As summer days come to an end and your mailbox and inbox are filled with registration information for all kinds of after school activities, you may start to wonder just how you are going to cover that incredibly busy period between the school bell and dinner time. You’ve got multiple kids going in multiple directions with homework that needs to be done and dinner that needs to be prepared. Oh, and did we mention work?
When your children are in school full time, your options and needs for childcare change. All activities tend to be scheduled on weekday afternoons requiring driving during that concentrated period, but you can also now take advantage of local high school or college students or other flexible options. Our family tried three types of after school care when the kids were in elementary school.
An easy, and often affordable, option is an after-school program, either at your children’s school or at a local community center. Most schools offer structured programs where the kids have time to do their homework, play and have group activities. They are often held in the gym or cafeteria right at school so are very convenient and familiar. Community centers have similar after-school programs and provide transportation from school. These options work best for children who do not have other activities after school and like the idea of being in a camp-type setting with lots of other kids.
A local high school or college student is another great after-school alternative for parents who want an at-home option. They are likely to be on a similar schedule to your children with afternoons and evenings free. We went through the counselors in the Guidance Department at our local high school who were able to recommend smart, responsible girls who did not have other afternoon commitments. They came right from school and were there when the kids got off the bus. Our sitters always helped the kids with homework, made sure they practiced their instruments, and were able to take them to local activities.
Although we no longer needed full time childcare once the kids were in school, we found that life was much easier with an au pair. Our Cultural Care au pairs could get the kids on the bus in the morning after we had left for work, and they were there in the afternoon, either picking them up from school to take them to their many activities or there at home when they got off the bus. The au pairs were responsible not only for getting them to soccer practice, but also for washing their uniforms and making sure they put their muddy cleats in the garage. They would oversee the afternoon to evening transition with all activities, homework, meal preparation and getting things ready for the next day.
There are other after-school options — care co-ops, part time nannies, family members — that we never tried. With each option, we were fortunate to find caring, committed childcare providers who were a bright spot at the end of our children’s day at school.