Service Project Ideas for Kids ~ Easy Ways to Help Kids Help Others

So simple. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.  My daughter has been collecting food bank donations each month this summer, but August’s donations were low. How could we get more before our trip to the food bank to drop them off?  We’d already cleaned out our pantry and bought a few items with each weekly grocery trip and asked friends and neighbors for help. 

community service ideas for kids

You see, each time we drop off the donations, the staff and volunteers at the food bank weigh the items. They show you, on the scale, how many pounds of food you just donated. What a concrete way for kids to understand how much they are helping! My daughter loves it. And she set a goal for herself to make that number of pounds go higher each month.

So there we were in August with a few bags of donations, wishing we could give more. And then it hit me:  The dollar store. Stay with me here.

I gave my kids $20 and challenged them to buy the 20 most nutritious items they could find, that were also the best deal for their money.  A snack sized package of crackers or a whole box of pasta?  A package of 3 juice boxes or a big jug of apple juice?  

What about protein sources? They found canned tuna and peanut butter.  What about fruits and vegetables? We didn’t find fruit but we found lots of canned veggies. We found flour and cornbread mix. Cereal and honey. We had a cart full! 

Twenty dollars got us 4 bags of groceries to donate. We had been particularly concerned about donating to the food bank over the summer when donations are at a yearly low and more families are in need because kids who normally get free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch at school now have to stretch their budget even tighter.

We learned some other really important things from this experience, too.

It only takes giving a few small items to teach your child about the importance of helping others,  to experience what it is like to make a difference.

And this:

One of my biggest challenges with my kids was dispelling the myth that people who need food from the food bank are not dressed in rags with dirty faces and no shoes, like in the movies. People who need food from the food bank look just like us.  

It’s a Daddy who lost his job, and he was the sole breadwinner in his family.  His family lives in a suburban neighborhood much like ours.

It’s our friend who just got divorced and is struggling to raise her two kids on her own.

It’s a family who came from another country where work was scarce and poverty widespread, just like my own great grandparents, and it’s hard to make a life here; To help your family here and try to send money to the ones left at home who continue to face the bleak circumstances you left behind.

It’s a family who manages to get by most of the year, but in the summer, when their kids don’t get breakfast and lunch at school, they can’t quite make it to the next paycheck. Then the car breaks down. And their tight budget is simply stretched too far. 

More Small Ways Kids Can Have a BIG Impact In Their Communities

What touches your child’s heart?  Start there and help them find a way to help others. We chose this activity because it was something my daughter cared about. I got swept up in her enthusiasm.  My oldest child loves dogs, so we found a way for him to volunteer, even at a very young age, with a rescue organization. 

Show kids how to use technology and social media to bring attention to their causes. Just mentioning what your child is doing on Facebook brings awareness to the cause close to their heart. We started an email account for my daughter so she could email family and friends explaining her service project and requesting donations. 

Designate your child’s favorite cause as your charity of choice when you shop on Amazon, using their Smile program. A percentage of proceeds will go to the charity you select. I rotate the charities my kids care about on a monthly basis so each one gets something, and then I make sure to tell my kids, “I bought some books today and some of the money went to the dog rescue.” 

For more unique service project ideas for kids, click here.

 

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Homeschooling Moms: 5 Ways to Take Care of Ourselves Right Now

This post is graciously sponsored by Brave Writer. Disclosure.

It’s often the last thing on the to-do list: Ourselves.  Moms have a million things to do to take care of our families and our homes and our jobs and our many commitments. Add homeschooling to that and you can almost understand why well-meaning friends and strangers say, “I don’t know how you do it.” 

