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We are speaking at conferences around the country! See us at:
August 5, 2017: Christian Homeschooling Association—Springfield, IL (Carol Becker)
Don’t miss our informative new eBooks, now available from the HSLDA store!
Develop a Plan for High School is the first in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers how to choose courses, assign high school credits, evaluate coursework, and improve time management for you and your high school student.
Simplify Your Recordkeeping and Transcript is the second in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers in-depth details on both recordkeeping and transcripts.
Not able to attend one of Carol or Diane’s high school events? HSLDA’s recorded event High School at Home: Turning Possibility into Reality features sessions on developing a high school plan, creating transcripts, charting a course for post-high school plans, and more—with lots of encouragement! Purchase it at the HSLDA store.
The Heart of Volunteering: Ways to Engage Your Teens
|Dear Friends,||August 3, 2017|
Teens can excel in many areas. Some possess strong abilities like academic acumen, athletic prowess, musical talent, innovative intelligence, or artistic expression. Many teens care deeply about social concerns, and this gives them a readiness to listen, an ability to empathize, a desire to help, or a willingness to reach out to those in need. Whatever their strengths, you can encourage teens to use these abilities to make a difference in their communities and in the lives of individuals. Volunteering is one way to train them to do this.
We want volunteer service to come from our teens’ hearts, yet sometimes the act of volunteering is what develops the heart to serve. Hopefully, serving will develop a compassionate spirit and desire to help that will continue throughout the teen years and into adulthood. Let’s explore how volunteering and community service can enhance your teen’s high school program.
Benefits of volunteering
There are obvious advantages to every community when teens choose to serve, because the act of serving significantly blesses both recipient and volunteer. Teens benefit from the opportunities volunteering provides to develop their interests, abilities, character, and leadership in real settings, and this offers parents great opportunities to coach and encourage teens toward emotional, social, and spiritual maturity.
Emotional maturity describes your teen’s motivations, gratifications, and focus. Teens can experience satisfaction and gain perspective as they learn to help others. Serving draws your teen’s attention away from today’s culture of self-centeredness, consumerism, entertainment, and social media. Satisfaction will grow with a job well done, especially if it makes a difference to someone else. Even something as simple as providing companionship can give teens a sense of fulfillment if the service rendered brightens someone’s day. Gratification grows by seeing a project through from beginning to completion. All of this gives teens greater motivation to volunteer.
Social maturity describes the dynamics of building trust, developing relationships, and learning valuable communication skills. Serving becomes a classroom where teens learn how to foster trust among team members as well as the people being helped. Of crucial importance is coaching teens to learn how to work in cross-cultural environments and relate to people of different ages.
Spiritual maturity describes your teen’s decision to set “an example … in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Coaching your teen to walk the extra mile, give rather than receive, demonstrate integrity, behave responsibly, extend forgiveness, and serve from inner strength are all part of the process through which true character is built.
Ideas for volunteering
Some teens need encouragement to discover and appreciate how much they have to offer other people. Take time to list qualities and talents you see in your teen and then share them as you discuss various needs within your community and brainstorm ways to volunteer.
Volunteer opportunities fall into categories such as these:
- Community service
- Church ministries
- Nonprofit organizations
- Parks and recreation
- Political involvement
- Career development
Many organizations list volunteer ideas on their websites and include contact information for agencies, groups, and others who are looking for volunteers. A simple internet search using your city or county’s name and the term “volunteer community service” will generate many helpful links.
Alternatively, your teen could begin by identifying a passion or skill and then search for an opportunity to put that talent to good use. For example, a student with artistic talent could volunteer to teach low-income children basic drawing and painting skills. Check with foster care agencies, high schools, nursing homes, recreation centers, and government agencies in your area to explore opportunities. Below are some additional resources:
- “Twelve Ways to Serve Your Community” offers your teen a starting place to explore opportunities.
- Make a Difference 101, Community Service: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide for Kids leads teens in creating service projects and provides tools such as goal-setting worksheets.
- GenJ Student Action Teams give students the opportunity to volunteer in key political races on behalf of conservative, pro-life, pro-family candidates.
- Check out TeenLife’s 50 volunteering ideas.
