Category: Selecting A Summer Program

What can you fit in the summer 2017?

by Karen Meister

Every summer, we get about 10 1/2 weeks to plan for the kids and the family.  I for one, was never in the “mommy camp” mindset.  Keeping three boys home for an entire summer would crush me.  Sorry!  Not only would I have grayed prematurely, but the cost of entertaining three kids (and often times, friends) would have been overwhelming.  I was always creative with things to do at lower prices, but 10 1/2 weeks is a lot of planning.

For years, I did spend 8 full weeks running a camp… so I guess it was a mommy camp.  Tons of fun, loved it, and got to be the mommy that provided camp to about 1,000 kids and quite a few families.  But I wanted my kids to have the experience of being independent and away from me.  It was time to go to sleep away camp.  There are many decisions to make when selecting just the right camp for your children and family, but the first big decision is FULL SUMMER OR PARTIAL SUMMER.

Which is best for the kids, the family, the finances….  not necessarily in that order!   I have always been a planner.  I usually ask first, selfish or not, what I want out of the summer in between hours at work:

  • a trip, 
  • some alone time (I’m sure everyone wants some of that), 
  • closet cleaning,
  • exploring a new hobby….
You get the idea.  Then of course, how much time do I need for these wonderful things.  Adults only trip?  Maybe 10 days?  Family trip?  5-7 days?  Then build the rest of my “wants” around those major choices.
For me, full summer camping for the kids was always the right choice.  From a calendar standpoint, I had it all figured out.  So here are the dates for 2016/17 for South Florida:
  • SCHOOL ENDS around June 8th.
  • Week 1 and 2:  
  • The beginning of June was always a great time to get the bags ready to leave for camp, let the kids hang out for a while and get bored.
  • Off to the family vaca for a few days… chill out, away from the phone, computer, distractions  
  • Weeks 3 – 5:  
  • A few days at home for last minute details and preparation for camp
  • Kids leave for camp
  • Time to clean the closets, start the fitness program, relax and enjoy.
  • Weeks 7 – 9:  
  • Visiting day and then exploration vacation for adults only.  Everyone deserves that adult time and can be in the area of camp, off to that special place saved up for, or stay-cation.  Either way, 10 days of no work, no closets, just time for doing what you want.  
  • Time to reflect on a great vacation, back to work, finish the closets and voila!  
  • The kids come home from camp.  
  • Week 10 – 11:
  • Typically, there is time to do laundry, the last book report before the start of school, and just enough time to enjoy the kids but really be ready to return to the structure of daily routine.
  • Start of the new school year!!
Now you can always count on a little tropical storm threat to make the summer last longer.  But that is a really nice and full summer.  At least for me. But as you can see, there is some down time, some play time and some special time.  Everyone deserves it.  Right!!
Now we can always discuss other little details like benefits of a long summer of sleep away camp, homesickness, readiness and that one pesky detail like finances…
But I hope this proposed schedule can give you an idea of how you can organize your summer to have it all.

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Full Summer Camping-The Best!

by Karen Meister

Summer lasts for 3 months…  And letting go of your babies for what feels like the whole summer can be scary the first time.  52 days is a typical full summer camp and that is just not happening (says many the first year)…..  So here is what probably goes on once they leave and you have only committed to a half summer.

You will:

  1. Go to work, in the home or out of the home.
  2. No lunches to make, no beds to make, no need to rush the kids out of the house so you can add an extra “fill in the blanks”  (workout routine, cooking class, reading time…).
  3. Several hours a day sitting in front of the computer pouring over the 500 pictures posted by the camp in order to find the one picture of your child (smiling, grumpy, busy, messy)….
  4. Start creating the to-do list of big projects.
  5. Prepare for the grown up trip you plan to take with your significant other.
  6. Enjoy your trip and return to the to-do list that never left the drawing board.
  7. Welcome the kids home from camp or go to visiting day and pick them up.
  8. Do laundry and hear stories.
  9. Go back to work and send the kids to day camp, back to making lunches and rushing them out the door.
  10. Wonder why you thought 26 days was too long….
You now have the kids home for almost 6 more weeks before school starts again.  And the thoughts going through your mind are:
  1. Let’s take a short family vacation to break up the 6 weeks.  Can we afford it?
  2. It is really hot and raining almost every day.  The kids are getting a bit grouchy and the camp carpool line is crazy!
  3. I thought I would save money keeping them home but it is costing me so much money in activities!
  4. Never did get anything done on my to-do list….
  5. I am glad to have the kids back but wow, I really enjoyed the break.
  6. And they seemed to be really happy….
  7. What if after visiting day, they stay… how would it be?
  8. Hmmmm…. it really went fast, almost too fast.
  9. I still have lots of time with them all June….
  10. Maybe next year???
After so many years of talking to thousands of families, who ultimately do send their kids away for the whole summer, I share this dialogue because there is no reason to be afraid from the very start.  There are many different camps that offer a significant change in the way camp is run because EVERYONE attends for a whole summer.  The bonding, the camaraderie, the lifelong friendships from day one, are amazing.  So before you just say “no way” to full summer camping, think about it.  The kids will definitely be able to handle it.  We now just have to get you on board.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.


Let Your Child Grow Beyond You

by Karen Meister

YOU MUST TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO READ THIS AMAZING STORY.

As you know by now, I am a complete and firm believer in the value of the right summer camp experience.  I believe as a parent, you provide strong roots at home that represent your character and desire for your children as they enter into society.  And by sending your child to the right camp, especially when they are away for the whole summer, you are giving them the wings to confidently practice what they have been taught at home.  You are saying to your child:

“I believe in you and that you will be successful on your own.  Go and make the world a better place.  Goodbye!”

And so, I share the following story from one of my clients who was hesitant but interested in venturing into camp beyond the tried and true, beyond where the neighbor goes.  They were interested, but fearful,  in finding a place where their son could soar;  letting him go to be all that he could be.  Although it will take a few minutes to read, please read this lovely story.

I share, with the family’s permission, the story of Christian, as she has told it.

When your kid is away from home and you get an unscheduled, unexpected call from camp, your heart starts to race a bit.  ”Hello?”

“Hi, this is the Camp Director. Don’t worry, Christian is fine. Nothing has happened. Are you with your husband?”

“No, I’m out picking up school uniforms, but I can conference him in.”

“Yes, I think you should do that.”

Conference call initiated and the Camp Director said:

“In 25-30 years, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m still getting emotional thinking about it. As you know, we are in the middle of Color War. Christian’s age group had a big softball game this afternoon. His team is behind in overall points, but if they got a win, the softball game would be a good place to close the gap. The whole camp was there to watch.

“There’s a little boy here from China. He’s not very athletic. And the other team’s coach put him first in the lineup. And he had two strikes. I was calling the game and gave permission for the coach to come in and help him swing the bat.

“So he gets a hit. And it goes straight to Christian, who is pitching. Christian’s a heck of a ball player. I don’t need to tell you this. Simple play for him to grab the ball and toss it to first. Easy out.

“But Christian saw this kid and made a play straight from the heart. He easily fielded the ball, turned, and threw it as hard as he could into the outfield, keeping the ball in play, so the little boy could round the bases for a home run before the ball could be thrown back to the plate.

“The whole camp saw it. He never once let the little boy know he did it on purpose. So tonight, I stood up in front of the whole camp and awarded Christian the ‘Hugeness Award’ while still keeping the secret, so as not to taint the other boy’s home run. Christian is an amazing kid with a huge heart.”

After I dried my tears, I thought THIS is why summer camp is so important. It has taught my uber-competitive kid that “winning” comes in many forms. I am so grateful that we can give him this opportunity and so so so proud of him!  And so happy that I worked with Karen in finding just the perfect camp for my son to really spread his wings.

And I cried too.  Because when a child is successful, AND the parent shares, it makes my job so worthwhile.  Thank you to all who have shared with me over the years!

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Top 10 Questions for Camp Director

by Karen Meister

The Camp Directors and Owners are flying around the country meeting and greeting potential campers and families this month.  They are very busy, and ready to present the picture of their camp to you and your children.  But you need to be armed with the right type of questions to make sure that you find the perfect camp for your child and family.

Here are the top 10 questions for you to ask at the meeting:

1. What is the camp’s philosophy and programming structure?

The flavor of a camp starts from the top down.  The philosophy of the director will be the direction of the staff.  What is the philosophy on competition, rules and boundaries, sportsmanship, in bunk relationships, participation when the child is interested or not interested in an activity, and methods of encouragement.  Understand the programming structure:  full choice, partial choice, activities with your bunk, activities with your division, single sex and coed activities, placement by age, placement by ability…..  Understand how your child will spend their days and make sure it fits their personality. Bottom line:  Make sure their philosophy matches your parenting style and your child’s personality and learning style as well.

