Tina Bush is a mom of five kids between the ages of 7 and 18 years old from Washington State. She volunteers at school in the classrooms, with the weekly "at home" reading program, helping the teachers and more.
Tina Bushman: Never in 14 years of volunteering have I felt like a teacher didn't really want my help. The teachers are so grateful to have even a little bit of help because they are able to do more in the little time they have. They are more than willing to train a new volunteer. I was mostly trained by fellow volunteers and now find myself training the new volunteers. Most tasks take very little skill — just jump in.
When my children were young, I found a like-minded mother in either my neighborhood or in my child's class to trade babysitting with so that we could both volunteer at the school. I've found that if you really want to do something, you can find the time. There is no greater investment for your time than with your children.
TB: I've blocked out "school" as a weekly commitment on my calendar for those two days.
TB: I usually only volunteer for the tasks that I can do while in my child's classroom during the time that I am there. My whole point of being there is to help my child's teacher directly and to be involved with my children. I love to observe how my child interacts with his classmates and friends.
TB: It is important for me to know who my child is friends with at school and what type of environment they are spending a large portion of their time in. It's also important for me to get to know the teacher, his/her expectations and how he/she interacts with the class. I believe teachers are more patient with the student whose parent is involved in the classroom. It has also helped me be more aware of the areas my child is struggling with. Also, my kids love me to be there. They often ask if I'll be at the school on a particular day or for a special event. When I walk in the classroom, they and some of their friends greet me with a hug, when they are little — or a wave, when they are a little older.
Valerie Gauthier is a Connecticut mom with two daughters, ages 5 and 7. She works full-time and leads a Girl Scout troop, teaches Sunday school and helps her husband with a business he's starting.
Valerie Gauthier: Everyone has some skill that they can bring to the table and it can be something small like you have a lot of patience or you like to do crafts. Many of the organizations that help our kids just need worker bees and don't necessarily need you to organize or lead. Honestly, I initially got involved because I felt guilty because I was working. I don't always enjoy the prep work, but the time I spend at the actual activity with my daughters and their friends has become the favorite part of my week.
VG: I carry a calendar with me (still haven't updated to an electronic calendar). Plus I write myself notes all of the time.
VG: Currently, I do volunteer opportunities that directly involve my kids. But I am maxed out on time so I'm not taking anything else on. I imagine that my activities will continue to center around my kids for the near future before I branch out into other things.
VG: As a working mom, my involvement in both Girl Scouts and Sunday school gives me a chance to spend quality and meaningful time with my daughters. Regardless of what else is going on, that time belongs to them.
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