It’s back to school season, and many parents (myself included) are wondering what can be done in terms after school programs. After school programs can be beneficial for children who are looking for a little more challenge, and who might need some social interaction. And, of course, after school programs are vital for parents who work, and who need someplace safe for their children to be when school hours are over. If you are willing to put in a little time, you can find a good program for your child to enjoy after school.
Deciding What Program Your Child Should Attend
There are a number of different after school programs. Your first step should be to ask at your child’s school for information on extracurricular activities. This can include music, sports, visual arts, performing arts (dance, theater, etc.), science, and other educational pursuits. Some after school programs simply provide games and social time for children while their parents are finishing out the work day. Find out what is available, and what your child is most interested in, and then choose a program that fits your needs.
It is also worth noting that some communities combine after school programs with other organizations. In my town, the children can be involved in 4-H (a worthy program itself) as an after school program. If you have an interest in a national program, find out whether or not it is present in your area, and determine whether or not it works as an after school program.
Another consideration is that some after school programs take place off school grounds. In such cases, you will need to find out what sort of transportation needs to be arranged. Community centers, local Boys & Girls Clubs and other organizations might offer car-pooling, or send a van or bus to pick up children approved for after school programs. Find out about transportation, and whether it costs anything.
Finally, you need to consider cost. Many after school programs are free, providing activities at no cost to you. In many cases, these are programs offered by the school. If you are looking for a more involved activity that offers a little more, you might need to pay some sort of a fee. Most after school programs are relatively inexpensive, though, simply covering costs related to materials, and to having instructors.
Evaluating the After School Program
You want to make sure that the program is a good fit for your child, and that it provides a safe environment. Find out what you can about the after school program ahead of time, and ask other parents about their experiences with local after school programs. Find out whether the program provides healthy snacks, and how much of the time is devoted to learning skills, or performing educational activities. Also, find out whether there is homework time, and help offered for completing homework.
Before you commit too much time, though, you want to make sure that the after school program is where you want your child, and that the child care is acceptable. This means that you may need to arrive early a couple of times to observe the program, and see exactly what is going on. You should also ask your child each day whether or not he or she had a good time, and ask what happened that day at the program. Make sure your child feels comfortable in the program, and that he or she is in an environment that is emotionally and physically safe.
Here are some resources for learning more about, and finding, after school programs: