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I'm a busy mom. Should I be volunteering at my kid's school? Add to ...

The question

Before the holidays, my child’s school held a series of fundraisers – book sales, bake sales, pizza lunches and so on – and they asked for parent volunteers for each activity. I felt overwhelmed by the requests as my partner and I both work, and it was difficult to participate. I expect to have a bit more time in the new year, however, and would like to do something to help my child’s school. How do I decide which volunteer activities I should sign up for?

The answer

Just when you thought you had enough piled on your plate, there is pressure to help out at your child’s school. Don’t despair, the tasks can be enjoyable – and it’s a great way to learn more about the learning environment your child is in for five days a week.

Anelia Coppes, a mother of four and school council chair in Parry Sound, Ont., provides this advice: “I have always chosen the volunteer activity at the school depending on my kid’s activity. If my daughter’s class was involved with the book sale, then that’s where I would be.”

Older children, on the other hand, don’t necessarily want their parents lingering around them when they are with their friends, so ask before you show up to supervise the school dance. Many school councils have sign-up sheets, or, better yet, you can ask the school’s principal or vice-principal what activities need volunteers. Full-time working parents may not be able to show up during the school day to help struggling readers, for example. But perhaps if you have a talent in sewing or crafts, you could put it to use for the latest school play or concert. There is always plenty of behind-the-scenes work that takes place, so ask the parent council chair how you can help outside the work day. In Ontario, where teachers have withdrawn voluntary activities as a result of job action, it could be useful to check in with the principal on what extra help you can provide.

Don’t discount the benefits to you and your partner . Helping out at school is a great way to get to know neighbours and other parents and to become part of a community. And seeing parents involved in their school tells kids that you care about their education and care about giving back.

The Guidance Counsellor is a column that answers reader questions on navigating the education system. Send your questions to guidance@globeandmail.com.

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