After-school

Why we are excited about our partnership with Equinox

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Winter is nearing and we see families in search of indoor enrichment programs. Dearest is proud to announce that we have started a partnership with Equinox East 61st Street!

Here are the top three reasons why we are excited about our partnership with Equinox:

  1. Supporting modern parents in New York City
    Modern parents in NYC lead busy lives and are in constant search of quality enrichment and childcare services that support their unique lifestyle. At Equinox, parents are encouraged to pursue their own passions, stay fit, and healthy while fostering a safe and nurturing environment for their children. Dearest is proud to support this, by providing a differentiated program that helps children develop future-ready skills.

  2. Challenging the status quo
    Traditional institutions have fixed schedules, fixed standards, and fixed costs. Andrew Minigan of The Right Question Institute in Education Week says “curiosity often is not fostered in schools, especially those driven by test-based performance standards.” Learning can happen anywhere and everywhere - not just within a classroom setting. It can happen, for an example, at a gym. Equinox’s For Kids Only (FKO) programs are focused on interactive and play-based learning and are dedicated to curating an engaging experience that sparks children’s curiosity. Similarly, at Dearest, we deliver personalized and high-quality early childhood programs to families in NYC in the comfort of their own homes, and fuel children’s creativity.

  3. Letting children guide their learning journey
    Children learn best when experiences are customized based on their interests. Equinox offers diverse programs designed to further children’s development. With sessions pertaining to science, art and design, instructional swim, fashion and design, dance and movement, basketball, soccer, cooking, and languages, children have the opportunity to explore, ask questions, and discover new talents. At Dearest, we have over 300 educators with diverse expertise within the field of early childhood education. Designing the learning experience around each child’s interests is what we are all about!

If you’re curious and want to learn more about Equinox’s Winter and Spring Preschool Alternative and Children’s Enrichment programs, visit their site here.

If you’re a parent interested in in-home private sessions and/or tailored programs for your child, you can reach out to us at hello@dearest.io for more information.

Dearest After-School Series: Manhattan Country School

For this week’s “Dearest After-School Series,” we are featuring Manhattan Country School’s after-school program. Ms. Chawon Williams, the director of the after-school program, gave us an in-depth look at how their program impacts the social and emotional development of students.

Manhattan Country School (MCS) is a co-educational, independent day school that follows a curriculum that is deliberately progressive and incorporates a ‘country’ perspective on issues, particularly regarding sustainability and interdependence. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideals, the school envisions its students to gain academic excellence, intellectual freedom, social awareness, self-confidence and first-hand knowledge of the natural world. At MCS, thoughts on how to create change through their commitment to social justice and diversity remain a constant goal.

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With that in mind, the MCS after-school program was designed to focus on social and emotional development, while fostering a hands-on learning environment for its students. It is an opportunity for different grades to interact, learn from each other and form friendships. We reached out to the director of the said after-school program, Ms. Chawon Williams, to get more information about what happens after the bell rings at MCS.

The after-school program is based upon a ‘whole child approach,’ wherein students are encouraged to learn beyond the four corners of their classrooms to prepare them for long-term development. Different age groups are mixed together to encourage cross collaboration and for older students to practice leadership. With a total population of 268 students, there are around 60-65 students who participate in the after-school program each day. The students in the program are mostly from the lower school, with 30-50% being kindergarteners.

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Starting at 3:00 pm, from Mondays through Thursdays, students begin the program with snacks and supervised free play followed by a 2-hour enrichment class. There are 4 to 5 different classes offered each day and students can partake in the class of their choosing. These cover the staples such as African drumming, theater, and chess, but also include more diverse offerings such as robotics, ‘advanced magic’, and Mandarin. They can also participate in sports such as tennis, or fitness classes like yoga and dance. One of the more popular offerings is a fashion design class that incorporates math into art. Aimed to develop confidence and encourage self-expression, the culminating activity is a fashion show for the students to showcase their own designs. Another new addition this fall is a ‘playgroup' class called, Kids Club, that serves as an educational filler for kids who want a more relaxed setting to play and socialize after a long day in school. While they promote mixed age grouping, certain classes such as animation and coding are offered for the upper school kids only, as it requires more advanced skills. The rates for after-school classes are kept reasonable to allow families to take advantage of their enrichment classes. The full program costs around $1700 per semester.

