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Summer programs: 9th grade IB'er with unidentified passions

befuddledbefuddled Registered User Posts: 58 Junior Member
edited November 2006 in Parents Forum
I'm mom to a 12th grader who knew what she wanted to do by age 4. All I had to do was help facillitate opportunities like summer programs, enrichment courses, lab research opportunities, etc. Her college apps were written with a major focus on her passion which flowed throughout her applications. She's launched.

Now I need to focus on my 9th grade son, who has not yet identified areas of major interest. I'm unsure how to help him find something for this coming summer. Early on, he was a math, physics and engineering oriented kid. Won Lego competitions, was so interested in taking a CTY engineering course that he did Algebra I on the internet as it was a prerequisite. Was a top scorer on CTY Visual Spatial Ability test. I think though that part of his early math/physics focus was due to his dyslexia - reading was (and still is) a real challenge for him. Neverthless his verbal skills are very high. He has done CTY camps in math and science, a jazz music program several summers (plays trombone but is frankly mediocre) and has gone to Concordia for French for HS credit and to Oxbridge for history and astronomy. He has loved academic camps but is embrassed to admit to his peers what he's spent his summers doing.

For the past few years, he has been most interested in whatever subject has the teacher he likes best- this year it's English and Biology (although generally science and history come out on top). We live overseas but are US citizens, thus an experience abroad is nothing new for him. He is more of an academic type than a jock, but he does sports and has fun with them. He has done some Nike tennis camps. No interest in theatre as a performer but loves to watch plays. No interest in art production but loves to see it in museums. Wants to be fluent in several languages but gets his lowest grades in French (may be dyslexia rearing its head). Is very interested in different cultures and makes friends easily. Is in an IB school, planning to do the full IB Diploma beginning in 11th grade, and is getting all A's so far except for French (B or B+) which may require future summer bolstering to get through IB Diploma exams, but I think not until after 10th or 11th grade. In an IB school, there is no point in accelerating any courses (e.g. racing through math, for example) as the student must do the prescribed program in 11th and 12th grades. School does not offer debate - does offer Model U.N. He does best with a structured summer. The world is wide open geographically as overseas benefits include tickets home or elsewhere for the summer. We do not want him to stay where we are as it gets over 110 degrees and there is nothing for kids to do here in the summer.

I'm totally at a loss. When I ask him what he wants to do, he has no idea. If I could give him a list of ideas, he could identify the ones that intrigue him. He is very ambitious - is the kind of kid who wants to be among top in his class and has asked what what would look good from a college admissions perspective. I've told him what would look good would be if he pursued his interests with passion and committment, but he is more of a respond-to-the- interest of the moment kind of kid so far. Therein lies the challenge!

I apologize this is vague but would be most grateful for any advice!
Post edited by befuddled on

Replies to: Summer programs: 9th grade IB'er with unidentified passions

  • CountingDownCountingDown Registered User Posts: 12,415 Senior Member

    I think your son lives at my house! I have a 9th grade IB'er, too (DS2), also big into history and science (in his case, bio/environmental science). He has spent parts of several summers doing history and environmental science programs -- we are lucky that our state offers some really cool stuff for very reasonable fees.

    But he has now aged out/is beyond the levels of those programs. This past summer, he decided to work as a Counselor In Training at an archaeology camp that he attended several years ago. No pay, but he got a ton of community service hours. He is very much a hands-on type guy and very good at using what he knows (vs. instant fact recall), and he is interested in teaching, so it made for an interesting experience. He said he would do it again next summer, though he is also looking for paid work (the camp won't pay CITs until they are 16).

    I have an older son who has been all math and computers since he was four. Focused like a laser beam. No questions about what he's doing with his life!

    DS2 is quite the challenge, though I find it fascinating to see his activities change, yet certain underlying themes are consistent. 1) He wants to travel. A year overseas during college (six months in school, six months working/traveling) and a stint in the Peace Corps are on his list. 2) He would not be happy in an office job. He is not into minutiae. He's very hands-on and needs to move around. 3) He loves (and is extraordinarily good at) taking knowledge from a wide variety of disciplines and integrating them into the "big picture." 4) He has always been terrific with kids, sensitive to injustice and is very compassionate.

