When I was in junior high school, my Mom worked a varied schedule. Sometimes she was there to pick me up right at 3:30; other days I would go into after school care until 5 pm. Sometimes a friend's parents took me home. (That particular Catholic school didn't have a bus.)
After junior high, we lived close enough to the high school that I could be a latch-key kid. I didn't think much about it at the time, but I am sure the fact that we were in walking distance was a huge relief to her - this way she wouldn't have to worry about getting me home. As an adult, I can appreciate all the planning and re-arranging of schedules she had to do (thanks, Mom!).
Nowadays, this situation is the norm: Parents work and children come home from school to empty houses (if they are old enough) or parents have to figure out a complex series of after school programs until they can be at home to greet them.
And my question is: Why? Why does the school day not align closer with the work day? The Family Studies Institute does a nice job of laying out the history of the school calendar and makes a nice case to align classroom studies with the work day. I'm not advocating that children spend all that time in the classroom, though. Maybe there could be a more varied schedule with longer recesses/breaks and time to start homework.
I know that it is easy to pick apart a smaller segment of a wider problem without thinking through all the repercussions (like teacher's salaries and curriculum and student burnout), but it is a starting point.
It's a tough choice: Have your child stay in school for longer or balance your schedule to be home in time with them. Which would you choose?
Would you want your child's school day to be as long as your workday? Let me know if the comments.