"Summer school" is a dreaded phrase in some families, bringing up mental images of kids looking out the window while sitting at desks all day, longing to play outside in the sun. Summer school has come a long way, though. No longer does it involve large classes filled with barely-passing students and a boring drone of a teacher. Schools at all levels, from kindergarten through high school, have gone to great lengths to make summer classes at least as much fun and entertaining as regular classrooms.

While you may dread signing your child up for more classes over the summer, there are some situations where summer school might be your best option. And who knows? Your child might even have some fun along the way.

Your child needs some extra help.

If summer school is suggested by your child's teacher, it should definitely be a consideration. While rarely mandatory, it may be necessary to help your child keep up and progress to the next grade level. However, it could also be a good idea to send your child if you notice them struggling with something academic, even if the teacher doesn't suggest it.

Not only will summer school give your child a chance to go over material from the previous year again, but it will give him the chance to do it in a more relaxed environment and quite possibly with a higher teacher-to-student ratio than he experienced during the regular school year. Both of these can help him learn better than before. Sometimes, just having a different person present the material in a different way will be all that it takes to help your child understand.

You're new in town.

Summer school isn't just for students who are struggling, though. If your child isn't too opposed, summer school can be a great place for her to make new friends. Whether you're moving across the country, across town, or just changing school districts, summer school gives your child the chance to interact with kids her own age and meet some new people.

While lots of summer activities allow kids the chance to make friends, summer school puts her with kids who will, for the most part, be attending school with her during the year. Taking summer classes, then, can help her make friends who will transfer to her classroom when fall rolls around.

You need an alternative to television.

If you're concerned about how much television your child might watch or how many video games he'll play during the summer, whether with you or with a babysitter, consider summer school instead. While it won't fill all his time, it will give his mind some exercise and keep him involved socially with other kids, and you won't have to nag him all summer.

If you're concerned about making more work for your child, know that many schools try to make their summer classes especially fun. Homework tends to be reduced, so kids have fun while learning. So, you're not substituting television with something your child will loathe, but with something he might find so much fun that he doesn't even realize he's learning.

Interested in summer school?

Many parts of the country offer summer school as a normal part of the public school curriculum, though some districts are cutting these programs or paring them down due to financial issues. To find out if your child's school or district has a program, get in touch with them directly. If your district doesn't have a program, check to see if one nearby does. Another option is to enroll your child in a private school's summer school program, though this can be more expensive. While by no means a comprehensive listing, the Summer School Review may be able to help you locate a program in your area. 

Another option is online summer school, which allows your child to complete courses from the privacy of your own home. Time4Learning has programs for kids as young a elementary school, and older students have a lot of good online options.

Depending on your school district's financial situation, you may or may not have to pay to send your child to the program. Again, you'll get the most accurage information directly from the district itself. If you're going to pay for a babysitter or daycare, though, summer school is usually a viable alternative. 

Have you considered summer school for your child? What caused the consideration and how did it go?