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Arts and Enrichment

Making the Investment in After School Activities

Local Options Provide a Creative Outlet for Varying Interests

August 01, 2010
Programs abound for parents looking for extracurricular activities for their child albeit before and afterschool or evenings. Parents are left to decide which program will best fit their schedule, pocketbook and keep their child interested while they are not in school.

Find a balance before you book

According to a national survey of nearly 30,000 households conducted for the Afterschool Alliance and sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund, the number of children left alone after school has risen to 15.1 million, 800,000 more than were left alone in 2004. In the United States, 8.4 million children now participate in afterschool programs, which have grown in popularity over the last five years.

Tried and true programming from The Boys and Girls Club Inc., At-Your-School (AYS) programs, Indy Parks and YMCA programs are in high demand as they provide on-site afterschool care or transportation to and from schools to their facility. These programs require monthly tuitions and membership fees that outweigh the thought of children home alone.

The gap between the time schools let out at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. and the time most full-time employed parents get home at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. add up to 15 to 25 hours a week. That is a lot of time that can be spent getting exercise, making friends, learning new skills, helping others and staying busy.

In 1980, AYS started with fewer than 10 children and today they offer 45 programs to more than 1500 kids in the Indianapolis area. Their programs include kindergarten wrap-around programs for half-day students, before and after school programs as well as summer Camp AYS. After receiving grants and funding from The PeyBack Foundation and Lilly Endowment Inc, they are able to provide a sliding fee scale and scholarships for their programs.

The Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville offers programs for children Kindergarten through 12 years old and provide a fun-filled diversified curriculum and transportation from school to their facility. The core programs engage youth in activities with adults, peers, and family members that encourage self-esteem and skill development. The Boys & Girls Club is a "Kids" Club. They recognize that children need variety and flexibility as well as structure; therefore, they give children the freedom to choose from a list of planned activities.

Indy Parks programs offered through the Office of School Outreach are developmental in nature. Their activities focus on seven core areas of service, which complement Education and life long learning. These seven areas include Academic Assistance & Achievement, Prevention Strategies & Education, Leisure Education & Activities, Recreation Participation, Character Education, Environmental Education, and Community Collaboration. For more information about Indy Parks afterschool programs visit www.indyparks.org

The YMCA partners with schools all over the city. By visiting www.indymca.org you can search for your school district and enroll your child online for kindergarten, plus before and afterschool programs and Generation Y. YMCA programs provide a resource-rich environment and introduce children to activities that build on what they learned during the school day. The staff follows curriculum guidelines provided by the YMCA of USA and pair this with the Indiana State Standards without duplicating the classroom. They also utilized After School KidzLit, a literacy resource.

Time for family

Even without knowing how many schedules are being juggled or the priority spiritual growth and community outreach have in your home, fitting in extracurricular activities for your children has to be handled with care and without jeopardizing your family's mission. Mom and Dad should have their own activities, as well. This keeps the family well-rounded, parents energized for teaching opportunities, encourages time management and keeps children humble and respectful of others. When little sister has attended 50 baseball games, her older brother shouldn't be excused from her ballet gala to watch the latest episode of Phineas and Ferb. Supporting each other and their interests will foster a team spirit not found on any field or studio.

What a fine line we walk when it comes to exploring the possibilities for our children. When they do not know where their passion lies, we dabble and explore in programs and activities in order to spark an interest and keep them busy.

Nikki Keever is a freelance writer, wife and mother of three living in Noblesville, Indiana.

Afterschool and Club Activities

There literally is something for everyone when it comes to hobbies and interests for children. Finding the right match for your schedule and budget is the trick.

At Dana Mannix Gymnastics they have classes for 18 months through high school. "We have tumbling classes that are taken often by high school cheerleaders and even offer birthday parties. We are focused on recreation for kids as much as the team, our philosophy is that everyone can do gymnastics, not just the top one percent," said Mackenzie Mannix, manager. "Even for those who aren't going to the Olympics, being a gymnast teaches many life lessons. The recreational program builds confidence and every week they probably learn a new skill, develop more flexibility and meet new friends. We start sessions beginning with the new school year with a fall session beginning August 15. Registration is open now. Visit the Web site for the full schedule and call in to register."

