Six reasons why kids should volunteer

reasons why kids should volunteer

One of the great advantages of homeschooling is the opportunity to be deeply involved, on a daily basis, in the development of your child's character. And one of the ways we can help them develop compassion and necessary life skills is with volunteering.

First, I have a few things to say about the ways we encourage people to volunteer for a cause or to give to a charitable organization. 

I don't believe in such things as an 'unfair advantage' or 'luck'. There's no need to feel guilty if you have a nice life. When parents work hard to feed, clothe, and shelter their children; they love and nurture them, pushing them to be responsible, caring members of society; they spend time, energy and money to ensure they have a solid education so they can succeed in life--then they are simply being a responsible parent. This should be described as 'a normal family', not 'privilege'.   

Why? Because abject poverty, neglect, and abuse aren't and shouldn't be accepted as normal. Children aren't 'lucky' because their parents don't beat them. They aren't 'privileged' if there's actually nutritious food making it from the fridge to the table. Neglect and abuse are not the norm, and we should never imply a loving home is a magical 'only if you are fortunate' thing.1  

Poverty is a tougher subject, but our society does have ways for families to still provide the basics for themselves and their children through government programs and charitable organizations. And if our goal is to bring families out of poverty and to the place where they can take care of themselves, we surely should not be stigmatizing those who are already there.

Wherever you fall on the socio-economic spectrum, if you are in a place where you can help others, you should. Period. And it is especially important for children to learn compassion and to be contributing members of society, even at a very early age. If you wait until they are teens to start encouraging them to be aware of the needs of others, that horse may be out of the corral and roaming the prairies in Montana.

Parents often focus on sheltering their children from harsh realities—which is a good thing, until that sheltering removes them so far from society that they are unprepared when the real world smacks them upside the head. Kids can handle knowing about sickness, starvation, and violence in the world, especially if we are teaching them how to make a difference.

So enough with the prologue--here are several compelling reasons why everyone, especially children, should volunteer for a cause that benefits those in need:   

To make a difference.  

Everything you do for others makes a difference. The butterfly effect of showing kindness, helping someone change their circumstances, or relieving suffering, even for a little while, is a valuable lesson for children and a touch of grace in the life of someone who desperately needs it. If God watches over sparrows, surely we should be teaching our children to make a difference when and where they can.  

And there's nothing wrong with making our communities a nicer place to live. If we want to raise our children in a society where people are willing to invest in improving the health and well-being of others, then we need to invest in our communities.

Stories in the media sometimes make us feel like we have to be doing something amazing for it to matter, but to the person who you have helped, the smallest gesture of kindness and generosity may be the most amazing thing they've ever experienced. That's who we are doing this for, after all--not to be in a viral video. Right? 

To learn about the world.  

Volunteering offers a wealth of opportunities for children and adults to explore their abilities and talents, maybe discovering some they were not aware of. Children can learn social skills and future job skills, not the least of which are teamwork and a work ethic.  

Children can also learn about how charitable agencies and organizations work; how the founders were inspired to fill a need, how they obtain funding, what the IRC 501(c)(3) designation means, and why others want to volunteer for a particular cause. This is all information children can apply to their growing understanding of the real world, and their place in it.

To learn about the specific needs in your community.  

Many of us live in a rather homogeneous world by default. We are busy with family and work and church and activities, seeing the same people day in and day out. However, learning about cultural and ethnic diversity is important. Seeing the world from other perspectives enriches all of us.

Even more essential is for children to understand that regardless of our differences, we are still united by our human experience. Grief and joy feel the same no matter what your socio-economic or ethnic background. Our differences should not automatically cause fear or spark antagonism. It's part of the maturing process to seek to understand rather than ignore, dismiss or intimidate.  

kindness valuable lesson for children

It's the responsible thing to do. 

Volunteering is part of making your community a better place to live. We all want safe, friendly neighborhoods. But this doesn't happen without some involvement in that community, and we can all contribute to making our neighborhoods more peaceful and welcoming places: 

  • Improving the cleanliness and order of in your community's appearance, in theory, contributes to making it safer as well. 
  • Supporting education encourages others to educate themselves, offering them the opportunity to change their circumstances. Tutoring, or giving free reading, music, and art lessons is the "teach a man to fish" form of volunteerism. 
  • Relieving suffering when and where you can is the humane thing to do, and it may surprise you just how much suffering is taking place right around the corner from where you live. Opportunities to give abound, from food pantries to making blankets and hats to blood donation. 
  • Compassion and kindness are contagious, and we should never underestimate the influence volunteering can have on others, motivating them to volunteer as well.  

