This day and age, there are a myriad of things that students can do after school. There are TaeKwonDo schools, plenty of other sports activities, after school programs at your school, and of course, they could always veg on the couch and play video games. A popular choice for the kids….not as much for the parents.
One alternative is an enrichment program, which exists for those kids who are simply not getting what they need, academically, from their regular school day.
It’s obvious to most that not every intellectual insight, skill, or life lesson can be gleaned from inside the walls of their assigned school, but many seem to think that any learning after school might be considered some sort of cruel, sadistic torture. “Let the kids have fun,” or “they need more exercise.” Absolutely. Amen to both of those.
But let’s start with a few … let’s call them inconsistencies in the current mainstream view on education and productivity. First, you’re hearing all kinds of talk about extending the school day, and how much better it is for kids. Many of the charter schools in areas with struggling public “traditional” schools take pride in their longer day and how much kids and parents appreciate what it does for them.
At the same exact time, we’ve seen interesting studies over the years about how unproductive (for adults) the 8 hour work day really is, and how they are only getting a little shy of 3 hours of productivity out of an 8 hour work day. It strikes me that if a working professional adult, who is paid to do a specific job by an average company seeking to maximize their bottom line, is getting less than 3 hours of productivity a day, why would anyone be under the delusion that your average 6 to 18 year old, who is not being paid, is somehow pushing the envelope of productivity, out of a 6 and 1/2 hour day…by getting any more than that 3 hours of usefulness? It doesn’t track.
So why add more time to your day? Because, typically, there are only so many things a traditional school can offer. But if your son or daughter is not getting everything they need from their time at school, it’s not a bad idea to find other sources. Art and music lessons, sports, church activities, any number of things can fill the time, but what if their intellectual prowess has not been sufficiently challenged at school? If the school has maxed out what they offer during the day, and the rest must come from elsewhere.
The truth is, it is not possible, in a school day, for even your most “typical” student to get everything they can get. They are, inevitably, going to get a lot of extra stuff they have no interest, aptitude, or passion for, but they will also NOT get the opportunity to explore the things that would interest them. Neither will they necessarily find out what things could challenge them intellectually. Additionally, if your child is falling behind in some areas of school, there is ample reason to get them support for what they are weak in (tutoring, etc), but it’s just as important to give them opportunities to excel in the areas they are strong in. This is not something your typical “individualized education plan” is going to do.
There are myriads of things that you as a parent can do. Visit a museum, attend a public hearing at your local government, volunteer the family at a local non-profit, explore a cave, a trail, a war memorial, a local church or cemetery, historical building, or a working farm. Visit the courthouse and ask if you can witness a trial. Ask a local business owner to explain how they got into their line of work. Kids really do want to know how the world works. They want to be a part of the solution to your community’s problems one day, to appreciate and contribute to what makes it true, good, and beautiful. This doesn’t mean they need to be burdened with the world’s problems. That’ll happen soon enough. And they don’t need to given a pop quiz to make sure they remembered everything they saw. What is important is NOT what they remember, but what they think about as a result of what they see and hear.
Just remember, that if you expose them to the goings on in the community, they may want to participate, to engage, to do something productive. Be prepared to give them that opportunity.
Butch Porter is the Owner and Operator of IndED, MicroEd Academies, and the Hub in Downtown Leesburg. MicroEd offers programs using the IndED method of personalized, project-based learning for students seeking enrichment after school, as well as co-op programs in Science, the Arts, and Citizenship during the day for homeschooled students. For more information, check out their calendar at: inded.us/events.