Dread 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.
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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