At the Indy Dance Academy, which opened a year ago in the Kona Jack's Daddy Jack's Plaza, they now teach 475 students a wide variety of dance styles. "We serve children from age one to adult. The one to three-year-old Mommy & Me and adult classes like jazz contemporary, tap and ballet and our adult core conditioning are very popular. Our ballet, jazz, lyrical and tumbling classes are also available. We welcome boys to dance for 50 percent off because it's important for boys' movement and it aids in sports," said Kristen Tod, business director. "Hip hop is one of our most popular classes in which anyone from age five to 99 can participate. What sets us apart from other studios is that we provide a place for everyone to dance, a safe environment with appropriate age, dress and approach. We do not cut those interested in our competitive team. We love having kids come here to their safe haven to do what they love and to just be with another new set of friends."

Indianapolis Children's Choir (ICC) offers performing choirs for fourth through 12th grade. These are the choirs most are familiar with and are hired for functions. "Our parents are dedicated beyond belief; many drive for many miles for many years to bring their children to ICC. Parents see a value in the high artistic level that is a standard of ICC's method of teaching and they sacrifice for it. They see a value in the opportunities that ICC offers – the civic engagement that our kids are asked to sing at, the concert season in which the kids become a part of the touring opportunities both national and international," said Laura Neidig, marketing director. "The kids like being in the professional choirs because it becomes a second family to them. Both the preparatory choirs (grades first through third) and performing choirs run on a school calendar year. Parents can call now for choirs that are currently being formed for the first semester."

ICC was founded in 1986 by the current artistic director Henry Leck and went from serving 200 singers to serving nearly 2,000 students. Many believe this elite group of artists is tough to get into and expensive. "I am trying to break the stereotype ICC might have and let parents know if a child can sing in tune, they are in. It's not as expensive as people think either. The most expensive choirs are about 410 dollars for the year," said Neidig.

Meridian Music offers private lessons on almost every instrument and Harmony Road classes for toddlers and preschoolers. "Parents seem to like the fact that our teachers tend to be patient, caring and fun to work with. They seem to enjoy the Harmony Road classes because they are a part of the learning process because they are required to be involved in the class and at home," said Hillary Blake, director of education. "Parents are often surprised at how much their children can actually learn at the keyboard at such a young age and they like the fact that we offer recital opportunities throughout the school year."

The Harmony Road series is for three to four year old children interested in piano or music in general. "I think this class is popular because it gives students who are usually considered too young to begin piano lessons an opportunity to learn in a fun and relaxed environment with parental support," said Blake. Harmony Road classes begin in September and private lessons are available year-round.

IUPUI Music Academy also offers The Harmony Road curriculum. The Academy provides the kind of education one would expect to find in a conservatory setting: highly qualified and dedicated faculty, frequent performance opportunities, sequential curriculum and pre-professional training. Yet, regardless of the arts activity you select, great care is given to all students – personal attention and the kind of nurturing and encouragement that make learning the arts a positive experience. Classes are taught for ages three and up on the campus of IUPUI at The Center for Young Children, Beth-El Zedeck (71st and Spring Mill Road) and St. Richard's School (33 E. 33rd St.).

What is too much for your child?

According to the Child Development Institute, it's common for parents to be a little confused when it comes to deciding how much is too much with reference to afterschool activities.

Kindergarten through Grade 2: You child's afterschool life should be simple and carefree. One or two classes per week are enough at the beginning of their interest for the activity. Even now, the child is still too young to worry about winning and losing. After the rigors of a full day at school, he needs a healthy outlet for pent up energy which can include play dates at the park.

In recent years, organized sports programs have reached to younger athletes and created ways for them to participate in traditional sports, only five-year-old-friendly. Flag football programs are flourishing and tee ball, even for three-year-olds, is popular where these sports weren't introduced until later years.

Grade 3 through Grade 5: Socialization takes center stage. Team sports are a good choice to develop motor skills; painting and drawing are good, too. Let them explore areas of interest, but keep enough time for family activities, as well.

As social pressure and stress begins to build, beware of the homework demon. Your child will need more time with his studies—balancing schoolwork with other activities is very important.

Middle School: If you haven't done so already, steer your child away from TV. Get them engaged in activities that reinforce learning. Academic performance can be improved by encouraging your preteen to join clubs like the Girl/Boy Scouts, language clubs, chess clubs and so on. As a rule, 16 to 20 hours a week of extra activity should be more than enough, but look for signs of burnout.

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Tags: Education, Enrichment

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