Homeschooling Moms: 5 Ways to Take Care of Ourselves Right Now

Here are 5 Ways to Care for Yourself as a Homeschoolng Mom

  1. Find Your Tribe.  Whether it’s a couple of other homeschool moms, a whole group, on-line or in person, find people who get you and get your family and your style of homeschooling. Run stuff by them: your curriculum plans, your struggles, your triumphant moments. Lean on them as needed.
  2. Seek Out Mentors.  This is different from your tribe.  Your tribe is in the trenches with you. Mentors have gone before you and have the advantage of hindsight to share with us. You can find them in real life, or by reading blogs or forums on the internet. They are there and they are wise.  Soak it in.
  3. Find the quiet.  What quiet?, you ask. I know. My house is loud, too. Find a time of day when everyone is asleep that is also the time that you are most likely to be able to be awake. Stay up really late or get up really early. I’m a morning person so guess what time it is when I am writing this? It’s 6:20 a.m.  I have coffee and it’s quiet here.   
  4. Let It Go. Sorry for the Frozen reference and now you have that song in your head. Again. But, picture this instead. You carefully plan and prepare learning activities for your children. Perhaps they even looked up at you with big eyes and said, “Mommy, can we learn about SPACE next?”
    And so you stayed up late cutting out cute planet printables and gathering supplies for an asteroid experiment and planning a themed snack to eat while you read the library books you reserved and checked out on the subject.  You are pretty darn proud of yourself for being so organized.
    And then the next day, they hate it. They refuse to do the printables, reject the snack and fuss and whine, “Whhhyyyy do we have to read this book? It’s so  boooooring.”  
    You’ve invested so much time and effort and you think, This is what we are going to do today, darn it. Don’t. Let it go.  Go outside and tromp around in the woods instead. Go visit Grandma and let them eat too many cookies. Build giant forts or Lego towers. And then look for the learning that did happen. I promise it is there. It’s just not the learning you planned for that day. It is the physics of the Lego tower, the family history lesson of Grandma’s stories, the science of bugs and plants in the woods.
  5. Restore your faith in homeschooling just a little bit each day. I’ve been reading Julie Bogart’s new book, A Gracious Space: Daily reflections to sustain your homeschooling commitment.  If you follow Julie’s Brave Writer page on Facebook you are familiar with the gems she shares that encourage homeschooling moms. I reshare them on the Creekside Learning Facebook page often. The book takes all that wonderful wisdom and presents it in 50 essays, designed to be read one per day. It’s like a homeschooling mentor mom has come into my kitchen and handed me a warm cup of coffee and this wonderful little daily dose of encouragement to start my day.  Here’s an excerpt from the book:

    It’s so easy to feel behind, or like you aren’t doing enough. In fact, when our kids are good at their schoolwork and get finished quickly…we might be tempted to undervalue the effort…Pay attention to the things that are working, to the peace you feel, to the smiles on your kids’ faces, to the well being of your family.Value what you are doing well. Celebrate it! Trust that ease in your day is a sign that you are on the right path.

 More About the Book

A Gracious Space is a beautiful collection of 50 essays designed to be read one per day and “intended to help you sustain your brave homeschooling commitment. Restore your faith in yourself, your hard work, and your children. Take a little time each day to remember why you do what you do.”  Deep breath. Don’t we all just need that?

This is the Fall Edition (first in a series). It comes in PDF, iBooks, and Kindle formats and you can order it right from the Brave Writer site. It’s $9.95. 

Gracious Space Fall

Win a Copy of the Book

Julie Bogart has generously offerred to give away 5 copies of her book to Creekside Learning readers. 

 
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Julie Bogart | Author of A Gracious Space

Julie Bogart | Author of A Gracious Space

 Julie Bogart and I are collaborating on Pinterest to gather more resources that support homeschooling parents. Follow along:   Follow Julie Kirkwood, Creekside Learning’s board Support for Homeschool Parents on Pinterest.

From A Gracious Space: Daily Reflections to Sustain Your Homeschooling Commitment, by Julie Bogart

 

 

Instead of Asking Kids What Grade They’re In, Ask This

It never fails. Out in public, when my kids meet new adults, the grown-ups ask the same question:  What grade are you in? Sometimes it’s preceded with How old are you? and often it is followed by some variation of a school related question:  Are you glad to be off of school for the summer?  or Why aren’t you in school today? Is school out today?, depending on the season. But it is almost always about school.

Instead of asking kids what grade they're in, ask these questions instead.

I have one kid who smoothly fields these questions, one who is too little to be asked (much) and one who freezes. Every. Time.  My daughter does not want to be in a grade. Grades are for kids who go to public school. This isn’t something I taught, her, it’s just how she feels. We’ve tried discussing possible responses to this question but when it happens, she looks at me to explain, yet again, to another stranger who asks, “What grade are you in?”

I know they mean well. This person, out of kindness, is trying to engage with my child. These questions are automatic. It’s just what people say. There is no harm being done here. I know this. But I can’t help thinking, Is there another way to connect?

Isn’t it interesting that kids don’t ask this of other kids at nearly the same rate as adults? Here’s what kids say: 

Hey, do you play Minecraft? 

What’s your name?

Lets go on the swings.

Wanna play freeze tag?

Maybe adults could say those things or, in case they really don’t want to play freeze tag, here are some other ideas. 

Instead of asking, “What grade are you in?” how about these questions instead:

What’s something you are really good at?

Do you have super powers?  No? Well, if you could have a super power, what would it be?

What’s the best part of your day today so far?

What do you like better: the mountains or the beach?

Do you like horses/motorcycles/Legos?

Who is the silliest person you know?

What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever eaten?

Do you like to play with dolls/video games/cars/etc.?  What’s your favorite?

In memory of my Uncle Fred:  How’s the wife and kids? 

What is the strangest sound you could possibly make?

