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Getting Started With Afterschooling

Updated on February 18, 2010

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. -- William Butler Yeats

People have been "afterschooling" - providing educational enrichment outside of the classroom to children who attend public or private school full- or part-time - their children for as long as schools have existed. Thanks to the rise in popularity of homeschooling, however, there is more support and resources available for afterschoolers than ever before.

Photo by jemsweb
Photo by jemsweb

Why Afterschool?

There are as many reasons for afterschooling as there are afterschoolers. Many people afterschool because they are, for whatever reason, dissatisfied with the education their children are receiving in traditional schools, but are unable or unwilling to switch full-time to homeschooling.

Other parents afterschool to provide special enrichment or help to a gifted or special needs child, and many afterschool in order to encourage special interests or skills that a traditional school might not be able to accommodate.

Afterschoolers generally feel the arrangement blends the best of both worlds: the standardized curriculum and flexibility afforded to parents (especially single parent or double income families) of traditional school, with the customization and one-on-one attention of homeschooling.

The Basics of Afterschooling

The one thing shared almost universally by afterschoolers is an understanding that learning is not confined to the classroom, or the blackboards and worksheets of traditional education.

The beauty of afterschooling is that, like homeschooling, you can tailor it exactly to the needs of your family. It can be as formal or informal as you like. Afterschooling can range from simply providing a little extra help with homework to following an entire secondary curriculum at home.

Many afterschoolers subscribe to the "unschooling" philosophy of education, which encourages child-centered, interest-directed learning. Others do "unit studies," which, like unschooling, are often centered on the special interests and talents of the child.

A growing movement of homeschoolers and afterschoolers is following the classical pattern of education known as the "trivium," propounded by Dorothy Sayers and popularized by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. The trivium is a relatively formal school of educational thought that focuses on the traditional disciplines of logic, rhetoric, and grammar (both English and Latin), and encourages "cultural literacy" through familiarity with world history and the classics of the Western canon. Popular with religious homeschoolers, it can also be easily adapted to secular studies.

Another formal school of thought is those who do "school at home," which is more unusual among afterschoolers than homeschoolers, but not unknown. It is perhaps most common among special needs afterschoolers, since it provides the consistency important to these children while also giving them the one-on-one attention public and private schools may be unable to provide.

In practice, the most common educational philosophy among both homeschoolers and afterschoolers is probably the "eclectic" philosophy, which incorporates aspects of all these philosophies. For example, favorite subjects can be taught through interest directed methods such as unschooling or unit studies, while less favored subjects can be taught through more formal school at home methods, and the classical skills of critical thinking and debate can be fostered in family read aloud sessions and discussions.

Again, the beauty of afterschooling lies in its flexibility and customizability. Consider the needs of your child and your reasons for wanting to afterschool when deciding on your approach, and remember most of all to have fun. When overdone, afterschooling can deprive children of "kid time" that they need to destress and just enjoy being kids. When correctly done, it can make them lifelong lovers of learning. You have the power to help your children learn the most important things of all: how to love learning, and how to make life their classroom - take advantage of it!


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      Shauna 7 years ago

      Speaking as a former homeschooler who is now afterschooling my daughters, I disagree with the commenter Shelly. Afterschooling is not homeschooling, but it has many similarities and things in common. Our family's focus on having a lifestyle of learning didn't disappear just because I had to return to the workforce and enroll my children in school.

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      Shelly 8 years ago

      You are parenting. Afterschooling is NOT all.

    • janddplus4 profile image

      janddplus4 8 years ago

      I had never heard of afterschoolers. Who knew what I have been doing had a name? How cool! I just considered it a mixture of public schooling and homeschooling.