 It's part of being a healthy, well-rounded person.  

Volunteering helps develop characteristics such as empathy, humility, teamwork, and self esteem. Many volunteer opportunities help children develop a work ethic, and nothing beats the feeling of camaraderie when you team up with others for something truly important.  

Children need to learn that sometimes people fall on hard times because of things beyond their control--physical or mental illness, natural disaster, technological advances or an economic downturn resulting in the loss of a job, accidents, etc. In other words, it could happen to anyone, even you. We need to get away the usual stereotypes of the poor and disabled as being 'other' and somehow deserving of their difficulties. 

It's OK to teach kids that it feels good to do good, and being a caring, unselfish person is its own reward. Encourage your kids experience the pleasure of giving. 

Learn about commitment and citizenship.  

I'm not one for forcing kids to commit to things like music lessons or sports. They can try it, and if it's not their thing, I'm fine with them trying something else. However, volunteering should be a serious commitment, and not a hobby. Kids can learn some things about obligation and sacrifice by giving their time, money, and energy to a cause beyond their own self interest. 

It's also good to learn how to build relationship skills with people who are outside of your circle of friends and family. Many of the people you will meet—other volunteers as well as those you help--share the same goals and interests you have. Kids can be inspired by the example of others, especially with the dearth of healthy role models in today's celebrity-obsessed society. Children may also find themselves humbled by the courage and endurance in the people they are helping.

So are you convinced? Maybe now you are wondering about how kids can volunteer at a young age. That's the next post.

How much structure does your homeschool need?

homeschool structure room schedule calendar routine

How do we organize our homeschool without being too restrictive?  

How do we give kids freedom to learn while ensuring they are making progress? 

Structure:

Structure is necessary. Just like your skeleton provides both a framework and flexibility, your homeschool must have some purposeful design to be productive and responsive to your family's needs. 

Your homeschoolers need goals to direct their efforts. Plans are the steps they need to take to reach their goals. Schedules and the organization of space and learning materials clear the path. 

Without structure children can become confused and distracted. Kids need a certain amount of predictability to feel safe and secure, and plans can provide confidence and calm. Time spent looking for books and supplies is time that could have been spent learning.

A schedule ensures that necessary things are done first. Acquiring and exercising skills such as:

  • reading
  • writing
  • speaking
  • math computation and concepts
  • and critical thinking

are essential for understanding and interacting with the world around them. 

Children also require guidance to learn how to prioritize. They need to know how to follow instructions, follow through and finish tasks, and earn privileges by meeting age-appropriate responsibilities. 

Too much structure is confining and rigid, like a body cast. We feel like we need the structure of the traditional age-graded classroom because that's what we've always known. Our country spends enormous amounts of time, money, and effort on crafting national education standards. 

But let me explain why you don't need to worry about national age-graded standards: they are only helpful if you want to compare your children to 50 million other kids for the purpose of accountability to government and qualifying for funding. Unless this description fits you, don't worry about national standards. They are arbitrary anyway. Just focus on your child's particular needs and provide the structure to fulfill them. 

homeschool meet family needs schedules standards

Freedom:

Freedom allows your kids to feed their natural curiosity. When children are excited, they are also invested, and will  stay focused on the things they are interested in for long periods of time. 

Without some freedom injected into your homeschool, kids can feel restricted for reasons they don't understand, and punished with expectations that don't fit their abilities or interests.  

Although we consider ourselves sophisticated adults, our thinking on education is a bit like this:

School is child at desk with nose in book. School is good. More school is more gooder, so kids need to be at desk with nose in book as much as possible.

Kids interpret freedom as a reward. Independent learning gives them a sense of power over their education, their life, and their future. If children enjoy learning in freedom, they will forever connect learning with pleasure.

Freedom allows children the luxury of exploring, experiencing, and reflecting. When they confirm something by their own observations and discoveries, they feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It's simple positive reinforcement. 

However, too much freedom is as frustrating as too little, which brings us full circle back to structure.

Homeschool parent - you have the freedom to find the balance that fits your children.

Do you have questions about structuring your homeschool? Share them in the comments -

Another amazing homeschooled child goes to college - at 15

How to interpret articles about high achieving homeschooled children

And the headline reads:

Homeschooled with MIT courses at 5, accepted to MIT at 15

"After acquiring his entire elementary and secondary education from OpenCourseWare and MITx, Ahaan Rungta joined the MIT Class of 2019 at age 15."

