Are kids being "over-scheduled"?
Do afterschool programs expect too much of students? Several recent studies and news articles discuss a growing concern among some parents and educators that children are being asked to do too much, too soon. [KSU Expert Says Kids' Extra-Curricular Activities Could Be Too Much, Kansas State University, 1999]
When children's afternoons are filled with classes and sports and trips and other organized activities, these parents and experts say, kids have no time to
just be kids and family life is squeezed out. Research has confirmed that children today do have less free time and participate in more structured activities than children in the past. Undoubtedly, some children are being burdened with a schedule that places too many demands on their time, and parents are right to question whether a schedule of too many activities -- no matter how good each individual activity may be -- creates too much stress on the child and the family.
On the other hand, we live in a country where 12.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. [CIA World Fact Book 2000 http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/] It is safe to say that the children of families who live below the poverty line are not being exposed to the same level of extracurricular activities as the children of wealthier families. Afterschool programs may be the one place where disadvantaged children can have access to the kinds of activities and opportunities their more advantaged peers take for granted, such as trips to museums, dance classes, musical instruction, and organized sports.
For the two-thirds of school-age children and youth whose parents' work schedules make them unavailable during the afterschool hours, [1998 figures from the U.S. Bureau of the Census] afterschool programs may actually cut down on the stresses of over-scheduling. Instead of having to patch together myriad activities, parents can send their children to a single program that provides an array of activities, and where down-time for the children is built in to the day.
Perhaps in an ideal world, all children would be able to go home after school to a nurturing and attentive family member or caregiver who would make time for them to participate in a wide range of activities. The social and economic realities in this country, however, mean that this cannot be so for most school-age children and youth. A good afterschool program -- one planned with care and attentiveness to the needs of the students they serve -- provides one of the best options available to these families.