- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2006

Home-schooling allows us to transmit more than just academic knowledge to our children; habits that will serve them well in all areas of their lives can be taught as well.

Our family has always used this method. In addition to teaching our children about science, math and the written word, we always have believed deeply in the value of community service. For us, investing in our neighbors is just a good way to live. When we serve the youth of our community, we create better outcomes for them and for us. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, but it takes each individual to create that village.

Teaching children to be active community servants does not have to take a huge amount of time. By integrating things you love and things your children love into a project that would benefit other families, you can create a lot of wonderful results with a comparatively small effort on your part.

For instance, if there’s a sport your family enjoys, you can start a small club or team to teach and play that sport. My husband and son are teaching a gymnastics class for children and it’s amazing to see what these active young men are able to do in just a short time.

They practice once a week in the community center, but are doing all kinds of flips and handsprings. The team performs at the events held for the public, and it has generated a lot of pride to see what our youths are doing.

My daughters love dance, so they created a dance class for girls. It’s fun, it’s great exercise and the girls learn graceful movement they can carry with them their entire lives. The boys also started a break dance class, teaching the children how to do all the freezes and spins that are so much fun to watch.

Other service projects a young person can do — especially with the help of their parents — include making a Web site for the community with information of importance to residents. Or, try creating a community newsletter that can include the latest accomplishments of area families and news from the local civic association or political leaders.

Some children may want to pick a certain issue and work on that by contacting elected officials and bringing it to their attention. For instance, they may want a basketball court installed at a neighborhood park, or have a bus shelter erected to protect waiting riders from inclement weather.

This can become a great lesson in local government as students learn about the agencies that oversee each type of project and which elected officials can help promote it.

Teaching your child community service develops academic skills. For instance, writing skills can be developed while creating a proposal, newsletter, Web site or correspondence. Design and graphic skills can be involved in doing a poster campaign.

To get the statistics or other information needed to bolster their argument, they can learn research skills on the Internet or at the library. Math skills can be developed through creating budgets for a project.

Some service projects may involve travel to other states or countries, which can teach geography, history, languages and culture. Even a short stint in another country greatly expands a student’s knowledge of these things.

Home-schooling should not merely be “doing traditional study at home.” Instead, we can expand the definition of “home” to include our home community, and even our entire world. We learn more as we teach others, as we observe our surroundings and come up with positive ways to have an impact on those surroundings.

Those who learn how to serve others become people of value and importance in any circumstance. Teaching our children this way of life equips them for success and leadership, no matter what their chosen career will be.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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