Here in Singapore, parents refer to it as "sitting with your child," "tuitions," "enrichment," and "supplementing." But in the US, many mothers refer to all of the above as various forms of "afterschooling."
Most Singaporean parents do a significant amount of "afterschooling," particularly when their kids are young -- ages 4 to 10. In an ideal world, parents help their kids build strong academic foundations in the early years, and then kids can work independently as they grow older.
In my book, Beyond the Tiger Mom, I offer parents suggestions on how to "afterschool" their kids, particularly in the first ten years.
Here are some reasons to afterschool:
1. The First Ten Years Really Matter:
Research consistently shows that skill levels in grade 3 correlate highly with academic outcomes in high school. If kids don't master crucial skills in elementary school, then middle school and high school will be really hard. Here are some articles on the importance of foundations: Early Warning Confirmed, What's So Important About Third Grade, and Why Third Grade is so Important: The Mathew Effect.
Lost time in the early years is very difficult to remediate down the road, so make sure that kids master basic reading, writing, and math skills in elementary school to prime them for an easy ride in middle and high school.
2. Fill in the Gaps: Where is your child's school not delivering?
If you want to make sure that your child has strong academic foundations and a broad holistic education, figure out the deficits in your child's school and then fill in the gaps.
So if your child's school uses, for example, a weak math curriculum that lacks rigor and challenge, you might want to afterschool math using Singapore math (or outsource it to a tutor, if you choose the Singapore way.)
Or, if your school doesn't give your child enough time to engage with the arts, then you might want to buy art supplies and offer your child the space and time to paint, draw, and create.
3. Provide more practice and address areas of weakness:
If your child is struggling with a particular area at school and needs more practice, this might be where you focus your time when you supplement your child's education. Maybe she needs help with reading or writing. Or with math. Or with fine motor skills. Whatever the area may be, help your child by giving him/her some additional practice exercises at home.
4. Build on strengths and nurture passions:
If your child has a clear passion or interest, you might want to build this up and fuel it further. For example, if your child loves animals, you might want to buy lots of books about animals, get your child to volunteer at an animal shelter, and help your child further this passion. Or if your child loves legos and math, then encourage robotics, scratch, math olympiad and other math/STEM pursuits.
5. Keep gifted kids challenged:
If your child is breezing through school without ever experiencing what academic struggle and challenge feel like, you should consider afterschooling. There's a definite danger in feeling as though you can do well without much work -- bright, gifted kids NEED to experience significant challenge and understand the struggle and satisfaction of wrestling with difficult academic work. They need to know what it feels like to work hard, and moreover, the extra challenge will be a wonderful antidote to boredom.
And finally, whatever your reasons for afterschooling, remind your child that learning happens all the time and that there are few pursuits more pleasurable than learning. Like a bird in flight or a mountain climber scaling heights, the life of the mind is thrilling. Get your kids excited about learning through the home environment you create for them.