It's summer. The rigors of homework, youth clubs and team-scheduled Saturdays are over. No more carpools. Now it's your turn to make empowering choices to impact your child's life and eventually the lives of their children.
While our kids are young, the challenge is how to find summer-perfect opportunities that are fun, yet meaningful, and how to get the kids away from their electronic devices. When choosing summer activities, this is your golden opportunity to focus on your specific family values. While swimming lessons, camp-outs, and sports are important, wouldn't it be wonderful to incorporate activities that help your children focus beyond themselves and to the world beyond Northern Virginia?
We educators emphasize that the earlier your child engages in volunteer activities you find important, the more likely children will grow up respecting your family's values. In the D.C. Metro Area, there is a plethora of humanitarian programs for the under-18 age group that will get them into the habit of helping others. College advisers all know that beyond APs, GPAs, and SAT/ACT scores, colleges today scrutinize applicants' activities, their “resumes,” to help determine acceptances and scholarships.
So start now, at a pivotal point in your child's life and witness the hot, summer days of NOVA becoming wondrous as you watch priorities slowly change. We recommend starting at www.VolunteerFairfax.org (Opportunities Just for Youth). Plus, in Virginia, kids have the opportunity to earn service-oriented awards such as the “Diploma Seal of Excellence in Civics” (www.doe.virginia.gov), or “The Prudential Spirit of Community Award,” Virginia state-issued civics “diploma” for students in grades 5-12 who complete at least a 50-hour service project.
Where could you possibly begin to invest 50 or more hours, and for what cause? Our family discovered the famous “Meals on Wheels” program, started by former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, and delivered meals to senior citizens for our 10-year, part-time family project. (www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org)
For our “foodie” kids who are cooking or gardening enthusiasts, The Food Network sponsors “No Kid Hungry.” Proceeds from bake sales are donated to help end childhood hunger (www.bake.nokidhungry.org) and the Gardening for Good project encourages kids to grow vegetables to donate to senior centers, or help fight senior hunger by sharing a meal. This encourages kids to learn to cook, and helps your family bond with a senior while eating and storytelling. (www.hunger.generationOn.org)
What about our animal-loving children? They can develop a Dog Park Clean-Up plan at their favorite park or socialize with dogs and cats at local shelters with the Puppy and Kitty Love programs. This is great for families who love pets but can't actually own one. (www.GenerationOn.org/parents/resources/projects/animal-welfare).
As always, we parents must insure that activities are safe and the charities are legitimate. The benefits of helping humanitarian organizations while taking advantage of your relaxed summer schedule can create so many powerful, long-lasting memories and family summer traditions. Aesop states, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
Sharon Strauchs has been Director/Owner of Herndon-based Cortona Academy in Northern Virginia. Visit www.CortonaLearning.com.