What Happens After School? – Creative Solutions for Parents
By Dasha Peipon
Soccer or tennis? Robotics or coding? Music or theatre? If you talk to parents of school-aged children, you will learn every child is signed up for up to four different classes or activities per week. Let’s say, for an 8-year-old it might look like dance, art, piano, and swimming – that seems like a good combo. With just those four activities, in just one month this child’s parents will spend up to 8 hours as chauffeurs and 24 hours waiting for their child to be done with the classes. They will pay up to $340 monthly, plus registration fees, which include materials (such as sheet music and art supplies). For families with multiple children, add a few more classes into the equation – the calculations will change dramatically. These numbers vary depending on prices and locations of the preferred facilities, of course. But one thing is clear: as much as they love their kids, many parents just do not have the time and cannot invest that much money into after-school enrichment.
I decided to do my own little research and see what other options are available for families with multiple children who cannot take advantage of the traditional after-school programs.
What got my attention? Subscription programs, online classes, and educational activity kits – they are affordable, compared to regular group activities or private lessons, and children can use most of them independently, without adult supervision.
Activity kits are the easiest. All you need to do is choose one that sparks your child’s interest and curiosity. It can be cooking, coding, robotics, physics, science, art, etc. Look up Science Kits and Toys on Amazon for hundreds of options. Typically a set will cost between $25-50 and will include step-by-step instructions with pictures and challenge cards, so your child can try something new every day.
If you decide to give subscription boxes a try, there are different delivery frequency options: sign up to receive a new box monthly, or every two or three months. You can choose what to get every time or you have the option to receive a “mystery” box and add the surprise element to the fun. Some of the products available on the market are: STEM Discovery boxes, Green Kid Crafts, Bitsbox (coding), Kidstir (cooking), Kiwico (hands-on learning).
If you sign up for online classes, you can take them one after another or spread them out. The flexibility is the best part.
So where do you begin? Which activity sets and subscription programs are available? Are they even effective?
Children are really good at telling us exactly how they feel about new things or experiences. That’s why I asked my own kids to try out three different learning resources and share their honest feedback.
Hoffman Academy Online Music Lessons
Basic Membership – Free, Premium Membership – $18/month
When Dr. Hoffman had more piano students than he could physically teach, he created his online music academy to make his lessons available to everyone. The Hoffman Method based on research in child development and learning theory, teaches students to play both by ear and sight. It engages a child’s natural curiosity and creativity using a multi-sensory approach. Hoffman Academy video lessons are available for free and can be found on Hoffman Academy website and on YouTube. In addition to that, Premium membership gives users access to lots of great learning resources and games.
Review by Lydian Peipon (8 years old)
I think Dr. Hoffman is a fun music teacher. I like that I can start the videos on computer by myself, without my parents’ help. It’s easy to learn. After the first class I could already play a new song on the piano. I like the games and it is fun to beat my own record and collect more points. Dr. Hoffman’s program is good practice for beginners and experienced musicians. The music lessons are fun and I always want to keep going and take three or four classes at a time; they are only about 10-15 minutes long. At the end of each class Dr. Hoffman usually does something funny. He makes up finger puppet stories. Sometimes he adds jazz style to his music. I also like the melody he plays before and after each class.
Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Catalyst
$55 for the kit
This set provides 16 possible inventions in one kit. It comes with 10 challenge cards that offer descriptions of what to reinvent your robotic creation into. Kids address STEM, robotics, problem solving, project-based learning, creativity, and invention all through one kit.
Review by Lydian Peipon
When I opened the box, I found rubber bands, wooden wheels, and metal bolts and screws. Then I connected one of the wheels to the cords and plugged them into a battery provided. I was actually astonished with the result: I made the wheel move! I quickly figured out how my invention is powered and made another one. This time it was a robot that could draw curvy lines. I attached a marker to the base and connected the base to the motor. My favorite invention was the robot that was also a race car that could actually go as fast as 6 miles per hour! I am planning to make a robot that helps my mom in the kitchen – an egg scrambler. The set comes with safety goggles, really helpful instructions, and challenge cards to give you ideas of what to build next.
Yellow Scope Paper Chromatography: The Art & Science of Color
$25 for a kit
Yellow Scope combines science and fun. This set comes with everything you need for a science experiment (beakers, pipettes, safety goggles, chromatography paper, and other experimental necessities) and a journal to record your observations and hypotheses and add sketches and doodles. There are two other science kits Yellow Scope offers (The Foundation Chemistry: Beakers & Bubbles and Acids, Bases & pH Chemistry: Explore Your World).
Review by Solomia Peipon (5 years old)
When I opened the box, I was surprised. I read a new word, “chromatography”, and learned what it means. I had fun doing science projects, mixing and separating different colors. My brother helped me. It is a fun set and I like the safety goggles I found in the box. I look like a real scientist when wearing them.
Dasha Peipon spent most of her time after school coming up with games outside. Most of her educational toys were sticks, rocks and dirt.