Learning through community service

flowerWritten by contributor Amida of Journey Into Unschooling

About five years ago, I signed my family up for a community service event. It was one of those random, spur of the moment deals. I saw a posting somewhere to participate on some restoration work at a local park and decided to give it a shot. With a two-year-old on my back and seven- and ten-year-old in tow, we set off.

I am a total introvert and don’t exactly shine in the meet-and-greet department, so I was cautious and nervous, to say the least. Worse, they started off by making a big circle and doing “fun” introductions — you know, give your name and dance move, that kind of thing.

Luckily, I survived and we spent an awesome day learning about the native plants and visiting a tide pool afterwards. And as it often happens in our close knit homeschool community, someone knew me through a mutual friend, and we got to meet and became great friends. Small world, right?

It is in this small world, though, that I have discovered a whole new lifestyle.

Those first three hours of community service led to countless others, including trips to parks we otherwise would not have visited. We’ve earned free entrance to National Parks, been invited to front row seating at sporting events, and even helped film a documentary.

Now, five years later, I have another two-year-old and three older pros who aren’t afraid to get dirty. When we started, we couldn’t tell you a weed from a rare species. These days, we know the names of many of the native (and invasive) plants in the area, including the proper way to collect, transplant, and maintain them.

We’ve caught sight of the local animals in all stages of development and learned how to protect them from extinction. With those first three hours, we’ve opened up a whole new appreciation for our local community, watching and caring for the space through the different seasons and walking its trails under sun and moonlight.

Equally impressive are the connections we’ve made with the people who work alongside of us and those who teach us. It is through these connections that my high schooler has gained an impressive freshman year — weekly community service hours, awesome day trips and over-nighters, and work experience at a world renowned museum.

As a family, we’ve been invited to join in on activities we otherwise would not have done, like visiting little known locales, listening to local folk lore by firelight, or taste-testing sun-brewed wild tea.

These days, I feel completely at home with our group and the work involved. We are the die hards who show up consistently and have worked through blistering heat, freezing chill, and third trimester pregnancy!

What’s more, I can now add  “the shopping cart” to my dancing repertoire, which, in and of itself, is truly amazing.

How has community service added to your schooling ?

About Amida

Amida is the mom to three darn kids. She used to stress about state standards and test scores but has since come to her senses and enjoys blogging about her family's journey into unschooling.

Comments

  1. Amy Dingmann says:

    Great reminder on how much there is to learn by getting out and helping. We hope to do more community service as a family. It’s so easy to get stuck in your bubble of doing what you’ve always done, but breaking out (also hard for this introvert mama) will reward you will so many opportunities to see the world around you with new eyes. Great article!
    Amy Dingmann’s latest post: homeschool mission statement family activity

  2. Sarah Smith says:

    Community service sounds like just what we need! One question (and maybe it has an obvious answer): how do you find local community service projects where you live? I’d love to outdoor community service like you’ve described, but I’ve never seen any of these around here. Maybe I’m not looking in the right place.
    Sarah Smith’s latest post: Was the GAPS Diet Worth It?

  3. It’s so much a part of our life, I blog about it! :) I’m all for getting the kids involved in service. We live in Portland, OR and often refer to the Hands On Portland website for ideas. I know some of the bigger cities have their own “Hands On” websites. Is there one where you live?
    Andee Z//Nature of a Servant’s latest post: For Amanda, For Gina, For Michelle – We Give Thanks

  4. Nola says:

    What a great opportunity you have!!!

    I’d love to hear about how others find these types of opportunities in their area, partciularly if anyone has figured this out in smaller cities or smaller towns that don’t have access to larger cities anywhere nearby.

  5. Shelley R. says:

    This is so encouraging to me, not in the sentimental “Oh, that so touched my heart” but the “Right on! If she was brave, I can be too.” I’m tentative in new situations, and with 3 kids in tow have worried that if I drag my kids along for the community service ride other adults will look in irritation at us. But, recently I signed my kids and I up to help tend a plot in a new community garden program that will be grow food for those in need. I thought we could meet our neighbors (which is hard for me to just go and do) plus, we live in a neighborhood where many don’t own cars, and the local ‘grocery’ shops are gas stations. I hope it all goes well!

  6. Jami says:

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    • Jami says:

      sorry it was not working yesterday just wanted to make sure it worked before I typed out my whole comment. Anyway my children and I do partipate in community service . We are a kitten foster home through our local SPCA, we volunteer at our church’s food pantry/soup kitchen, my husband and son(14) have helped build homes through Rebuilding together, my daughter(10) has organized 4 different drives through our co-op, church and community for The Pajama Project and I spend 1 Saturday a month as a respite worker for a medically fragile child.(I am a RN). We are servants of the Lord so we must serve others.

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