Looking for a perfect camp? Margaret Bornstein, Huntington Woods mom and summer camp advisor for The Camp Experts & Teen Summers, is a pro. She helps Michigan and Ohio parents find experiences that fit their kids' needs and interests – for free. We chatted with Bornstein about hot trends for the summer and her gig.
"I was looking for a summer program that would be enriching for my daughter after spending eight years at the same summer camp," Bornstein says. While searching, she came across Camp Experts & Teen Summers and found more than just an opportunity for Rachel, now 19: She also found her career, which she started in 2008.
How's it work?
"I assist families, and it is an absolutely free service for choosing the best summer opportunities," Bornstein explains. Through email, phone or meetings with parents, she gets to know their child's interests and personality. "I am able to tailor my recommendations to the individual needs of the family."
They're the experts
Part of Bornstein's job is touring camps, meeting with the directors and getting a firsthand look at what's in store for kids. All the data is shared on the company's in-house database. They're affiliated with more than 1,000 programs – so there's no bias, she says. "There truly is something for everyone."
For daughters Rachel and Carly, 17, going to camp "totally changed their personalities," Bornstein says. Rachel struggled with separation anxiety, but came home from camp with more confidence and independence that stood out year round, Bornstein says. Her youngest? "Because she saw her sister doing it, she started at the young age of 7 and never looked back."
"As far as summer camps, I've noticed that people are trying to break away from their neighborhood and school friends," Bornstein says, to expand their social circles. Other trends? Middle schoolers participating in college campus programs and, for high school students, "travel outside of the U.S." – plus internships.
Immersion's the word
"Immersion" camps are for kids looking to focus on a specialty interest. They plan years in advance to build up their skills, maybe going to a college campus for a summer of photography programs, the next year traveling abroad for photography but also to learn a language, and then following up next summer with a home-stay in another country or earning college credit, Bornstein says. It's "something woven together that really gives a child some substance over the summers."
Keep in mind, parents …
"Be honest" in your assessment of your child. Know their personality – and don't try to make your child something they're not. "I've seen that happen quite a few times with parents where they're looking for a fit that isn't really natural for their child." The individualized approach is key. "Each camp has its own personality, as does the child."
Loads of benefits
While she admits it was hard for her – and is for many – to let her children go off to camp, "It's really such an amazing opportunity for the kid to be away from the parents for a few weeks and realize that they can think and act and do for themselves."