Character education is something that most homeschool parents will admit is important – but sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to add anything else to your already massive stack of teacher’s manuals. Character building doesn’t have to be another subject that you tack onto the end of your day. In fact, I would argue that helping your children to develop positive character traits is actually more effective if you use hands-on, real world methods. One way you can do this is by volunteering with your children.
Volunteering has made a big difference in our lives. Summertime is a great time to add volunteer time to your day, since most of us have a somewhat modified schedule during the summer months and aren’t quite as busy with our regular subjects.
- It’s great for your kids – Nothing builds character in your children more than to help others selflessly.
- It’s great for others – There are so many organizations that depend on volunteer help. The average family has become so busy with two incomes and all of the various activities that they don’t have time in their day for volunteering. There are many places that need us!
- It’s great for your child’s transcript/resume – Keep track of the various places at which your child volunteers and you can use this information on college applications, scholarship applications, etc. Not only does it help other people it also helps your child.
No matter how young your children are, they can help to pick up litter in state and county parks. There are also many organizations who need help stuffing envelopes, with general maintenance such as cleaning, etc.
Some fun volunteer opportunities we have discovered are working at animal shelters and sanctuaries. We worked at a dog sanctuary in our area last summer and our tasks included such things as walking dogs, playing with dogs, and teaching them tricks. What boy wouldn’t want to spend one afternoon a week doing those kinds of activities?!?
Another rewarding experience was when our homeschool co-op put on a musical for a local nursing home. It was such a blessing to see the faces of the residents as the children performed. They were thrilled! Afterward, the kids mingled with the residents and gave them homemade cards. My sons got into some very interesting conversations with a few residents. I think that experience will stay with them for a long time.
One of my friends and her sons go to a local school and help pack lunches for some of the less fortunate kids in their district so that they’ll have something to eat when they get home at night and on weekends.
Finding Volunteer Opportunities
If you are interested in volunteering somewhere and aren’t sure where to go, you can always check with the United Way in your area. They keep lists of different organizations who have contacted them requesting help. You can also check google to see if anything comes up on the internet. If you are unable to find any suitable opportunities in these ways, don’t be afraid to call organizations directly and offer your assistance. Homeless shelters, food banks, women’s shelters, or any other non-profit organization would be a great place to call. In these tough economic times, you can call virtually any organization which counts on federal or state funding and offer to help. Most of these places have experienced cuts in their funding and have had to let go of staff – they would be thrilled to have someone come in and help them on a regular basis.
Try volunteering at a variety of places. This is almost like working a free internship and gives your children on the job experience. It also helps them to determine their likes and dislikes so that they’ll have a better idea of what they’d like to pursue for a career someday.
The next time you think about purchasing a character education curriculum for your children, try volunteering with them instead. Getting this real world, hands-on experience is not only good for others… it’s also good for your kids!
Question: Do you volunteer with your kids? Have you noticed any character changes through your experiences? Please comment below.