This type of catch-up study can be done informally at home, of course, but a student can also sign up for a community college class. Many people do not realize that local junior colleges offer high school level courses and that they generally welcome students of all ages and abilities. Some courses, such as science labs, are sometimes learned well in a group setting with specialized equipment. In addition, taking such outside classes provides your teen with an objective appraisal of his or her academic potential and ability both to function in and contribute to an organized classroom situation. Colleges like to hear this information about their homeschooled applicants.

On the other hand, maybe your student loves creative writing and wants to take advantage of these "unencumbered" months to write a novel. Or you may have an older child who is a budding historian and wants to spend the summer researching the various events and decisions that led up to a particular war. Maybe your son or daughter wants to study the Japanese language and culture! Colleges love to discover young people who have a real love for learning and an ongoing curiosity that prompts them to delve deeply into specific subjects.

Speaking of college, if your teen is scheduled to take the PSAT as a junior in October or plans to take the SAT or ACT as a senior this coming fall, the summer is the best time to take several practice exams, review any weak areas, and learn to deal comfortably with the timed aspect of the tests.

SUMMER CAMPS

Across the country each summer, many specialized camps are offered to high school students. I am talking about the kind of camps that emphasize a specific interest or skill and seek to expand the student's knowledge and abilities in that area to a more advanced level. These camps vary widely in their focus, intensity, location, and length. The choices range from music camps to science camps to sports camps to leadership camps--and so much more. Camps like these provide a time for your student to concentrate on a personal interest to the exclusion of almost everything else. Your child is bound to be inspired when surrounded by other kids who are devoted to the same interest.

My own older children have participated in several such camps over the years, such as:

  • Drama and Vocal Institute (highlighting opera) This is a daily, 9 am to 5 pm, local camp put on by our community college. It lasts three weeks, culminating in several wonderful evening performances. Kids aged 13 to 21 are involved in a well-supervised and tightly-scheduled setting.
  • Pacific Music Camp (for orchestra and band instrumentalists) This is a week-long boarding camp sponsored by the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. Students benefit from expert teaching on their specific instruments, the experience of auditioning for and performing in various level groups, and many special workshops aimed directly at their musical education. My daughter made many "bassoon buddies" while there and enjoyed rooming with a Christian friend who went to the camp also. Busy schedule, lots of required practice time.
  • Sports Camps (teaching skills relevant to many sports) These are half-day camps sponsored by our nearby community college. My oldest son was able to experience both the strategy and the physical rigors of football, the sprints and hurdles of track and the demanding field events, and the sheer fun of baseball.
  • High School Conservative Leadership Conference (for those interested in politics and making a difference in the world around them) This is a week-long camp held in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Reagan Foundation. It is very affordable and quite thought-provoking. The camp is strictly supervised, with many conservative political leaders as featured speakers, and the students are truly challenged to stand up for what they believe against a majority opposition. Great sight-seeing opportunities, too!

In addition, many colleges advertise special short-term courses or camps that introduce high school students to possible career fields (such as the University of Denver's Making of an Engineer program), provide research and mentor opportunities for students interested in science, or immerse students in an area of great interest (such as art, music, writing, or computers). All it takes is a little online research, either through search engines or through questioning other experienced parents at various homeschool Web sites, and you will have more options available than you can imagine.