Your eight year old's best friend comes over to the house boasting about the awesome karate moves he's been learning in his after school class. Naturally, your son immediately turns to you asking "Mom, can I take karate lessons?" Now you're faced with the age-old task of finding the right activity center that will meet not only his needs, but yours as well.
As a rule, there are several questions that every parent should ask an activity center before enrolling their child. We've drilled it down to a list of the top ten, starting here with the first five (in no particular order).
1.What is the student to teacher ratio?
There is no 'right' student to teacher ratio. Generally, though, the appropriate number will vary by activity. Tutoring and music lessons require constant communication and evaluation from the teacher, which is not possible if there are more than 2 or 3 students. Swim lessons also necessitate a low ratio for safety measures. One teacher should never be responsible for more than 2 or 3 students. Activities such as dance classes, karate lessons or gymnastics allow for a higher number of students.
2.What are your safety and security policies?
As a concerned parent, this is probably a given. Still, it's an important question, so it makes the top ten list. Make sure to visit the activity center rather than simply making a phone call. What does the overall environment look like? How clean are the floors, surfaces, equipment, etc? How secure is the building? Are there functioning cameras? For those with younger children this last point is crucial: Is a safe check-in & out policy strictly enforced?
3.What do you do to make sure that my child feels comfortable in class?
Walking into a room of your peers can be intimidating no matter how old you are, especially if you haven't been familiarized with them. An activity center is no different. Children usually respond well to games, varying according to age of course. Older kids are often drawn to those with similar likes or interests, so activities that can help them relate on those levels are best. Either way, every class should begin with some sort of 'icebreaker' to boost comfort levels.
4.Can I observe or visit my child whenever I like?
Parents should feel encouraged to visit or watch from the waiting area. Some activity centers welcome parents to get involved and act as assistants in class. Still, there is an appropriate time and place for everything - including parental visits. It's important to remember that your presence may be a disruption in situations such as tutoring sessions.
5.What will you do to adjust to my child's strengths and weaknesses?
Every child learns and processes information at different rates. Some will catch on to new moves or topics immediately, while others will require additional practice and instruction. Kids who are quickly excelling may become bored if they are forced to wait for others to catch up, damaging their class experience. On the other hand, children who need extra help and don't receive it are likely to lose interest. It's important to clarify what will be done for those situations.
It's human nature to follow the crowd and jump on the bandwagon. However when it comes to choosing the right activity center for your child, be sure to do your research and include these questions in your conversations. Lastly, remember that these are not all of the questions parents should ask an activity center before enrolling their child, but simply a few of the top priorities.