(A continuation of a series of essays on Waldorf Unschooling Through the Teen Years)
One of the most important pieces of homeschooling into the high school years is getting your teen out into the community. I once heard Doug Gerwin, from the Center for Anthroposophy speak about education. He felt that it was imperative that during the third 7 yr cycle (14-21 yrs) the teen needed to move out into the community even beyond the school setting. This was something we had been doing all along in a number of ways.
An extremely important way my children moved out into the community was through various volunteer activities. I cannot sing the praises of volunteering enough. It did not even really matter where they volunteered or how they picked the place, they just needed to be out there as early as possible. My daughters both logged more than 1000 hours of volunteer time during their high school years; their brother is easily moving in that same direction as he moves into his last years of high school.
Volunteer opportunities are sometimes hard to find for the younger adolescent but it was worth the effort of searching. When Jenn wanted to volunteer somewhere on her own at the age of 15, few places would take her. She finally checked out the Deer Valley Rock Art Center because it was just two miles from our home. We had been there once in all the years we had lived 2 miles from it and she didn’t have a strong interest at the time in archeology or petroglyphs. But they allowed her to volunteer there before she turned 16. She started in the fall of her sophomore year in high school. By the end of that school year, she had been named the Junior Volunteer of the Year but more importantly she had been given real work to do (cataloguing and accessioning their entire library collection and then entering the data into their on-line site). Soon her sister joined her at the DVRAC as well. They were allowed to participate in the Pueblo Baby Canyon petroglyph recording project where they worked alongside archeologists cataloguing petroglyphs on site and then entering that information into the computer later.
When we moved to Columbia, both girls began volunteering at the community radio station and Peace Nook, a not-for-profit venue involved in peace and social justice issues. Soon enough Josh, then age 12 years, joined them at the Peace Nook and he continues to volunteer there weekly recently finishing his fourth year. Jenn is now the director of the reel-to-reel project at the radio station and in that capacity has written grants, worked with programmers as well as others in the community, and gained extensive archival experience.
My children’s volunteer activities have included community theaters and orchestras, community radio, museums, rescue greyhound, and social justice venues. From their various volunteer activities they have received offers for paying jobs as well as leadership and academic opportunities. Sarah’s first paying job was with a children’s theater where she helped with an after-school theater program in an inner city school. Their portfolio of letters of recommendations from the various mentors/teachers they have worked with over the years is voluminous. As volunteers their opportunities and experiences were more diverse than many entry level jobs could have offered. These experiences quickly built a strong resume for both employment and college applications. Their volunteer activities strengthened their high school transcripts helping them to secure some scholarship money for higher education.
Volunteering was just one way my three have gotten involved in the community. My next essay will focus on how we found outlets for their passions and curiosities throughout their high school years.