    My dad was in the military and we lived overseas for a while. The travel and all the experiences that came from it definitely shaped my view of the world and my interests. My feeling is that "generalist" kids have a very good social sense and are quite adaptable to whatever life throws at them.

    What I'm trying to get to is...your son probably does have some particular interests. They may not be obvious yet, but they're there, in one form or another. He seems to be blessed with some wonderful opportunities, a wide range of talents, and exposure to different cultures and places. There is nothing wrong with being a Renaissance Man (or Woman)!

    DS2 chose to be in IB because he wanted to study across a broad spectrum rather than attend a more narrowly focused program. Sounds like your son is doing just fine. IB does require different work/study skills than other programs, but he'll adjust. DS2 is finding it harder than he expected (he has some LD issues but no accommodations), but he'll get there.
  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,669 Senior Member
    Befuddled, we also live overseas and understand that the option of just hanging out at home or getting a menial job isn't an option in the summer. Your son's "dilemma" sounds idyllic: The ability to go any where, do anything that appeals.

    But I do understand that having too many choices can be daunting and it's important to have some degree of structure during the school holidays. If no one area has risen to the top for the coming summer could be he’s just mentally tired of organized programs. In that case I’d try to find something that offers more fun and physical exertion, like a wilderness camping trip in some faraway and pristine place.

    Will you be spending the summer in your host country or will you take a homeleave in the US? To ask another way, will your son have to "go it alone" or does he have the option of spending time with his family in the US?

    My son didn't do participate in any travel or enrichment programs while he was in high school. Unlike most of his friends we stayed in-country in the summer so we did feel some responsibility for keeping him entertained when most of his friends were gone. His summers were usually broken down into segments: a few weeks doing a project that related to his host country, a few weeks traveling with the family, a few weeks hanging out at home. I think what was most memorable and meaningful were the family trips: we always went to new places and took the time to learn about the culture and history before hand.

    I also think that staying home and working on a project that relates to your host country would be a reasonable option -- community service or art-related. Granted, something self-generated like this takes a lot of initiative plus a fair amount of parental guidance but it can be remarkably rewarding (and uniquely impressive).

    At this point I wouldn’t worry too much about building a college-admissions resume. Your generalist sounds like a great kid whose had a lot of amazing opportunities. In a few years when he gets ready to tell the colleges who he is and what’s he’s done so far he’s going to have an interesting background to describe.
  • befuddledbefuddled Registered User Posts: 58 Junior Member
    CountingDown: we do seem to have clone sons! We should compare notes as we follow their paths through IB. Mine has also found it harder than expected thus far, but from what I hear at our school, the real killer is 11-12th grades. If there is anything we can do next year or over summers in the future to relieve any of that pressure, we'll try to do it. Regarding your son's learning difficulties, why not try for accomodations if he could use them? I'm actually a psychologist specializing in bright kids with learning diffiuclties, and am a real believer in extended time accomodations for kids who need it. My daughter scored 35th percentile on SAT math w/out extra time and 97th percentile with extra time. The IB folk in Wales seem to get it that a kid can be bright and have learning quirks.

