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What should I look for in an after-school program?

Julia Christensen is an experienced tutor and professional writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

Here's how to make sure your child is cared for, helped with homework and not bored after school

School is back in session! However, school hours and traditional working hours often conflict, with one ending much earlier than the other. If your work schedule doesn't allow you to pick up your student at dismissal time or to be home when the bus arrives, perhaps you should look into an after-school program.

Many programs are offered by schools, while others are run through outside organizations. Details vary greatly by grade level, but regardless of your kid's age, you'll want to keep these five major things you'll want to keep in mind when you're looking at an after-school program.

1. Stimulating activities

Your student doesn’t want to sit and be bored after school — find a program offering some stimulation! Kids need activities and other types of entertainment, whether educational or recreational. They should vary not only by age, but by interest. If your student tends to be very active after school, a quiet setting meant for story time may not be the right fit. Talk to the program director about your student’s needs and behaviors to find out more about your options.

2. Flexible time options

Late-pickup fees vary tremendously by location and can run a hefty charge. Think about your schedule when deciding on a program. If you're heading straight from a job that can sometimes hold you late, a facility with high late fees won't be the right fit. Try looking for a program with later pick-up times you know you can meet.

3. Homework assistance

This time spent after school before going home can be a great opportunity for your student to finish any homework. Is there a designated homework space available at the location? Are materials available, like pencils and paper? Check it out, and look for other things your student may need to work, like a quiet space at a desk or table or a computer. Are staff members able to assist with any homework questions? Find out about the employees’ educational backgrounds. Some may be professional teachers who can offer real assistance to your student.

4. Quality of care

While this may come as an obvious point, be sure to do your research regarding the facility. Ask the director about the qualifications and training of employees. Find out about the maximum number of students. Tour the location and note whether the facility appears updated and maintained. Additionally, do a little research about the program online.

5. Transportation

Finally, think about how your student will get from school to the program. In many instances, the program is on school property. Some off-site after-school programs offer a bus from the school to the facility. Make sure you, your student and his teacher are aware of where to go and when.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit varsitytutors.com.

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