OAK MEADOW ASKED:
"How do you encourage good citizenship (either global or local)
in your homeschooling efforts?"
We received more than 700 responses—thank you to all who participated! And a special thanks to mothering.com and secularhomeschool.com for helping us gather these responses. Here are some of our favorites…
In our home, it's all about respect. Respect for our community, respect for people who are different from us, respect for everything that goes on around us. We use everyday life experiences as "teachable moments," whether that is doing a chore for a sibling, opening a door for someone, or allowing another person to be "first" in line. We believe it's the small daily things during childhood that become second nature, which will one day produce exceptional adult citizens.
Seeing how we interact with people with whom we don't know by smiling, chatting, taking time to stop and listen to people… this always amazes my children. They think we know people wherever we go! My children always stop to ask, "Who was that?" And my answer is always the same, "Another human being sharing the earth with us."
We try to give our kids the gift of a heart of service by doing our best to think of others before ourselves. My grandmother has Alzheimer's and has lived with us for the last 5 years. We are her primary caretakers, and as such, spend a lot of time putting her care first. Our kids have blessed us so deeply by loving her the way they do, even when she doesn't know who they are.
I try to point out ways to help others on a daily basis. When we come across others who are less fortunate, I encourage a dialogue with my son to help him understand their needs and to reinforce that they are people with heart & soul, just like you and me. I also try to stop whatever I'm doing whenever he asks me an ethical question, so that he understands that the most important lesson is to learn how to respectfully interact with others.
I encourage citizenship by teaching my kids little things: If there's trash, pick it up even if it isn't yours. If you can help a neighbor, do it. If you can feed a person or an animal, feed them. Always leave a place or a person better for your having been there. There is always honor in service, period.
I think it starts with getting them to understand how we are all connected as human beings and that one person's actions affect other people.
I give lessons in citizenship by being a good citizen myself. Supporting our neighbors is important in creating a strong neighborhood, so we are CSA members and shop at our locally owned stores. Respecting all living things means treating animals with kindness, so we buy animals foods from happy healthy animals, our Herd Share. My budget is slim, but a few times a year my son picks out groceries he wants to give to a food pantry. I say, "Not so far way, a little boy is hungry. What do you want to share with him?" He asks questions and I give answers. He understands why I boycott fast food, because rainforests in Brazil are important for Brazilians. Brazilians are just as important as you and I and rainforests help clean our earth. I hope my son sees my actions matching my words.
I also encourage my children to always think for themselves—and if they have thought something through and feel it is wrong, one person does in fact, have the power to change things.
We regularly clean up litter in our neighborhood, and the park at the end of our street. We volunteer at the neighborhood garden and shop at our local farmer's market. I try to explain that it is up to each of us individually to do what we can, even if it seems small...it will add up.
We recycle and talk about why. We learn about the ocean and how we can help the creatures within it. We have the poster "How to Build Community" and do most of the things on it.
I share with my son the importance of shopping locally in our small coastal town's shops, the value of repurposing items from thrift stores (our favorite places), as well as participating in the semi-annual beach cleanups that are held here. My son learns so much from these outings. They are adventures that show us both how wonderful it truly is to be involved in the workings of our home town.
When our daughter completes a chore, she has the option of putting coins in the jar, and the money she saves is donated to the local family resource center. It is one of her favorite things to do.
We try to let our children know that every event around them is important. Even if it is a small as clearing a drive for an elderly neighbor or a mom with young children, or just making someone smile. If we can help brighten just one person's day, we can help change the world.
I think homeschoolers are at a terrific advantage in teaching citizenship skills– our kids can go where we go, see what we do, listen and ask questions.
We "love others" daily through taking time for other people, whether that be listening, sharing a meal, or inviting someone into our home. Good citizenship is not merely an "activity" or lesson, but rather a lifestyle.
In December, we had an advent calendar with activities to give back instead of focusing on getting. We donated to homeless shelters, bought gifts for strangers, handed out candy canes wherever we went, took coffee and donuts to the fire station, among other things.
Globally, I teach them how to respect our planet. We learn how the smallest of things can have a large impact. Learning about bees can lead to some very insightful conversations regarding themselves—they may be small, but their impact can be huge. Another way I foster good citizenship is by teaching respect. I'm not necessarily referring to rules and compliant behavior…but respect for wisdom, for others and their stories. As homeschoolers, we know that opportunities to learn surround us, but taking it a step further requires us to observe them.
I think we encourage good citizenship by homeschooling, by being at home and loving and respecting each other. That warmth feeds all other relationships. We create the time to serve, to connect with community, to share and care.
I teach my son about good citizenship by introducing him to all the service people in our community by name, as friends: the employees at the local grocery store, the letter carrier, package delivery people, sanitation workers, meter readers.
We believe it is important for our children to understand WHY it is better to spend our money at the local growers market then at a large chain store, so we take the time to break it down in terms and citing examples they can understand and relate to. We are also active members of our local TimeBank where goods and services are freely exchanged. In this way the children can see how a healthy community should operate… Citizenship begins in the heart, and I feel that so many children are being raised with that in mind by loving, supportive families—the future I see cradled in their arms looks bright.