2. How is staff hired, screened and trained?

First, find out the hierarchy of staff from the top down.  You are meeting the director.  Understand how many people are between your child and the director, the chain of command and communications between the chain.  Then, find out :

Who interviews the staff? What are the criteria for staff members? How are they screened? Are there background checks in place?  How many US vs out of country staff will there be?  Does the camp utilize best practices in these areas? What is the return rate of counselors? What are the ages of all the counselors in the cabin? Are staff trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communications, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision? Do they receive additional training from child development professionals? Knowing who will be working with your camper on a day-to-day basis will not only assure safety and happiness, but allow you to rest easy knowing that your child is in well-qualified hands.

3. What measures does the camp take to ensure the safety of the campers?

What is the makeup of the health center on the camp?  Who staffs it?  What type of doctor is in place?  On premise or off?  How far is the emergency room and major hospital?  Can a helicopter land if necessary?  In case something happens, from lice to broken limbs, what are the procedures to ensure quick and competent response. You should also inquire about the camp’s safety procedures, risk-management standards (buddy systems, cabin checks, curfews), and the guidelines set for campers (boundaries, water safety, etc.).

4. What type of settings and accommodations are available?

Bunk beds or singles?  Cubbies or trunks for storage?  Toilets and showers – in cabin or out of cabin?  How many per cabin?  Who cleans them?  What is the dining hall like? What food options are provided? How many campers will be sleeping in each cabin? Knowing what to expect before getting to camp will help your child adjust smoothly.

5. What is the camp’s return rate?

Asking this question directly will always lead to a high percentage rate.  But ask it a bit differently — “how much space is there for a new 13 year old camper?”  If there is lots of space, it may indicate that there is a burnout by age 13.  If it is still packed, a culture of retention is established.  Campers that return to a camp summer after summer are a reflection of the personnel, administration, overall ambiance, experience and sense of community the camp provides.

6. What type of child would succeed at this camp?  And what child does not belong at this camp?

You know your child the best, so you are in the best position to judge what type of camp would best suit him or her. Be sure to know what type of camp you are looking for in order to direct your question properly. Are you seeking a traditional and varied camp program, or a camp where campers hone a particular set of skills or talents? Does your child want a summer filled with sports and physical activity, or one filled with arts and creative activity? What is the competitive nature of the camp? Some camps promote competitiveness while others focus on cooperative learning. A description of a typical day at camp can be a good tool to help you decide. Be sure to then match your child’s personality to the appropriate camp’s program.

7. What is the camps staff-to-camper ratio?

This ratio indicates the overall level of supervision your camper will receive on a daily basis while at camp. It is important to also understand the ratio in the cabin during the day as well as at night.  When the campers go to bed, does a staff member stay in the cabin?  on the porch?  in the field?

8. Is the camp accredited?

The ACA (American Camping Association) examines the living accommodations, food service, emergency preparedness, program practices, health care, personnel, transportation, and administrative procedures of each camp that seeks accreditation. If the camp is not accredited, be sure to ask why.  From personal experiences, there are reasons that make sense not to be accredited by the ACA, but you want to understand why.

9. How are disciplinary actions handled/homesickness/bullying?

There are many behavioral problems that can arise during the summer.  Understanding the cause of the problem is crucial and know how the camp handles these issues must fit with your philosophy.  If penalties are involved for behavior problems, what are they? Who can administer these penalties?  What boundaries does the camp set for campers? Positive reinforcement and fair treatment are qualities parents should look for when choosing a summer camp.  If a child is homesick, what is the procedure?  Phone calls permitted?  How are you included in the team to help your child be successful?  If bullying occurs, what procedures are followed?

10. What does the Camp Director want the campers to take away with them at the end of their camping experience?

Look for the passion that starts from the Camp Directors toes and projects through their eyes and facial expression.  You want the passion to be passed to your child.  If you agree with their passion, and answer to this question, feel good.

 

Remember, before you have the interview with the Camp Director, it is important to work with your Camp Expert to narrow down the best options.  You should get to the stage of the interviews knowing that you will make an excellent decision no matter what.  Now you are done to philosophy and qualitative feel.  For help finding the right camps to interview, feel free to contact Karen Meister at Camp Experts & Teen Summers.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

What is your sideline behavior?

by Karen Meister

Are you the coach?  The motivator?  The task master?  The one who brings the goodies?  Do you want everyone to participate?  Do you want the kids to win?  Did you play the sport and reliving or rewriting through your child?

Who are you on the sidelines?  What is your sideline behavior?

I remember when my kids were playing tennis tournaments.  I knew plenty about tennis since I also competed when I was a kid and adult.  I would take them out to practice.  I would watch them during their tennis lessons.  I even offered to coach other kids while I watched my kids play.  I was so excited that they were going to learn “my sport of passion”.  And they were enjoying it too.  During Career Day, when they were in elementary school, they dressed up as tennis pros.  So much fun!!!

But alas, they taught me a lesson that I will never ever forget and am here to share with you.  I was taking my job as “mommy coach” way too seriously.  They showed me the way they were holding their rackets and I started to correct them and determined a new coach had to be found.  What were they teaching my kids???

A western grip and open stance, of course.  I was “old school” and my kids were getting great instruction.  I needed to BUTT OUT!!!!

And I sheepishly apologized for my ways to my 12 and under kids.

Sending your kids to sleepaway camp is a great way to support your kids’ learning and passion while butting out!!  But it is very important to find the right program.  Sleepaway camp will allow them to:

1.  Get great instruction from qualified coaches who can age appropriately relate.

2.  Build skills in a variety of sports because at a young age, they may be playing basketball but ultimately become a tennis pro (that was my brother!).

3.  Compete with and against kids from other parts of the country so they can get a better idea of where they stand in each of the sports and how they can improve their abilities.

4.  Learn SPORTSMANSHIP SPORTSMANSHIP SPORTSMANSHIP — without overinvolved parents!

Get it??  It is good for you and it is good for them.  Unless your child is a prodigy, the current trend is not to specialize on a particular sport until they are about 12 years of age.  And then only if they want to, not you.  General camps, with great instruction, offer the right kind of opportunity for a young child interested in athletics.  After 12, there are great specialty camps in every single sport if the time is right to convert.

For more information on the camps that offer great instruction within your price range, location preference, and budget, be sure to take advantage of your favorite Camp Expert.  I have traveled to all of the camps, ran a camp, watched the kids and coaches in action and can share with you the right choices based on your family’s needs.  So reach out!!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Will they go back to the same camp?

by Karen Meister

Some of the kids are home, and some are expected in a week to ten days.  The summer has flown by and it is already time to get school supplies, uniforms, and finally get to the reading list that was never started.  How did it go so quickly?

End of the summer rituals at camp are special.  Color war, end of summer banquet, awards, the final campfire, the tears as you hop on the bus to go home or to the airport.  A very special time in the life of a child.  These memories and bonds are being formed for life.  The longer a child stays at the same camp, the tighter will be the forever bonds that are formed.  And yet, staying at the same camp for 7 or 8 years is not right for everyone.

Sometimes you have selected a camp based on the child who you have at 8 years old.  The camp will be the same as they get older.  But is that still right for your child?

The camp is competitive, non-competitive, recreational, instructional, too far, too close or whatever it may be to you on a particular day that you choose.  But with one to two years of your child’s growth as well as your experience and understanding of the offering of the camp, you may question whether you have made the right choice.  The question is good; the question should be asked; and there should be no finger pointing of blame.  This is called growth — both by child and parent.

So what are the next steps?  Do the homework.  Welcome your children with opened arms upon their return and ask how their summer was.  What did they love?  What did they not love?  What would they change if they could?  Hear them.  Make sure that if there is a sense of disatisfaction, that it is not a challenge with an individual but the offering of the camp.  Personal and personnel challenges are found everywhere and running away from these issues will do nothing to teach your child strength.  It will teach your child how to successfully run away.

However, there are times where the match between you and your child’s needs and the camp no longer mesh.  This is okay.  And moving to an alternative early in the process is a wonderful thing to do, still allowing time for the correction AND life long friends.  Don’t be afraid to investigate alternatives.  I looked at academic alternatives for my children every year.  I review my health care policy every year.  Why not review your camp choice each year?

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305-931-5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world. 

Want to Tour Camps for 2018 Summers

 

by Karen Meister

To tour or not to tour?  That is the question.

Your friends in NY, NJ, PA and MA spend the summer before they send their kids to camp visiting a series of pre-selected camps.  They pack up the car with provisions for two days and take the kids to camps within 4 hours of driving.  Which camp will be their future summer home??  It is a natural course of  business.

