In simplest terms, Afterschooling is when your children attend a brick and mortar school, but you augment their education at home in a structured and meaningful way. For those fortunate enough to live in well performing school districts, Afterschooling might be something you would choose to do over summer, or else in a light-handed way during the school year in the car or through carefully chosen read alouds at bedtime. If you live in a low performing or struggling school district, the role of Afterschooling becomes more important. It can provide a framework to ensure that your child is at grade level standards in math, reading, spelling, and beyond. Afterschooling can also be an important tool for parents of gifted children whose learning needs are not being met in mainstream classrooms. Afterschooling should not be about making life difficult for children in the present, it is about making school easier for them in the future.
When I taught in an affluent school district in Northern California, I would have been horrified if the parents of my students felt the need to Afterschool their children in anything besides Russian, religion, or the occasional student participating in Stanford’s EPGY program. I stayed up late, worked over summer, and put in weekends making sure the needs of all of my learners were met through differentiated instruction. I tried to make sure that when the bell rang at 3 o’clock my students’ brains were full. Even though I ensured that the school year was choc-full of meaningful experiences, as a teacher I would get nervous about summer. I wanted my students to have long lazy days of freedom and the chance to experience boredom, but I didn’t want their learning to atrophy. I would often send home suggestions of what their parents could do with children to promote learning across the summer months, and cross my fingers that parents would take my ideas seriously. I have pulled together some of these ideas in my K-1 Summer Bridge, and will be working on ideas for other grade levels in the future.
Teaching in Ravenswood however, was a different story. That neighborhood was so impoverished that the school district could not even guarantee student safety let alone a proper education. There too I worked my tail off as a teacher trying to bring the children up to grade level, but I needed help! I did the best I could to provide suggestions to parents of what they could do to support learning at home, but almost of the parents could not speak English and many of them were also illiterate. Plus, I was only 21-23 years old at the time; I did not have the benefit of experience. Now I could have provided those parents with a bevy of suggestions in English and Spanish. I have some of those ideas posted under Homemade Books, Cheap Math, and Sylvan Learning Center Alternatives. At the most basic level, I have strategies for teaching reading organized on the page Where to Start.
For gifted children, Afterschooling can be a very meaningful tool for sanity and instruction. Bruce was in an Alternate Day Kindergarten program all of last year, which was a schedule created due to the school district’s severe budgetary constraints. Bruce learned and benefited from all of the social interaction school provided, and loved his teacher, his friends, PE, library time, and music. However, the Kindergarten curriculum itself was extremely simple for him, and in our off hours I worked with him on math, reading, and science concepts that were at his appropriate level. Bruce’s teacher was very supportive of us supplementing at home, and Bruce himself seemed happier when his brain was being well fed. For first grade, Bruce will be in our district’s HiCap program, and hopefully Afterschooling will be relegated to in the car and through carefully selected bedtime read alouds.
Finally, I am just understanding and making connections in my own thoughts about the important use of Afterschooling as scaffolding for high school and beyond. Take Story of the World Volume 1 for example, which we are currently listening to in the car for fun. Listening to this book in the early years will layer the information in my children’s minds and help provide a foundation for taking the AP Art History test in high school. Playing Magic Word for fun at the dinner table will help them prepare for the SAT. Learning (or trying to learn) Spanish at an impressionable age will hopefully hard-wire their brains for learning other languages in the future. Through Afterschooling I am layering information into Bruce and Jenna’s brains that will provide foundations for future endeavors.