Tag Archives: American school

School Clubs and Activities

Every teacher at my kids’ school here in England is required to offer at least one extracurricular  club per term.  Some of the clubs take place during the lunch/recess hour and some take place after school, but just about every club is free.  They’re included in the price of tuition.  And there are so many options, my kids often have trouble deciding what they want to do each term.

This extension of the school day is amazing in a few ways.  First, it gives parents another hour before the kids need to be picked up, which I am sure makes a huge difference for families with both parents working outside the home.  Next, it gives the kids the opportunity to do cool things after school instead of coming home and hanging out with their boring mom.  And finally, it gives the students the chance to try something new in a familiar and safe place, for free.  There’s no downside.

This term Quinn is taking Cookery Club (which is not just cooking class, but the SCIENCE and PROCESS of cooking as well) and Dance Club (where he has already done some ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and hip-hop).  Owen is doing Running Club, which takes place during his lunch hour on Mondays, and Hockey Club, which basically all the boys on the A- and B-teams in their class take and it exists as a sort of extra practice session.  Gabe is also doing Dance club and Hockey Club, and both Gabe and Owen also do Swim Club, which is mandatory for everyone on the school swim team.

Bridget is taking Rifle Club (during lunch one day) with real rifles where she actually shoots live .22 rounds at the school shooting range.  (Yes, the school has a shooting range.  Normally used by the Cadet Corps Force, which is like JROTC.)  She also does Equestrian Club (extra fee for this one, understandably), Drama Club, and last term she did a Ski Club (which also cost extra) where a school bus took the kids to an indoor ski arena about 45 minutes away and they did a 90-minute ski lesson.  The school also provided dinner to the kids in the club (usually sandwiches, chips, fruit & dessert) and brought them back to school afterwards to be collected by their parents.

The number of clubs offered by the schools each term is amazing — Lego Club and Choir and Art Club and a club for every sport you can think of plus some you’ve never heard of unless you’re from England (netball, anyone?). There are Science Clubs and Gardening Clubs, there are Robotics Clubs and Modelling Clubs.  It is unbelievable.

And it’s awesome.  And it’s mostly free.  And it’s another thing I wish they would implement in schools in the U.S. because it’s good for parents and good for students.  The teachers here are accustomed to it – the teacher work day here generally runs something like 8:15AM – 5:15PM – so it’s just part of being a teacher at this incredible school.

I love that my kids are doing cool things and spending more time with their friends and not hanging out at my house playing video games (not that they’d be allowed to on a school night anyway, but you get my point).  Long live after school clubs! (For at least the next 18 months until we have to move back to America.)

School Lunch in England

When we lived in D.C. I packed lunches and snacks for all the kids every day for school.  We do not eat processed food (as much as humanly possible), we only eat organic, and the school lunches that were provided were, frankly, gross re-heated frozen processed garbage.  My kids might have purchased school lunch once in their lives before we moved here.

At the school in England, though, you are not allowed to bring a lunch.  It’s just not even a thing.  The school has a full kitchen and a chef and five other prep staff and the food is made from scratch on the premises every day, and every child eats the lunch provided.  It’s part of the tuition and fees.  And the food is freaking amazing.  The picture above is an actual photo of the salad bar in the Prep school where all three boys eat each day.

Every single day I ask the kids what they had for lunch that day.  I am always jealous.  Here’s a sample menu from this month:

My kids eat this stuff.  Gabe has a salad almost every day.  They are required to take a vegetable AND to eat it.  Every week they have “Roast Day” on Wednesdays, fish on Fridays, and every day there is a soup option, homemade desserts, and bread made from scratch.  The pizza on Friday is made from scratch — even the dough.  Everything is made on site with fresh ingredients.  It is incredible.  My kids have tried and learned they love new foods and have asked me to make them at home, providing me with more ideas and options at dinner time too! (Still working on a good recipe for Yorkshire pudding…or maybe a more skilled baker than I to make them.)

I also then don’t feel guilty if I occasionally have to give them PB&J sandwiches for dinner occasionally since they are eating a full hot meal with veggies and dessert every single day at lunch.

We pay a fee each term to cover the kids’ lunches which comes to a total of approximately $832 per term.  Divided by about 50 school days per term and by four children, that comes out to a cost of about $4.16 per child per day.  I can absolutely guarantee that I spent more per lunch for my kids when I was making them at home and packing them daily.  Do you know how gladly I will pay $4 per day for my children to eat this incredible and healthy food?  Contrast that with the $2.65 it cost to buy school lunch at our school in America and the difference is laughable. 

In addition to obviously being healthier than the lunches provided at the schools in America, the lunch program here makes my life easier because I don’t have to pack lunches every morning.  Instead of scrambling to make sandwiches or fill thermoses, I get to sit and eat breakfast and drink coffee.  It is awesome.

There are a few school districts in the U.S. that I’ve been able to find online that employ an actual chef and provide the students with healthy and high-quality food like this, but they are few and far between.  How much better would it be for all our kids if the food at schools were better? 

Here’s one resource I found for implementing this kind of program in schools: Chef Ann Foundation.

What stops a school from doing this?  I can’t imagine any parent would be against it.  It’s better for the kids, it’s better for the parents (I cannot imagine going back to packing 4 lunches every morning!).  It’s just BETTER.

For now I’m grateful to be sending my kids to a school where this good food is a daily reality.  And when we return to the U.S., I plan to work hard to make this a reality in whatever school district we end up in.  Our kids deserve it.

All photos are from the school dining hall website and used with permission.

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