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Class timings - not conducive for working parents

Original post made by WorkingMom on Jun 27, 2007

Am I the only one - or are there more parents who feel that the working parents are singled out by the classes offered by the city? Most of the classes (I stress - most, not all) offered by the City for the kids are in the morning or early afternoon. Someone has posted a link to the PA Library blog on this site - there are fun events (lizards coming in, stories for the Toddlers) - but all are either around 11am or prior to 4pm !!

The timings of the classes offered through PAEnjoy have always baffled me ! Do most people think that just because the working parent's kid's are in the full time day care or after school care - they don't need any other interaction?

Wouldn't it be fun to have a story time class for the toddlers around 7pm (after dinner) - or - don't you think the elementary kids would enjoy an event around the same time?

Yes, as working parent's we are time challenged - but when I see the catalogs - makes me wonder if the society is making this even more challenging?

Comments (19)

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 27, 2007 at 9:29 am

Working Mom,

I am on the Parks and Recreation Commission, so your posting interests me. The class selection offered by the City's Community Services Department (as found it PA Enjoy) is quite extensive, but also is dynamic. Offerings can be designed about a number of considerations, and if there is demand for them, they could be offered. (Gross generalization, but I hope you see my point.)

Here is my suggestion to you, which I hope you find helpful. Others reading this may have ideas to post as well, and this could build from there. How about you itemize some of the factors or guidelines for a program that you think are at present unmet, and which you would like to see offered. For example, you mention a 7pm program--that's a great thought, and I am sure you have others.

I also encourage you to contact the Community Services Department at Lucy Stern and meet with the appropriate manager there with some of your ideas. You can provide your thoughts, and learn what it might take for some of your needs to be better met. I am happy to talk with you as well, you can find all the contact information on the City's web site.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:12 am

Dear WorkingMom,

I think the timing - especially for preschoolers and toddlers - is geared toward a typical young child's schedule and attention span (afternoon nap, going to bed by 7:30 or 8), not as a challenge for working parents. The same is true of older kids - classes in the evening would have a harder time holding their interest and probably more behavior issues. (Attend a 1st grade cub scout meeting at 7pm and you'll see what I mean.)

Before it closed for renovations, the Children's Library periodically had "come in your jammies" story times and perhaps these will resume when it reopens. Many events do happen in the evening (Hot Dog theater, concerts in parks, etc.)

I like Paul's idea of contacting the appropriate person, perhaps they could pilot a couple of different times of day and see what the turnout is like. I don't know whether there are staffing or facilities use issues in the evening.


Posted by WorkingMom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:38 am

Paul,

Thanks for your response. I do feel encouraged!

I checked the summer catalog of PAEnjoy immediately - there isn't much there for the preschooler's in the evening (after 5pm). I agree with Palo Alto Mom about the toddler bedtimes; but a fun event around 7pm may not quite interrupt this schedule (they will fall asleep in the car on the way home); after dinner usually the children are in a better mood anyways.

For the elementary school kids - once again, there are very few possibilities after 5pm. I do agree with the sports activities being held in the morning/afternoon times - due to the dependency on the light; however, there are classes like Cartoon Art - which would be perfect for a 6:30 or 7pm.

I have been wanting to enroll my child in the children's theater. There are plenty of classes - but once again for two hours during the day time. Yes, there are summer camps - but on an ongoing basis, getting the children to these classes at 3pm or 4pm is next to impossible.

(I know, this is sounding more of a whining - but I am not trying to portray myself as a victim here; I want to sincerely explore the possibilities for a broader audience)

My suggestions are:
1. Cartoon drawing or some other type of more focused drawing instruction
2. Reading club type of activity - we encourage kids to read all the time; if there is a reading club where they get to read and discuss a book - it would encourage reading even more. Yes, we can get together with another group of kids and attempt to start this on our own - but as most elementary school parents know, when you get the children together, without a proper 'teacher' figure in the room, it turns out to be another play date ;)
3. Theater
4. Story time / reading time for preschoolers: The preschoolers usually are into sitting down with their own books and flipping through the pages. An activity in the library where they get read to for sometime and then they can read themselves for some more time would really be wonderful !



Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 27, 2007 at 11:53 am

WorkingMom -

Your reading ideas are great, I would suggest emailing the Children's Librarian with your ideas. They are always open to new ideas and these seem quite simple to organize.

Children's Theater - a lot of the kids I know who participate have working parents. If your child participated in a summer camp or two you might meet someone you could carpool with or find a parent or older student (High School, Stanford, Foothill College) with a more flexible schedule to get your child to the afternoon classes on an on-going basis.

Scheduling as a working parent will always be hard - most after school activities are in the afternoon. But I have found that parents with flexible schedules are very willing to help out and bring your child along too.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 27, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Working Mom,

Just to get a bit more clarity from the vantage point I am taking on this, it would be helpful to understand not so much specific program ideas as other aspects that may be affecting you because you work, such as times, locations, car pooling, etc.

