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Academic tutoring at summer day camps

Sophia Chirco, 8, talks to counselor Jamie Sangesland

Sophia Chirco, 8, talks to counselor Jamie Sangesland of Smithtown last summer at Ivy League Day Camp in Smithtown. Photo Credit: Ivy League Day Camp

When Carol Chirco was deciding where to enroll her three daughters in a day camp program last summer, one factor convinced her that Ivy League Day Camp in Smithtown was the right place -- and it had nothing to do with swimming or archery or any other traditional camp activity.

"For me, one of the driving things was that it had a tutor," Chirco says.

Chirco's oldest daughter, Sophia, 8, had struggled during second grade, grappling primarily with math. "A lot of misery" is how Chirco described it. Having Sophia tutored one-on-one by a certified teacher twice a week for 30 minutes during camp was super-convenient, Chirco says. "I didn't have to go to yet another place," she says. "It turned out to be the smartest move for my family," the Smithtown mom says.

Ivy League is just one of a number of day camps on Long Island offering individual tutoring. Most camps offer tutoring for an additional fee. Ivy League, where tutoring is free, is expanding its program this summer to give kids more flexibility in choosing what camp activities they'll miss in order to get sessions in, says camp director Meredith Stern. If they don't want to miss any sports, for instance, they won't have to.

"More and more camps are adding it and putting it out there, letting parents know they're offering the service," says Jess Michaels, director of communications for the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey. Sleepaway camps have long offered tutoring service, but more day camps are adding or expanding programs. "I think it's something the public doesn't know about," she says.

KEEPING UP

The desire for one-on-one tutoring has grown hand-in-hand with the overall trend of parents' wanting more educational activities worked into the camp day, says Mark Transport, co-owner and co-director of Crestwood Country Day Camp in Melville. Just as some parents want their kids to have workshops on chess or robotics during the camp day, others want tutoring as well to help avoid the notorious summer slide.

"Families seem to be more interested in keeping their kids up to speed or having them move ahead," Transport says. "It just seems to be more of a concern. What's happened is, competition has gotten keener for getting into college. Parents have gotten much more focused on the implications of grades at a much earlier age -- second, third, fourth and fifth grades, sometimes."

Says Kim Cottage of Smithtown, whose son Nicholas, 8, has been tutored at Ivy League Day Camp for the past two summers: "If you don't stay current with all the Common Core over the summer, it's really difficult." The Common Core, established by the National Governors Association and adopted by nearly every state, has set new, tougher standards in math and English Lanugage Arts.

FEES VARY

Crestwood is even considering adding an SAT tutoring program for the older kids , Transport says. Currently, Crestwood offers tutoring either during the camp day or after camp, bringing in professional tutors and charging a fee, he says. Some camps use teachers already working on summer staff.

Tutoring fees can range from $35 to $40 a session at several camps to $150 an hour at Hampton Country Day Camp in East Hampton. "These are Manhattan families. We really base the rate on what they are used to paying in the city," says Doris Rosen, one of the camp directors.

The fees can be charged through the camp, or the camp might just act as the conduit by matching tutors up with families and letting them work out the payment details. "We as a camp do not take a single penny from this," says Ross Coleman, owner and director of Coleman Country Day Camp in Merrick. "It's just something we provide as a benefit for our campers."

'BEST THING'

Frieda Bloom is a retired teacher who tutors kids at Hampton Country Day Camp. She says tutors have to be creative and make the sessions fun so kids don't mind missing group activities. "Sometimes we are outside with them," she says. "This is not a punishment. It has to be treated almost as a reward. We can't make it fun fun, but we can make it interesting and encouraging."

At Coleman, the tutoring program is called The Little Red Schoolhouse, and it takes place in a designated air-conditioned room. Offerings include speech, reading, math, physical therapy, occupational therapy and writing, he says. Kids might attend for 30 minutes once a week, or a couple of times a day for a variety of subjects, he says. "To a child, it's just part of the camp day. It's not a tough thing to ask a child to do," Coleman says.

Sharon George's son, Cody, now 4, had speech therapy twice a week during his camp days at Coleman last summer. The camp alternated the times he had it so that he didn't miss the same activity repeatedly. "It just worked out fabulously," the Wantagh mom says. She didn't have to keep him out of camp to go to therapy, or have to take him after he got off the camp bus exhausted at the end of the day: "It's the best thing I ever did for him."

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