Although there are definitely benefits to having an extended vacation for rest and relaxation, it's smart to focus on providing students with enrichment opportunities throughout the year. Summer school can build on the skills children learn during the year or provide a chance to explore special interests in greater detail. While it's true that many summer schools do charge tuition fees, there are free classes available as well.
The most common source of free summer school programs is your local school district. Summer classes are usually offered for elementary, junior high, and high school students. However, students must often meet specific eligibility criteria such as having a low income, being from a disadvantaged minority group, needing extra help in one or more key academic areas, or having to make up a class in order to graduate on time. Your child's teacher will usually send home a notice if your son or daughter is eligible for this type of summer school.
In many communities, public libraries provide free summer school classes. These programs mostly focus on encouraging children to develop a lifelong love of reading. However, there may also be art, dance, and music workshops or lectures from experts on various topics. Pre-registration may be required and parents may be asked to attend events with their children, so contact your library for details.
Depending upon where you live, museums can be excellent sources of summer classes for students of all ages. Most art, science, or history museums have an education director who is responsible for coordinating public tours, workshops, and special events. Classes can fill up fast, however, so it's best to plan ahead if you're interested in this type of opportunity for your child.
Colleges and universities sometimes provide free summer school programs for high school students. These classes are usually fairly short, but they are often taught by professors with several years of experience. For students who are unsure of their post-secondary education plans, this type of free summer school can be a good way to learn more about all options that are available.
Finally, free online classes are available from places such as Stanford, Yale, the University of Notre Dame, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Covering everything from English literature to the history of Christianity, these classes are generally self-paced, non-credit courses. This type of educational opportunity is most appropriate for academically advanced junior high and high school students with a serious interest in a specific subject area.