So for example, you may see a program (e.g. Children's Theater offering) that looks just right to you but it doesn't work because of other, non-programmatic factors because of your work and related commitments. If you could pinpoint those more fully, that can help with unerstanding what those unmet needs are, and in turn what programs might be possible that take those needs into account.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2007 at 2:37 pm

I think that children's programs are scheduled for when children are most alert and able to participate, not for the convenience of adults.

How many parents would actually pick up their kid from Daycare, come home, make, serve, clean up from dinner, then go out to a library etc preschool reading program when it is bed time for kids?


Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2007 at 2:47 pm


I, for one, like the current schedule of offerings in the late morning or in the afternoon. It works well to keep kids busy in the summer (or on shorter school days during the school year). I am a homemaker and look for activities for my kids at reasonable times. There is no way I would take my kids to activities at 7 PM or later. In my opinion there are activities offered on Saturdays that can suit working parents.

Thanks for catering to kids who don't go to day care. Please keep doing so. I could not afford daycare to send my kids to for activities during the day, unlike working parents.


Posted by Working Mom 2, a resident of Nixon School
on Jun 27, 2007 at 4:20 pm

I'm with Working Mom. I'd like to see more offerings outside M-F 9-5...but Saturdays would actually be my preference. There is only a smattering of offerings on Saturdays...and most programs don't offer a Saturday class. Has the experience been that Saturdays classes don't enroll as well as M-F?


Posted by Working Mom and Dad, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 28, 2007 at 5:59 am

Our son is 3 years old. As we both work and he goes to pre-school, the only times he is free for extra, interest-based organized activities are Saturdays and Sundays.

I have never found a Sunday class for him, though. As we don't want to overload him on Saturdays, he participates in fewer organized activities than he would if class availability were evenly spread across the weekend.


Posted by WorkingMom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2007 at 8:42 am

Paul,

Thanks once again for the response. Some of the considerations that come foremost to my mind are -

(1) The timing of the class. M-F 9am - 5pm is ruled out for most of the working parents. Yes, there are parents with the flexible schedules - but usually the flexibility of the schedule is reserved for the days when the children are sick, the doctors appointments and other social engagements in the child's school. For most working parents (I stress most) - taking a child to the class in the middle of the working day, every week does not quite jive with the 'flexible schedule'.

(2) Location - does not quite matter to me. Palo Alto is not very vast that it takes 1 hour to drive across the town

(3) M - F classes around 5pm - may turn out to be hassle for the parents, specially if they are commuting back from work (Take a look at the 101 traffic between 4:30 - 5:30 )

(4) Preschoolers - I agree with the concerns raised by the other mom's - they will tend to get tired at the end of the day. But the way I look at it, a class at 7pm once a week, specially if it is a fun thing, will be a good time for the children and the parents to wind down.

(5) Elementary school kids - car pool is certainly an option. We do make use of it a lot. However - during summer, when the class is from lets say 10:00 - 12:00 with no before/after care offered, getting the child to car pool can be a problem. The carpool driver has to pick up the child from the place where the before-care is offered, drive to the class, return the kid back to the day care (or where ever the parents have arranged for the after care). This year we have resolved the summer problem by enrolling the kids in the summer camps that run through the day. But this leaves us with no option of doing the other fun camps offered by PAEnjoy and similar.

Specially during the summer, when the school wake-up time is not a major concern, an evening class would just be perfect!

During the school year, most elementary kid's classes are right after school ( 3:00pm, 4:00pm ). Trying to find a car pool partner is a challenge for most parents in this case too.

Personally 7:00pm is a perfect time ! Yes, it can be quite challenging to get home, get the dinner, bath and other stuff done before heading out. With a little advance planning these things can be managed easily . And when there is an incentive of a fun activity - I know all parents will agree, the children seem to gain magical powers and things that usually are deemed to be 'boring' get done without batting an eyelid.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2007 at 9:21 am

This is not meant to be a criticism of your life style, but as a parent myself and also a former preschool teacher, I would say that if your child is in a childcare program while you are working (or at school during the day) then regardless of how stimulated they are while there, they need to be with parents for family time in the evening. Too many working parents think that their kids are missing out by not having these programs and classes in their lives, but what they are really missing out on is family time and interaction with their parents at home.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Addison School
on Jun 28, 2007 at 9:23 am

WorkingMom,

Several of the elementary schools have organized fun, supplemental classes at the school sites after school. This is great for both working and non-working parents, easy to participate in. If your child is of elementary age, you can check into that or suggest it to the PTA.

As your kids get a little older - maybe 3rd grade and up - homework (and sports) may interfere with a 7pm class.


Posted by WorkingMom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2007 at 10:55 am

A full time day care/preschool offers enough stimulation to the children - I agree with that part. The intention of this post was not to discuss the merits & demerits; do the comparison between what the children will gain from the preschool vs the PAEnjoy type of courses.