Say, have you ever met the President of the United States/Olaf the Snowman/any minions?

Do you have any pets?

What’s your favorite animal/color/etc.?

I’m taking a survey. I think kids should get to stay up as late as they want and parents should have to go to bed early. What’s your opinion?

What would you add to this list? What other ways can we engage with kids in fun, interesting, and playful ways?

Summer Crafts for Kids ~ Summer Memories Book

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® Elmer’s and Wet Ones, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CraftandCleanUp http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

 

Summer’s end is drawing near. We’ve packed a whole lot of good, simple fun into this beautiful season. I want my kids to have wonderful memories of summers spent doing amazing things together: swimming, collecting shells at the beach, riding roller coasters, making s’mores around the campfire, going for long bike rides to nowhere in particular.  

How to make a summer memories book with your kids.

We have a fun way to preserve those memories and it’s also one of those summer crafts for kids that is perfect to do together, in these last remaining days of summer. We’re going to get messy with sand and glue, but that’s okay. These memory books will not only be a great keepsake but fun to show off to friends, family, classmates and more.

summer crafts for kids to make

 You will need:

  • Sand
  • Seashells
  • Elmer’s Glue/Wet Ones Combo pack (available in select Target’s Back to School section, while supplies last)
  • Cardstock
  • Printer
  • Small pocket photo album
  • Favorite photos printed out

Summer Crafts for Kids

How to Make a Summer Memories Book With Your Kids

  1. Gather your supplies. I found these 4×6 “brag book” style photo albums for $1.99 at a local craft store. Sometimes I’ve seen them in the dollar spot/dollar store bins too. We used regular play sand (the type you put into sand boxes) and seashells we’d collected from the beach. I found the Elmer’s Glue/Wet Ones combo pack at Target (available at select stores).
  2. Choose whatever colored card stock you’d like and cut it to 4×6 size.
  3. Have your kids spread Elmer’s glue at the bottom of the card to represent the beach, then sprinkle the sand on, tapping off any excess.messy summer crafts for kids
  4. Add small seashells and affix with Elmer’s glue.sea shell crafts for kids
  5. Allow to dry.  Clean up with Wet Ones wipes.
  6. Use card stock to make the title: “The Summer I was [insert age]“. We used the fun fonts and a banner at PicMonkey (free) but you can do this in any program or have the kids write it out in their own handwriting. Glue it to the card. Insert in front pocket of photo album after drying.beach crafts for kids
  7. Insert photos into the photo album pages.
  8. We added little descriptions to each photo. I asked the kids to tell me in their own words what was going on in the photo and what they liked about this memory.photo crafts for kids

 This was the best part of the project for me, hearing what they got excited about, what they remember, seeing the smiles and joy as they recalled this beautiful summer and ran to show their books to Daddy. They carried their books along when we went to visit friends and over to Grandma’s house. 

photo books for kids

 How will you spend the last days of summer with your family this year? I’d love for you to share in the comments. 

From Homeschool to Public School

Big changes are happening for the Creekside Family this fall.  Firefly, our 10-year-old, will be returning to public school for his 5th grade year, after 4 years at home.  This is not something that was even on our radar a few months ago.  But, after lots of family discussion and investigation into what a return to school might look like, we came to this decision.  

Most importantly, the reason we are going down this path is that it is the right thing for this particular child, at this particular time. That is, after all, why we went down this wonderful homeschooling path to begin with. That is why only one of our children is going to public school right now. That is why, odd as it may seem, I still consider this a part of Firefly’s homeschooling journey.

Will he go on to 6th grade in public school? I don’t know. Will he ever return home for his schooling again?  I don’t know that either. We will make that decision year by year, as we have done every year of his academic life. We will do what works for him and for our family. 

Firefly is happy. He is looking forward to going to school. We are doing many things to prepare him for this big change.  And, we are adjusting ourselves. We will all miss him. There are two younger siblings who have never known homeschooling without their big brother. There is the school’s schedule and time clock that we will all now work with and around. 

Creekside Learning will not change. I will still be writing about learning ideas and activities for preschoolers through elementary ages. My focus has always been to create a place where families and teachers can find resources and get inspired by hands-on learning, regardless of whether their kids/students go to school at home or in brick building. And that will continue. 

There is so much more I could write here, but it feels like such a personal part of our family’s story right now. Perhaps I will write more in the future. For now, I wanted the eyes who so graciously read my blog to know that we are, at this point in time, an academically blended family.  

We feel so very fortunate to have supportive friends and family surrounding us, a neighborhood school that is welcoming us and the experience to know that if our new schooling situation isn’t the right fit, we always have choices. 

 

From Homeschool to Public School | Creekside Learning

Firefly at age 5, our first homeschooling year.