One of the goals that we have as homeschooling parents is to prepare our children to be good citizens and members of their communities.
Volunteering is a good way to instill this value of good citizenship as well as to teach our children how to live their faith by doing corporal works of mercy.
But you may ask, how can I find time in my already full day to have the children volunteer? Where can they volunteer and what can they do?
Volunteering doesn’t have to be so complicated. As a homeschooler of ten years, I have found that teaching children to be good citizens is really just a natural extension of our Catholic Faith. I suggest that you look at volunteering like you do other subjects and activities.
Start in your “domestic church,” progress to your own parish or smaller group activities, and as the children get older have them volunteer in the community.
1. Domestic Church
The first place to teach about volunteerism is, of course, the home—the training ground for future volunteers and good citizens. I like to use the corporal works of mercy as an illustration of how to develop volunteerism and the desire to serve others.
We cannot always pay our children for every little thing they do around the house or for the family, nor should we.
Little children can learn early on what it means to “feed the hungry” or “give drink to the thirsty” by helping Mom with their younger siblings or a friend who has just had a new baby. They can “clothe the naked” by offering to give some of their clothes to a local charity or the church rummage sale.
And finally they can “visit the sick” with Mom or Dad when a friend or family member is in the hospital or nursing home.
In a lot of families today, it is not normal to work together to run the home, to help with babysitting, cooking, or cleaning. It is not normal to do outreach as a family.
But we homeschoolers are in a unique position to teach our children from the very beginning what it means to serve others and why that is important, because we are with them all the time. What a blessing that is!
Teaching the corporal works of mercy from a very young age in the domestic church is the beginning of volunteerism and citizenship education.
As our children grow older, it will become automatic for them to respond to those in need in their church and their community by volunteering their time, talents, and energy.
2. In Your Parish
The next logical step in teaching our children about serving others is to get involved in the parish. In our family, the children began to volunteer their time and talents through our church as soon as they were old enough.
In addition to being altar servers, over the years our kids have helped serve the monthly breakfast, played music for the Christmas party or Women’s luncheon, made pierogis for a fundraiser, and staffed game tables at the Mardi Gras party.
They have helped with various fundraising events for the parish and the local parish school, such as the 5K race held every year around St. Patrick’s Day. Finally, they have used their musical talents during liturgy or for different parish events.
Many homeschoolers are involved in their parish youth group which does volunteer work or community outreach. These are just a few ideas of the many ways one can volunteer through the parish.
3. In the Community
After our children have been taught the value of service at home and in their parish, they are ready to be light in a dark world, the face of homeschooling and of Catholics in our community.
There are many places in our communities that need volunteers, such as non-profit organizations, soup kitchens, food banks, nursing homes and hospitals, crisis pregnancy centers, and even sports teams.
Homeschoolers have been seen in my community working fundraising events for non-profits, and working with the elderly, disabled, veterans, and the poor or disadvantaged.
Some have gotten valuable work experience by volunteering in hospitals. My own children have worked at the local soup kitchen a few times as well as different food banks. The two oldest, along with some friends, were regular volunteers at the local Carmelite monastery, and they both helped with their younger siblings’ sports teams.
Not all community volunteer work need be a long-term commitment. For example, every spring hundreds of children and adults descend on our local town park for a morning of “park beautification” by planting flowers, laying down mulch, weeding, and doing spring clean-up.
This could be a perfect idea for your child who loves gardening and has an appreciation for aesthetics. Sometimes volunteer opportunities arise suddenly and require an immediate response, not a long-term commitment.
When our community was inundated by flood a few years ago, one of my sons and I did some work for the American Red Cross. The beauty of homeschooling in that instance was that we could be flexible with our time and drop everything to help at that moment.
The possibilities are endless—there are always folks in need and not enough people to help.
Children don’t need to spend many hours doing volunteer work, but even just occasional experience serving others helps them to understand how to put their Catholic beliefs into practice. Start when they are young, and it will be natural to them to help others.
Better yet, find a way to tie in your child’s interests to service, and you will meet many homeschooling goals at once—academic, social, and spiritual growth—while ensuring that your children become good citizens and members of their communities.