As parents, we want to do what’s best for our children. This stretches across all aspects and areas of life but perhaps none quite as important as school. Whether our children attend a public or private school, or if they’re homeschooled; education matters.
With the decision of where to send them, or to keep them at home, may also come the decision of whether or not to enroll them in an afterschool program. For Sweet B, at least for the time being, we’re developing an afterschool at home program to make connections between home and school. It’s loosely based on her IEP goals but also has plenty of flexibility for working on life skills.
But is an afterschool program really necessary for all children? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of afterschool programs.
Benefits of Afterschool Programs
After school programs are basically designed to develop a talent or a skill that is ignored by regular schools. These programs could be educational or recreational in nature. Whatever type they are, they basically aim to keep the child active and interested.
The most important advantage of a good after school program is that it widens your child’s area of interests. He or she is introduced to new things, sometimes interesting, sometimes challenging.
Mastering a new art form or a new skill increases the child’s self-esteem. It also allows you to introduce your child to new career options. A child attending a music class may decide that she likes it so much that she wants to make a career out of it in the long run.
Socialization is another great advantage of after school programs.
Children get to meet others who share their interests and make new friendships. An acting class or a soccer class can be lots of fun. Many of these programs coach children for performances or matches. Performing on stage or playing a match can be a great experience for a young child.
After school programs keep your teenager busy.
He or she thus has some amount of protection from destructive habits like drugs and alcohol. Surveys indicate that children who are kept busy through diverse absorbing activities are less prone to abuse, depression and burnout. Significant increase in achievement and attendance and a reduction in drop out rates are other advantages of a good after school programs.
Most after school programs have children interacting with one or more adult. This allows them to benefit from positive relationships with adults. Children often find it difficult to confide in parents and teachers, but may open up with other adults.
Many children are put into recreational after school programs so that they reduce weight and remain healthy.
A newly emerging trend shows that about 15% children below the age of 16 are obese. Parents who cannot put their children on a strict diet resort to sports and games to burn fat. With cases of child diabetes on the increase, this has become a prime focus of many after school programs.
A good after school program has many benefits. It keeps the child entertained as well as busy, and thus prevents children from becoming addicted to TVs and PCs. By giving them ways to burn up their excess energy and explore their creativity, after school programs help to shape the overall personality of the child.
How to Avoid Afterschool Burnout
After school is not baby-sitting:
After school activities thrive only if it is backed by sufficient parental involvement. What would a soccer match be without parents cheering their little heroes from the sidelines?.
Research and choose:
Instead of convenience being the decisive factor, find out things that will interest your child. Once you select a program, get the fine print and find out what you have to contribute.
Many children attend piano classes, followed by ballet and squeeze in some time for play dates in between just before they rush home in time for bed. This rigor is too much for a child. So, go slow.
When to quit:
Often, parents enroll their child in an activity to discover that he may not be the prodigy they thought he would be. This is the time to let go. Your child may not become the next wonder-kid. But, let him cultivate an interest that he enjoys. Remember, happiness and fulfillment are all that matter.
How to Determine When it’s Too Much
Should your child go for the football practice 5 days a week? Are 3 daysenough? It is common for parents to be a little confused when it comes to
deciding how much is too much with reference to after school activities.
They argue that since most of the activities are fun (as different from studies), children will simply lap up these classes. But, too much of fun can also make a child sick. Here is a simple guide that will help you decide how much is too much for your child.
Your child is just beginning to learn to interact and get used to discipline. His or her after-school life should be simple and carefree. One or two classes per week are enough at the beginning. Once the child settles down, look for more challenging activities like a music program.
One or two activities per week, play dates and playground visits are recommended. Avoid competitive sports activities. The child is still too young to have to worry about winning and losing. After the rigors of a full day at school, he or she needs a healthy outlet for pent up energy. Physical activities and noncompetitive sports are best for this age.
Your child is old enough to voice opinions on what activities he or she wants. Sports, skating, swimming or computers – steer him towards things he likes. Many children begin lessons on a musical instrument around this age. But, allow your child some ‘alone time’ during which he can unwind and just do whatever he wishes.
Socialization begins to take center stage. Team sports are a good choice. Developing motor skills, painting, drawing etc are good too. Let the child explore areas of interests. But leave aside enough time for the family and for fun activities.
At this age, the child will tell you what he likes. He needs to get involved in activities that will boost his confidence. This will also help him manage stress as this is the time when social pressure is beginning to build. But, beware of the homework demon. Your child needs more time with his studies. Balancing his schoolwork with other activities is very important.
The fifth grader is bubbling with energy and will want to do just about everything. But she or he may conveniently push studies to the background. So, close supervision is needed. Keep one or two days free for family time and other activities. Now is a great time to get your child interested in community service.
Steer him away from TV. Get him engaged in activities that reinforce learning. Academic performance can be improved by encouraging your preteen
to join clubs like the Girl/Boy Scouts program, language clubs, chess clubs etc. As a thumb rule, 16-20 hours a week of extra activity should be
more than enough.
But look out for signs of burnout.
What you select for your child and how long he should work at it is basically decided by the child’s temperament. As a parent, you should closely observe your child and base your decisions on feedback from the child himself.
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