My kids’ current ages are 11 and 8, so they are still in need of childcare when school is out and I am at work. In the past, they would go to their usual daycare in the summer months. There they would participate in weekly field trips that may include going to a community swimming pool, the zoo, putt putt, or perhaps bowling. They are usually the same field trips every year, and nothing to get excited over. Our daycare is close to home, very conducive to my work hours, and I know most of the staff at the daycare (the only exception being new people that get hired on). So why do I bring it up? Well, each year, at about this time, I start to see summer camp information pop up all around town. It always makes me begin to wonder…
…is there something funner for my kids?
…is there something more enriching for my kids?
…what are my kids missing out on?
…should we do something different?
…can we afford to do something different?
So this week I started looking into some of the day camps around to see what other opportunities may exist for the girls. I could never understand why the information comes out in January or February. Summer is four months away! But now I am now beginning to understand why there is a need to plan this well in advance. Money.
The camps I am interested in have to fit certain criteria (in no particular order): 1) Do they offer “day camp” all summer long as opposed to an over-night camp? 2) Is it in a convenient location for me to drop the kids off on my way to work, and pick them upon the way home? 3) What activities are offered to make a change worthwhile? 4) Are they safe? 5) Have I heard good things about them? 6) Would my kids enjoy it? 7) And most importantly – can I afford it?
I have come across three that interest me. The one problem I keep seeing time and time again….Money. According to the IRS, our family is not “poor” by any means, but I certainly am not rich either. At our current daycare, I pay what I believe is a fair amount for my children’s summer care – $209 a week total for BOTH kids. It’s not too terribly bad, but at an increase of $150 a week from what I pay during the school year, it’s not a drop in the bucket for my budget either. Also on the downside, I am only allotted two weeks of “vacation” from the daycare a year. So if I were to switch to another experience, I would have to give up our spot at the daycare for the entire summer or risk paying for two facilities at once just to hold our place.
Option-to-change-summer-fun number one is a camp sponsored by our local YMCA. This camp looks awesome. Lots of outdoor, wilderness-type fun that includes climbing walls, archery, etc…a true outdoor education. The cost – $240 a week…PER CHILD. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I have to add an additional $70 per child if I want to to use their bus service to get them from the local YMCA to the camp location (which also fails the commute convenience requirement). They do offer financial assistance, but remember the IRS doesn’t think I’m poor, so I am pretty sure we would not qualify. Ok, so that camp may not happen.
Option number two….a day camp right here on campus where I work. Perfect! It’s definitely convenient for the commute. The girls would just come to work with me and go home with me. The first issue pops up with the time – 9 to 4. I work 8 to 4:30. So I suppose I could bring them to the office, walk them over to the camp location, come back to work, and return at the end of the day to pick them up…etc. Then I look into the cost for this camp. It costs $135 a week per child. That would be $270 a week for both of my kids. Not a huge increase from what I am paying now. it looks fun enough to justify the slight cost difference. Then I notice the registration fee. Since the camp is broken up into individual weeks, a child can attend for one week or as many weeks as they want and which weeks they are interested in by theme. Each week has an individual registration fee of $50 per child due up front. There are ten weeks of summer camp. If we chose to do them all…which is the point…it would cost me $1,000 UP FRONT and non-refundable just for the registration. Seriously? I guess they are making it so that only the doctors and professors here can really afford to send their kids.
Option number three. Girl Scout camp. Right off the bat, it really doesn’t fit the time criteria, but it definitely looks fun and I know my oldest has been begging me to go every year now. They have weekly overnight camps available throughout the summer. Yes, I said overnight. The location definitely isn’t close, but I guess if I dropped the kids off on a Sunday and picked them up on a Friday the location doesn’t really come into play except for asking for time off from work to go get them on that Friday. I guess this camp shouldn’t even be in the running since it is more of a special experience of being away from home for an entire week. If we were to participate it would be a one-week deal, and I still have to cover their care for the rest of the summer.
I have seen numerous other camps around town. All are in very inconvenient locations for my family, and most are a lot more expensive that the ones listed here. So I am back where I started. Seriously, how do lower income, working families provide for child care during the summer with prices like the ones I’ve been seeing? It’s really sad that there are many children that cannot experience enriching, possibly life-changing summer camp outside of a typical daycare because of financial restraints.
In reality, there is a possibility that my girls would not be interested in doing something different. I don’t dare ask right now, or I risk setting up for the disappointment of me telling them I cannot afford it. I suppose if I really want this for my children, I should start saving and planning now for next year, then I will ask them.