But alas, most of my readers are from the South and/or South/Central America.  And touring summer camps a year before camp is to start is although possible, quite a large expense.  I tour the camps on your behalf and of course, try to get to know you very very well in order to recommend the camp that will be the perfect fit.

However, if you decide to make the financial investment into touring the year before, it is a terrific idea because you will use all six senses to make your ultimate decision:

1.  TOUCH:  You will touch the baseball fields, feel the cabins, shake some hands and feel hugs from welcoming staff.

2.  SEE:  Once you are prepared to send your child to camp, you will be able to visualize their settings.  You will see their bunks, the grounds, the counselors, the activities.  As good as videos are these days, there is nothing better than seeing the real thing.

3.  HEAR:  Going into the dining hall and hearing the roar of cheering during every meal time may or may not be great for your child.  But you will know for sure when you visit.

4. TASTE:  Of course, if there are any allergies or food concerns, you will see the dining hall in action and be able to taste test the food and the way it is served.

5.  SMELL:  The smell of the pine trees at camp is one I will never forget.  But at the same time, what will be the smell at the camp you select?  Is it clean or moldy?  Does it have that outdoorsy smell?  Or is it more open and have no memorable smell?

6.  And finally, your INTUITION will guide you:   You will know when you have found the right place.  You and your children will feel like you are home.

Keep in mind, touring camps should be limited to 2- 4 camps.  More than that will be confusing and overwhelming.  Before selecting camps to tour, you should always work with your Camp Expert to make sure you have identified the best possible options on paper.  And as I like to do, I try very hard to paint the picture of what goes on at camp.  I try, especially if you cannot visit, to engage all of your senses in helping you to make your summer home decisions for your family. If you would like to set up a tour this summer, for the summer of 2017, please contact me ASAP.

Camp tours are pre-scheduled and we must take care of business right away.  And of course, if touring is not an option, I will always be your travel guide with expert advice and we will bring the camp directors down to meet you in person.

Cyber-hugs!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305-931-5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Scared to send your kids to camp?

by Karen Meister

I just watched Meatballs — yes, the goofy camp movie with Bill Murray.  A classic for sure.  But the message was right on.  Rudy, the little guy who arrives at camp and clearly does not fit in spends the first day or so as an outcast and runs away from camp.  Bill Murray tracks him down at the local diner, and over a milk shake and french fries, convinces him to come back to camp.  Over the course of the summer, due to “no parental intervention”, Rudy begins to develop  competence, confidence and independence.

Amazing!

Through a friendship with Bill, he begins to practice running.  He develops an ability and strength the other kids don’t have.  He feels better about himself because although he can’t kick a soccer ball, he can run.  He is selected to save the camp’s last chance in the Apache Relay against arch-rival Camp Mohawk.  And the movie ends with Rudy on the shoulders of the whole camp.

He has gone from outcast to hero and in this simple (and often times silly story), you witness the beauty and magic of camp!

But it takes time for the process to unfold.  Many would think that if your child is shy or timid or you are nervous about or for them, a short experience at camp would be best.  It is actually the reverse.  If these characteristics describe your child, you need to give them the time to work through the fear, build the competence and confidence, and leave camp with a success.

Success is defined by accomplishing ANYTHING….  the perfect piece of pottery (in their eyes), the new skill of the balance beam, a hook shot, or getting up on waterskis.  It doesn’t happen over night, but it will happen, given the chance.

Don’t fear their time away.  Embrace it, find thngs to do on your own, and smother your child with hugs and kisses when they proudly return from sleepaway camp.

Important Caveat:  It is absolutely crucial to find the right camp.  Meatballs is a movie.  If your child is a bit shy, fearful, older or whatever it may be, it is critical to speak with a camp expert that knows the culture, personnel, size, etc. at different camps.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

Camp – With/Without A Friend

by Karen Meister

Whether for religious reasons or just purposeful soul searching, we all look forward to the “do-over”.  Apologize, forgive, forget and do better.  And the same goes for our children and hence, the annual escape for a child to their summer home.  Towards the end of June, a child embarks on a new beginning for seven weeks.    The transgressions and mishaps of the previous summer are wiped clean, the positive memories and warm feelings are retained, and the fabulous summer home awaits.

A new year!  A new summer!

So…  off to camp with a friend or without a friend?  I always vote for “go it alone” if at all possible.

When your child goes off to camp without a hometown friend, they may be uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes.  The unknown of their new summer home can be overwhelming.  And yet, with proper selection and preparation, those 20 minutes will be exciting rather than scary.  Your child will be free to:

  • select the type of camp that is just perfect without having to consider others’ needs
  • explore new activities and learn and fail successfully
  • enter the social laboratory of making friends without having someone looking over your shoulder
  • be responsible for themselves alone without the baggage of a friend from home
  • make new friends because they must
  • come home with stories of success and let the failures be part of learning without constant reminder or embarrassment
  • expand their worlds to friends outside of their hometown, and
  • look forward to returning to their special summer home the following summer.

Think about your child’s summer as an opportunity every year to start afresh.  In the words of Queen Elsa, your child can “Let It Go”  as well as start over every summer.

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Full Summer Camps – Better Option?

by Karen Meister

Visiting day is over and/or right around the corner.  And for many, visiting day is the center of summer.  For those who have sent their kids to sleepaway camp for a half session, tell me if this sounds right….

You could not conceive of letting the kids go away for the whole summer because it just sounds too long.  52 days is a typical full summer camp and that is just not happening (says many the first year)…..  So here is what probably goes on once they leave.

 

  1. Go to work, in the home or out of the home.
  2. Add an extra (workout routine, cooking class, reading time…) because you don’t have to make lunches, make beds, rush kids out of the house…..
  3. Several hours a day sitting in front of the computer pouring over the 500 pictures posted by the camp in order to find the one picture of your child (smiling, grumpy, busy, messy)….
  4. Start creating the to-do list of big projects.
  5. Prepare for the grown up trip you plan to take with your significant other.
  6. Enjoy your trip and return to the to-do list that never left the drawing board.
  7. Welcome the kids home from camp or go to visiting day and pick them up.
  8. Do laundry and hear stories.
  9. Go back to work and send the kids to day camp, back to making lunches and rushing them out the door.
  10. Wonder why you thought 26 days was too long….
You now have the kids home for almost 6 more weeks before school starts again.  And the thoughts going through your mind are:
  1. Let’s take a short family vacation to break up the 6 weeks.  Can we afford it?
  2. It is really hot and raining almost every day.  The kids are getting a bit grouchy and the camp carpool line is crazy!
  3. Never did get anything done on my to-do list….
  4. I am glad to have the kids back but wow, I really enjoyed the break.
  5. And they seemed to be really happy….
  6. What if after visiting day, they stay… how would it be?
  7. Hmmmm…. it really went fast, almost too fast.
  8. I still have lots of time with them all June….
  9. Maybe next year???
And keep in mind, when the kids are home, there is a definite cost involved.  Granted, having someone else care and feed for the kids all summer is a pretty penny.  But before you just say “no way” to full summer camping, be sure to analyze dollars and cents and everyone’s mental health.
Let me know your thoughts and keep enjoying the summer.

 
Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

“Special” Summers

by Karen Meister

As I travel every summer visiting traditional camps and various summer programs, I really get a chance to see the marvelous people who deal with all types of children and their needs.  This current trip is dedicated to more specialized programs …. the ones that your neighbor may not have heard of….

Camps for kids with ADHD, Autism Spectrum, and Other Socialization Challenges

Going to camp, playing ball, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, canteen, color war and every other camp activity that we have seen in movies is made available, and yet with a twist.  While doing arts and crafts, for example, one on one assistance is allowing the child to learn:

- the artistic skills,

- to overcome the frustration if the designed mug is not like the example presented,

- to communicate questions to both peers and adults, and

- to create a product of which the camper (and mom and dad) can be proud.

Going to camp where behaviors are categorized, reactions by counselors are trained and campers learn skills to take home.  And they are having fun every single day.  Camps where safe rooms, chill out rooms, and sensory friendly rooms are part of the norm.

But the greatest part of all, the favorite activity of the campers!  The weekly dance party.  Many of the children that gravitate to these special places don’t get asked to the dance, feel awkward, may be bullied, and Just Want to Go and Be Part of the Party.  And these wonderful places, the fave activity is the weekly dance party where everyone has a dance partner, a friend, and are safe and so happy!

Weight Loss and Fitness Programs

I want to stay!!!  Move your body every morning.  Gorgeous healthy foods that help children and teens understand that you are allowed to eat plentiful amounts of healthy foods, learning how to prepare them, select them and absolutely enjoy them.  FitBits for everyone and guidance on calorie count, portion control, and understanding satiety levels.

And yes, cooking lessons, shopping trips and a recipe book. Therapists to work with you, identify why you may be overeating, combatting old habits and creating new ones….

All in a gorgeous setting on a beautiful college campus with wonderful motivating coaches.  Please let me be a kid again!!!

College Programs

One Ivy League school is prettier than the next.  For so many teens, both in middle and high school, traditional summer camps are just not the right fit.  There are many college programs that have both academic, enrichment, athletic and social components.  But just like camps, the right fit is so important.  Programs have different sizes, locations and offerings.  And even more important for the parent, each program has differing levels of supervision.

Visiting the campuses has really been quite an improved education on the variety of options in the teen world.

 

So, the summer has just begun and the road trips are most certainly educational.  Please continue to check in over the summer for little tidbits on programming as you enjoy this summer and plan for next.

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Is 13 too old to start camp?

by Karen Meister

I was a sleepaway camp counselor for many many years.  My favorite age was the 12, 13 and 14 year old campers.  They thought they knew EVERYTHING!!  It was great, exciting, fun, challenging and eye opening.  These kids seemed to know a lot more than I thought they should know.

And yet, they were well into their formative years.

You could play with them like pals, you could tell stories that they understood, and yet, they really watched you so closely… how you spoke to other people, how you handled pressure, how you disciplined, how I talked to boys…  They would then ask tons of questions.  Some were inappropriate and I had to learn how to handle those questions.  And some were questions they could not ask their parents, but felt safe asking me.  As their counselor, it was rewarding, challenging and so powerful.

And it is so hard to be a kid at that age! Kids develop at such different rates.  You have the guy who is growing a mustache next to the boy who’s voice has not yet changed.  A girl who looks like a woman next to the little girl who is still naive (that was me!!)  And of course on the inside, you have the one who is mature and in control next to the young teen who is still watching cartoons and is very happy to be a kid.

And 13 is a great time to go to camp, even if it is the first time.  But…

IT IS CRUCIAL THAT THE RIGHT CAMP BE SELECTED AT THIS AGE.

So what can a middle schooler achieve at camp?

1.  Who am I?

A middle schooler gets to go to camp and take off the trappings of right or wrong clothes, good or bad grades, cool or uncool at school, etc.  At camp, the right camp, a middle schooler gets a do-over.  No parent over the shoulder screening behavior from an adult perspective, no grades that measure success or failure.  At camp, a middle schooler gets to be good at something — best bed maker, best baseball player, best pottery coil maker….. whatever!

2.  Experiment – What Happens at camp Stays at camp!

At this time of confusion, experimenting without lifelong consequences is the best.  Trying new sports that you wouldn’t dare try at home for fear of teasing.  Talking to that girl and asking her to meet you at the Saturday night barbecue.  Try new things… get on the stage, hop on a horse, pick up a camera, try volleyball.  And after the summer is over, your teen returns home and if the experiment was not successful, he/she learned and can make changes at home.  And the negative stayed at camp….

3.  Safety net required

If they are going to feel free experimenting, they have to know that the counselors and other campers won’t tease them if the teen fails when trying something new.  Encouragement and support have to be the culture at the camp….  And counselors are really terrific mentors… they are close enough in age to allow the young teen to feel comfortable, and yet old enough to have passed through those middle school years successfully.  I loved this!!

4.  Be a Kid!

The young teens that are fully developed on the outside are expected to be a certain way on the inside, and yet, they just want to be a kid.  Forced to grow up so quickly, and be so responsible during the school year, summer offers a time to let your hair down and just be silly.

5.  Get back to nature.

Always so programmed and crammed with technology, the few weeks of summer camp offer a glimpse back at what the world is truly all about.  And believe me, it takes time to be comfortable with unplugging.  It takes at minimum two weeks to get rid of the tech-free jitters.   Middle schoolers need a chance to feel the power of nature and face to face conversations.

6.  Speaking of Face to Face

Talking instead of texting.  Skills that kids seem to have lost and yet need to develop as they make their way through the world. Camp forces conversation as you walk to an activity, around the campfire, and on the fields.  Late at night in the bunk, the teens really get to know each other and share their insides.  

7.  A big world

It is great when a young teen realizes that the world is so much more expansive than their little neighborhood.  At camp, you get to meet other kids from around the world and it puts those monstrous challenging moments at home into perspective — just meaningless.

 

Still time for late decision makers to get to camp.  But make sure you have someone to help find the right camp.  Keep in mind, if your middle schooler goes to a camp where all the other campers have been together since they were seven, don’t expect great success.  Selection must be wise!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

Top 5 Discoveries at Camp

by Karen Meister

Spring break is over and the kids are “happily” back in school (wink wink).  Vacation was great but wow….  whirlwind ran through the house and the return to routine is okay.  And now you can take a few moments to realize there are only 9 weeks till the end of school (in South Florida at least).  One grading period, and the kids are home for the summer.  And if you have not yet made plans — vacation, camp, teen programming, older kids in jobs — now now now is the time!!!!

And the delicious summer is the best time for your child to explore and experiment.  Best time to try on new hats (so to speak) to find out what they enjoy doing, without getting a grade….

Going to sleepaway camp WITHOUT the neighborhood friends is the best way for your child to try on new hats without consequence.  They don’t bring the mistakes home.  The failures stay at camp and are forgotten by the following year.  The successes come home through stories and pictures.

1.   In charge of their own destiny:  At camp, your child chooses to be a participant or a spectator, agreeable or defiant.  And it is good.  The experiment will allow them to determine what place makes them happy and how to manage it.

2.  Learn to make new friends:   Without a friend from home, your child must enter a new community and start fresh.  There is no history and the camp persona gets to be developed.  Liberating!!!

3.  Try new things/believe in yourself:  Surrounded by counselors cheering you on for EVERYTHING, your child will most certainly tie dye even if they hate art, swing a baseball bat even if they hate sports, or hop on a horse even if they are terrified.  The 24/7 support from peers and counselors encourages the experiment.  And the result is a newfound ability to believe that you can try new things in all areas.

4.  Develop deep relationships:  When you live with people for weeks at a time, you see their good and bad moments and must still learn to deal with it.  And you must learn HOW to deal with it without getting your feelings hurt or hurt others.  He or she will learn compassion, empathy, when to get involved and when to stand back.

5.  Practice and value teamwork:  Between Color War, intercamp games or canoeing down the river, there are so many opportunities to reinforce dependence on your fellow campers and participation in the team.  Your child will learn to be a leader and a follower, and alas bring those skills home for those pesky group projects that every school demands.

Over the years, sleepaway camp will help your child both develop skills and help them understand where their comfort zone is.  Their understanding and control of their own destiny will be reinforced and it does carry over into the school year.  Help your child develop their future  and find out not only who they are, but who they can become.

There are still many camps that have space for children.  But now is the time to make choices.  47 school days till the summer is here!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

More Than One Right

by Karen Meister

As I work every day, helping families find summer programs for their children, I do admit that the television is on in the background almost the entire day.  It drowns out the constant jack hammer sounds I hear as they resurface the pool and seawall outside.  So while listening, the much more famous “K” girl (Katie) is on TV interviewing people who are speaking my mantra.  Reid Wilson, PhD & Lynn Lyons, LICSW, spoke and wrote about Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents.  The kids are anxious about  getting into schools and the kids have learned a myth about devoting their lives to “one path to success”.

The pressure put on our children, and they in turn put on themselves, is our culture of intensity.  Is there truly only one path to success?  Is there only one “best” school for veterinary medicine?  One “best” school for engineering?  One “best” way to be a successful member of society?  I think not.

So many years ago, as my mom was suggesting redecorating tips to my first and new apartment (back in my 20′s), I said to my mom…. thanks so much for all of your advice and guidance over the years.  Although I appreciate it, I ask you to respect my wishes and understand that there can be “more than one right!”  I admit, it took a lot of courage to speak this way to my mother, who I respected wholeheartedly.  I cried as the words came out of my mouth as I literally DEMANDED my independence.  And I have grown so much since then with the blessing and pride of my mother.

Selecting the path of being the very best and the most accomplished also requires dramatic sacrifice to reach an elusive goal.  I read the book Agassi…. Andres sharing how is father pushed him, pulled him, threatened him and trained him to be tops in a sport that he loved and hated.  His socialization was dwarfed, his education was stifled and yet, he did ultimately, through the ups and downs, accomplish the goal of being tops in tennis and living a fulfilled life — ultimately.  But alongside Andres, there were hundreds and hundreds of other teens who sacrificed their life…. and did not reach their goal.  And along the way, many become 2 dimensional in their single minded endeavor to reach a specific goal via a specific path.

