Gone are the days when kids came home from school to play unsupervised until mom called "dinner." Moms' lives are busy, and so are kids'. Setting up a schedule for your children that enriches their lives and doesn't stress them (and you) out is quite a balancing act.
For today's kids, after-school activities are numerous and diverse. They can range from school-sanctioned after-school programs to after-school time spent together as a family. In other words -- after-school time can be formal and organized, or it can be simple fun family time.
The main reason to create an after-school schedule is to help your child know what to expect, to be sure he or she isn't overwhelmed by too many activities, and to enrich his or her experiences. Just a few examples of after-school activities include:
- Academic support
- Sports (soccer, football, Little League)
- Music, theater, dance, or art
- Volunteer work
- Church groups
- Homework or tutoring programs
- College or job prep (for older kids)
Any parent will tell you that the biggest problem to overcome with after-school programs is scheduling everything efficiently. Making a schedule and sticking to it is key.
On the next few pages, we'll talk about the various after-school programs and activities that may be available for your child, as well as tips for organizing.
After-school Program Schedule for Kids
After-school programs are a great opportunity for kids because they offer activities that the regular school day does not. This is especially valuable today, when so many extracurricular programs are being cut from schools for budgetary reasons. In fact, a study shows that children who participate in after-school programs reap the following benefits:
- Increased reading ability
- Development of new interests and skills
- Improved school attendance and engagement
- Improved homework
- Higher aspirations for the future, including wanting to go to college
[source: U.S. Department of Education]
So what kind of after-school program is best? Really, it depends on the personality and needs of your child. Perhaps your son or daughter needs supervised homework time. Many schools offer aftercare where children are able to complete their homework with access to assistance should they need it. Some of these programs also offer healthy snacks, as most kids are pretty hungry after school.
Of course, there are the typical activities -- sports, dance, Girl or Boy Scouts, piano lessons, and the like. Find out what interests your child, and help cultivate that interest.
Most communities have enough programs and activities to keep your children busy after school five days a week, and sometimes even on the weekend. But try to remember that everyone, especially kids, needs balance in their lives. Just because you can sign up your child for seven different activities doesn't mean you should. Look for signs that your child is tired or overwhelmed -- or if you are!
Scheduling and organization are key when you're dealing with lots of activities and several children. Take some time every weekend to go over the next week's schedule with your child so he or she knows what to expect. You could even make a poster board or whiteboard schedule together to hang in your child's room or in the kitchen so everyone knows what's on his or her plate every day. And make sure you have rides, carpooling, and details like clean uniforms worked out so there are no unpleasant surprises.
Kids' After-school Schedule for Home
What if you don't have a lot of after-school programs available in your community? Or maybe you simply don't have the money to keep your child enrolled in lots of activities. That's OK. There are plenty of things you can do at home to keep your child engaged and mentally active. Even if your child is a latchkey kid, it doesn't mean he or she can't have planned-out activities to do at home.
Whether your child comes home after school to an empty house, or if you're home with her or him, you need to have rules in order to keep a structured environment. Following are some examples of how families can manage after-school time successfully:
- Put up a list of rules where everyone in the family can see them. Go over the rules together periodically.
- Decide whether or not video games, television and DVDs are allowed.
- Help your children prioritize. Should homework be completed before anything else, or are there some chores that need to happen first?
- Prepare or let your child know what kind of snack he or she is permitted to have.
- Make a policy on whether or not your child can have friends over.
- If your child has regular chores, make sure a chore wheel or chart is posted as well.
- Ensure your child is completely clear on what appliances he or she is allowed to use (i.e, microwave -- yes, oven -- no).
The best way to ensure your children buy into rules for after-school time is to involve them in the decision-making process. Make a schedule together. This way you and your son or daughter will know that Tuesdays and Fridays are soccer days, Monday is dance class, Thursday is Hebrew school, and Wednesday is a free day. Feel free to consult with your child about how to best spend that free time. Remember that your kids don't need to be overscheduled -- it can stress them out a lot. Sometimes kids just need to be kids, so make sure that you leave them the time to do just that.
Most importantly, don't forget to schedule in family time. Today, everyone -- even kids -- is super-busy and constantly on the go. However, spending time as a family should be a priority. Even if it's just putting aside an hour each night to eat dinner together, make sure you and your child also add that to the schedule. Some families like to do game night or something similar a few times a month. It's a great way for everyone to reconnect.
For more articles about home and family life, check out the links on the next page.
- 10 Creative After-school Programs for Kids
- 5 Cool School Tools
- 5 Things a Teacher Won't Tell You about Your Kid
- 5 Things Parents Should Know: When Your Kid Goes to a New School
- 5 Things to Know About Managing Family Schedules
- 5 Tips for Keeping Kids Organized
- After-school Fun: Making the Most of You Kid's Time
- What are some good after-school jobs for tweens?
- "After-School Programs: Keeping Children Safe and Smart." U.S. Department of Education. June, 2000. (Dec 6, 2010) http://www.ed.gov/pubs/afterschool/afterschool.pdf
- "When It's Just You After School." KidsHealth.com. 2010. (Dec. 6, 2010) http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/house/homealone.html
- "Workshop: Afterschool Programs - From Vision to Reality." Thirteen Ed Online. 2004. (Dec. 6, 2010) http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/afterschool/index.html