Pricey Summer Camp -- Is It Worth It?

07/27/2009 05:12am ET | Updated November 17, 2011

For the first time since they each turned 6, Eva Rosenwald of Ann Arbor, Michigan, will not be sending her two children, Ruby, age 7, and Henry, 8 1/2, to day camp. "I couldn't stomach another summer of paying lots of money for a camp, having to schlep my kids to places they didn't want to go, when we could be playing at the pool with friends, or hanging in a more relaxed, chill way at home," she says. Disappointed by rigorous, school-like rules at sporty, nature-oriented and creative camps of the past, she's banking on an occasional tennis lesson, family trips, time with grandparents, and old-fashioned play to keep her kids occupied. The Rosenwalds aren't the only ones opting for a free-range summer. Nearly half of the 399 sleepaway and day camps polled in the American Camp Association's 2009 spring-enrollment survey reported decreases of 10 percent to 15 percent, with the economy cited as a key reason.