So how to balance the desire to achieve with the attitude that there is a “best way” in which to reach the goal?

We can return to the philosophy – there is more than one right!

I am getting the call from panicked parents when it comes to summer programming.  Am I too late to sign my child up for camp?  Are there still top internships available for my teen?  Can he get into the top summer school programs even if we start now?

The answer is yes.  There is more than one right fit.  And yet, with the desire to achieve and move the ball forward to an ultimate goal of success, it is always important to identify the right fit and the right path.  Don’t procrastinate, and don’t hyperventilate.  Somewhere in between is the right attitude towards helping your child and teen meet their goals in the classroom, during the summer and in life.

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

The Gifting Season

By Karen Meister

For years, Chanukah was a big holiday filled with small basic presents each night ending with one biggie for my boys.  Underwear, socks, new pajamas, coupons to get out of dish washing or other chores…..  Always included money that had to be donated to charity of their choice.  We would do the research, make a selection of an organization for which they felt compassion, and send off the contribution in their name.

But I think the best gift of all was the year we had two camp directors come visit the house and meet the boys.  They shared the vision of green fields, beautiful lake fronts for water skiing, the rock shop where there were drums and guitars to play, and freedom for the whole summer away from parents.

The  gift that kept giving over and over again.  Seven years of camp….  What an experience they had.  They loved flag football, they loved tennis and most importantly, they loved the friends they made for a lifetime.

They still run in to people who went to camp with them… Or if they went to the same camp but at different times, they belong to a special club of alumni.  They can share stories about the traditions that occurred at their special camp that only alumni would understand.

When searching for the right summer camp for your child, there will be many camps that have a potential right fit.  But I always suggest that you narrow down to the top two or three and then look at some of the tie breaker differences of these camps.  Because the hope is that the gift you give to your kids will also be a gift that keeps on giving.

So the tie breakers….

1.  Price: although it seems to be an obvious one, you really have to look deeper than tuition.  Look at airfare, clothing, add ons such as field trips and horseback riding, and the distance from the closest major airport.

2.  Flights:  are there escorted flights? Must you transport your child or will the camp?

3.  Demographics of the other campers:  just as you pick a college knowing your child will be sitting in class making friends with a certain group of people at the university they attend, the same goes for fellow campers.  Some families want Princeton or Yale, some want University of Michigan and some want Northeastern.  All excellent colleges and experiences for the right family and child.  But….. different…. This is a tie breaker!

4.  Visiting day: lastly, remember you are going to go to visiting day for many years to come.  Where do you want to go each year?   Do you mind the B and B’s of the Adirondacks, prefer the hotels of Maine, or enjoy the mountains of North Carolina?

Bottom line is the gift of camp is a great holiday present for your kids.  The camp directors come visit homes between now and January 1 non-stop.  They want to create those same memories my kids had so many years ago.

And of course, make sure you get a qualified personal shopper… For camps.

 

Happy holidays!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.


Doing your homework

by Karen Meister

There is so much information on the internet that you really begin to question what is real and what is not so real.    For example, my son recently hired a moving company to move a small amount of furniture from Aventura to Ft. Lauderdale.  The company received all the necessary stars, on line, to indicate that they were a reputable moving company.  He SMARTLY put the deposit on a credit card.  He took a day off from work and had to make the move during a small window of time to accommodate the rules and regs of two condo associations.  Needless to say, they never showed up.  He did receive his deposit back, but he was definitely “taken” by the on line credentials.

How can you tell the difference between something that is real and something that is not so real?  How do you go go on Trip Advisor or Camp Ratingz and understand what is a real submission vs. something that was placed, purchased or manipulated?  You can’t tell. That is the bottom line.  The most reliable source of information must be, continues to be and will always be personal connections with something.

Travel agents, as a perfect example, offer an element of expertise and entre that cannot be achieved through on line research.  They have visited the sites, they have met with the personnel and they can direct you to the locations, hotels and planning that you could never do on your own.  Well, you can do it on your own, but you will spend a lot more time, and the risk is incredibly high.  And there is no fee for a travel agent… so why not use their cost free expertise?

Same with camp and teen programs.  Every single brochure, dvd and website is gorgeous.  Every single camp has happy kids, lovely directors and beautiful fields.  And trips and programs for teens are each and every one fantastic for their experience, safe, secure and reputable.  Right??  Well…. the stories we have heard are pretty chilling.  There are many community service programs that have left kids so much on their own that the chance for local kidnapping to drug involvement to pick pocketing is overwhelming.  It is so crucial to make sure that you research using a reputable service, again at no charge like a travel agent, to make sure you find safe, secure and consistent organizations.

So this week, starting on Wednesday, I will be doing your homework.  Please go to my Twitter Feed where I will be sharing a lot of insight on programs that will include excellent summer camps at all prices, lengths and locations AND  teen programming and opportunities.  Three days of presentations, in detail, by programs that I have used for many successful years.  I will let you know about opportunities and price savings; specialty programs and deadlines; new and updated information.  Your job will be to send me your contact information and specific requests.  Just click here and fill out the form to get into the loop.

Remember, tune in Wednesday, November 6 – Friday November 8.  I will be tweeting and hope you join in.

 

PS My son got all his money back from the movers and we found a reliable source to oversee the move without using the internet.  Unfortunately, he lost his day off from work…..

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

OCTOBER MEANS SUMMER

by Karen Meister

YOU ARE NOT TOO LATE!!!!!

OK.  So the buzz is that you have waited too long, any camp that still has space is not a real good one, and you feel terrible because you missed the window again.  You want the best for your kids, you definitely don’t want to settle and yet they are getting older and really should be going to camp already.

What’s a mother to do?

Relax….  There are so many great camps and although your friends may not know of them, other people do.  And they love their camp.  In addition, remember that at this time of the year, camps are in the marketing business.  The thought that a camp is low in supply, so early, MUST mean that they are a great camp.  Right?  Camps do love for that information to be spread around. It just allows the price to continue to go up…. Ugh!  So when you hear a camp is full, remember four things:

  1. a certain age group and gender may be full for the moment, but not the entire camp
  2. the camp may not be accepting children from a certain geographic area any longer
  3. although full today, the camp is going to release spaces by a certain date
  4. it just is not true

And the reality is, if everyone is going to the same camp in the area, do you really want to spend all that money to send your child to camp with the same kids they are with all year long?  You know my philosophy — let them separate.  Not only from you but from their friends.

There is a camp for your child, budget, location, and interests.  You may not know the name of it yet.  And for many, that is exactly what they are looking for.  Something unique, something wonderful, certainly something safe, but a place where magic can happen.

Now, although panic is not necessary, it is most certainly time to research for this coming summer.  Yes, you can find a camp as late as June.  I place so many children at that late of a date.  But if you can, investigation now is important.  You want to narrow down options to the top two and then bring the children into the decision making.  And in order to get to the top two, you have some homework to do.  Even with the help of a “camp expert”, there is still work on your part.

You must allow yourself about 2-4 weeks to narrow down to the top two camps with enough due diligence to feel comfortable.  If you start tomorrow, that puts you right before Thanksgiving.  And then, right after Thanksgiving, you can hope to meet some camp directors and finalize your enrollment before the new year.  Make sense?

October is the best month to hunt.  No worries.  Just do it!

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  

Summer – Research Now

by Karen Meister

It’s only October and I am already getting calls of panic from parents who believe their opportunity for summer camp for 2014 has already past.  And guess what?  There are several full summer camps that are already filled for the summer of 2014.  And if full summer camping is the type of experience you want for your children, you really should be staring your research with an open mind as to where, if 2014 is the goal.  And yet, there are still so many camps and experiences available… but you have to be in the know.

So let’s check out reality.  There are about 2900 summer camps and over 7600 total programs around the world for summer time enjoyment (according to the American Camping Association and I will assume the numbers are actually greater).  Figure a minimum of 100 children per session and an average of 2 sessions per program.  So, there are approximately  2.1 million plus spots to be filled.  You will find something!!!

Granted, there are some programs that fill up in August and others that never fill up.  And making the match between your very specific desires and availability may or may not occur ever….  But alas, the odds are in your favor.   So stop sweating.  Many more things to fret over.

But yet, let’s get down to business and make some decisions.  And now we will get into my favorite topic which is PARENT POWER!!!

Question 1:  Is a summer experience filled with independence, new experiences, learning, and fresh air something good for your child?

Answer 1:  YES

Question 2:  What time and budget can you allot to give this independent experience to your child/teen?

Answer 2:  Only you know, but figure out the specifics.  What dates are they available to go away?  How long can they go away?  Think both physically and emotionally for both the kids and you.  And how much can you afford to spend?  Think anywhere between $1500 and $12,000.  Every family is different and determine what is right for your personal family needs.

