to returning or legacy campers.
Parents may also be able to seek tax credits or use monies from
a dependent-care flexible savings account to pay for certain
activities, says Peg Smith, the ACA's CEO.
But whether parents are signing up for sleep-away camp,
tennis lessons or a pool membership, being a savvy consumer not
only helps save money but also ensures a happy, healthy, and
busy brood all summer long. "Start making decisions now," Smith
says. "A camp that isn't a good match for your child is a waste
of money no matter what."
Then again, today's kids have options this summer that their
parents never dreamed of. Athletes can spend a week at
basketball or football training camp - or learn fencing,
taekwondo, or modern dance. And these experiences are as likely
to be in China or Japan as the next town over.
Below is a sampling of just some of the adventures to be had
in summer 2014.
Pennsylvania's Camp Kweebec has become home to some 300 boys
and girls from up and down the East Coast for each summer since
1935. This year, however, it set its sights on broader horizons,
launching the International Leadership Camp, one of the first
summer programs in China for middle-schoolers.
During the three-week program in July, campers will receive
intensive language instruction as well as courses in martial
arts, calligraphy, even Chinese medicine and cooking, all while
living with Chinese peers at the Taihu International School.
The 2014 tuition fee is $9,975.
"We wanted to provide opportunities to speak Mandarin and
absorb the local culture in casual settings outside traditional
classrooms," says program director Matthew Rosenfield.
Vermont's Middlebury College, through its partnership with
the Monterey Institute for International Studies, offers similar
language immersion programs for high school students in Beijing
and Comillas, Spain, for Spanish learners.
Closer to home, Middlebury-Monterey also has programs in
German, French and Arabic open to students in grade 8 to 12.
Fees range from about $6,000 for the U.S.-based programs to
$9,200 for the overseas campuses.
Be forewarned, no English allowed!
MAD SCIENTIST CAMP
Got a tinkerer at home? Young engineers learn how to design
and construct the next big thing at Camp Invention programs
nationwide, backed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
New Hampshire's Letgo Your Mind offers day camp sessions on
LEGO cars, designing video games, even creating hovercraft.
Tuition is $295 per week.
Many universities, including MIT and CalTech, have summer
programs focused on robotics for high school students. And there
is always Space Camp - based at NASA's U.S. Space & Rocket
Center, campers as young as age 9 learn what it takes to live
and work in space. The six-day program costs $979 per person in
BECOME A ROCK STAR
Forget band camp - today's aspiring Jimi Hendrixes are
spending their summer months learning how to write, record, even
auto-tune the next top 40 hits.
At the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in New York City,
campers form bands on the first day and spend the next week
attending workshops on topics from sound engineering to
Campers at the Brooklyn Music Factory learn not only
music-making, but also do a little urban rock-climbing at
lunchtime. And at the Bandwriting Collective, for $1,000, the
two-week session ends with a concert at a major New York City
"My two sons started off their teenage years falling in love
with the acoustic guitar," says Alison Schwartz, who has sent
her kids, both in high school, to School of Rock camps in New
York and Texas. "I was glad to pay for them to go learn to play
Led Zeppelin somewhere besides my house."
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here;
Editing by Lauren Young and Stephen Powell)