Inside: Wondering how to supplement public school education at home? Read some great reasons to consider afterschooling.
Like a symmetrical kaleidoscope, I had it all planned out. My future children would be well-educated, speak five languages, play several instruments, and eat only organic food made at home. I was wooed by the call of “Tiger Mom” and her tribe and my initial efforts in actual motherhood were quite sheroic. I spoke only French to my daughter, attended Mommy and Me Chinese classes in New York City (we lived in New Jersey at the time), we avoided all screens before age two, and she was sleeping in her own toddler bed before her brother came along. My dream was becoming a reality.
Then came the Terrible Twos and the Second Child. Ever heard of a hand baby? My son would scream whenever you put him down. And my daughter would scream if you chose her clothing. Not to mention trying to work at a law firm and stay sane. Needless to say, after a few months, English reigned again in the house, my son skipped Sesame Street and went straight to “Doc McStuffins” with my daughter, and fast food was a welcome relief. The “Tiger Mom” had become a Lamb Mama.
This great dose of reality did not quell my desire to enrich my children’s education, however. I had to step back and embrace the reality of the situation. Each day, whether it was after I picked up my daughter from preschool or after some fun time in the pool, I looked for ways to teach my kids more than the basics.
Whether it was reading aloud, arts and crafts, science experiments, or outings to the library for puppet shows, I never left the schooling solely to someone else. And when I had free time, I found myself reading books about homeschooling, reading aloud, parenting, and different curricula to engage children.
There were three results of these simple actions:
1) I found myself really understanding how my children learned;
2) I spent more quality time with my children; and
3) their success and true understanding of the material was greatly enhanced.
Since this time, I have been passionate about encouraging other working parents to take on “afterschooling.”
What is Afterschooling?
Afterschooling refers to activities performed by parents to supplement learning at home, after your child finishes school.
For many parents, this may seem like an overwhelming task. Many women especially are working stressful jobs and even more than one job to make ends meet. We are sometimes in survival mode – providing only dinner, a bath, and minimal help with homework assigned by a teacher. My message to all working parents is that you can be a significant part of your child’s education.
Here are some tips to get started:
Identify your goal with afterschooling.
Figuring out what your goal is with afterschooling is a great way to focus on a task that may seem daunting. Do you want to delve into a subject that interests your child? Perhaps you want to review subject(s) where your child struggles or challenge a child who is gifted? You may also want to learn about a subject that is not offered in school. Choose one or two goals and you will be well on your way.
Determine how you will afterschool.
Deciding how you will afterschool is the next step. Will you ask your child to do independent work, such as worksheets or online computer programs? Will you engage in read-aloud sessions or use creative play to teach certain subjects. The options are endless and should suit what feels right for you and your family.
Engage your children in the process.
Once you determine how you will afterschool, involve your children in the process and ask for their ideas and thoughts. They may have suggestions about when to start each day, such as after a snack or play date. They may also have preferences about the types of books they read or programs they will use. When children have some say in how the process works, they will be more willing to participate each day with you.
Establish a schedule for afterschooling.
As we all know, things rarely get done if they are not written down. A schedule that is clear and can be followed by you, your children, a partner, or a babysitter will allow for an easy transition when children come home from school (or end distance learning).
Afterschooling has been an extremely satisfying part of parenting for me and has allowed me to be the parent I always wanted to be. My hope is that all parents have the opportunity to experience the same feeling.
Cheoma Smith is a mother of two, an attorney, and the Founder of Afterschooling (www.afterschoolingmom.com).