Question 3:  What do you want for your child/teen?  Yes, I clearly said what do YOU want for your child/teen.

Answer 3:  If you had a good experience at camp, you often want to find a similar experience for your child.  You want to encourage them to have the same wonderful memories, bonding and experiences that you fondly remember.  And of course, if you did not have a good experience, than you are very sensitive to make sure they do not have a repeat of your history.  But please make sure that you don’t choose to shelter your child because you had a bad experience.  Simply make sure you find the right fit for your child to maximize the probability of a successful experience.

But the real message is….  if you want your child/teen to go away for the growth and development opportunity, you don’t need their permission or buy in.  You are the parent.  Granted, you want them to “want” to go….  You want them to be excited about the opportunity.  But sometimes, they are hesitant for so many reasons that require YOU to be the parent and direct them.  Especially the hesitant teenager…. wants to stay home and hang out, wants to go with a friend, doesn’t like anything you present, “you can’t make me” attitude.  Or the child who really pulls on you…. “but Mommy, I am going to miss you sooooo much!”  How can you possibly send that deliciousness away?  Because it is the greatest gift and given the right choice, they will thank you so much years from now.

So there is a simple process for buy in.  Ready??

  1. Know your child — their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses
  2. For teens, know their passions or their lack of passions
  3. Work with an adviser (like me,of course) who knows kids and knows the programs that match
  4. Learn, read, ask questions about the programs suggested specifically for your families’ needs
  5. Narrow down to the top two or three (again, I’ll help you) that make the most sense/cents
  6. Now give the child/teen the option to decide.
The language to use?

 

This summer, you get to go to a special, exciting program.  You get to choose which one you want, but you must choose one.  So I have three programs and we are going to look at them together and pick the greatest most exciting one.  You (my child) are in charge!!

 

So now, your child has a sense of control over their own destiny.  It worked for me… when my son was 15.  And he says he is now my greatest advertising for the positive push forward.  He now has a lifelong passion for travel!!  Give your kids the same wonderful gift — a strong parental role model and the gift of independence.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

 

9 Steps to The Right Camp

by Karen Meister

Nine  good questions to ask to find the right camp experience for your child and family.  One question not to ask — where does the neighbor’s child go.

Each child is different and each camp has a different personality.  The goal will be to make the greatest fit.  Let’s start with some assumptions.  First, assume that you want a camp that is safe and secure and that the children will be well supervised.  Let’s dig a bit deeper into the differences between one good camp vs another good camp.  The questions to consider are:

  1. What is my child’s personality like?
  2. What are my child’s interests?
  3. What are my interests for my child?
  4. What about the siblings?
  5. Are there any special needs?
  6. How much money am I prepared to spend?
  7. How far can my child travel?
  8. How long can my child be away?
  9. Where do I want to visit my child for the next few years?

1.  What is my child’s personality like?

If you can answer these three simple questions, you can begin to identify the type of camp your child will enjoy.  First, imagine that your child is entering the dining hall of their future camp.  Behind door number one, the dining hall is filled with kids standing on the tables, cheering at the top of their lungs, the craziness is exciting for many.  Behind door number two, everyone is sitting at their tables, with their counselors, eating, engaging and having lively conversation, but more subdued.  Pick one door.  Second, your child is invited to a birthday party.  They go to the side of the room and wait for others to approach them or, they enter the room and the other children flock to greet him.  Finally, there is a room full of people, adults, older children and children the same age as your child.  With which group is your child most comfortable?

Seems like a strange collection of questions, but believe it or not, each camp also has a personality.  And understanding your child’s personality in these three areas helps to identify a collection of camps that will be a better fit than others.

2.  What are my child’s interests?

Put your dreams aside and focus on your child.   Does your child want to chase, touch, play with any type of ball and any type of team?  Or prefer the individual sports of ie tennis, golf, horseback riding, sailing, skateboarding? An indoor, “don’t make me sweat” type of child?     Are the interests really more towards scientific?  Curiosity?  Theater?  Arts?

Identifying your child’s passion helps to again make better choices.  It doesn’t mean that a child should or would go to a camp specializing in their passion.  It just provides better insight into where your child may find comfort while exploring new areas of interest.  You want to increase the probability of success by at least providing an area of interest during their summer experience because of course, we now move to the next question….

3.  What are my interests for my child?

You see, you are the parent.  And although your child may prefer to spend the entire summer playing video games, watching TV or playing the guitar, you know that physically and emotionally, they will need to branch out just a little bit.  So… what are your thoughts?  Do you want your child to learn a life skill ie tennis, golf or sailing during the summer?  Do you want to expose them to the great outdoors?  Is travel an important element you want to share?  Do you want your child to be exposed to the wonders of the arts because they only want to talk about the baseball?  Or is it possibly the reverse?  Do you want your child to learn the fundamentals of basketball dribbling, the intensity of competition?  Do you want it all?  Some?  What did you like or dislike about your summer experiences?  And how would you like to repeat or change the experience for your child?

4.  What about the siblings?

In selecting a camp, and certainly to make your life easier, it would be really nice if all the siblings get to go to camp together.  So understanding the needs of each child also help in selecting just the right camp.   If you have a boy and a girl, it is important to review either co-ed or brother/sister camps.  All boys?  All girls?  You can really focus on the single sex camps.  One thing can be said — if the children can go to camp together, it is a bonding experience they will cherish for life.  Sibling rivalry at home?  Send them to camp together and watch them bond.  Even if their interests are different, and personalities are different, which so often may happen, finding a camp that offers a compromise for each child will often be a great choice.

5.  Are there any special needs?

Does your child have an allergy, a condition or special need?  Is nighttime bed wetting an issue?  Phobias, medications?  Is there a doctor or RN on staff?  Or a local pediatrician with standing orders?  How close is the nearest hospital?  What about religious preferences?  Or a need for tutoring or language skills?  Anything that your child may have or need can be accommodated at so many camps.  The trick is to provide full disclosure to the camp or camp consultant with which you are working.  Believe it or not, camp people have absolutely heard it all.  There are more kids on ADHD meds than not, there are more kids taking growth hormones than ever before.  Gluten free, peanut free, egg free and milk free diets can all be accommodated.  Every religious or non-religious needs can be accommodated.  Just speak up and make sure the camp can provide your child with the most perfect, safe environment possible.

6.  How much money am I prepared to spend?

Camps come in all price ranges.  The price — high or low — does not necessarily mean it is a better or worse camp.  You must dig deeper.  Sometimes, a lower price will reflect a smaller staff, less equipment, facilities that are not as nice or new, less security.  But not necessarily.  Sometimes, a camp has a lower price because they are building their marketplace, the directors are making a choice to be available to a certain market, or there are subsidies provided by charitable organizations.  Sometimes the price is higher because the camp has a more experienced staff, facilities are at a high standard, and the reputation allows for a higher price.  Or sometimes, the marketing choice is to charge a higher rate to connote a better camp.  You just never know.  But what you can identify is how much you are prepared to spend.  Whatever you decide your budget will be for the summer, there will be ways to change the location, length of time, and specific camp to accommodate.  There is something for everybody.

And yet, make sure you keep in mind the expense of taking care of and entertaining the children the rest of the summer.  Many people decide that full summer camping is not the best choice because of the cost.  Keep in mind, that you pay a very large premium for fewer weeks of sleep away programming.  And then you must fill many weeks of summer at home, which of course comes with an alternative but additional  price tag.

7.  How far can my child travel?

There are many reasons to select certain locations for your family.  Based upon where you live, certain locations may offer start dates that are more in line with your school system.  You may prefer to send your child to camp by bus or drive them to camp.  Or you may have a relative or summer home in an area to which you want to be close.  But if they are getting on a plane to go to camp, they are getting on a plane.  Many parents have expressed a fear of sending the children too far in case of emergency.  Reality is, you are selecting a camp that you believe will care for your child at all times including emergencies.  With flight schedules the way they are today, you can fly anywhere within a few hours.  Whether drive or fly, you will not be there for the moment of emergency… no matter what!  So if you can let them fly…. especially if you are trying to get out of the hot south, let them fly….

8.  How long can my child be away?

There are many factors that must be considered for this question.  First, of course, you must review the school calendar.  Second, the family obligations such as family trips, special events, sports practices, etc.  Third, budget certainly comes into play.  Typically however, a parent fears a full summer commitment for a child, especially the first year.  Remember why you are considering a sleep away camp in the first place.  Sleep away camp offers the opportunity for a child to develop independence and development.   Any sleep away experience is good, but if possible, the longer the better.  The reason is that if homesickness is at all a problem, it takes time to overcome the experience and turn it around into a positive.  In addition, a full summer experience really allows the development of friendships and bonds that will last a life time.  There is no right answer, but only the right time frame for your family.  Know that there is a camp that will meet your specific needs.

