Friday Photo: Learning Through Community Service

How do our kids learn about the world? Do they read the newspaper? Listen to the radio? Travel outside their hometown?

 I’m raising my children in the same university town where I grew up. It’s very safe, educated, liberal and has excellent schools. We take advantage of the healthy environment, youth activities, and culture that comes with living in a college town.

But I remember when I graduated from high school here and moved to the ‘city’ back in the 80s, I felt that I had broken through a glass bubble. My eyes were opened in a way that I’m sure is common to most college freshmen, but I quickly realized that there was a HUGE world that I had simply never been exposed to.

One of the dangers of raising kids in a community like mine is an unconscious, and sometimes conscious, sense of entitlement. That is terrifying to me. While my husband and I are both well educated, we chose professions of service, not salary. We try to teach our children about the value of our Earth, the value of a dollar, and the value of a human being as our highest values.

Last weekend, after the campus Picnic Day celebration, we packed up garbage bags, water and layered on sunscreen and headed to our local arboretum to clean up after the crowds. As we walked along the creek we were pleasantly surprised that the grounds were nearly litter free.

To my surprise and delight, my son urged us to move a new location where we could actually find garbage.

We weren’t disappointed with our next stop-Community Park offered a huge selection. Despite the heat, we hunted for debris big and small.

When we’d filled our bags and added a broken down chair, we declared ourselves done. As we hopped on our bikes and headed home, my son chattered with delight the entire way about what we’d done. Not only did he return with an beat up, ratty old ball as a souvenir, but he also learned that even a kid can serve his world through small acts in his community.

I think that’s a step in the right direction towards bursting the bubble, don’t you?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Fabulous! I have the same concern – that living a life of relative privilege will leave my boys feeling entitled or without a sincere appreciation for what they have. As they get older, I hope to do some community service as a family, but for now (they are only 2 and 5) we look for little ways to help others and opportunities for discussion about how fortunate we are (via bedtime “thank you prayers” or catching a few minutes of a documentary about the famine in parts of Africa, for instance).

  2. Mamawolfe, we mothers have much to learn from you. Inspiring, to say the least. I love that you’re raising your children without a sense of entitlement–so different from so many parents nowadays. It breaks my heart to see how some kids just have to open their mouths and ask for what they want. No structure, no values, no learning. I always taught my children the value of a dollar. Back in the day, my daddy taught me the same lesson. He called it a lesson in ethics. 🙂

  3. Dear Jennifer, . . . yes, a step truly in the right direction. That walking the walk is so important. Often I forget to do that. I opine about this and that and the other–talking the talk. And then forget the walk.

    Thanks, Jennifer, for stopping by my blog and commenting while I was away in April. I truly appreciate your reading my posts. That connects us.


  4. Jennifer I put this in my “too read” file and finally got around to it today. What a beautiful piece!! I could not agree more with you and I love how you put your belief’s into practice. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. I always enjoy your photos of you kids You’ve a way of speaking with words and images. And as Michael Ann says, you are giving them more than an afternoon in the sun.

  6. I like how your children are learning to contribute through their own ways. It’s a very powerful lesson and one I hadn’t actually thought of… I’m glad this gave me ideas on how to teach my kiddo. Thanks, Jennifer.

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