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MCS believes in establishing long-lasting relationships with the students, parents, and teachers. A lot of thought is put into determining the mix of classes to be offered every year. According to Ms. Williams, they study the student population and their interests, while considering the skills and knowledge of the MCS teachers. Their teachers are also given the opportunity to create classes, and even MCS alumni come back to teach at the after-school program. Third-party providers are only hired for classes that need a specialization or technique to learn, like coding.

One of the main goals is to provide support for the families which became the driving force in starting this after-school program. MCS is actually one of the few schools that does not charge parents for late pick-ups, instead believing that the program works best with a culture of mutual respect and cooperation between parents and faculty. They also offer an emergency childcare service to accommodate last-minute changes in parents’ and caregivers’ schedules. 

There are many schools that offer after-school programs, but what makes them unique, Ms. William says, is the vibrant community they’ve built together. She believes the success of the program is attributed to the inclusiveness and support of the parents and teachers for the students. MCS might be one of the smaller schools in Manhattan, but it focuses on building the right environment for building individual's social and emotional skills. Every person is engaged, and even after 10 years of working with MCS, Ms. Williams has always believed that the number one priority should be the children - for them to learn and have fun while doing so.

Dearest After-School Series: BLUE at Speyer Legacy School

Dearest After-School Series delivers an insider’s scoop on after-school programs at top schools in Manhattan. We are exploring these programs in detail to provide you with the information you need to know to make the best decision for your child. This week, we are putting the spotlight on Speyer Legacy School for intellectually accelerated students. Recently, we talked to Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about all things “BLUE” (the after-school program for Grades K-4), including a new program launching this fall.

Speyer Legacy School is a private school that caters to advanced learners in grades K-8. They follow a student-faculty led approach to inspire and encourage a passion for learning and questioning within each of its students.

With that in mind, they have designed an after-school program for Grades K-4 called BLUE, which stands for Build-Learn-Understand-Explore. Students are given the opportunity to pursue their passions while trying new things. To get a closer look at this program, we had a chance to speak with Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about what goes on beyond the regular hours at Speyer.

Each 75-minute class in the BLUE program aims to serve as an “exploratory time” for your child after school. At the beginning of the semester, students can choose from a variety of classes that include athletics, performing arts, visual arts, chess, reading, writing, building and innovation, and self-expression. They have the opportunity to switch classes during the first week if they feel like it's not the right fit (and if it isn't already full). Although some are restricted to certain grades, such as basketball (for 2nd to 4th graders), the school strives to create a balance between the variety of classes built for different grades.

According to Ms. Balter, the most popular choices for the lower school are soccer, chess, musical theater, fencing, and math, some of which have waitlists. Depending on the interests of the children, classes such as magic, creative drama, and painting extravaganza, are also offered. One of the new offerings is a recycling art class that combines the concepts of art and science. It develops their creativity and resourcefulness through making masterpieces out of recycled materials.

A highlight of the program is the "Makers’ Lab," which promotes innovation. The younger learners start with simple design challenges and use the materials made available to them. When students reach 3rd grade, they get to work on more complex projects involving robotics and coding.

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A child enrolled in the program begins class at 3:30 pm from Monday to Thursday. There is a total of 14 to 17 sessions per semester depending on the school calendar, costing $40-$50 per session. As Speyer maintains a 6:1, student to teacher ratio, the slots are limited -on a first-come-first-serve basis. Speyer parents can register their child(ren) online before each semester.

Behind the BLUE program’s success is their community of educators, who willingly share their time and talent with students. Teaching these classes provides an avenue for them to pursue passions outside of a formal class setting. The school only looks into third party companies if a subject requires a certain level of specialization, such as fencing.

 Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school.

Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school.

Speyer also values the interdependent relationships they build with the parents. The goal is to support them in any way they can, even in terms of childcare. That led to the creation of an extended hours after-school program called EA Jumpstart, piloting this school year. It runs from 4:45-5:45 Mondays through Thursdays and from 3:30-5:45 on Fridays. The cost (including snacks) ranges from $25 per day for the Monday-Thursday sessions to $55 for Friday sessions. A teacher from the faculty supervises and fosters a ‘study hall’ environment for the students to work independently.

After years of working with the school, Ms. Balter believes that overseeing the lower school program, together with the after-school program, works to her advantage as she gets to know the students on a more personal level. With accelerated students, it’s important to help them reach beyond their intellectual potential while supporting their learning in an environment that is collaborative, exciting, and fun.