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Summer is swiftly approaching and those with kids are embarking on that blessed curse known as summer vacation. Now for some parents out there it is a blessing because summer for some teenagers means summer job, which is great. But in this economy, there are fewer and fewer youth-focused jobs and activities. So I want to throw out a few things to think about for those of you that have yet to figure out how the summer months will play out.

The summer is a time for fun and rest, but can not be ignored as a time to ALSO strengthen and prepare your children for what they will facing next academic school year. So balance is key. I know many of you are stressed because you are on a super budget and resources are low. So an expensive, or for that matter, ANY summer camp is out of the question. Please know that what is more important than anything, regardless of your income, is preparation. Use this next week to think about the kind of experiences, recreation, knowledge, and preparation you want your child to have and soak up over the course of two and ½ to three months.

Do you want them to travel or to strengthen reading and math skills? Do you want them to learn a new language or take the art classes that the public school does not offer? Do you want them involved in athletics or spending time volunteering if a paid job or internship is unavailable? Realize that the summer can be whatever you plan to make it.

There are still a ton of free things to do. I will never forget the summer curriculum that my father forced me to engage in. The summer reading list that was accompanied by planned and impromptu book reports that would be written or verbal, depending on his mood, or if it was obvious to him that we had not read anything that day. And if you are interested in planning some academic learning for them try They have free instruction on everything from basic math to physics and history to microbiology. Have your kids visit the sight for an hour a day and I guarantee you will see a difference and give them something to do that prepares them for next year. There are other sites you can find if you want to do a foreign language or virtual travel. Just know that the web is mostly free and limitless.

Jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities are a must. Every young person has to be prepared to tackle this crazy work place. Even if you can’t find a paid spot, what you will learn working for free is a thousand times more powerful than sitting at home. And the relationships made will serve your child for a lifetime.

But summer should also be about getting out, seeing and experiencing things you normally don’t or can’t find the time to do. There are a ton of free arts and cultural festivals in the summer. Some of us may have to drive a few miles to get to them, but the cost is still minimum to get there and when you do, there is a small to no admission fee.

Some of you can afford camp. But make sure you check out not only the facilities and focus, but also the staff. Some camps will claim to provide your kids with something the staff does not have the capacity to provide. And try to strike a balance between stuff

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