Back in the 1970s, when Canada was awesome, summer camp was a rite of passage for kids of the working class on up. Being out in the bush was a great equalizer: swimming in lakes, crafting owls from pine cones and singing around the campfire as awkward, pan-geographical romances bloomed in shady thickets.
But now (as it probably was then), overnight camp has become yet another marker of social status. That’s because insurance and other costs have pushed the average week of overnight camp into the $600 range. Multiply that by three kids and you might as well book a week at a Mexican resort.
This matters, of course. What kids do in the summertime largely determines how well they do in school during the academic year. A much-reported phenomenon called “summer setback” occurs when kids — often from lower-income homes — aren’t challenged during summer break. Wealthier kids, on the other hand, come back to school in September significantly ahead of poorer kids.
Here are five outrageously expensive summer camps that will boggle your inner socialist. Bootcamp for BrainsHow much:
$1,500How long and for who:
Seven nights; girls aged 15 to 17Who’s putting it on:
OttawaWhat is it?
Want your daughter to make friends and influence people? This camp promises to train the next generation of movers and shakers in leadership, personal branding, risk and sales. Shell out $1,500 and she’ll be ready to face Trump on The Apprentice. Me to We Take Action CampHow much:
$900How long and for who:
One week; ages 9 to 18
Who’s putting it on:
Me to WeWhere:
Bethany, Ont.What is it?
The Kielburgers are at it again! “Reveal the world-changer within” is the tag-line for this camp, which promises to help your kids discover their leadership style and do camp stuff “while learning about their place in the world and how together, they can make it better.” Become a leader-in-training for a mere $2,200 (a two-week session). Digital FilmmakingHow much:
$1,540How long and for who:
Five days; ages 12 to 17Who’s putting it on:
Digital Media Academy (DMA)Where:
University of Toronto campusWhat is it?
Write a script, learn to operate a camera, make a film and screen it at the end of the week! The DMA offers seriously in-depth tech courses at U of T, but also at UBC and MCGill, though those don’t include the overnight option (day fees are $945 for five days). KandaloreHow much:
$1,375For how long and for who:
Seven days; ages 6 to 11Who’s putting it on:
Algonquin Park, of courseWhat is it?
Like normal summer camp, but better: canoeing, ropes and rock climbing, as well as small cabin-dwelling. “The finest traditional camp in Canada, providing the best of both canoe-tripping and in-camp activities,” reads the vision statement. “We believe parents deserve to be impressed beyond expectation.” And authenticity. Camp Mi-A-Kon-DaHow much:
$3,680For how long and for who:
Four weeks; girls ages 7 to 16Who’s putting it on:
Parry Sound, Ont.What is it?
Traditional camp with a girl-power twist, plus guitar lessons, paddle-making, fitness training, mountain biking and learning to support rather than compete with other girls. The aim? To bond with the other campers as sisters.