Inside: Spread kindness as a family through this Family Volunteer Challenge for August by donating school supplies and books for students who need it.
August used to still be summer when we were kids.
But nowadays, August officially marks back to school season. Target told me so with their rows and rows of Elmer’s Glue and Crayola products and backpacks.
As a kid, I loved shopping for back to school supplies and a few new clothes items.
As a teacher, I loved it even more.
And now my kids and I love doing it together…picking out the just-right pencil case and the perfect sparkly notebook that will inspire them to do their homework and the markers that smell good.
We of course also take with us the long list their teachers send home requesting supplies for the classroom.
Every year, that list seems to grow and the total at the checkout stand gets larger.
And I get it. School budgets are tight. Teacher budgets are even tighter because the supplies they use in their classroom come from their too small salaries.
My family is lucky. While the expensive school supplies can feel overwhelming to our budget, there is room in our budget for paper, pencils, and gluesticks. Even the purple ones that turn color when they dry.
But sadly, not every family is so lucky. Not every student has the supplies they need to be successful this school year.
Forget the sparkly notebooks and pencil cases. They don’t have paper. Or pencils. Or an eraser.
Which is both heartbreaking and unacceptable.
And it’s also something our family can easily do something about.
So our August Family Volunteer Challenge is to stock up on school supplies and donate them to students and classrooms and schools that need them most.
Why it’s Important to Volunteer with our Kids:
We are raising kind kids. We expect it, we praise it, and we model it.
Related: How to Raise Kinder Kids
And we tend to focus on the quiet, normal, everyday moments of kindness.
Holding the door for the person behind you.
Picking up something someone dropped.
Offering your seat to someone who needs it.
But there’s also bigger, grander, more time-consuming acts of kindness that falls more into the volunteering category of kindness:
Times when we donate to our local food bank.
Or collect all our old jackets and take them to a shelter that needs them.
Or when we take a taco to someone who’s really hungry.
Our kindness may not change the world. But it can change the world for the people we help.
And it instills in my children the fact that volunteering and acts of service are a normal part of lives.
Helping others doesn’t need to be a once a year activity during December when we donate a toy or two.
People are hungry year round.
Animal shelters are full year round.
Kids are sick year round.
And we can help. Because we are helpers. We are raising our kids to be helpers.
As an added bonus (as if we needed one more reason) volunteering as a family is an incredible way to connect as a family and build a strong family identity.
So teaching our kids to give to others who are less fortunate than ourselves is a true gift.
And volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help kids practice being compassionate. Compassion is feeling others’ pain or hardship or suffering and then being prompted to take action to relieve that suffering.
Many families want to donate and volunteer but it feels too hard.
And they don’t know where to volunteer or how easy it really is to make a significant difference.
So we’re here to make it easier for you with the Family Volunteer Challenge for August.
How the Family Volunteer Challenge Works:
Every month, we’ll post a family-friendly service activity you and your kids can do together.
It’s 12 months, 1 activity each month, 10-30 minutes each month.
And it’ll be super easy.
We’ll give you a suggestion.
You can run with it, tweak it, make it your own, or scrap it and do something totally different.
Your only tasks are to commit to doing this as a family, talk about what you’re doing and why with your kids so it has a lasting impact, and then protect the time on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed back.
And it also has to come with this crucial caveat…you can only do this Family Volunteer Challenge if you do it with no guilt.
- No guilt that you didn’t start it sooner. You’re starting now and that’s incredible.
- No guilt if one month, life got in the way and you skipped it. You can do it next month, no worries.
- No guilt if you think your kids are selfish and self-centered and are ungrateful. They probably are but that’s not their fault or yours. It’s how their brain is wired and we can turn giving to others and being generous into a learned habit.
Okay, now that we’re guilt-free, let’s start spreading some kindness.
12 Months of Volunteering as a Family:
Before we jump into August’s volunteering activity, you can check out past month’s volunteer activities in case you missed it and want to do more.
Now for August’s Volunteer Challenge:
For August, we’re getting school supplies to kids who need it most.