For the preschool specifically, the children do a lot of activities. With an evening PAEnjoy class, the parents do get a chance of being a part of the activity or being a spectator from the side lines! No, I am not saying an evening class every single day of the week. This is more to explore fun activities once a week perhaps, for a limited time frame ( 6 weeks or so ).

Elementary schools - yes, the schools do offer some type of activities; but they are usually done by a parent volunteer. The parent volunteers do a great job, no doubt about it - but my point is to make the richness of the PAEnjoy programs to be available to the children. For example, the cartoon drawing class - none of the parent volunteers in our school can do that. You need specific skill sets to teach this class. Yes, our school does offer an art class - which is not quite the same.

Let's not take this down the line of "you should reconsider if you should be working full time"; thats not my point - there are a lot of working parents around and as a society it would be so wonderful if the parks and recreations department can accommodate the constraints (without changing the existing schedules which definitely are more suitable for the home maker mom's )

BTW - the stay-at-home or homemaker mom's - I hold your abilities in very high regard. I find that your job as a full time mom holds a lot more challenges (many of them cropping up at the spur of the moment). Your creativity never ceases to amaze me.


Posted by BJC, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Paul---what happened to the Fri or Sat. night movie in the foothill park? That was a very fun evening family activity.


Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Addison School
on Jun 28, 2007 at 1:26 pm

WorkingMom -

The After-school programs at Addison are not parent run - they are outside contractors who teach Spanish, Basketball, Art, Chess etc. The PA Junior Museum has also held after-school classes at Addison.

The parent-led programs are during lunch such as Noon Science, Noon Chorus and Noon Art.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 28, 2007 at 1:49 pm

I have brought this thread to the attention of the appropriate person on city staff, and will monitor the comments. I will make sure to discuss this with them during one of my sessions with them. I don't have too many asnwers to your questions at this point, I think it is more important to understand what sorts of things the community would value that are not presently getting adequately met. That could have some bearing on what may happen to programs in the future.

Keep in mind, of course, that budgets and the like all are factored into programs the city offers. Demand and fees that can cover costs of a program can have bearing on if it is offered and if it is continued.


Posted by WorkingMom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Paul,

Can the PAEnjoy classes be offered at various schools ?


Posted by Nauseated, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2007 at 4:44 pm

"BTW - the stay-at-home or homemaker mom's - I hold your abilities in very high regard. I find that your job as a full time mom holds a lot more challenges (many of them cropping up at the spur of the moment). Your creativity never ceases to amaze me."

Didn't you forget to add...

"and some of my best friends are stay-at-home moms !!!"


Posted by J, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 11, 2007 at 12:15 am

All of the above are valid points. As a city recreation professional (of another city), let me tell you my experience.

I have tried very hard to program Saturday classes for our city. Many of the instructors of your favorite types of classes do not want to teach on Saturdays as most of us don't want to work on Saturdays. The classes that I have been able to program on Saturdays or late afternoon, are hit or miss. We added some weekday 5pm tot ballet classes that exploded with enrollment and had an evening Mommy & Me Mandarin Music class that went fairly well. One parent came to me and took matters into her own hands by taking a talent of hers and offering it to the community at large. Her class went fabulously well (a preschool age gardening class). We also offer Saturday Kidz Love Soccer, Mommy, Daddy & Me Classes at 4pm that max out at 20 participants.
Demographic shifts have also played a part in class programming. The economic slump we went through a few years back during the (dot bomb)created many laid off parents to stay home with their kids and sign up for less classes (at least that is what it seemed like in comparison to prior years). We have also seen a rise in Dads participating in daytime toddler programs reflecting the fact that many Bay Area parents are self employed with flexible schedules.

In addition, classes can be held at local schools, but it takes a special partnership to make this work. There is more involved than just letting the recreation department use a room. There is first- finding a teacher willing to give up a classroom or finding an MP room that is not being utilized by aftercare or sports. Then there is the issue of custodial, security and accountability. This situation does work- and sometimes is not done through parks & recreation but by the PTA.

Lastly, I have also found that many people make requests to the recreation department but don't sign up when classes are offered. I have sometimes worked very hard to try to fulfill what I thought was a need only to see it fall by the wayside. Most recreation professionals are willing to try things that the public wants- the charge is to offer programs and create revenue. Although we are part public service and subsidy plays a role, we are also a business. I suggest going to your city website and contacting the powers that be whether through an online survey or by contacting the webmaster. Emails should be routed to the correct person.

I know Redwood City has a bedtime storytime for kids ages 3 & up at the main library that includes songs, puppets and more! There are some other 7pm events available and weekend events too. Not to mention this Saturday's Shakespeare on the Square as well as a whole summer of Family Fun on Theater Way in RWC. Check it out!
Library events: Web Link
Family Events, concerts, etc..: Web Link

Okay- my identity has definitely been given away by now! A long posting...I know, 12:15am, rambling... but hopefully this helps! Good Luck!


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