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  Edition # 102  
San Francisco, 07-14-2013

Figure [1]: During the summer vacation, some parents drop off their kids at summer camp.

Angelika In the U.S., just like anywhere else, school kids are eagerly awaiting their summer vacation. With two to three months of school being closed during the summer, depending on the school district, school kids here have more time off than in Germany. In San Francisco, the last school day was May 31st, and children are returning to their classrooms on August 19th. Typical months for summer vacation are June, July, and August. Rumor has it that the reason for this choice is that formerly in rural areas, children had to help with the harvest. Others claim that it's due to the unbearable heat during the sommer months in major metropolitan areas that schools are closed during this time. Be it as it may, the fact is that long summer vacations enjoyed by U.S. school kids are here to stay.

But what are children supposed to do with their free time during the long summer vacation, when, as in many families in the U.S., both parents are working and often are granted only two weeks off? One option is the so-called summer school, where children can catch up on school matters, to get their grades up. However, this is usually only offered for children in high school. Also, many universities are offering sommer classes which many students take advantage of to speed up getting their degree. Children with special needs, even if they're usually integrated in regular classrooms, usually receive four weeks of extra lessons and therapy (speech therapy, ergo therapy, etc.), because the long time off school can lead to a loss of skills they've already acquired. This is called "extended school year", and the children I work with mostly get four weeks of extra classes.

And then there's the so-called "summer camps". I used to believe that every American child gets dropped off at a scout camp during summer, where they learn how to start bonfires and carve wooden figurines. Imagine a group of distressed teachers who have to spend the night in wooden cottages next to oodles of children! But while such overnight stay camps still exist, there's lots more choices nowadays, like surf camps, trips where children learn foreign languages, adventure tours or camps that teach how to make movies, believe it or not, in the streets of New York or Paris. Younger children often attend "day camps" and sleep at home at night. There's lots of different choices there was well. During the summer months, I'm often accompanying a child with autism I work with to a summer camp, to help him integrate into the camp group. In San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area, Camp Galileo has a good reputation. I just went there last week with one of the children I work with. Every week, they're teaching a different subject, like space travel, tropical safaris, or medieval times. Children at the camp are playing games, tinker with materials, and run small scientific experiments. Their parents sign them up for one week, or sometimes even for several weeks in a row. It is not exactly cheap, though, one week at the Galileo Camp, which runs from 9am till 3pm daily, clocks in at about $360 to $380, but they offer discounts for additional weeks.

You can probably find less expensive offerings, but their programs often are lacking in quality. The camps are typically run by enthusiastic college students, who take the opportunity to make some money on the side during their summer vacation. I'm not sure, though, if they realize how exhausting this job can be, because they continually have to adapt to new rascals coming on board!

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