Summer Camps Should Never Cost More Than A Year Of Community College

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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“So, what are your kids doooing this summer?”

My friend and I are casually chatting over a cup of coffee as we soak in the warm spring air. In a few weeks, moments like this, stolen from a busy workday while our kids are ensconced in school, will be fleeting — because summer vacation is upon us, looming in the not-so-distant future.

And summer vacation means finding ways to entertain your kids for the 55 blessed days that they are home, bored, and raiding the pantry all day long.

Summer vacation means battles over sunscreen, too many YouTube videos, and the sound of the backdoor slamming 4,000 times a day.

And summer vacation means it’s time to send your kids to summer camp.

Well, if you can afford to send your kid to summer camp, that is.

I’m don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I could have a minivan for the price of sending my two kids to the various “camp” programs in my area.

The average yearly tuition of a public community college is $3,400. No sleepaway camp should cost more than a year of higher education.

Seriously, summer camps, WTF?

When I was a kid, summer camp meant that your mother came to a rolling stop in her green Ford Grenada in front of the local township center. Eight kids in matching camp T-shirts would pile out of the car and march in the building where they’d be met by teenage camp counselors. The sounds of the mothers squealing out of the parking lot could be heard as happy campers fashioned lanyards made out of plastic wire and designed friendship pins with beads. You’d be handed a paper cup filled with watered-down Kool-Aid and a generic sugar cookie midway through the morning, and you’d round out the day with a good old-fashioned game of dodgeball.

That was camp.

It was cheap, it was simple, and you got to pelt your enemies with a bright red ball and call it a good day.

Everybody loved it.

That’s not the case anymore though.

Today, summer camps have become big business. In fact, according to the American Camp Association, summer camp has become an $18-billion-dollar industry.

Let that sink in: $18 billion — for our kids to have summer enrichment.

Parents are clearly serious AF about their kids and the summer camping experience. In the U.S. alone, there are over 14,000 day and resident camp choices. And the options go well beyond the no-frills camps of my childhood — that’s for sure.

These days, your kid can go to Immersion French Language Camp, Etiquette Camp, even Explosives Camp (seriously, that’s actually a thing).

I’m sorry, but my kid can blow shit up in my backyard for way less than $1,400, thank you very much. My kids will be attending the “Use Up the Old Fireworks and Don’t Burn Down the House” Camp this summer.

When you are a working parent, whether inside or outside the home, summer means it’s practically impossible to carry on a normal work schedule because kids ruin everything. And summer camps have working mothers firmly by the labia: We need summer camps and their underage counselors to take our kids off our hands for a few hours so we don’t wind up like that poor guy on BBC during a TV interview.

We are willing to pay a premium for questionably themed camps so our kids will stay out of our hair for five freaking minutes. Camps prevent toddlers in walkers from becoming internet sensations. Camps are necessary expenditures, and working parents need summer camps desperately.

But seriously, summer camps, can you CTFD with your exorbitant prices? I can’t be the only one who doesn’t have an entire year’s salary stashed away so I can send my kids to sleepaway camp. I can’t be the only parent who gets nauseous when I see the amount of money flowing out of our bank account as I pay a king’s ransom for a few days of summertime fun.

Does anyone know of a sleepaway camp that costs $50 and runs for the entire summer? #askingforafriend

Because summer camps have become cost prohibitive for our family, I’ve been forced to be creative with how my kids spend their time in the summer. While, yes, they both attend a scouting camp for a week each, we’ve pretty much put the kibosh on structured day camps, because frankly, I’d rather use the money toward an activity our whole family can enjoy, or a weeklong all-inclusive tropical vacation. The tropical vacation would be cheaper, after all.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: My son would love Game of Thrones camp (yes, that’s also a thing), and my daughter would be thrilled to attend Farm Camp in upstate Massachusetts, but I think their summer will be equally enjoyable at “Here’s a Popsicle, Now Go Ride Your Bike” Camp and “Get Outside, and Find Something to Do Before Mommy Loses It” Camp.

And while I have fond memories of going to my no-frills township camp, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t secretly hope that my mom would surprise us with Space Camp, just like the ’80s movie. I’m sure that camp was reasonably priced.

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