Service Learning and Homeschooling
Thursday, 08 December 2016

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Many years ago (I won’t tell you how many), I volunteered with my church youth group at the homeless shelter where we served Thanksgiving dinner. It made quite an impression as I continued to volunteer there throughout the rest of that school year. I even remember my parents pushing back dinner on Christmas day so that I could serve at the shelter. God placed a passion for serving others in me through these experiences. That passion to serve others is something I try very hard to ignite in my children. And homeschooling allows my family the ability to make time to serve and learn together.

Before I had children, I worked with at-risk youth in a nonprofit organization and my role was to engage the youth in service learning opportunities. You see, it was more than just taking them to volunteer somewhere; we also engaged the youth in the planning and organizing of the volunteer opportunity, as well as having them volunteer. Even more importantly, there was follow up with the youth about what they learned, what impacted them, and how they would use what they learned to become a better member of the community. They took pride in what they did and it changed them.

Each year, I try to schedule different activities of service throughout the school year. As we are gearing up for Christmas, we are doing random acts of kindness again this year. In the past, we have discussed and decided on these random acts as a family and scheduled one for every day in December. This year, we will be taking one day to fulfill 24 random acts of kindness. My children (11th, 7th, and 4th) are looking forward to it almost as much as I am.

Some of our random acts have included: baking cookies for a local fire station and police station, pushing carts back in the grocery stores, shoveling neighbors’ driveways, handing out hot chocolate to the bell ringers, buying lunch for someone at the mall, making ornaments for the nursing home, and adopting a family and purchasing gifts for them. These are just a few of my favorites that all have good memories.

This year, in addition to having the kids determine the random acts of kindness, they each also selected a Bible verse to pray throughout the month related to serving others. And, as we wrap up our day of service, we will sit down as a family and discuss what they saw, what they learned, and how it made them feel to serve. We will talk about God’s commands to serve others and brainstorm ways we can continue to do so. And, they will each be tasked with creating or finding a service opportunity for the spring. I’m very excited to see what they come with and how God will use them to glorify Him!

I am incredibly thankful that I have the freedom to schedule the time into our school day and school year to engage my children in service learning. It is an important part of bringing their biblical learning into action. It is a great way to engage them in critical thinking as they conceptualize, plan, and execute their service to others. It can easily become a writing assignment for English as they reflect on their experience. Service learning has merit academically as well as spiritually. As I sit here stoking the embers of passion for serving in my children, I want to encourage you to consider how you can engage your children in the entire process of service learning. I promise you, it will bring you joy as you do. And what better time to engage them than in this season of joy!

Debra Schroeder

Blogger at Jesus is My Hashtag
https://jesusismyhashtag.com/