Teaching the Curriculum of Generosity

It’s easy in the homeschooling lifestyle to get consumed by the details–the box-checking, the curriculum, the feeling of being “behind,” the never-ending chores. But deep down inside, we know life offers so much more to us and our children.

We just don’t have the time to see it.

Yet if someone was to ask about our long-term hopes for our children, we’d probably mention character traits like thoughtfulness, passion, and generosity. As Heidi reminded us recently, these qualities are educational goals for the whole child.

Almost a century ago, political activist Emma Goldman had this to say:

“No one has yet to realize the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.”

But how do we, as parents, go about unlocking our children’s generous spirits? And why should we put forth the effort when so many other items reside on our to-do lists?

Consider for a moment these four suggestions.

1. Think about the benefits.

In a culture continuously revolving around “me, me, me,” cultivating generosity helps all of us, children or adults, to become more others-focused. When we consider what and how we can give, we’re reminded of all we already have. We develop inner gratitude.

An atmosphere of generosity in a home also provides children with a feeling of security. They believe that if the family is in a position to give, there must be enough for all of us. So there’s no need to worry or hold onto what’s “mine” too tightly.

Even in times when budgets are tight, this security offers so much to a child. It creates a sense of abundance in our homes instead of a sense of lack.

2. Discuss and model it for them.

The best way to emphasize character traits with our children is to discuss them.

Why do you value generosity? What are the ways you use your time and money to help others?

If generosity is part of your religious tradition, then talk about why God loves a generous spirit. Why is it more important to give than to receive?

3. Get involved as a family.

The best way to get involved will vary for each of us–depending on the age of your children, how many children you have, and how much time you have available. Here are a few possibilities.

a. Make dinner for a sick friend or family and deliver it.

Be on the lookout for these small opportunities–over time they often teach the biggest lessons.

b. Call a local nursing home.

Ask if there’s a resident without any family nearby who might like to be visited.

Our family has been doing this for five years now and it has been life-changing for us and our kids. We’ve gotten to know women who have become like grandmothers to our three little ones.

Photo by Eggybird

c. Look for seasonal opportunities to give.

When the holidays approach, consider preparing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child or donating an item to Toys for Tots. Making cookies or gifts for your neighbors reinforces the generosity principle any time of year.

d. Make bags for the homeless to keep in your car.

If you live where you occasionally see a homeless person at a stoplight, don’t just avert your eyes.

Let your kids help you make small gift bags with snacks, water bottles, toothbrushes, and so on. Keep them in your car. You’ll be able to roll down the window and brighten someone’s day.

e. Give anonymously.

One of Simple Homeschool’s contributors, Misha Thompson, is co-founder of an amazing organization called Giving Anonymously.

Through this charity you can donate anonymously to any individual you know who is in need–a neighbor, friend, family member, anyone!

After the money is delivered the recipient can call and leave a recorded message of thanks that is then emailed to the giver. What a concrete way to make generosity come alive for a family.

4. Believe that your kids can make a difference.

Photo by woodley wonderworks

Many people think it’s important that we instill generosity in our children, so they’ll have that quality when they’re older.

But that’s missing the point.

Lee Fox, founder of a website called KooDooZ, recognized this and created a cause-based social networking site for kids who aspire to make the world a better place.

Children can, and should, learn that they have the capacity to make a difference and change the world right now. It’s our job as parents to inspire and encourage their generous spirits to blossom.

Yes, it’s important that our children leave home knowing their multiplication facts–but don’t we really hope for so much more?

When considering all the curriculums offered to us these days, let’s not forget to teach one of the most important–the curriculum of generosity.

How does your family value and cultivate generosity?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. We like to leave loose change in random places for people to find. I’ve bought an extra cup of coffee at Starbucks for who ever comes along next, I’ve left an envelope with some change in the baby section at Target for a mom who needs a pick-me-up, I’ve left pennies by a fountain so people can make free wishes. I’ve been so moved by this, I also have a challenge up on my blog called Loose Change the World. Be sure to check it out!
    .-= Toni Turbeville’s last blog: MEATLESS MONDAY : Grilled Veggie Gratin =-.

