When I lost my job early last year, in the middle of the school year, I had to remove my then four and six-year-old from the YMCA after school program. When I found a new job just two months later, there was a spot available for my daughter, but my younger son’s spot had been taken and the waiting list for further openings was L-O-N-G. He was not getting back in.
He was not getting back in.
I had seen the van in front of the school. A Taekwondo school picking kids up every day and bringing them to their storefront location not far from where we live, for a daily lesson and after school care. I was ecstatic to find out they could take both my children and signed them up immediately. The price was on par and the level of physical activity, discipline and fun they had in comparison turned out to be like night and day. They love it there. It’s been a huge benefit to both of their lives to be able to leave school and learn a martial art every single day.
It was a particular benefit to my very active, very hyper, very physical then-four-year-old. I wrote last year about how much of a shift we saw in his development and concentration since being a part of the afterschool program.
But changes in government rules hitting the province of Ontario in September will remove the possibility of children at 4 and 5 years old—when they are at their most antsy and active—from participating in such a program.
An article that appeared in the Globe and Mail recently detailed a similar story of a parent being strapped for afterschool care and stumbling upon martial arts for her child. In the Halton and Peel regions of the GTA, schools have made a concerted effort to have programming in schools. However, situations like mine prove that circumstances can change and the availability of care is limited, especially for younger children, for whom spots are already harder to find.
“The government is limiting authorized recreation providers [like martial arts schools] to caring for children 6 and older, meaning families with children in kindergarten will have to fend for themselves and find spots in daycares,” the Globe explained.
The province acknowledges that this might affect families, but hopes its push to make sure schools can accommodate these kids in greater numbers will lessen the blow and the impact.
But here’s the thing; I don’t want my kids in school any more than they’re already there. I’m glad that spot wasn’t available when I needed it. Instead of being stuck in the same building from morning to night, my kids get to leave the premises. Instead of a mass of kids in a classroom doing crafts and playing games, my kids get exercise, discipline, skill, anti-bullying lessons, confidence, new friends from different schools—the list goes on and on and on.
Not being able to get that spot was the best thing to ever happen to us. So much so that my daughter’s teacher commented on how much more focused she is in the classroom every day. My son has his high-energy focused every day. He is flying through belt levels. They both love the program and look forward to it and benefit from it.
It’s great that the province is making daycare spots more accessible to families who need it. But assuming that spots in the school are what every parent wants or what every child will benefit the most from, is short sighted at best and, in my case, entirely off base.
There is a daycare crisis in this province. Anyone with school-aged children will tell you that. But limiting choice isn’t the way to solve it. To think of my son not being able to take advantage of the opportunity to learn Taekwondo makes me sad and angry. Increase spaces in schools, yes, definitely. But don’t limit choice. We know what’s best for our kids.