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I got an email from a close friend of mine about a committee meeting. “I am available during the day but I need to get the girls off the bus at 2:40. I am trying NOT to have to pay a sitter or ask neighbors to help out while I am busy volunteering for the school. Ironic that I am volunteering to get involved with my children’s education but that seems to take me away from my children.”

That same day, the parenting blog Motherlode (opens in a new window) from The Washington Post ran The Parent Volunteer Vortex (opens in a new window). Guest contributor Holly Sklar is already feeling a little put out, and burned out, from the demands at her children’s school. She knows that parent volunteers can provide much needed within the school, especially as many services like tutoring and classroom assistants are cut. On the other hand, Motherlode author Lisa Belkin writes, “At what point does this stop being about the children and start being yet another point of competition and guilt for the parents?”

Because of my role within the PTO at our school, I’m sensitive to the issue of using (and over-using) volunteers. We need volunteers to help us run the events and fundraisers we have planned. Some events and committees enjoy a long list of volunteers, others have literally no one signed up.

What’s a school (or PTO) to do? How much time do you spend volunteering in your child’s school? How do you keep the school’s (and your child’s) expectations under control?

Hopefully you’ll have more constructive advice than one commenter from Motherlode:

Here is the secret to not doing more volunteer work at your kids’ school than you want to do:

  • Take the piece of paper with the latest volunteer request in your hands.
  • Put it in the recycling bin or the trash.
  • Repeat as often as necessary.

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
October 5, 2010