In the bad, terrible, dangerous old days, (before World War II) children would finish with school and return to their homes, where Mom was hanging around with an apron tied around her waist dusting the picture frames and polishing the silver.
This offered the little darlings at least a little bit of protection – and the occasional milk and cookies – to get through the afternoon without starving to death or being kidnapped by unsavory characters.
With mothers working, afternoons for children changed. There was no one waiting at home to keep the kids out of trouble, which meant the risk of kids starving to death or being kidnapped by aliens became increasingly worrisome.
Fast forward to 2015 and society has caught up with the changing times. Schools now have after hour programs and sports teams that keep kids involved and supervised through the afternoon.
Today, many kids appear to be more organized, involved and socially integrated than their parents. There are middle school children who take music lessons, are members of a scouting troop, do volunteer work, and join two or three extracurricular clubs, like the Science Club or the Culture Club.
The motto for American these days is “Busy and safe.” We live in an age of Tiger Moms and kids who excel in diverse hobbies, sports, activities and organize their lives on phones that are smarter than – well, likely smarter than parents were not too many years ago. .
Life for a kid nowadays is about balancing schedules and budgets accordingly. How can a child get the most out of childhood? The answer is: Lessons and activities.
In search of the well-rounded child, here are some basic choices to make:
For kids who are introspective, creative, artistic or aesthetically-minded, look around for afternoon art classes. Almost every community has at least a few artists who use their afternoons to teach, trying to steady their incomes along the way.
The world is still full of games – maybe even more than ever. Of course, now the options are harshly divided between electronic games and organic, manual games, like cards and board games. Many schools have after-hours programs where games make up a large portion of the activities. Remember, in childhood we learn through playing. That hasn’t changed at all.
Learning teamwork and staying in shape is critical at an early age. Among these are true team sports, like baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer, basketball and hockey and sports that are individual in nature, but have some aspect of team spirit, such as track and field, swimming, bicycling, tennis and golf.
In every community in the country, there’s a bulletin board with the name of a local piano teacher who teaches piano for reasonable prices.
But if you look a little further, there are also teachers for the violin, guitar, trumpet and every other musical instrument you can imagine. Sites like LessonRating.com can help parents sort out the good teachers from the mediocre teachers. Learning to play an instrument can lead to a life full of enjoyment, benefits and success.
One of my sons is in an Astronomy Club, sponsored by the school, which includes afternoon lectures on the planets, asteroids, stars, black holes, moons, satellites. They also have late-night meetings in various back yards, when they haul out the school’s pricey telescopes and point them at Jupiter or Mars or some comet passing by.
My son sums all this up with the word, “Cool.” It sure sounds like fun to me.
If your children like to argue, they should probably go out in the backyard and have at it. But if they like to think and argue, they might enjoy joining a debate team.
Debating is arguing, but with an audience and a judge. Of course, he audience is usually friends who are members of the debate team and the judge is usually a club advisor. Good teams, however, take to the road and challenge debate teams from other schools, which means travel, meeting new people, and living, sometimes, on fast food for an evening or two every month.
Among the more charged up after school activities simply falls under the category of fund raising.
You name it, fundraising covers it. Almost any worthy cause out there knows that if you get the power of millions of school kids behind you, you can probably move mountains. (It may be the only way, in fact, to move a mountain.)
Recent fundraising at my children’s school included selling advertisements for the school musical, which raised thousands of dollars for next year’s show – to raising funds in a Walk-A-Thon to pay for much-needed water wells in a village in Angola.
The goal was to raise enough money for a well and the school ended up raising money for two wells – enough so that one of the students in the school was a top fundraiser nationally for the cause and was given a free trip to Angola, Africa, for her efforts.
Just from a bit of after-school effort … great things can happen.