    Momrath: You have given me great advice before, but I can't remember what on. I can't remember what country you are in, but think it is also a developing one? And are you from San Francisco - do I remember correctly? We are in India, having moved here as "newbies", from S.F. with no prior international expereince. We were here last summer so our daughter could volunteer at an NGO and we will not repeat the experience of spending the summer here again! We were the only expats we saw for months, it was so hot you had to minimize time outdoors and there were no friends for the kids to hang out with. However, we haven't figured out yet what to do for the summer. We are renovating a house in the pacific Northwest which we will need to furnish and move into, but don't think our son would enjoy spending the whole summer there watching us unpack as he won't know anyone and there are no organized programs for teens. He has always loved academic gifted summer camps coupled with some music and/or sports programs over the summers. So I think we will need to find some residential camp or school program for him to do somewhere while we go back to the states for two months. He does want to be more fluent in French - also would have loved to learn Latin but has never gone to a school that offers it. Suggestions?
  • lefthandofdoglefthandofdog Registered User Posts: 1,430 Senior Member
    Look at the summer programs offered by private schools - Choate, Exeter, Andover, etc.
  • maritemarite Registered User Posts: 21,586 Senior Member
    If he loved math, could he attend a math camp? People who've gone to PROMYS, MathCamp, HCSSM and similar have absolutely adored their time there. S went to one for three years (after doing CTY) and still keeps up with friends he made there.
  • Jonathan1Jonathan1 Registered User Posts: 5,744 Senior Member
    befuddled, I tried to PM you but it doens't look like I can.

    I was wondering what your son thought of the Oxbridge summer program. I'm interested in attending the Oxofrd Prep Experience this summer and major in International Relations and minor in Speech and Debate.
  • midwesternermidwesterner Registered User Posts: 1,920 Senior Member
    CTD at Northwestern offers gifted enrichment classes through the HS senior level, including several AP courses. The University of Chicago has some fascinating summer programs for HS students, including archaeology digs and intensive language classes.
  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 12,532 Senior Member
    One very popular thing for kids your son's age to do in our area is to be a counselor-in-training at a day camp. The kids do it mainly for the community service hours, which are required for graduation in our state, but those who like it often find the camp system to be an excellent source of summer jobs later on. There also may be opportunities in the camp system when your son is older for him to do a large part of the Service portion of his IB Creativity-Action-Service requirement.

    Pre-IB 9th and 10th graders in our area (and many non-IB kids as well) also use the summers to take routine required-for-graduation courses (such as Health or Computer Applications) in summer school in order to free up some space in their regular school-year programs for more interesting electives.

    If your son is interested in paid work, he might want to see if anything is offered by the public libraries. In some places, libraries hire kids as young as 14 to work as pages (mostly shelving books). One of my kids did this starting as a freshman in high school. It was a nice source of spending money for a kid who disliked both babysitting and yard work.
  • SBmomSBmom Registered User Posts: 5,725 Senior Member
    If languages are an interest and dyslexia presents a challenge, maybe he could do an immersion program in French? I do not have dyslexia but I never "nailed" French until I actually lived in France.
  • jazzymomjazzymom Registered User Posts: 3,676 Senior Member
    My younger son is also a "generalist" or, to be less generous, in the still-unformed silly putty stage, and finding summer programs other than short jazz camps is a challenge. In his eighth and ninth grade summers, he enjoyed the SIG camp, which he attended at the UCLA campus because the August dates were the only ones that allowed him to also do the music one (Idyllwild in CA) he wanted. If money is not a concern, you could let your son go twice -- pick two different campuses and choose entirely different courses and activities to fill up two months of summer.

    My S2 is NOT an academically intense kid, and SIG programs are kind of "academic light" and not as in-depth as CTY from what I understand. But he enjoyed this program because the classes were relaxed and interesting (for example, the biology class focused mainly on genetics, the chemistry was hands-on), there was a sports element (he got to try something different, archery) or acting element to choose, and plenty of social activity and opportunities to explore the college campus. He made friends from NJ and NY who he still stays in touch with online.

    You can get more info here: www.giftedstudy.com
  • hsmomstefhsmomstef Registered User Posts: 3,579 Senior Member
    I haven't had time to read the entire thread, but I do have some ideas :

    National Outdoor Leadership school -- different than what he has done, looks good on high school resumes, builds character and leadership skills and they have many options.

