Many parents are concerned about the availability and quality of after-school programs. Thanks to our readers who wrote in to share what they like — and don’t like — about the programs their children attend.
What to look for:
A California mother of a 6-year-old appreciates her program’s atmosphere of love and respect.
“The program is wonderful and my son loves it. They have a fantastic staff that is so full of energy and enthusiasm that it inspires my son to play, learn and grow everyday. Part of their program is an optional homework club and my son loves it. He comes home proud of himself that he has completed his daily homework and had fun while doing it. At his last after-school program, all he talked about was the new video game he played and I noticed the staff did not interact with the children much. Now he talks about the outdoor games he plays, as well as board games and children’s card games, or new songs he’s learned or books he’s read. I have seen nothing but improvements since my son started attending this program.”
One mother of a second-grader likes her program because it’s well organized.
“It includes tutors and a place for students to complete their homework after school if they choose to do so. Once their homework is completed they have a choice to work on arts and crafts or to play games. The children interact with each other very well by age group. They can also view a movie. When I would pick my daughter up early she would be upset, so now I allow her to enjoy the after-school program until it closes.”
A Florida mom of a kindergartner boasts of her quality program with a bargain price.
“The program is $6 per day. For an extra cost, from $15 to $30 a month, they also offer a community program that consists of tutoring classes, piano, guitar, judo, ballet, computer and FCAT remedial classes. That’s a bargain compared with the cost of private places. My son goes to judo twice a week and tutoring to learn to read twice a week, and he’s very advanced in reading. That’s what I think every school needs to have in their after-school program. When I pick him up from school I’m not worried about my schedule because he’s already done all his activities and I have more time to share a nice conversation with him while I’m cooking, and the whole family can have dinner together every night.”
An Illinois mother of two describes the assets of her quality after-school program.
“It hosts grades K through 5 and does a remarkable job of making sure the kids are always busy and entertained. They have a well-trained staff (all CPR certified), varying in age, to supervise and interact with the children. They have an outdoor playground with swings, monkey bars, basketball hoops and a variety of accessories to play with, such as baseballs, kickballs and hula hoops. The building also has a gym, a room for art projects, and a snack room with a working oven, stove and refrigerator. The fourth- and fifth-graders also have access to the computer room. They have a study room where students can do their homework and receive assistance if they need help. The program has more board games, electronic games, books and play stations than you would ever imagine. On rainy days, they will put on a movie for everyone to enjoy. Each month the school prints a calendar of the daily activities that the children can enjoy, such as jewelry making, hairdo days, card trading and cooking classes, along with several other activities I’m sure I’m missing.”
One parent appreciates the fact that her program also becomes a summer camp.
“In the summer the after-school program turns into a summer camp, which is nice since the children are already accustomed to their surroundings and the staff. They have two to three field trips a month. They take walking trips to the library and have treats at the ice cream parlor afterwards. They have pizza days and even a yard sale where parents bring in things to donate and then they let the children shop to encourage ‘bargain shopping.’ They have sign-ups for dancercise and swim lessons in which the children take the bus to the pool at the local park.”
An Arkansas mother values the homework component of her after-school program.
“My son is enrolled in the after-school program here in our town. This has been a blessing for us. My son has ADHD and bipolar disorder. With these two diagnoses going on, he doesn’t always get a chance to complete his work at school. This program has been an excellent asset for us.”
An after-school provider from Texas describes her program.
“I have started an after-school program at my church for all children in the community, grades 1 through 5. This is an outreach program for all denominations and our volunteers are from other churches as well. The schools have arranged to bus the children to our church after school and the parents pick the children up at 5:15 p.m. We provide academic, social and spiritual growth. The children arrive at the church at 3:30 p.m. and go for a bathroom break and wash their hands and then they have a snack. The children are divided into groups according to grade. They have a devotional and then go to one of two centers they can attend. One center is homework and the other center rotates every four weeks to include etiquette, life skills, crafts and computer. The children can also choose to take cooking or wood shop.”
What to watch out for:
A Virginia mother of a 5-year-old is concerned about the lack of structure at her daughter’s program.
“My daughter is in kindergarten and has been in daycare since she was 6 months old, so I’m used to having her under another’s care. In the after-school program she’s in this year, I am concerned about a lack of ‘productive activities’ since it seems to me it does not have an orientation. They just play or do whatever they want.”
A mother in North Carolina stresses how vital her program is to keeping her job.
“I have a very strict job. If I show up late for work I get a point and then I cannot work for that day. In my job you can only get up to nine points and then you are let go. Last year when my daughter was in pre-k, I loved my after-school program, simply because it was always available when school was not in operation, such as teacher work days, or even winter, spring and summer breaks. There were no worries when it came to school closings. This year, my daughter is in kindergarten and the program is a lot different. There is no more winter break program, or any spring and summer program. I know that a lot of parents can stay home with their children, but what about the ones that can’t do that?”
A New York mom likes the social component of her after-school program, but questions the quality of the snacks.
“It’s better for my kids to be socially interacting with their classmates and friends, than to be at home with a nanny watching television. My major concern is the lack of healthy snacks available to them. I would love to see more yogurt, cheese sticks, fruit, etc.”