Service learning is one of the perks of homeschooling my child. Service learning can mean different things to different people. To us: Service means contributing or helping to benefit others and the common good. Learning means gaining understanding of a subject or skill through study, instruction or experience. Combining the two concepts creates learning through active contributions that help meet the needs of our community. 

I like to think that all children are compassionate and want to make a positive impact on the world. My husband and I try to nurture that inclination with JK as much as possible. It started with a lemonade stand. Then a week-long Volunteer Odyssey introduced us to hunger and homelessness in our community and really ignited Janie Kathryn's desire to help others. We became regular volunteers at a local soup kitchen and seasonal shelter... that is until school started.

I was student teaching and JK was in second grade. There was no time for volunteering. There was no time for anything, except for the seemingly endless amounts of homework. I often found myself thinking it would be so much better if, instead of useless homework practice, she could apply what she is learning in the context of something she enjoys. Taking a step further, we could do this through serving our community. What a dream, right?

Well, with homeschooling that dream is a reality. Among other service-oriented activities, we have a weekly shift at the soup kitchen. You might question how a child can replace homework by volunteering at a soup kitchen, but it happens. And I contend that the learning that takes place is more meaningful and authentic, with a much higher retention rate than anything she learned in school or practiced at home. 

There are obvious life skills that are practiced- kitchen safety, food preparation, serving, cleaning tables, washing dishes, sweeping and mopping floors. There is a very valuable social aspect. From working with a diverse group of volunteers to connecting with people whose lives are very different than ours. And people always question the "socialization" of homeschoolers. 

Then there are less obvious ways to learn. For instance, we once practiced mean, median, mode, and range using the numbers of people served at the soup kitchen. We've practiced multiplication and division (really, it was algebra) using the peanut butter sandwiches we so often prepare. The possibilities are limitless. You have 15 loaves of bread. Each loaf has 24 slices. How many sandwiches can you make, using 2 slices per sandwich?

It isn't always a dream come true, believe me. Some days 7:15am seems earlier than usual and one or both of us is not up for finding ways to practice newly acquired skills, but we always manage to get ourselves to our shift and make the most of it.  Still, service learning is one of those things I have to file under Why We Homeschool.  

Now that we know the ropes of this learning through service, I hope to invite more kids to join us. Be sure check the happenings for service learning opportunities! 

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