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Episcopal Academy: Alex Thompson

February 5, 2010

From time to time, I conduct interviews of camp directors to get their advice for parents. This week, I spoke to Alex Thompson, of the Episcopal Academy, which runs an extensive summer camp program.

With all the camps available, how do you find the right camps for your kids?

There are two key things to making sure a camp is a good match for your child – really understanding what the camp is about and really understanding  your child. Here’s what I recommend:

1) Talk to the camp director or the camp office staff, so that you get an understanding of how the camp operates and what the camper experience is.

2) Think hard about what your kids are like. Not just what activities they like, but consider their personality as well. How is your child with transitions? What energy level? Are they more comfortable in structured or unstructured settings? Big groups versus small?

What questions would you ask a camp?

Of course, the camper to teacher ratio is important. But to really understand a camp, ask what a typical day looks like for the camper. It’ll help you get a feel for the number of transitions, quiet activity to outdoor, group sizes, etc.  Will they have the same teacher all day, or do they rotate? Do they stay with one group of kids or do they move around? Also, ask what camps fill up quickest. That will give you a feel for what the kids like and help with your planning.

It’s also valuable to ask about the teachers. Who are they and what are their qualifications? Are they adults or college students and teen-agers?

Lastly, make sure that the logistics work for you! Make sure the location works with your life, and  that you can make the drop-off and pick-up times.

What’s special about the Episcopal Academy?

What is unique about our program is our huge number of course offerings. We offer over 125 different courses for kids 5 – 18. This allows kids to really tailor their experience to their interests. We have sports, arts, academics, music and more.

This allows families to customize their experience. They can take 1 class for 1 week or take classes all day for 7 weeks. Kids can mix and match to their interests, and parents can use the assortment to encourage a balanced mix. For example, parents may allow more sports sessions, if a few academic ones are included as well.

The large assortment allows kids to try new things without making a huge commitment.  If fencing sounds interesting, a kid can try it for a week and learn if they do like it and want to commit a full semester to it.

And the large assortment makes it easy for families to make the camp work for kids of different ages with wildly varying interests. The teen-age sports nut and pre-teen art lover can both have a fantastic experience.

Any other tips for parents?

Yes! Don’t forget that summer is supposed to be fun. Let the kids have a role in planning the summer, so that they end up in camps of interest to them.

Make sure the camp works for you too. No kid wants to be the last one picked up everyday.

If your kid will be in camp all summer, try to make sure that they’ll be there with a buddy.

Lastly, check the details. What happens if you’re running late? Can you drop-off late or pick-up early? Camps have varying policies.

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