Written 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 ?