    • Toni, what wonderful suggestions! These are all ideas which we could easily be doing, too. Thank you for the inspiration :-)
      .-= Kara Fleck’s last blog: Showcase: Link Love =-.

    • Love this post! We sponsor a child, and a librarian, in a school in Africa through Angel Covers a “volunteer run organization dedicated to caring for orphaned and destitute children around the world”. This is one way to form a relationship with the people you are helping and see how you are making a difference. It helps the kids understand how fortunate they are and be thankful for what they have.
      I LOVE the idea of keeping bags for the homeless with you and can’t wait to do this! Thanks so much!
      .-= Molly Hyde-Caroom’s last blog: Spring Celebration =-.

  2. this was an awesome post! i love your practical suggestions…I think we will have to make small bags for the homeless this week. My kids always want to do something for the homeless when we see them, but it’s difficult when you are not prepared. This was a FABULOUS idea. I also LOVE to give anonymously…that has enriched my life in so many ways over the years.

    Meals on Wheels is another great way to serve with your children in a consistent way!
    .-= Aimee’s last blog: Raising Chickens =-.

  3. We go to the local nursing home about once a month….I play my violin and the girls hand out art projects they have done over the past month.

    We also sponsor many children through Compassion International. We involve the kids in the letter writing and we talk about our sponsored children as if they are an extension of our family. Just yesterday my 3 yr old asked if our C0mpassion children have Bibles and if not, could we buy them some.

    We have also done “random” acts of kindness during different times of the year. In December we launched what we called “candy cane blessing”. We bought candy canes and handed them out to little ones when we were out shopping…you should have seen the smiles on their faces (both my girls and the recipients!)
    .-= Jill Foley’s last blog: #193 – Two Great Hikes =-.

  4. “Children can, and should, learn that they have the capacity to make a difference and change the world right now.” Yes – and what a powerful and wonderful thing when we has their parents not only show them this is possible, but encourage their efforts and join in with them. That is life-changing world-changing stuff right there! :-)

    Fantastic post, Jamie. Yet another reason why Simple Homeschool is one of my very favorite blogs to read as a parent. Thank you!
    .-= Kara Fleck’s last blog: Showcase: Link Love =-.

  5. I like how all your ideas are always so practical. Sometimes its so hard to be intentional since it takes a lot of work, but the benefits and rewards are many. Thank you for a good reminder.

  6. One of my favorite memories from the last holiday season is of Christmas Eve afternoon, when my son and I, just the two of us, drove around handing out bags of homemade cookies to the homeless folks we could find on the street. Of course, now that we were looking for them, they were hard to find! So when we did find a few, we were cheering together out loud, which made it all the more special and memorable.

    Thanks for the great suggestions!
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: I Love Texas in the Springtime =-.

  7. Wonderful post, Jamie! This is so important – and it’s one of those things that won’t happen if we’re not intentional. Thanks for giving us so many specific ideas on how to be intentional with this.
    .-= Katie ~ Simple Organic’s last blog: Fruits and Veggies: When To Buy Organic =-.

  8. What a wonderful post! I have been writing a series of posts on teaching young children (toddlers to kindergarten age) about virtues, based on what I have been doing with my children as a part of their homeschooling for the past couple of years. Here is my post on learning about generosity: http://nurturingthetenderyears.blogspot.com/2010/05/nurturing-virtue-generosity.html
    .-= Kami’s last blog: Field trip: Goat farm =-.

  9. Congrats! This post was just featured on The Homeschool Classroom: http://www.hsclassroom.net/2010/05/great-homeschooling-links-may-7-2010/
    .-= Holly’s last blog: WINNER! =-.

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