So many kids are heading to school unprepared. They don’t have books at home. They don’t have paper at home. They don’t have wifi to work on school reports.
We can’t fix the wifi issue but we can help provide school supplies for other kids when we buy our kids’ school supplies.
We can help be part of the solution that removes obstacles for students who don’t have what they need to learn.
We can help teachers in low-income rural and urban Title I schools who get fewer school supplies than their suburban school counterparts.
And it can be as simple as lined notebook paper and pencils.
Do the Family Volunteer Challenge for August now:
The first step is to purchase extra school supplies.
And we all know the stores make it super easy to find school supplies in August. Every store has them and has great deals.
As your kids fill up your cart with items off their school shopping supplies list, add a couple of boxes of crayons, pencils and paper for another student.
Or if you’re headed into a discount store, stock up on pencil boxes and cute sparkly folders and smelly markers when your kids get a few for themselves.
If you’re not taking your kids into stores with you, you can return with the items and talk about what you picked out and why or include them in your online shopping so your kids get a chance to “purchase” supplies for someone else.
The harder part of this volunteer challenge is to figure out where to donate the supplies to so they go to students who really need them.
My kids’ school does not need extra paper or pencils. They’re fine. Teachers spend their extra money on cute stickers and matching pillows for their library, not on paper and pencils and books.
But the schools and hour away from us, close to the city 100% need those supplies.
To find out where to donate to, you can:
- Google: “school supply drive near me“
- Look for a school supply drive bin in stores
- Take it to a local school and ask if you can anonymously donate supplies to a student or family who may need it in your own community
- Search for your local Boys and Girls Clubs since most of them host annual school supply drives
- Donate to Cradles to Crayons in person if you live near Boston, Chicago, or Philly or donate online
- Donate directly to a teacher through Donors Choose where you can search any city, teacher, or topic.
The trick is to get your kids to go with you when you donate or to donate online together so they can see how simple it is. We want to make this a habit.
If we drop off the supplies when they’re not with us or shop online once they’re in bed, our kids don’t get to see how easy it is to volunteer and help those around them.
Talk about it:
If your family is like mine we have been blessed to never know hunger or homelessness or our electricity or water being shut off because we couldn’t afford to pay our bills.
So many families–too many families–are not that lucky.
The government estimates that 15 million children (21% of children) live below the poverty line in the US. But of course, that threshold is just to cover basic living expenses like food and shelter. There is no room in a low-income family for pencils and paper or sparkly notebooks.
The school supplies like smelly markers our kids take for granted are wished and longed for by kids down the street, road, or highway.
And even if we are on a tight budget or have limited income ourselves, we almost always have more than someone else. We can help our kids take action and give to others even if we’re not able to give as generously as we would like.
If you need help explaining it to younger kids, here’s how we do it: So many kids are getting ready for school but they can’t go into the store and buy supplies for school because they need all the money they have to buy food and pay for their house or apartment. We have some extra money and you always have the supplies you need. So we’re going to buy some school supplies for other kids so they can have paper and pencils and crayons to learn just like you.
You can also read books to help kids really understand poverty:
Have a conversation with your kiddos after they donate school supplies about how easy it was to donate and give to others. We can remind them to appreciate their own supplies but to also give supplies so other students will have similar opportunities as them to learn and be successful at school.
And you can ask them these questions:
How would you feel if you had to do schoolwork but we didn’t have any paper or pencils at home?
Do you think it’s fair that kids who don’t have glue or scissors or crayons still have to do the same work and same projects as you if though you have the supplies you need and they don’t?
Was it easy to get an extra box of crayons when we got one for you?
Why do you think it’s important to give school supplies to other kids who don’t have them?
How does it feel to take the time to think about other people who can’t buy these supplies and then do something about it?
Celebrate and Spread the Word:
Be proud of your volunteering and let your kids know you’re proud of them. Celebrate the time your family spent purchasing school supplies and donating them.
And share the Family Volunteer Challenge for August with other families. Kindness is contagious. Challenge other families to join you by asking them to also send a postcard to soldiers or veterans.