Family Volunteering and Homeschool Advocacy
Our family has always had an emphasis on volunteering because, for us, it is the right thing to do. I see community service as an incredible opportunity to serve as advocates for homeschooling as well. There have been countless opportunities to teach "do a good turn daily"-the choices are only limited by our imagination. I suspect any community (rural, urban, or city) offers the same because wherever we live there will be unmet needs.
Simply being visible in our community (with some time and willingness) we can teach helping others or cleaning up our environment or whatever. Our family volunteer work began when my kids were babies and toddlers. We hosted a small group of severely retarded senior citizens. They were in a day treatment program and had requested being around a family with babies. They came to our home (with their worker), I provided babies and it was a good match-the drooling and strange sounds came from both ends of the aging spectrum. We did simple projects like cooking or crafts or games or sweeping the sidewalk, and we had a great time. One time we spent over an hour taking turns blowing out candles.
When everyone could walk, we added another job and started delivering the neighborhood newsletter for a few streets, including our own. This way, we got to learn more about our neighborhood, who our neighbors were and some of the political issues. And we were out there…making an impression. Neighbors, mailmen, city workers, even strangers wanted to know a) why we weren't in school and b) how we had the time to do whatever we were doing.
Over the years, there have been many short-term projects. Our next long-term commitment was Meals-On-Wheels. For the past five years, this has been our very favorite job. It is the only family volunteer job we still do together anymore and I hope we will continue this one forever.
As teens, all three of my kids have grown into independent volunteer jobs, which they selected on their own. One was accepted into the teen volunteer program at the hospital and over the years has served in a variety of positions from delivering flowers to answering the phone in the SICU to working in the gift shop. Another has worked for a year as a gallery volunteer at our local Children's Museum. One began as a volunteer at a bike shop. (This has grown into more of an apprenticeship than volunteer job but it started out that way.) This has reminded me that when we are out in the community doing good things for people, we are teaching a larger audience some of the positive aspects of homeschooling. You know you are doing it right when they say, "I wish I could/would have done that."
Finally, besides the larger homeschooling community, we can even be advocates for our children through volunteering. We can show them how to do a good job. We can expose them to a diverse group of people and teach that we can make a difference in people's lives. In a more selfish sense, we can help them establish an incredible resumé and potentially strong letters of recommendation. All of my kids have used their resumé more than once and people they have worked for easily documented their accomplishments. Having an outside source provided another perspective that is often requested in applications.
For us, community service has exposed us to a broad group of very different people. The fact that we homeschool does come up, all the time. Being proud of our contributions (and competent in our tasks) allows others the chance to realize that those of us learning outside of school are indeed learning…some very important lessons.
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