As many of my readers know, I am a working mom. My husband works part time and picks up Anna from her K twice a week. The other 3 days she goes to a YMCA afterschool program, and we pick her up after 5 pm.
At the beginning we were a bit skeptical about this afterschool program. About 5 dozen kids with ages from 5 to 9 in two relatively small rooms seemed like a recipe for chaos. It took Anna about 3 months to get used to this noisy environment, but now we all learned to appreciate the positive side of our YMCA program:
- 1. As it often happens, a lot depends on the staff. Our Y program has a very capable director who runs a tight ship with a good crew.
- 2. There are a lot of toys, games and books, and they change often enough to keep kids entertained.
- 3. There are several men teachers which is great, especially for boys. Kids spend a lot of time outside and learn to play games that require a lot of players.
- 4. Y is inclusive and has a few disabled kids. One of them is severely autistic. My daughter used to be very uncomfortable around kids with “non-traditional behavior”, but now she learns to understand and accept people who look and behave differently.
- 5. Multi-age groups is definitely an advantage for Anna. She likes to hang out with older kids, and they seem to like her. Several times I came to pick her up and she was busy playing scrabble or Apples to Apples with them.
- 6. Anna adores “Y clubs”. They have a cooking club on Fridays where they try different things – from salads to cookies, and a different club every 2 months on Wednesdays. Every child has a choice of three Wednesday clubs. Last time she was a writer, now she is in a drama club. I think it’s great that she can try different things with her friends (by the way, about half of her classmates also go to the same Y program) without me having to sign her up and drive her to different activities.
I feel very lucky that so far Anna’s first school year has been such a happy time. She hasn’t been clicking with her preschool mates well, and we’ve been worried. Now it’s entirely different story – she loves being with friends, loves her teachers and approaches every new activity with energy and enthusiasm. I am grateful to her teachers and Y instructors for reaching out and touching her in a big way.