I learned a long time ago from my father, a lifetime educator, that the marriage of education and service is a happy one. A professor of linguistics, he championed the immersion model, whereby students of modern languages would immerse themselves in the cultures of the language they wanted to learn. Among other things, my dad, Al Eyde, started a set of study abroad programs for university students in Ecuador, and as a teenager I had a front row seat to his methods and successes in teaching language in this way.
One of the most enriching programs that he ran was through the International Partnership for Service Learning. Their program is unique in that it requires students to not only study a foreign language in a foreign land, they couple it with a community service element. Each student has to volunteer several hours a week at a local charity or community organization. A “Service Learning” alumnus myself (Montpellier, France), I keep in touch with several other alumni of this program from around the world, and I know that we all agree that the community service aspect of our studies abroad greatly enriched not only our language study and education, but also ourselves as people.
Nowadays, as a homeschooling mother of five, I am always looking for ways to enrich my children’s education, and recently, as I was contemplating the life of my father, I realized that there was an important part missing: community service. Serving others is not only a great way to learn a language in another land, it is a wonderful way to introduce children to the realities of the world around us, to build character, to inspire compassion and kindness towards strangers, and to perhaps plant a seed that could one day possibly bear great fruit!
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that community service and homeschooling are a perfect fit. Our schedules are flexible. You can choose from a myriad of charities and organizations that really need help NOW. Guaranteed, there is something for everyone! If you want to make sure your child gets “socialization,” well here’s a great way to do it. For older students, they can fulfill community service requirements for graduation and college admission. You may find a project that will springboard your homeschool into all kinds of interesting directions. Most of all, you will teach your child through actions that ordinary people and families, can make a difference in the community in small, but meaningful, ways.
I believe it was no small coincidence that the day after this idea hit me, I was in one of my Body Pump classes at the YMCA, when the volunteer coordinator for our region came in and told us about the need for volunteers at the YMCA. I caught up with him after class and he filled me in on the different needs the YMCA has for volunteers of all ages. Teenage volunteers can accumulate community service hours, he said, by helping out in the Kids Zone, mentoring children in their afterschool Pryme Tyme programs, or even helping out in the DayStar program for the physically challenged. Finding out is easy, just visit your local YMCA and ask about volunteer needs.
I plan on using this post as a permanent spot to list organizations around Florida where you can volunteer with your children. If you have any suggestions to add to the list, please post a comment. We also would love to hear from families from any school setting that participate in community service projects, and how it has enriched your home school or family life.