Monday morning we’ll be up and at ‘em early. We’ll grab our gardening gloves and our muck boots and head to the Alliance Garden at a local university. No groans or sighs or eye rolls will accompany this learning experience. Instead, both of my boys will be ready to mulch, hoe, and harvest because they’ll be excited to swap stories and laughs with the garden interns they now consider their friends.
We’ve had the privilege to learn and grow at not only the garden but also an animal shelter and state park. Volunteering has become a vital part of our homeschool. Here are six ways it can benefit yours.
Volunteering supplies opportunities for your student to develop and deepen interests.
Don’t feel like you have to find the perfect match for your student. Volunteering can stretch your student’s current interests. Maybe working at an animal shelter will spark a desire to own a pet store or become a veterinarian. Maybe volunteering at a hospital will solidify the desire to be a nurse. Each opportunity has the potential to lead your student to his future career.
Volunteering offers mentors for your kids.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m tired of being the cook, the teacher, the nurse, the taxi driver, and the cheerleader (GO TEAM!). Volunteering has gifted our family with some amazing adults who are pouring their time and talents into my kids.
These mentors have also stretched my kids beyond what I could ever imagine possible. I remember one day, at our local state park, watching through the window while my son was volunteering. He hates all things slimy and sticky. I asked the naturalist what my son was doing. He told me he had asked my son to scoop algae out of the pond then to go through the algae and rescue all the tadpoles and snails and throw them back into the water. I almost fell over. This naturalist knew my son needed to break out of his comfort zone, and this naturalist believed in my son.
Volunteering enriches your student’s education with new experiences.
My oldest son has spent the last 18 months volunteering at a state park. He has learned how to feed and care for many different fish, amphibians, and reptiles that are kept on display at the nature center. This is an experience I could not (or would not) provide for him at home.
My youngest son loves wild edible plants. Two different DNR officers knew this about him. One asked him to help her with a survival workshop. The other asked him to teach a group of kids at a day camp. These are also experiences I can’t provide at home. Volunteering has opened doors for both of my kids.
Volunteering produces free educational explorations.
So many activities that kids are involved in–from football to science camp–are expensive. However, with volunteering I don’t have to worry about uniforms, registration fees, or fancy equipment. I don’t have to buy textbooks, workbooks, or videos. Volunteering is a completely free educational exploration. All it costs is some time and gas.
Volunteering provides practice for a future first job.
Students who volunteer have an opportunity to learn how to work hard outside the home; they also gain the invaluable skill of learning to take instruction from other authority figures. Demonstrating a consistent history of volunteer work will benefit a student as he creates his first resume.
Volunteering offers real life, hands-on learning
Life is not a fill in the blank page or a multiple choice quiz. Life is learning to think on your feet, getting your hands dirty, and sometimes doing jobs you don’t want to do. Volunteering provides all of the above.
It also teaches a different kind of teamwork than sports. It’s not about working together to win the championship trophy. It’s about planting the seeds, weeding the garden, watching things grow, and harvesting food for the community. It’s a victory without an audience applauding, yet it’s also satisfying and rewarding.
Your local community would probably love for you to get out and get active. Here are a few ideas of places you can volunteer:
- Animal Shelter
- City Park
- State Park
- Nature Preserve
- Community Garden
- Food Bank
- Nursing Home
- Radio Station
- Community Shelter/Kitchen
- In Your Neighborhood (shovel snow, mow lawns, etc.)
If you want to track hours for your high school student, check out this free record form at my blog.
Happy Volunteering and Happy Homeschooling!