After-school programs help parents and kids alike
Schools offer after-school programs that improve work-life balance for parents
Schools nationwide are developing innovative programs aimed at getting parents — from working professionals to blue collar workers — more involved in day-to-day school activities while still maintaining work-life balance. Whether it’s offering volunteer-run after-school care, staggered school schedules, wider availability of busing, or even job training for parents, schools are taking steps to help parents improve their lives and be more hands-on in their children’s education.
PS29, a school in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently implemented multiple programs that benefit both parents and children, alike, including a free after-school program funded and run by the school’s PTA and a new library with several student-parent offerings, including a monthly family reading night.
Other programs have focused on helping children from low-income families get additional help outside the classroom. During her time as a public school teacher, Jaime Januse, M.Ed. and the area chair for the College of Education at University of Phoenix Central Valley Campus in Fresno, Calif., participated in school-run after-school programs available to area parents free of charge. “We have academic-based after-school programs, versus activity-based,” Januse explains. “They give the kids more time to spend with the teacher going over the day’s lessons, and then the parents pick them up after work.”
Helping parents see their child’s school as a partner is important, says Cheryl Hearn, a campus college chair at University of Phoenix North Florida Campus. The experienced public school teacher and administrator says the first thing on her agenda as Kennedy Middle School magnet school coordinator in Charlotte, N.C. was making parents feel comfortable coming to the school. “I developed a parent center, complete with computers, lounge chairs, and a place to work when they came to school to volunteer,” she says. “Many items for the parents’ lounge were donated by the parents themselves, including furniture and decorative items.”
In addition to developing initiatives that help parents feel welcome, Hearn has also spearheaded programs focused on parental self-improvement. As an administrator of the award-winning Arts & Technology Academy in Washington, D.C., Hearn oversaw a variety of programs targeted at parents, including workshops on how parents can better assist their children with schoolwork at home, as well as computer training that enables parents to obtain certifications in computer programs such as Microsoft Office® and Excel®. These computer-training courses were of particular importance given that the charter school served an impoverished community where many parents lacked employment skills, she says. “That program was really about advancing the parents’ job opportunities and lifestyle.”
Whatever parent-minded programs schools decide to pursue, Hearn emphasizes that these programs should be carefully targeted to their communities. “You find out what the parents’ needs are, and then try to offer that,” she says. “Our programs became a source of pride for the school. The students were happy, the parents were happy, the teachers were happy.”
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