For many parents, being home with their children when school gets out is just not possible. Single parents and dual-income families with traditional 8-5 working hours just don’t have a way to be home before 5, and that’s without considering commutes. (And this is Chicago, after all—commutes can be brutal!) Others manage to be home after school, but it comes at a cost. One parent may have to stick to part-time work in order to make it work.
After School Programs
This is where after school programs in Chicago come into play. These programs fill the gap between the end of school and the end of work. Most of these programs come at a cost, but for many families the cost is more than worth it. It allows parents to continue working, and it allows children to be involved in a fun and varied program that goes far beyond babysitting.
Let’s look at some of the alternatives to after school programs in Chicago. We’ve already talked about a parent needing to cut back on work hours, which has its obvious drawbacks. Another option is hiring a daily babysitter. But this isn’t free, either, and finding a qualified, affordable babysitter that is willing to work a daily short shift can be challenging. Another alternative is relying on family. If you yourself have parents nearby who is retired and in good health, perhaps they would be willing to have some “grandparent time” each day during the school year. Of course, this option isn’t available to all. Depending on your situation and income level, you may have access to state- or federally-subsidized programs, or your child’s school may have its own after school care program.
What to Look For
If you’ve ruled out the above options, what are the things you should look for in an after school program? Look for a program that goes beyond child care or babysitting. A good after school care program will provide time to work on homework, will offer group and individual enrichment activities, and will include opportunities for physical exercise and activity. A good program will be both fun and beneficial, offering enrichment activities and having policies that help your children develop well (such as limits or bans on electronic device use).
Features of the Best Programs
The best after school programs in Chicago also offer a before-school component, which is a big deal for those parents with nontraditional work hours. They may also have a care option for days when school is closed, whether for holidays or inclement weather. This can be a critical component for parents whose jobs don’t stop on holidays or in bad weather.