Both my son and I are volunteer Surf Lifesavers at our local Surf Club. I never in a million years thought I would ever do this (and certainly not having emigrated from a country town in the UK where I had never seen the surf let alone needed to be shown how to use a shark alarm!). However my son decided on arrival to the Sunshine Coast that he really wanted to join up. I remember accompanying him to the beach and jumping around in panic as I saw him being swept at a rather swift pace in a rip and wondering what I should do. He was smiling, having fun and no one in the club seemed remotely concerned – only me – his mother! I later learned exactly what a ‘rip’ was and that they were very useful to get out the back of the waves quickly, which in my son’s case is paramount not only if he needs to do a rescue, but also because he now competes at both State and National level.
Recently he has just returned from the Aussies having been awarded a Bronze Medal working as part of a team. I mention this as I am immensely proud as my son is diagnosed with ADHD and Aspergers. Working as part of a team is not something he has ever particularly excelled at. However our local Surf Club has offered him many opportunities to learn about working as a team and getting along in a group which is an essential skill within this field and indeed life in general. Most beach rescues are a team effort and it is wonderful to see young children and teens honing these skills which will always be useful in later life.
It has also given us opportunities to mix with others and meet people from all walks of life. The teenagers that he associates with in my mind are just inspiring as are the younger Nippers. They have caring attitudes and learn amazing life skills. My son at the age of 15 has not only gained his SRC, Surf Bronze but also his ARC/Defib qualifications, his Senior First Aid, IRB Crew certificate and is a very active member of the club. He attends as many patrols as he can and has for the past two years been awarded for the outstanding number of hours he has put in at the beach helping to keep people safe.
Because of his found passion in the surf it enticed myself to do my Surf Bronze which is no mean feat as at the age of 42 I had never set foot in the surf, let alone paddled a rescue board!!! I managed to pass my Bronze Medallion and it has given me so much respect for both our paid and volunteer Surf Lifesavers who put their lives at risk to save others every year. I attend a voluntary patrol once a month and have really enjoyed getting to know a lot more about the fabulous volunteer Surf Lifesavers that patrol our beaches across the whole of Australia. These clubs are completely run by volunteers and without these selfless people they would not exist. They attend patrols on all the major public holidays including Christmas Day and all in our club do so with pride and a smile on their face. We may have opted out of the school system for a variety of reasons, but we have not opted out of community life altogether!
Volunteering teaches children many important life skills. Not only does it add that critical element of socialisation, that many people (who don’t homeschool!) seem to worry about, with those of his or her own age, plus those older and younger, it also gives many more specific skills as I have highlighted above. Many positive personality traits like persistence, commitment, and the ability to work in a team are learned in a volunteer environment.
Volunteer experience can also be immensely helpful when it comes time to apply for college, university or a job. Depending on your method of homeschooling, and whether or not your child has sat any formal exams, you may have trouble applying for college in the traditional way. Having an impressive portfolio of volunteer experiences will benefit your child and help him or her stand out from the crowd in another positive way.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to take advantage of the freedom that comes with homeschooling while giving back to the community and helping your child learn important life skills. It provides an amazing sense of charitable giving and selflessness that I feel can only be viewed as a good thing. Happy volunteering everyone!