As homeschooling parents, we lay down our lives for our children. Often, we give up friendships, dreams, income, and more so that our precious little ones can be taught at home. We feel we demonstrate service to them because every day most of our activity revolves around serving their needs. Maybe we feel that they should be grateful, but many times they aren’t. If you have homeschooled from the beginning, they don’t know what they should be grateful for because they don’t know what life would be like if you were a two-income family, and they were in school. They only know what it is to be home all day with you and their siblings, having their every need satisfied by a parent who’s always available.
If they have spent time in school and you pulled them out, they may exhibit some gratefulness but still have a rather self-centered perspective. After all, from their view, you pulled them out so they would be happy. If we aren’t careful, we can breed a sense of entitlement in our kids. Enter service projects.
Forget Academics, Focus on Service Projects
Academics can be taught at any age, but there is only the small window of youth for instilling good character. Learning to serve others is part of that, but it cannot be done through giving kids prizes and punishments. That will not foster a true love for others. Forget about spelling, math worksheets, history lessons, and all that (not literally). Service teaches far superior lessons that will endure for a lifetime.
Six Lessons Service Projects Teach. . .
4. How to live the Golden Rule.
5. How to unite and enrich a community.
6. How to make a difference and be useful.
7. Opportunity for developing communication skills, public speaking.
The Right Way to Do Service. . .
As I mentioned earlier, do not use coercive techniques to get kids to do service projects. It will backfire and then your children will resent doing service instead of making it part of their lives. The incentive should be the service activity itself. Find something you can do together. It can tie into something they already enjoy. Do they like to crochet or knit? Try making baby quilts for a pregnancy center. Love nature or the beach? Your kids might see value in participating in a cleanup day. Do they have a musical talent? Perhaps they could perform a few songs at a retirement community. Need something fast-paced that makes a big impact? Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) takes volunteers as young as six years old to pack food to send overseas. The important things are that you do it as a family, the service itself is enjoyable, the children have a voice in what the service project will be, and you do it regularly.
The first time you do it, they may resist. Always offer them an out.
Say something like, “We are all going to go together just this once and see how we like it. If you hate it, please tell me, and you won’t have to go again.” Make sure that the first service project is fun and not overwhelming! My little boy, Mouse, was reluctant to go to FMSC the first time. He doesn’t like surprises. We showed him online photos and videos to help him, but he still wasn’t convinced. I told him that if he hated it, he would never have to go again, and that seemed to help him because it was a one-time commitment. He went and had a lot of fun, so much so that we have been there many times with him since then.
Serving others holds power–the power to change two lives. It not only changes the life of the one being served, but it changes the one who does the serving. And, what better way to demonstrate your faith than by living it out in service to others? Read more about the power of your testimony here. This year, make service an integral part of your homeschool.
Want more ideas for service, entrepreneurship, and motivating kids without prizes or punishments? Grab my 100 Ways to Motivate Kids book!