Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teaching Community

A discussion I so often seem to have with people is how to teach your kids a sense of community, how do you teach a sense of belonging and responsibility for the world and people around you. I have no answers here but am on the constant look out for ideas. . Somehow the experiment of parenthood has lead me to constantly just throw stuff out there and hope that therapy will be a lot cheaper in the future and the Things don't become total prats.

There are a lot of things I think about when I think about community and teaching community. I think about service, 4-H drilled into me service to others in your community and beyond and that is something I still strongly believe in.  Besides service what else? Community is the people and places around you, you need to know where you live, who you live around and where your place is in the larger world.  I want to raise compassionate, empathetic adults who want to be a part of things and make things better, without feeling like they need something in return. 

How to TEACH these things stumps me sometimes..ok all the time.  We continue to throw things out there, remind the Things of what is done for them and what they do for others, and make sure they feel a place in the world is theirs and they have the ability to improve it.

There are some things other people do that I think make a huge impact on the Things life and have for years. After a lot of churm the Things ended up at a daycare that throughout the off school times of year do community service projects.  This summer they have been making blankets for the Women's and Children's Association and had the chance to drop off the blankets and see what their good work has done. In the past they have made blocks for the Ronald McDonald house, had a St. Jude Trike a thon, and cleaned up a nature walk. These things that daycare does make me so proud that the kids go there, these people that are already managing the chaos of a daycare center, make the time and the effort to do something to give back and teach their students the same.  Our extended family of friends is another way the things are learning community. The Things know when someone is sick or a baby is born, mom will cook and we have babysat friends kids, or made get well cards and done other things for this community we have developed. It is not just doing things for these people that in my mind is developing a community, through BBQs, football games, birthday parties we all intermingle and the Things get to see that. They get to see people of all ages and types, who may have different views, talk and interact, put aside differences and pass the plate. These moments are not necessarily times when anyone acknowledges teaching is occurring, but when 10 kids get together of varying ages and have to figure out something to do a community develops and the Things only learn and gain positive insights from that. 

What is happening at home to develop community you ask?  I am pretty seriously involved at the Things school, which for them is an important community, and we remind them without the addition of volunteers their school would not be what it is.  As part of the larger school community to we talk about the roles people have and the Things placement in that school community. We also do some other volunteer work here and there, this year I got the chance to volunteer at the local children's hospital fundraiser, this is the hospital Thing One spent 3 weeks in the NICU at.  Beyond that we are really working to teach the things about their community and all that goes on in it.  We are doing our summer park tour, learning about all the parks and art in the area.  We go to the local farmers market and at least look at what is grown and made where we live, even if Thing Two refuses to try it. The Things know most of the neighbors in our court and are encouraged to play at the park or with the kids around the corner.  In trying to teach the things to feel ownership and some control in their community we have tried a number of ideas at home with varied success. We have encouraged new ideas regarding punishments and rewards, we have had 'you' pick the activities day, when we get stuck on a project we ask the Things what they might do to fix it.  There is a limit to all this though and there are times when they tell me what they think and I don't do it, and that needs to be ok, but again that is learning your place in the community.  I hope by grounding them in their surroundings and showing the investment their community is making in them, they in turn will make the investment in the community and people around them for the rest of their lives.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you're doing a wonderful job of teaching them through your own positive example. You can't really sit someone down and say, "Care! Help! Belong!" and expect it to stick, but children who see their parents or other adults in their lives caring, helping and belonging grow up to be adults who do those same things.