At this time of year, there’s a lot of pressure for parents to volunteer at their children’s school, especially for moms. It’s easy to feel as though you aren’t doing enough for your child’s school, but at the same time volunteering can take too large chunks out of your time. You need to take a good look at whether volunteering at your child’s school makes sense for you. Then you can make a decision you feel good about.
What Do You Want to Do?
This breaks down into two parts. First, do you even want to volunteer at your child’s school? Second, what would you like to do there if you do volunteer?
Volunteering is so much more fun if you want to be there and you get to do at least some of what you would like to do to help out. You won’t always be able to choose exactly what you do, but you can decide whether you’re volunteering in the classroom, getting active in the PTA, helping out with special events, chaperoning field trips and so forth.
Once you’ve decided to volunteer for a particular thing, you may have to let go of control over what exactly you do. Field trip chaperones, for example, are often assigned to a group of kids and told what they are expected to do for the day.
I have two favorites that I have done through the years with my kids. The first was managing my daughter’s Destination Imagination team. It was stressful at times, but very rewarding. Destination Imagination is a wonderful activity to encourage kids to be more creative and solve problems, and I highly recommend it.
The second is reading with the younger kids. One year I was able to take my then two year old into a room they had set aside for parent who had to volunteer with young siblings along, and then read with first graders who were sent over from their class. It was a big help for the teacher, and really good for my highly social two year old. I usually brought her with a carrot for a snack, which took her a long time to eat. She was known as “the kid with the carrot” for years after.
Does It Fit Into Your Schedule?
Volunteering shouldn’t mess up your routine more than you’re willing to allow it to. If it’s making your life too much more difficult, you may not have found the right fit for you. It may be time to reconsider what you’ve gotten yourself into.
Now, you may not always be able to change your volunteer schedule right away. They need you at the times you have committed to. What you can do is keep in mind which things overwhelmed you or didn’t work with your schedule, and take that into consideration next time.
If a schedule change is all you need, schools are usually quite accommodating to their volunteers, provided you aren’t leaving them in the lurch for an event. They know you’re taking time out of your day, and that it’s not easy to do so.
What Does the School Expect?
Sometimes you don’t have much of a choice as to whether or not you volunteer at your child’s school. My kids’ school, for example, is a charter school and requires a certain amount of volunteering per child enrolled. They have a lot of ways parents can do it, so that even if both parents work outside the home or the child has a single parent, it should not be too hard to get the volunteer hours done.
Many schools have work parents can do at home to complete their volunteer hours – it’s not all done at the school. There may also be hours available after school hours or on weekends. It’s not all in the classroom or working with the kids.
Always remember that unless your children’s school requires it, you do not have to volunteer. It’s a wonderful thing to do for the school, but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t feel too guilty about not volunteering. Keep reading with your kids, helping them with homework as necessary and generally doing what you can to support their academic success the best you can.