The countdown is on for summer school holidays – a time many of us working parents approach with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. We all know that school holidays are important for children (and teachers) as they offer a break from the routine and demands of school. But sadly, us working adults do not have three months holidays so while kids are excited about the delicious promise of three months (eek!) without any school, parents feel quite the opposite.
And in case you didn’t already know, Spanish school children have longer summer holidays compared with many other countries – from the second or third week of June to the second week of September. However, the amount of leave most employees get doesn’t match school holidays and for working parents the summer school break can be challenging, stressful and expensive.
An interesting fact – lengthy school holidays are an antiquated relic of the Victorian era. They were a necessity for the agricultural economy of the 19th century when schools needed to break for long periods so children could toil in the fields.
Back to the 21st century and life in Madrid – how do parents manage children’s school holidays?
A lot of the kids here head to ‘el pueblo’ which can be anywhere all over Spain, especially when you consider that majority of Madrileños hail from other parts of Spain. In ‘el peublo’ kids get to spend quality time with ‘los abuelos’ and other family members in a peaceful and tranquil setting. Their parents will usually stay in Madrid and suffer terribly (!) whilst continuing to work on for a number of weeks, child free.
For others who are not so lucky to have idyllic pueblos on hand, we sign our children up to summer camps. At least this way we are assured that our children are entertained (and fed) throughout the day. Of course depending on duration and number of kids this can be a costly alternative. Let’s take a look at some of the many summer camp options here in Madrid. It goes without saying that all summer camps must adhere to Covid safety measures already in place at all schools; wearing face masks (children aged six and upwards), smaller groups and emphasis on hygiene.
Most of the city councils run summer camps for children aged 3-12 at various locations across the city. The dates run from 25th June to 3rd September. In order to apply, the family must be registered (empadronado) in that area and parents must either be working or in full time education. This is probably most economical option (excluding el pueblo of course) and as you’ve guessed, places are snapped up pretty quickly.
Another option are summer camps organized by international schools, language academies or other private organizations. These are run either in the city centre (campamento urbano) or might be held in the outskirts of the city. These can be categorized by languages, activities etc.
English summer camps
English immersion camps with native teachers are extremely popular and are usually for children aged between 4 – 15 years of age. Most international schools will run their own summer camp which may or may not open up to non-students. English language academies also run summer camps and who better than these experts to help children have fun while learning English! Some will run camps at their academies but others will organize their camps in bigger premises on the outskirts of the city. These camps appeal to a mix of families; those who are raising their children bilingually and want to give them an extra language boost in the summer and of course to Spanish families who are keen for their children to improve on their English language skills.
Spanish immersion camps
Spanish immersion camps perfectly combine language immersion courses and fun activities. They are a great way for kids to brush up on their Spanish in a totally different setting in a very fun way that is far from the traditional learning acquired in the classroom.
These camps are excellent for international families that have recently arrived in Madrid and are worried about their child’s level of Spanish. It is a great boost for the kids to be exposed to the language in a fun and dynamic setting.
For the sportier kids, the possibilities are endless. Almost all local sports clubs will run summer camps during the month of June and July. Kids will have the opportunity to have fun while learning and gaining experience in their preferred sport. These are a fantastic option for families that have recently arrived in the city and a great way for their kids to make new friends and to help build their confidence. Ask at your local sports whether or not they are running one, more often than not they will organize one.
Residential summer camps
Then of course there are residential summer camps, I’ll admit that I am definitely advocate for residential camps. To this day I have very fond memories of Girl Guide camps, what a wonderful time! Of course nowadays camps are much more sophisticated but the philosophy is the same. If you have older children, overnight camp will give them the opportunity to unplug from their electronics, leave their mobile behind, and develop incredibly meaningful relationships with other kids their age.
Overseas summer camps
And last but not least is the option of overseas summer camps. Being immersed in local culture with local people will enable your children to gain confidence and fluency in a second language, as well as sharing experiences they will never forget. Ireland, US, UK and France are very popular destinations. Overseas camps are a great option if you want your children to enjoy their favourite hobbies together with children of said country whilst simultaneously improving their language skills in the most fun way possible.
Sinéad Galvin is an educational consultant and founded Steps into Spain (a boutique educational and relocation consultancy located in Madrid) to help families find the right school for their child in Madrid. She uses her professional and personal experience of Spanish schools, the Spanish education system and the Spanish way of life to ensure that parents are knowledgeable and informed about what to expect and can secure the best school for their child.
Steps into Spain will take stock of your children’s educational needs and overall family requirements (housing, paperwork and general settling in). Our trusted and expert service is provided to families who are moving to Madrid from abroad. And also, to families that already live here and need some extra guidance and support.
Get in contact to discuss your family’s unique needs and how we can best support you.