The Value of Volunteering

by Jenn Fowler | January 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm | comments

Sometimes trying to get your child to talk about school seems like an impossible task. I’m sure you’ve had conversations like this:

“So how was school today?”

“Fine.”

“Did anything interesting happen?”

“Nope.”

Where do you go from there?

Study after study shows that kids who have involved parents do better in life – the parents who value family mealtime and schedule family time into the daily routine. However, sometimes those moments are not enough to learn how things are going at school. Knowing what they are studying, who their friends are, what activities they are doing, what things concern them…all of these are important. But how can you be interested and informed if they won’t talk to you?

Well, I’ve got a suggestion. A “secret weapon” if you will. It’s easy, free and doesn’t require your child’s cooperation! Here it is:  Volunteering at school!

By volunteering at your child’s school you’ll be able to:

See first-hand what food choices your child makes throughout the day. Maybe you notice they spend lunchtime talking and don’t actually eat and then have trouble concentrating in the afternoon. Or perhaps they eat dessert first and then don’t have room for more nutritious foods. Understanding that lunch doesn’t have to be a standard sandwich and chips and knowing your child’s lunch habits will allow you to cater their brown bag to their tastes. Set 20 minutes aside each night and make lunch together, taking an extra step out of the morning routine.

Put faces with names of your kid’s friends and classmates. You’ll also learn a little bit about what they’re like and how they interact together outside of the home by inviting them to enjoy a family meal or join a family game night. Let your child know there is always an open seat at the dinner table for friends.

Encourage your child to participate in physical activities. Because you’ve been there and seen how things work, you can help your child role play some activity choices with situations from the classroom. For example, if you notice your child spends time sitting and chatting with friends at recess, ask them what activities they would be interested in (i.e. playing tag or climbing on the jungle gym). Or if you notice they have a lot of fun on the monkey bars, make weekend plans to go to the playground by your house. Need some guidance? The Together Counts Enrichment Zone is a one stop shop for resources to get kids of all ages up and moving!

Know your child’s teachers better, which leads to better parent/teacher communication. When a teacher knows you they are much more likely to give you a call or shoot you an email to update you on any worrisome situations with your child—especially if you take the opportunity to let them know you’re interested in that communication line.

No matter how much your kids might roll their eyes or object— taking the time to volunteer at school is another way you can show them that you care about them and their education and value the time spent together with them.

Of course, volunteering on a regular basis is easiest for folks who work from home—it’s hard to tell a boss, “I’m going to take two hours off every Wednesday to volunteer at my kid’s school.” However, there are plenty of opportunities for busy working parents. Just call or send a note to your child’s teacher saying you would love to help out on a field trip (take a vacation day from work) or one of the many evening activities that seem to pop-up throughout the school year.

Although I don’t get over to the school to volunteer as often as I would like, I’ve been a parent volunteer in the reading room, I’ve helped out with special situations for holidays and this year I’m on the “field trip chaperone” list.

What ways can you get involved at your child’s school?

Jenn Fowler is a blogger, speaker, social media consultant and ex-Army Officer. She lives in a quaint village in Upstate New York with her husband Yankee Bill and their two wild and creative children—Princess (11) and Buddy (9). When she isn’t blogging about living a good life on a budget at Frugal Upstate, she is gardening, reading, acting, crafting, cooking and knitting—although not necessarily in that order.