When it comes to afterschool programs, the issue is not being able to find one—as there are numerous afterschool programs available for students to take. Rather, it is finding the right one that fits both the parent’s and child’s needs. As a parent, it is crucial to conduct proper research to find an afterschool program that checks all the necessary boxes. Your child will be spending a lot of time outside of school in this program, so you want to ensure that it offers a safe and engaging environment for your child to thrive in.
Participating in an afterschool program can have a wealth of benefits for your child. Research conducted by Professors Joseph Durlak and Roger Weissberg has shown that quality afterschool programs improved student achievement in areas like attendance, behavior, and coursework. Not to mention, afterschool programs have also been proven to help narrow the achievement gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and increase high school graduation rates of at-risk youth. Afterschool programs are not just a place for students to kill time until their parents can pick them up, but also a way to set students up for future success.
With all this in mind, here are 6 things parents should consider when choosing an afterschool program:
Interests and Abilities
One of the main purposes of enrolling your child in an afterschool program is to help develop and expand upon their interests and skills. That is why it is essential for parents to consider their child’s interests, abilities, and learning style when choosing an afterschool program. Children are more likely to engage and participate in programs they are genuinely interested in. Their interest will spark their curiosity, propelling them to seek out information on their own and take an active role in the learning process. They will then develop a sense of mastery and accomplishment; this can act as a positive feedback loop that encourages further exploration. Depending on the activity, there could be different skill levels. Thus, it is important to take note of what your child’s abilities are and what level that corresponds to (if applicable to the program).
Availability and Scheduling
Each parent’s schedule looks different. Whether you have a flexible, work-from-home job or one with strict and set hours, there will be a program out there that fits your schedule. At some programs, spaces may be limited; so, it is imperative that you act quickly to secure a spot. In the case that all the spots in a particular program are filled, be proactive and ask if there is a waitlist that you could sign up for or ways you can be notified of any openings as they become available. So while it is important to keep your schedule at the forefront of your decision-making when choosing a program, also take time to consider the program’s schedule and whether or not the two are compatible.
Safety measures should be a top priority when choosing an afterschool program to enroll your child in. Many afterschool programs are held by the school, but there are many that are hosted by community leaders or private organizations. It is important to know who is in charge and what measures they have in place to protect your child. Researching the program’s safety policies, emergency procedures, and staff qualifications is crucial. It would also be valuable to ask about background checks and training for staff members who will be working with your child—if you are not familiar with the organization or individual hosting the program, it would be to your benefit to err on the side of caution (especially when your child’s safety is involved) and gather as much information as you can.
The cost of afterschool programs can vary depending on several factors. Most programs are free of charge, especially ones that are run by the school or on school grounds. Programs that can be considered as courses—art or music classes, to provide a few examples—can be on the pricier end. Afterschool programs that focus on specialized tutoring or exam preparation also tend to cost more, as they often require specialized expertise and resources. One of the first things to consider when choosing a program is price, as it will help narrow down your options and find one that fits your needs. If finances are an issue, it may be worthwhile to turn your search towards school-run and/or community programs that tend to be free; another option would be to research programs that offer financial assistance or scholarships to help offset the cost.
In terms of convenience, the easiest location for an afterschool program is one that is at your child’s school. Other convenient options would be near the school or near your home. This can help minimize travel time and make it easier to coordinate pick-up and drop-off times. If transportation is a concern, there are also certain programs that offer direct transportation from your child’s school to the afterschool site—which can be extremely helpful for busy parents.
School and afterschool programs are places where students should learn and grow not only academically, but also in terms of developing soft skills. Soft skills include interpersonal skills —like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, to name a few—that help with interacting and building relationships with others. Afterschool programs can explicitly teach children these skills, but these skills can also come with experiences. Allowing children the space to work with their peers provides them with valuable learning opportunities; whether they are learning how to cooperate in a larger group or finding ways to address conflict, these instances can help children develop skills that will help them throughout their lives. Opportunities for growth is another factor parents should keep in mind when deciding what program would best benefit their child’s development.
Student Hires Afterschool Programs
At Student Hires, we place a strong emphasis on helping students excel both inside and outside of the classroom. Our programs aim to provide students with the right resources to do well academically and to prepare students in various areas of career development. We have several programs ranging from K-12 after-school/summer programs to workforce development programs. In line with the conversation around extracurriculars, we also offer enrichment programs that allow students to explore their creative passions. Contact us to learn more about how we can create a custom-tailored program to meet your needs.
All in all, it is important to remember that each child’s needs differ from one another—what may be the perfect program for one child does not guarantee that will be the case for another child. That being said, it is also important to have the conversation be a two-way street where your child can also voice their options and be a part of the decision-making process. Doing so allows them to feel more involved and will be more likely to invest more time and attention to the program.