Many parents need care for their children after the school bell has rung and the books have been put away. The question is: Which program is the best fit? When contemplating options, parents may want to consider an afterschool enrichment program.
The Benefits of Afterschool Enrichment
Afterschool enrichment programs offer many benefits, including keeping kids safe after school, inspiring kids to learn new skills, providing academic support and a creative outlet, and allowing time to socialize with peers — just to name a few.
“The opportunity to work beyond the curriculum at school is sometimes limited for students,” says Rachel Kramer, president of Baldwin Music Education Center/Music Learning Center Inc. in Cincinnati. “independent music teaching is one of the oldest industries in pre– and post-school activities that exists in the United States. For decades, students have come home from school and then gone off to their music lesson.”
When children participate in afterschool enrichment programs, they are able to spend time focusing on their personal interests and further develop specific skill sets they might not otherwise learn in a regular classroom. These subjects might be STEM activities, gymnastics, swimming, theater, computer programming, creative movement, music and more.
Choosing a Program
Hayley Andrews, a former elementary school teacher and current manager of school and teacher partnerships at Cincinnati Museum Center, agrees that there are many benefits to enrolling children in afterschool enrichment programs, but suggests letting children choose what they do.
“After a day full of meeting expectations, aim to let children have freedom of choice in their afterschool activities,” Andrews says. “Maybe your child wants to go home and relax after a busy, social day. Or maybe they are looking for more engagement in a special interest. Choice is key.
“Finding the best program for your child should be a question of, ‘Does my child enjoy this?’” Andrews adds. “Let your child take the lead and tell you how they want to spend their time. Do they find it engaging? Exciting? Are they enjoying it simply because their best friend is doing it? If yes to any or all, then great!”
Other Things to Consider
Parents should take into account what will be expected of the child outside of the enrichment program, as well. With some classes, such as with music, a child will be expected to practice outside of the time spent in instruction. Parents should discuss this with their child prior to making the commitment.
“Because the terrain of music education means that you are engaging in language and skill development, there will be homework and practice,” Kramer says. “Obviously, with preschool music education, parents can expect less, but it is still important to incorporate daily musical engagement of any kind with children of all ages, just as reading is important for language development.”
Finding an afterschool enrichment program may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Include your child in the process and have fun looking into the different options that are available. Cincinnati and the surrounding areas have plenty of quality programs that cover a broad spectrum of physical, artistic and educational interests. Once you find a program that is right for your family, you can relish in the fact that your child will be safe, have fun, make friends and develop skills that will last a lifetime.
Questions to Consider When Searching for a Program
* Will your child be happy, nurtured and feel comfortable in the program?
* How is discipline handled?
* What is the training process of the instructors running the program?
* What are the criteria to be hired by the organization?
* Is my child interested in this topic/activity? Or is this something they should try on a smaller scale before committing to a long-term program?
* What do families, friends and neighbors recommend?
* If the organization you are interested in isn’t located nearby, are there other branches of that organization that are close to your community?
* Do they offer multi-age programming so that multiple children from a family can be involved on the same evenings?
* Does my child need to bring their own supplies?
* Do the activities change each session?
* What is the policy if my child has to miss a day?