9.  Where do I want to visit my child for the next several years?

So now we are really getting into the nitty gritty.  Let’s assume you have narrowed down the camp selection to the top three.  If you flip a coin, and make your final selection based on the coin toss, your children and pocket book will be indifferent.  However, you will be going to visiting day for hopefully several years ahead.  Where do you want to visit?  How long does it take to get there?  Are there decent and cost effective hotels in the area?  Are there interesting things to do in the area to add a few vacation days to your visit?  Let’s just call this one a tie-breaker!

Identifying your best case scenario is a terrific way to begin your search for just the right camp.  And of course, using a camp consultant (like me…) makes the process so incredibly simple, worry free and accurate!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Imagine…. Summer experiences.

by Karen Meister

I have read many articles about the benefits, drawbacks, failures and successes of summer camp experiences for children.  Some simply identify the cost as being the one and only reason to deny a child from a unique and independent experience.

I will flatly oppose this thought since there truly is something for everyone, there are so many scholarships available and I have so many clients over the years who kept digging and trying to get whatever financial  help they could get to make sure their child or teenager had some experience that they could identify as being unique, special and somewhat life enhancing and life changing.

This summer I had the unique opportunity to see programs that were traditional, expensive and off the charts luxurious.  But I also got to see programs that truly allow me to be an expert and provide insights into programs that, if the right fit for the right child, will most certainly be an awesome experience.  A few examples:

  •  Be an artist and an engineer:  I visited a program that allowed a child/teen create an idea in their mind and work side by side with adult artists and engineers to implement, create and install their idea on the grounds of the camp.
  • Be an organic farmer:  I saw onions growing next to squash next to keep the bugs away.  I saw celery growing….  That was just amazing.  I watched children/teens learning how to grow, harvest, prepare and serve foods to their peers.  Milking goats, collecting eggs from free roaming chickens, and munching off the snack gardens outside their cabins.  Wow!!!
  • Learn in the woods:  Paper and pencil learning under a tent.  Unplug, study all morning in platform tents from top teachers from around the world, share your afternoons with other teens from around the world.  Learn to live in a world of multi-languages and international manners and civility at the dinner table.
  • Play music with the best from Jamaica:  After exercising on the soccer field, learn an instrument under the tutelage of some of the best Jamaican percussionists.
  • Survival extraordinaire:  Be part of a team able to survive — learning axemanship, build a canoe, clear trails for others, live and learn manners, respect and honor.

My travels this summer were in just a small area in the northeastern section of the United States.  Each year, I am simply amazed by the breadth of offerings to children and teenagers and in awe of the creative and dedicated camp directors who turn their dreams into realities.  Some of these programs are new and some have been in existence since 1903.  Imagine…. And that is just what they do and allow campers to do as well.  Imagine…..

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Fluffy pink slippers

by Karen Meister

I am on a camp trip, not to be confused with a “camping” trip.  I am not a tent person and yet, I most certainly respect those who love it.  But I do love sleep away camp and always have.  For the past ten years now, there is a wonderful summer ritual that I get to experience.  I work like crazy getting all of my families ready for a summer of excitement, purpose, independence and fun with finding just the right summer experience for their children.  Father’s Day arrives and immediately after, I hit the road.

My goal is to visit camps, get to know the reality of the camps facilities, staff and activities, and identify which children belong at which camps.  I back away from my computer and cyber-space, and get to walk and hike through the mountains and fresh air of camp.

I DO LOVE MY JOB!

But alas, I am leaving my family behind for the summer.  And as my kids said to me this year, “Mom, don’t worry.  You will get over your homesickness, you can call us a few times during the summer, and we know you’ll be happy.”  I think they have been eavesdropping on my calls with all of my clients!!

So, I pack my bag, with all of my favorite cozy things, allowing me to have a little bit of home and comfort while I’m away.  I have my favorite sweats, my fuzzy slippers, my own pillow and now, my pictures on my phone and computer.  When I enter a strange hotel room, I need to make it my space so that it feels like my little home away from home.  And what is really interesting and certainly validates what I do for a living, I book hotels in sleepy little camp towns like Clinton, SC and trust me, the picture of the hotel is very very VERY different than what I am staying in.  And that is why I visit the camps so that you have eyes on the ground that can distinguish between beautiful photoshopped photos vs reality.

Just as you prepare to send your own children away from home, know that they are having the same mixed emotions that I am experiencing.  The excitement of returning to the camp world, the thrill of cooler weather and activity away from book work, and yet…. leaving the comforts of home.

So, let me suggest that you send your kids with their faves from home.  A favorite pillow, special slippers, a cozy bathrobe, pictures to put on their cabin wall, and of course, a “printed” picture of the family.  No electronics at camp.

Happy to share thoughts from the road.  Send me your questions about camp, packing, prepping, research for the future, homesickness, happy /disturbing letters from camp and more.  And if the teens are home and driving you crazy, I can always find a last minute spot.

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Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Mass-aaaaaa-ge!

by Karen Meister

The close of school is just a few days away.  Everyone is feeling the pressure.  Finals, ceremonies, duffle bag packing but the  most stressful for most is indecision….

Indecision as to what is going to happen when June 6th occurs and the school year is over.  OMG!!

I have spoken with every kind of mom and dad in the past few weeks.

 

  1. Early Planner - This is the parent that believes they must plan next  summer now.  OK.  I’m ready for you.
  2. Late Planner -  Needless to say, the exact opposite.  The summer season is days away and therefore, it must be time to plan.  I am here for you.  I know which programs still have space and last minute placement is available.  Just be flexible.
  3. Indecisive - This is usually the parent of teens.  I think “insert your T$#@%EENSname” should do this, he/she wants to do that, and now we have to make a decision and can’t.  So my suggestion….
    • T$#@%EEN…. you get to choose.  Program A, Program B or Monday – Friday 9-5 job.  Find it.
  4. Disorganized - I signed up early, can’t find the paperwork, duffle bags aren’t ready, labels aren’t on the clothes and I can’t get a doctor’s appointment to get the health forms in.  Can you help?  Sorry.  This one is on you….
  5. Frantic - I signed up early, my child is going to three weeks of a program.  Was I crazy?  The summer is 12 weeks long.  What else are they going to do?  Help.  And of course, I can.  Camp Experts & Teen Summers, especially in South Florida, gets all kind of special programs that fill in the empty weeks.

So as I soak up all of your stress, and believe me, that is my job — happily — I find my shoulders have elevated somewhere up around my ears.  And today, I took off and went to my local Massage Envy and said — “take it away”!  Rub out the crunchiness in my shoulders and back.  Give me the comfort to sit in my office and talk to all my cyber-friends to help them with the summer.

I literally fell asleep the first half hour.   The second half hour was grand but camp plans started to creep back in.  When I went to check out, much more relaxed and relieved, they asked my name and I said… Karen Meister.  The woman standing next to me said,  ”Oh… the Camp Expert.  I still don’t know what my kids are doing.  Can you help me?”

And my answer was, yes!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

Spinning in Circles?

by Karen Meister

Post-Spring Break is always a hectic time.  Great vacation time quickly turns into FCATs, Finals, AP exams, graduations, proms, awards ceremonies and before you know it, the first of June has arrived.  You are so busy with day to day activity that planning for the summer is so hard to even contemplate right now.

And you are kicking yourself!  Why didn’t I take care of this months ago when I really planned to do it!!

Well, spinning in class is far preferred to spinning in circles.  You can have the kids home all summer and run CAMP MOM.  I’ve done it.

  1. WEEK ONE:  We relaxed, we bonded, we went to the movies, the beach, played in the balls, trampolined, swam in the pool.  We did chemistry and math while we cooked and we made play dates with friends.  We went to the grocery store and shopped together.  GREAT times!
  2. WEEK TWO:  It rained.  We played balloon tennis, we played board games, we had friends over, we decorated cupcakes, we ate lots of junk food, we read about characters of Greek mythology, we cleaned the house together (as if it was a game).  GOOD times!
  3. WEEK THREE:  Weather improved but now the storm was in the attitudes.  Kids saying, “We’re bored, no one home to play with, our friends are all at camp…”  I never felt the need to entertain my children 24/7 but it was hard to co-exist, entertain, and enrich three very active boys and stay on a budget.

Of course, as they got older, I was no longer a stay at home mom.  Instead of being Camp Mom to my three boys, I became Camp Director.   And needless to say, the budget was much bigger!!

There is great benefit in planning a summer that allows the kids to be away from you, so that you get some time, and they get some independent time.  But alas, you have waited till the last minute of summer planning.  So, here are your options:

  • Day camp – lots of choices for those 12 and under.
  • Sleep away camp – available to all kids between 6 and about 14 years old – many choices, prices, locations, personalities and activities.
  • Teen camps - for middle and high school students, age appropriate but get to do all the general activities from sports to dance to water skiing to sing around the camp fire.  But without the little kids around.
  • Middle School and High School Programs:
    • Outdoor Adventure – hiking, biking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing — the great outdoors
    • Community Service - travel with a purpose and teach English, develop sustainable environments, be part of a medical team, and more
    • Travel – seeing the world or seeing someone else’s neighborhood all opens the eyes of young and impressionable teens.  Traveling young establishes a taste for travel for life.
    • Language learning and immersion – Whether the language is Mandarin, Spanish, French or Portuguese, your teens can learn while living.  No better way to improve than living the language.
    • Improved Academics - If your teen is having trouble with a class, needs help in developing study skills, leadership development, SAT/ACT Prep, or special needs assistance, there are excellent summer programs.
    • Study Abroad – Any class you want can be taken for credit or for enrichment, while also experiencing a few weeks or a full summer overseas.
    • Pre-College Programs – So much to gain from learning what it’s like to be at a big college, small college, in a dorm, taking classes, eating in a school cafeteria (AND NOT GAINING THE FRESHMAN 10)…. Classes for enrichment, for college credit, and all over the country/world for that matter.
    • The College Prep Summer Plan - LET’S TALK.  Two to four years of summer and school planning and coordination designed to help your teen prepare for decision making when it comes to college direction.

But now, in order to plan the 13 weeks of summer that the children are out of school, you better get going.  I am sure you know by now that a Camp and Teen Consulting Expert is the only way to handle this situation quickly, efficiently and effectively.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.

Special children get special camps

by Karen Meister

I often get calls from parents who start the dialogue with:  ”this is going to be a hard one for you, but I really need your help!”

They proceed to tell me about their child and how wonderful he or she is, bright, outgoing, loves animals, but….  and then there is the hesitancy and sometimes, the choked sentence follows.   He is somewhere on the spectrum and I really want him to learn to get along with others, be more independent, not get teased, just have fun….  I then follow with, “and you can use a break as well.”

And then the voice on the other end of the line goes from a bit choked up to a wash of tears.

I write today to simply say, you are not alone!  There are so many families facing similar dilemmas of loving their children with passion — because they love so many things about them, who they are and what they have accomplished.  They love their children because they are their parents and they are supposed to.  And they love them with an asterisk — I love them but I am so exhausted.

The good news is that there are so many summer opportunities that provide the right environment for children with specific requirements.  Whether it be a form of ADD or ADHD, defiant behavior, autism on all points on the spectrum, dyslexia, cancer, heart disease, peanut and tree nut allergies, crohns, diabetes or any other diagnosis on the alphabetic list of “conditions”, there is a safe, healthy environment for your child.

So the question is how to begin the process of finding just the right program?

1.  Are they/you ready for overnight camp?  As with any child, you must first determine if your child is ready to go away and/or if you believe a nudge to go away would be beneficial.  Are they able to sleep out at a friend or relatives house?  If the answer is yes, they are probably ready.  If the answer is no, you have to determine if leaving the home for a period of time is a necessary “push” required to help your child become more independent and self-reliant.

2.  Do your research.  The first step in doing your research is to be comfortable about talking openly about your specific situation and desired outcome.  You must find a reputable service to help guide you to safe, secure and appropriate programs.  Talking to other parents with similar home situations in conjunction with speaking with a camp expert is critical.  You want to talk with the director and other parents who have had children attend the different camps.  You really want to make sure that the staff to camper ratio is very small.  At least 3 to 1, and in many cases, 1 to 1 based on the circumstance of the need.  The facility needs to be safe and in good condition.

3.  Understand the camp community — special camp vs. mainstreaming.  You want to have an excellent understanding of the camp community.  Some families want their child to be in and among children with similar conditions so that they can get the therapeutic direction and assistance needed.  They don’t want their child to feel different or ostracized.  Some families want their child to be in a more mainstreamed environment so they will learn cues and behaviors from other children.  There is no one right answer, but what is right for your philosophy.

However, if your child is being mainstreamed into a traditional camp, you want to make sure the environment is welcoming.  For example, if the camp director or top staff has a special needs child, they will be empathetic to your needs and you can bet that the philosophy trickles down to the whole staff.  You can consider the opportunity for hiring a shadow counselor that can be made available to your child in order to keep the staff/camper ratio to a safe number for your child.

4.  Make sure the medical assistance is up to par.  As to meds, every camp is passing out meds to a large population of the camp.  You therefore, want to make sure that the medical staff is fully abreast of your child’s specific needs, you can package them for better administration, and be prepared for adjustments during the summer due to higher activity levels. Make sure the camp you select has a good doctor or RN on-premise.  If there is no doctor on premise, you want to make sure that a pediatrician makes regular visits to the camp and has standing orders in town to accept campers any time of day or night.  The doctor should be within 10 minutes of the camp.  And the emergency medical facility should be within 20 minutes of the camp.

5.  Programming should be varied and instructional.  When your child has specific needs, you want to make sure that they are gaining self confidence through skill building.  Whether the skills are dribbling a basketball, learning how to make a bed, or appropriate table manners, there should be a true sense of accomplishment by the end of the summer.  You want it to be identifiable, measurable, and most certainly applause-worthy upon their return.

And while your child is off to camp, learning and being successful, please make sure to give yourself some time.  Know that you have provided a fabulous opportunity and gift to your child, and you deserve the spare moments of peace and tranquility.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.

 

Specialty vs General Camp

by Karen Meister

Over the past ten years, I have spoken to hundreds, maybe thousands of parents.  Typically, I speak to moms who either are the driver behind sending their children to camp or they are the implementer of the decision that both parents have made.  So here is a typical conversation.  My son, he is the oldest of three, is 9 years old and he is an amazing …..  fill in the blanks.  Let’s use tennis as the example because since I am a tennis player, it is easy to talk about, and familiar to many families.

The conversation continues… I really want him to focus on his tennis, he is showing tremendous strength in the sport, and I don’t want him to lose his skills over the summer by doing arts and crafts and wasting his time on other sports.  If we wait any longer for him to concentrate on his tennis, he is going to be left far behind.  What do you think?

Well, now that my children are in their 20′s, I was that parent many years ago wondering what to do with my “talented” children.  I was also that child who had parents that directed me and my siblings through the summertime investment of camp, BOTH general and specialty.  So our story…

In 1995, my two boys pictured at left, were die hard tennis players.  For career day, Shane dressed up as Agassi and Adam dressed up as Sampras.  Their uncle toured the world playing on the pro circuit and their mom (me) was a competitive tennis player.  So “going for it” in the tennis world was not so far-fetched in their minds.  I sent them to one week specialty camps, they played after school several times a week, and Adam was invited to participate in an intense USTA youth development program.  At the time of this picture, Adam was the ripe old age of 9 years old and really believed that he could be the next Pete Sampras.

And yet, when it came time for them to go to sleep away camp, I opted for a camp that had good tennis instruction but had every other sport, activity, and gave them exposure to as many different activities as possible.  At camp, they did play a lot of tennis.  But they also played a lot of flag football, went on long distance mountain biking trips, learned to water ski, kissed a few girls, and shot a rifle (I know not everyone is into that).  The three boys (the youngest was 5 at the time of this picture) all played high school tennis, all have tennis as a part of their lives whenever they choose to pick it up again, and have great memories of their camp days and camp friends.

When my brother and I were kids, however, we went to general camp when we were 9-12 years old.  But when we turned 12 and 13, we then went on to specialty camp and spent 6 weeks playing tennis at a very intense level.  We both competed in tournaments and at 16, I rediscovered other sports and other things, and my brother began to focus more heavily on his tennis.  He traveled the world playing professional tennis in the ’80′s and I on the other hand, still hope to be a competitive tennis player into my 80′s.

There are many roads to take for your children, and many sacrifices we make for our children.  There is no correct answer as to when and/or if it is the right time to help your child focus.  But know that 9 years old is very young, and the aptitude they show at 9 does not necessarily mean they will have the fortitude to stick it out for the long haul.  Single-minded dedication is hard, long and often times, lonely.  Only the very few can handle it.  And those who choose the path of focus are those that we get to watch, for example, at the Sony this coming week.

If you are still searching for a summer camp for your children, or want to discuss the pros and cons of general vs specialty camp for your family, now is the time to start the conversation.  Let me know your thoughts and we can work on it together.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.