Afterschooling 101

I consider myself a lifelong learner. This is reflected in my vocation (I’m an educator at a public school) and in my hobbies, which include fiber art, cooking, soap-making, photography and blogging, to name a few. 

My hobbies are creative outlets that are not only enriching and fun, but also good for my own well being.

They help me to manage (in a healthy way) the stress associated with working full time while parenting four children. 

They’re ultimately non-essential; I could certainly buy soap or artisan bread at a store.

However, I consider these endeavors to be a purposeful break from my adult responsibilities.

As my children grow up, I want them to have a solid educational foundation.

But I also want to help them nurture their sense of wonder and curiosity, as I have, so that they, too, develop habits of lifelong learning. 

To instill these habits, I have committed to “afterschooling” my own children with a whole-child approach.

What is afterschooling?

Afterschooling is a thing. There are forums, websites and even some books devoted to the topic.

Most sources describe afterschooling as extra activities that can be used to supplement materials offered in a traditional school (or homeschooling) day.

However, I have a different take on the experience, which is less academic, a bit more holistic and heavy on the element of connection. 

We afterschool in our family by creating enriching pockets of time with our children outside of the school day — nurturing experiences that encourage family connection, curiosity and play. 

One the keywords in our afterschooling philosophy is with.

I’m talking mindful, present, hands-on time with my children each day.

My reality is that I spend more waking hours of the day with other people’s kids than I do with my own children, so I want to make the time I’m able to spend with them meaningful.

Balance

In the full and rich pace of family life, finding time during the work/school week for genuine family connection can be a challenge.

Homework, extracurriculars, laundry, grocery shopping and making dinner are all part of the package of family life.

I try to make afterschooling a reality in our family by committing to at least 30 minutes of time each day with my kids for this type of connection. (It’s easier to work it into your day if you develop a routine, I’ve found.)

Be flexible

Sometimes afterschooling time is with an individual child.

Other times it’s with all four of my children. And, sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

However, the intent is there to make some sort of fun connection with each other every day, rather than all doing our separate things under the same roof.

Getting started 

We all afterschool to some degree if we have children in our home.

I encourage you to bump it up a notch and make it an intentional habit.

Find ways to create, explore and nourish small pockets of time during the week with your child. 

Here are a few simple ideas for afterschooling that take about 30 minutes each:

  • Make a dessert. 
  • Play a card or board game.
  • Read a chapter of a children’s novel together.
  • Play catch in the backyard.
  • Start a project from a kit (like a sewing or construction project).
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Collect and press some leaves.
  • Paint a pumpkin.
  • Roast pumpkin seeds.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Make a batch of play dough.
  • Color, draw or create something.
  • Work on a puzzle.
  • Look through photo albums.
  • Try something new: Find a tutorial or book to teach you how to do it!

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four children in Northeastern Minnesota. Follow her on Instagram @megtdevine. Write her at mdevine@mnparent.com.