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School's out! Or is it?

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By Valle Dwight

The summer after his sophomore year, Minnick went to Upward Bound, a federally funded summer program for disadvantaged youths. For the first time, he was placed in a classroom with non-disabled kids — kids, in fact, who were whip smart. The expectations were high, and Minnick’s teachers were encouraging. They taught him differently, and suddenly things began to click for him.

Minnick immediately noticed a different atmosphere in the classroom — because the expectations were high, he found himself working hard to meet them. “Being in a class with high achievers really motivated me,” he says.

He went back to the summer program each year for the remainder of high school, graduated from college, and is now a published author and photographer.

Ann Cathcart, the mother who hated the idea of sending her son to summer school, ultimately took matters into her own hands and started a summer camp for kids with learning disabilities.

The program she created, the Learning Camp, combines solid academics with lots of free time and regular summer camp activities. But even the academic portion does not look anything like a school. Kids take their books outside to work by a creek or do math at a picnic table. And there is no homework or tests, so they don’t feel any stress.

The program emphasizes success for the kids. When children are successful, they tend to push harder, Cathcart finds, and success breeds success. “My opinion is that if we can maintain their self-esteem, they will stay motivated,” she says.

Minnick would agree with that philosophy. “That summer opened my eyes to what I could be,” he says. “The LD cloak came off of me.”

Valle Dwight is a reporter, writer, and mother of two school-aged boys. She has written for many magazines, including FamilyFun, Wondertime, and Working Mother.

Comments from readers

"What is wrong with Summer Bridge programs if they and the kids are approached in a positive manner? :) "
"I study during the break, but it mainly consists of math, my strength. You should ask your kids on what they like the most to study on and let them study on that! Im a 6th grader and I do high school math. "
"but kids should have a summer brake i know that they will lose their memories but that does not mean do not study with them from time to time it just means do not send them to summer school summer break means a lot to them so please do not put your children in summer school it will do you and them a better reaction when it is time for school"