Care at the School
Many schools provide an after-school program for a nominal fee. This is a good option for elementary school-aged children when you are available to pick them up before the program ends for the day. I know that our local school provides care until 5:00, so while this works out for families where one parent is out by this time, it doesn’t work for others. Also, sometimes there are limits as to how many children the school can accommodate, due to staffing issues. Call and find out the details now if you think this is a service you’ll need.
Other After School Programs
Many daycare centers offer after school care for kids up to fifth or sixth grade. Transportation may even be provided if the center is close to the school. These types of programs are great if you have a younger child in daycare as well, because you can pick up all of the kids in one place after work. Also, most daycare programs have hours that are convenient to working parents, and usually have homework assistance available, as well as age-appropriate activities. The downside is that they can be pricey, but sibling discounts might be available.
If your kids already have transportation home, either because you live close enough for them to walk or via bus or carpool, hiring a teen or adult babysitter to meet them and care for them until you get home might be a convenient option. One benefit of this arrangement is that the kids are in their own environment, and they can relax, have a snack, start homework or even start chores. Costs may vary widely; ask around for recommendations if you want to hire a babysitter.
Letting Them Stay Home Alone
We’ve talked before about how to determine if your child is ready to stay home alone. If your child meets the criteria, then this might be an option for you. You’ll probably feel better and your child will be safer if there’s a neighbor that he can go to if he forgets his key, gets scared or otherwise needs an adult’s help. Also, it’s a good idea to have him call you when he gets in, and to go over any rules, such as whether he can have friends over, what he can have for a snack, and whether he needs to get his homework done before you get home.
Arranging after-school care can be a hassle, but once it’s out of the way, you’ll hopefully have smooth sailing for the school year!