I know how difficult it is to understand the difference between camps. There are differences,
however, and Betsey Cox represents a significant alternative to the standard summer camp
programs. We are an intentional community with a strong philosophy and clear goals for children and
Whereas most camps operate on the premise that adults should generally make decisions for
children, we have based our years of success on the opposite premise – that camp is a perfect setting
to give children the chance to make their own decisions. We begin with the strong conviction that
children can make good choices when given the opportunity and the setting. We create an
environment where children can safely and competently make all of their own decisions regarding
activities in the course of their day.
Good decisions require knowledge, we give the children that necessary knowledge. Before they
create their own daily schedule, they will know that Archery is open and the shooting will be from
fifteen yards –a beginner’s session. They will know that Weavery is open and that the project of the
day is rag rugs and friendship bracelets. They will know that their swimming lesson is being taught
during the second period (swimming class is encouraged at camp). As a practical matter, we divide
the day into times segments, but the children may combine or separate those segments any way they
wish. The bells will ring, and each child will then decide where to go and how long to stay.
For most children, this is an unprecedented amount of responsibility. Yet, even the most hesitant
campers are soon happily involved in a variety of activities of their own choosing.
Your child will benefit in several ways. The most obvious one is that children who are given this
kind of opportunity become quite good at deciding. When presented with a decision, they no longer
hesitate or wait to be told what to do. They make up their minds and then act. Underlying the new
decision-making ability is a new individualism. Since all the children are deciding for themselves, each
child quickly outgrows peer-group dependence and pressures. Finally, the children develop a high
degree of confidence in their own abilities. They have achieved a good level of success in their self-
selected program, simply because they were always doing things that they had chosen to do. And yes,
even if left alone, they branch out and diversify. It seems that if children are not threatened with
being locked into things they dislike doing, they regain their early childhood curiosity to try new
So by sending your children to our camp, you give them significant lessons in decision-making, you
build their sense of independence, and you enhance their sense of self-worth. Can we really make all
this happen? The enthusiastic response from our parents assures us that we can. As one mother,
who happens to be working in adolescent psychiatric treatment, recently told me, “ I had no idea
when I sent my children to your camp five years ago that it would become such a major part of their
lives. Much of who they have become is a result of what they have learned at your camp. I can’t tell
you what a difference you all have made”. This kind of statement comes as no surprise.
We can make such a difference because we truly are different.
--Mike Byrom, Co-Owner and Associate Director Camp Betsey Cox