1 Really Good Reason Not to Volunteer at Your Kid's School

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bake saleDread volunteering for your children's school? Come sit next to me! I have some wonderful news. I so do decree: We are officially off the hook from all school volunteering from now on. Why? Because it's bad, yes, BAD for our kids' education. Thanks to investigative journalist Amanda Ripley, for whom I now have a dedicated shrine in my home complete with Diptyque candles and chocolate truffles, we have scientific evidence proving that our volunteer efforts will not make our kids a whit smarter. Thank you, Amanda. Thank you so much. Here's the scoop, parents.

In a 2009 study of parenting in 13 countries and regions, parents who volunteered in school extracurricular activities had children who performed worse in reading, on average, than parents who did not volunteer—even after controlling for children’s backgrounds. Out of 13 very different places, there were only two (Denmark and New Zealand) in which parental volunteering had any positive effect on reading, and it was small.

Meanwhile, Ripley traveled all over the world and found out that in other countries with academically successful children, the parents don't do diddly for their kids' schools. They DO, however, put in a lot of time at home helping their kids with their homework. Ohhh, bummer. That's the ugly flip side to this good news. What would parents rather do, run to Costco for soccer donuts (I mean, clementines) or help your daughter with her geometry homework? I see you there, grabbing your car keys and handbag. I think we have our answer.

More from The Stir: 8 Biggest Worries Moms Have When Kids Go Back to School

Obviously many of you are doing both of these things -- and you're probably feeling overwhelmed. Well now you know what you can cut for your own mental health. Maybe you'd actually have time to pick up a book for your own reading pleasure, which is another thing that will actually make your kids smarter. Yup, kids who see their parents read to themselves do better in school. (I don't know if Us Weekly counts.)

Oh I'll still do some volunteering at my son's school this year. Those fundraisers bring important resources to the school. I actually like the other parents. But I won't feel guilty for not putting in more time -- sounds like my few spare moments are best spent talking with my son about measuring triangles and our favorites books.

How much time do you spend volunteering at school compared with helping with homework and reading?


Image via Tom Nguyen/Flickr

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MamaT... MamaTo2b2g

Well I am very involved at my kids school and my 3rd grade son reads at a 7th grade level. But nice try.

bleed... bleedingheart8D

I think it depends on the parents, the school and how the volenteer programs is run.

the4m... the4mutts

Volunteering isnt for helping with your kids' education. So that's like saying "mowing your lawn wont help your kid learn to read" because what kind of idiot thinks it will?

Volunteering is to raise money for better equipment and programs.

That being said, I dont volunteer at my kids' school, because the other moms are heinous bitches. Not all of them, but the ones that run the carnivals and whatnot.

Im sure some moms that volunteer do so INSTEAD of helping their kid at home, but who's to say they would help their kid at home, even if they werent volunteering?

IMO, the schools that need the volunteering are usually low-budget, and that is why a lot of their kids arent high achievers. They cant afford the proper equipment, and better teachers. Not because the kids' parents volunteer

MamaT... MamaTo2b2g

The4mutts- I totally agree. The 2 have nothing to do with one another. Like I said, I am very involved in my kids school, and they do very well academically, but I'm not under any delusion that one has to so with the other. My kids do well open school because they are bright kids, in a good school, work hard, and get the help they need at home. Not because I am a room mom for class parties. Nor does my volunteering hinder them in any way.

nonmember avatar Guest236

Volunteering is about moral responsibility to others, not smarts. So...duh...

When I was in school, my mom could not volunteer more with class stuff because a few other moms hogged all the activities amongst themselves. Not surprising that their kids ended up being the cliques and douches.

nonmember avatar Ben

Correlation is not causation. There is probably some other factor at play which affects both of these things. Could it be that the schools are worse, so the parents are called on to volunteer more? Maybe the parents are, on the whole, unable to help the kids on a nightly basis, so they try some other way to assist (volunteerism)? Maybe it's something else I haven't thought of. The point is, saying that "... [volunteering] is bad, yes, BAD for our kids' education" is an overreach and shadows what may actually be an important family or societal barrier to education.

MomLi... MomLily67

Maybe 2 hours total during the school year. Our school actually tries to prevent asking parents to volunteer,knowing that most work (both, or single parents) and they would rather we spend time participating  on homework and other assignments.  They are very realistic about it.


Coles... Coles_mom

I live in a ridiculously upscale neighborhood where every single woman looks like Barbie. And I don't. Needless to say, I'm not usually invited. Every time I've volunteered, I've been rebuked. I'm twice the age of all the moms (had kids late in life), I've not had (much lol) plastic surgery, and I don't drive a Mercedes. I don't really consider our moms the PTA....they're basically a martini group.

akhartis akhartis

This is the dumbest thing I have heard in a while!  My kids excel in reading and I volunteer on a weekly basis!  Actually I am the VP of Cultural Arts at the school on the PTI and on the SLT team.  Of course my kids go to Charter School and we all volunteer.  We help the teachers and staff!  I don't know why traditional public schools don't want parents in there...what are they trying to hide?  Without volunteers at Charter schools we would not be able to run as smoothly as we do!  The teachers are able to teach and leave the other little stuff up to the parents who volunteer! 

Lordg... Lordgodempress

I dont volunteer unless I have too.  I would much rather spend time with my kids at home.  We also avoid all those stupid after school things the school wants us to go to.  I only go if their will be new info if not we dont go.    After work and school we relax.  Its nice.  I dont know why parents dont do that.  That is why everyone is so stressed out.  My kids are straight A students, my highschooler is president of her student council and my teenage son is in Pre AP classes across the board.  They are happy and have wonderful much needed down time that is missing from kids lives these days.

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