Posted by: sailingmartha | September 22, 2011

Homeschooling and service

Does homeschooling teach kids to be more service-minded? I’m always leery about drawing general conclusions from the small samples of people I know. I know for certain that not all public school kids are selfish or all homeschool kids are saints. In my own family, we tend to be very active in volunteering and in ministry, it’s just something we do. The kids have grown up taking part in many different activities and ministries and it’s become second-nature for them to help out when and where needed. Homeschooling has given us the flexibility to do this, which I am very grateful for.

I’ve been mulling this topic over in my mind for the last 10 days or so. We recently had our church’s annual food festival, which is our big fundraiser for the year and requires a lot of help in various ways from the parishioners. The original plan for the teen group was for them to have a separate area of the festival, where they would sell hot dogs and sodas and have games and musical entertainment. The church was going to provide them with the food and game set-up and my husband and 2 oldest kids were going to do most of the music. The teens were going to be allowed to keep any money they made. Sounded like a good deal to me. When the teens met with their leader, they agreed on this plan, but a few days later, they told the leader that they had decided they didn’t want to do it because they didn’t think it would be successful, and they thought if people drove by the church and saw the teens out in front with their area, they would think that was all that was to the festival and keep on driving. They still said they would sell hot dogs and have games in the main festival area. My kids were not involved in the discussions but they had agreed to help out with the music and were planning what songs they would do.

A few days before the festival, I took the kids and we all went to the church to help prep the grounds. We planted flowers and watered and pruned, and we scrubbed dozens of chairs and tables. No one asked us to do it, but we knew it needed to be done, so we did it (on a 100 degree day, no less). We also baked cookies to sell and got assorted other things ready for the festival. The weekend of the festival we were all there bright and early to work. The other teens from the church? Nowhere in sight. What ended up happening was that my two boys took charge of the hot dog sales, and my two girls were helping me with my booth, selling things we had brought. There were no games, no kids’ activities, no effort from the other teens. Some of them did help out selling food in the main area, but most of the time they were hanging out and partying.

I was very disappointed in the lack of effort and cohesiveness. I kind of wanted to excuse them because I know they have school and sports, but then so do my kids – at least school and 4-H. In fact we had our big 4-H meeting the day before the festival, that required a ton of work on my kids’ parts as they are all officers and all involved in several projects. When I compare as a whole, the 4-H kids, who are all homeschooled, to the church kids, the 4-H kids are far more active in the community, and more helpful and service-minded, especially the teens. Not that the kids at my church aren’t great – they are, and I love them. They are fun to be around and they are willing for the most part. They just seem more easily distracted and less committed.

I brought up my disappointment at the parish council meeting a few days ago. I didn’t say anything about my kids working and the others not, but just that I had hoped the teens would follow through with their plans, and that they missed out on a chance to be visible to the community as a whole, plus they lost the opportunity to make some money. Several of the parish council members agreed with me, and we had a little discussion, but I don’t have high hopes for changes in the future.

I’m proud of my kids, proud of the way they’ve been raised so far. I love that they will help out with any project, and I love that they have good attitudes. I know I have a less than good attitude a lot of the time, so I guess I need to take a little lesson from them. Excelsior!

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