There are times when I read an article about an amazing homeschooled child who enters college at a young age that I feel so inadequate as a homeschool mom. 

homeschool kids going to college young age

But then I remember:

Comparing is a Bad Thing.

What's more, if I let myself follow that line of thought, I'm totally missing the point. 

What we need to take away from stories like this:

"For Rungta’s mother, the biggest challenge to homeschooling her son was staying ahead of him, finding courses and materials to feed his insatiable mind.
My parents always supported me and found the materials I needed to keep learning. My mother was a resource machine." MIT News

The most significant role of a homeschool parent is not Teacher, and this article effectively illustrates why it's a bad idea to try to hold children down to a standard that we are comfortable with.

We hold children down: 

  • with nationally normed standards
  • with age-graded textbooks
  • with age-segregated classrooms
  • with teacher-centric learning
  • by comparing them to their peers.

We are stumblingblocks to our child's success when we try to stand in front of them leading the way instead of following behind them as a support and encouragement. When we think we have to learn Chemistry and Algebra first and then try to teach it to our kids, we are acting as a middle man in an equation that doesn't require one.

This doesn't mean:

  • we don't set any standards of conduct
  • we don't provide guidance
  • we don't expect obedience.

What it means is that we allow our kids to explore their world, providing them with the resources and tools they need to engage, experiment, question, discover, draw conclusions, confirm and communicate what they've learned. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a homeschooled parent is when my kids tell me something I didn't know, and then have to explain it to me. Their demonstration of self-motivated learning and sense of accomplishment is more than enough reward for both of us.

Don't be distracted by what another homeschooler is accomplishing - use it to affirm that you are on the right path with your own child, giving them the gifts of liberty, time, and individual attention.

Do you ever feel inadequate when you read articles like this? Share your reactions in the comments below -

How to teach your homeschool Bible class without curriculum {free printable}

How to teach your homeschool Bible class without curriculum {free printable}

Studying Scripture is essential for every Christian family, but the Christian homeschooling family often asks, "How do I teach Bible class in my homeschool?"

Like most homeschool families, we immediately started searching for a Bible curriculum. An organized program is like a security blanket. It makes us feel as though all bases will be covered, and there will be no knowledge gaps. Teaching involves little to no elbow grease, as lesson plans are already laid out. We have confidence someone with expertise has chosen this material for a specific reason, and approved it for publishing. After all, how many of us homeschooling parents are theologians or curriculum publishers?

Read More

Brookdale House:Drawing Around Europe [Review]

Brookdale House:Drawing Around Europe [Review]

The best homeschool resources are easy to use and work well with other curricula and programs. A painless way for your students to study and learn about Europe is Drawing Around the World: Europe from Brookdale House.

In a combination of art and geography, Drawing Around the World: Europe helps your child learn about Europe by drawing the shape of each country and where it is located, and by researching basic facts about those countries. It is set up on a four day schedule, so with regular review and practice, the student should eventually be able to draw and label a map of Europe from memory.  

Each of my reviews contains a detailed description of the product, service, or program, how we used it, and I share my recommendations and personal thoughts to help you find resources helpful for your family.
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Homeschool Extremes: always home or never home?

Homeschool Extremes: always home or never home?

The pendulum of homeschool life never seems to stop swinging. Our families grow and change, not just because our children are getting older (and so are we) but because our location, budget, health, work schedules - all of these things can change as well.

One of the adjustments we often have to make is how much time we spend at home, or should I say, home alone. At different points in our homeschool life we've been unbelievably hectic, then a couple of years later, almost totally isolated. There is always a struggle going on in the back of my mind as to how I can maintain a balance for myself and my kids.

Can you relate?

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True confessions of a happy homeschooler [Part 2]

True confessions of a happy homeschooler [Part 2]

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the number of articles and posts I've read where folks are confessing that their lives aren't perfect. The buzz words today are 'authenticity' and 'transparency'. Whatever your vocation or message, it has become important to emphasize that you have many flaws and sometimes bad things happen in your life.  

I recognize the need to find our 'tribe', to know we aren't alone, to gain encouragement from the idea that others have faced similar circumstances, to feel understood. But I thought it was a given that even if someone appears to be blissfully successful, they still put their pants on one leg at a time and sneeze green boogers like the rest of us. I mean, haven't you noticed how many Hollywood couples can't seem to stay married, (or faithful) for longer than 5 minutes? Death, disease, betrayal, and fear are felt by everyone - just read the headlines while waiting in the checkout line at the store. Tragedy is not a respecter of persons.

Does anyone really Have It All? 

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