    High Mountain Institute has a great summer program -- same benefits as NOLS

    Summer exchange program in an area of the world he has not seen -- China? Vietnam? Sweden? Something different (urban/rural; poor/rich; capitalistic/socialistic; etc) than what he has experienced. Some of these are volunteer opportunities, some are academic. Projects Abroad has some really neat options.
  • lizzardfirelizzardfire Registered User Posts: 1,577 Senior Member
    Sounds like Winter Park High School, lol. Although it's actually been chilly these last few days in FL!
  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,669 Senior Member
    We’re in Indonesia. I do understand the problem of a kid whose school mates all disperse over the summer. In spite of that we’ve always enjoyed our summers in this country when everybody like us gone. Just us and 250 million of our host countrymen and women. :)

    I’m in favor of segmentation – a few weeks each of several activities. If you were so inclined to be thinking about what would look good on a college application (triple wink as I’m certainly not suggesting this) India seems to be the Mother Lode. I’d suggest that he try to spend at least a portion of his summer doing something that he could only do in India. The possibilities boggle the imagination: arts, language, community service, nature, even IT.

    Then he could do an enrichment program. I’m sure you won’t have any problem finding Latin and or French (or a program in Rome or Paris for that matter.)

    Next I would have him spend some family time with you at your new house. Again, this could be project time or just down time. Who knows what other teenagers will be lurking in the neighborhood.

    Lastly, the PNW offers wonderful wilderness opportunities to get out there in Nature! Good for the body and the soul.

    Good luck and let us know what he settles on.
  • befuddledbefuddled Registered User Posts: 58 Junior Member
    Wow thank you everyone.

    Jonathan1: Responding to your question about Oxford Prep, both of my kids did Cambridge Prep after 8th grade which is affiliated with the Oxford Program but is for younger kids. They both had a blast, but found the academics to be less challenging and got less out of them than at CTY camps or Concordia Language Camp. There were some good teachers but the curricula are a bit loose and uneven. From a parental viewpoint, I was less than pleased with the lack of supervision and prevalence of going out to dinner and wandering around town late into the night which appears to be what most kids did. Both my kids came back acting like and thinking they were independent college kids and there was a bit of a re-adjustment back to things like parentally imposed curfews. Nevertheless they say they had the time of their lives and have kept in touch with many friends. Just be forwarned that there is a bit more drugs, alcohol and partying than at most academic programs we've experienced.

    JazzyMom: Thank you for suggesting SIG. My son actually did that already - I wonder if our two were in Chemistry and archery together! Mine is the kid who spilled acid all over his jeans... Why hasn't your son tried Stanford jazz Workshop? Mine loved the program, going for two weeks several summers.

    MomRath: I thought we were neighbors here in Asia. Funny you mentioned India as a hotspot for community service type activities. We live in Delhi. You gave me a great plan for his summer: three segments - one more community service oriented, one language segment in France and one with us in our house which is in the U.S. in the country where the air is clean which we all need. With the pollution here, my silver jewelry tarnishes in a day! He's dying to learn Hindi (which his school doesn't offer) but I think with his dyslexia it would be too much to try to do two foreign languages so we'd better stick with French. If I can find an engineering oriented community service project in a rural Indian area doing something like designing and building a water system or sewage treatment for a village that would be right up his alley. This gives us an interesting challenge...Momrath: where did your older child go to school? How was the application process from overseas? My 12th grader is just finishing up her applications: Vassar, Wellesely, Bates, Amherst, Wesleyan, Brown, Haverford, Kenyon, Grinnell, Holyoke.

    Does anyone know the best immersion program in France? I've heard many programs are just social and there is very little language actually learned. He's at French III level at end of this year and is great at accent and speaking, weak at grammar and will never be able to spell no matter how hard he studies. He could handle being with all French people - a former french teacher suggested enrolling him in a French tennis camp but I'm not so sure. A strong academic program with time for fun would be ideal.

  • CountingDownCountingDown Registered User Posts: 12,415 Senior Member
    We have tried to get formal accommodations -- and are always turned down because "he does so well in the highly gifted programs..." AGH! He has had informal accommodations from his teachers in these programs from 4th grade til this year, and never a problem. He had a keyboard, extra time if he needed it, etc. Now, because this is IB, it requires an act of Congress, and getting one of those in high school is a whole 'nuther story! Trust me, he has definite documented issues -- I just don't want to post them on a public forum!
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