- “366 Community Service Ideas for 4-H and Youth”
- Additional resources and ideas
Many teens have questions about future careers, and volunteer service can be the door through which teens find answers. When teens take the initiative to volunteer in career areas of interest, this can light a flame or redirect them to consider more suitable options. Each volunteer activity is an opportunity to interact with adults who could invest in the teen’s life with professional knowledge, training advice, and inspirational example. Because mentorship can have a major impact on your teen’s decisions about a career, whether to attend college, what to major in, and other educational choices, pray to find mentors who have wisdom, discernment, and integrity.
Homeschooled teens have flexible schedules, and students can use time management skills to factor volunteering into their weekly calendars. Teens can either search out organizations to partner with or create their own volunteer opportunities. Below are some examples to spark your creativity as you consider how volunteer service can enhance career development.
- Veterinary medicine: Contact a local vet to determine if there are volunteer projects or services your teen can take on. Your teen can not only provide time, but also learn by observing the vet’s skills.
- American Sign Language interpretation: Look for opportunities to volunteer with an interpreter and serve deaf children by mentoring or tutoring.
- Landscaping: Coordinate with a landscape company to volunteer and use current skills, develop new ones, and gain knowledge. Assist a church with lawn management or help design and implement a simple landscape project.
- Childcare: Assist a daycare facility, homeless shelter, or church program. Ladies’ Bible studies often need childcare.
- Technology: Serve the elderly, neighbors, relatives, or church members. Teens can volunteer as part of a group ministry or on their own by helping people set up computers, electronics, or other technical gadgets. At church, help set up, run, or put away audiovisual equipment.
- Environment: Look for trash cleanup projects for roads, greenways, and wildlife areas. Investigate testing programs for water and wildlife. Consider repairing hiking trails or planting trees in deforested areas.
- Medical field: Look for opportunities to help at a local clinic, hospital, or nursing home. Consider joining a medical mission trip during the summer.
Recognition for volunteering
Although community service/volunteering is freely giving with no expectations, rewards, or payment in mind, there are ways to recognize your teen’s service.
The President’s Volunteer Service Award encourages everyone (teens included!) to live lives marked by helping others. The award recognizes U.S. citizens who have accumulated the required number of service hours over a calendar year or over the course of a lifetime. The program encourages entire families to participate together, including children as young as 5 years old (perfect in the homeschool setting!). Those meeting the requirements receive a personalized certificate, an official pin, a medallion, and a congratulatory letter from the president of the United States.
The Congressional Award, sponsored by the U.S. Congress, is a noncompetitive award that recognizes young people ages 14–23. Teens set their own challenging goals in four areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration. Meeting goals allows participants to earn bronze, silver, and gold certificates. The award program also accommodates young people with special needs or disabilities.
HSLDA’s Servant Leadership Award, open to homeschooled teens, encourages students to actively and passionately serve others in their communities. A teen must be nominated by an adult who attests to the student’s involvement in community service. HSLDA recognizes three winners each year with an award and $2,000 prize.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Award recognizes teens based upon outstanding examples of community service. Nominees must be certified by the head of a county 4-H organization, Girl Scout council, American Red Cross chapter, YMCA, or HandsOn Network affiliate. The organization announces national and state winners each year.
Documentation of volunteer service
Many public and private high schools mandate that their students perform a certain number of volunteer hours in order to graduate. Although homeschooled teens are under no obligation to meet these requirements, some state scholarships for which homeschoolers are eligible may require volunteer hours.
You may want to use a simple record form to document your teen’s volunteer service by logging hours and providing details of each activity.
Because this is an area where homeschooled teens can really stand out from their public or private school peers, we encourage parents to highlight volunteer service on extracurricular activity sheets. This valuable information greatly enhances applications for jobs, internships, apprenticeships, trade/tech schools, colleges, and scholarships.
You can launch your teens into a lifetime of serving others, and this can begin in the high school years. The benefits of volunteering are numerous, and teens grow in maturity as they reach out and use their talents to bring compassion, practical help, and goodwill to others.
Join us next month as we discuss selecting a college and preparing for the application process.
Thankful for the opportunity to serve you,
Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants