The bell rings and the race is on — playdates, practices, homework, dinner, downtime. It takes some seriously fancy footwork to get everything done between school and bed. Randi Chapnik Myers finds out how three busy families manage to fit it all in
Photo Credit: Venturi + Karpa
(Photo, left) The Readman household: Dean, lawyer, Helena, teacher, Catherine, 10, and Claire, 8. Hometown: Vancouver.
When the bell rings, school is done for the day, but your schedule gets downright hectic. Whether your kids head off to child care, playdates, activities or practices, you’ve got work to do — from planning, driving and supervising, to cooking, helping with homework and making sure there’s time to just kick back.
So we asked three busy Canadian families with very different schedules: When school’s out, what’s next?
The routine Living la vida local
Why it works “Keeping activities close by makes after-school programming easiest for working parents like us.”
How it works For a reasonable fee, the Readmans enrol their girls in a child care service offered at their public school. At 3 p.m., the girls go straight to the supervised program, and spend the next three hours enjoying healthy snacks, socializing and getting homework done. Then come the activities: Brownies (on school grounds) for Claire on Tuesdays, piano at a nearby location for both girls on Thursdays, and Monday and Friday hockey practices.
Parent take “The after-care program is a godsend for us,” says Helena. The arrangement bridges the hours between school and the girls’ activities, allowing Helena and Dean to finish their workdays before ferrying the kids around. When activities are over, it’s home for dinner — typically around 6:30. Then it’s play or TV time, piano practice, and reading before bed.
Being able to stay local is key because Helena can drop by the house for a quick snack with one girl, while another is at a lesson. There is one glitch in the schedule: When one parent works late and hockey practices are at different times. “One girl may get bored and start complaining at the rink,” Helena notes. Still, she says, “it’s really busy, but we manage to fit it all in.”
Expert take “These days, child care is available in many schools, but the quality varies,” says Annabelle Fell, a social worker in private practice in Toronto. While some programs engage kids and allow them time to do their homework, other programs are less organized.
Whether or not the program is ideal, stay in close communication with the people who run it, Fell says. Speak up if there are issues between your child and her friends, for instance, or if she needs quiet time to do school work.
Also, keep talking to your kids about their experiences at the program. “Like school, going to a child care program may be non-negotiable. But you’ll help your child enjoy it if you listen, teach her to problem-solve and be empathic,” Fell says. As for activities, make sure that your kids really love the ones they choose. That way, they’ll always have something fun to look forward to.
Kid’s rating (by Catherine, 10): B
Leisure I have enough time to relax after supper. I watch a TV show or just lie on my bed and rest.
Social I hang out a lot with my friends at my after-school program. If I have time when supper’s over, I’ll go down the street to a friend’s house and hang out more.
Food After our activities, my mom usually has a great dinner waiting.
Homework I do homework at the after-school program. If I have a big project, I’ll do it at home with a little help from my mom.
Wish list I would like to play with my own toys after school, but we’re not allowed to bring them to the program.