My nest is empty and, for the first time in oh, about 30 years, my house is pretty darn clean. In the weeks that followed the August departure of my youngest son to a college several hours away, I indulged myself in the good life: impromptu getaways with my husband, late dinners in nearby restaurants, and movies that started after 7 p.m.
It felt great, for a little while.
My dreamy, long-term goal is to someday pack up and make a life as a volunteer and adventurer overseas, but the truth is I still have college bills to pay and a retirement to save for. That means I have to keep my job for at least a little while and embrace this new normal. So as the colder weather settles in, I have been looking for ways to stay connected with the schools that played such an important role in my life for (gulp) the last quarter-century.
If you are a recent empty-nester or headed that way, here are a few ways to keep those school-day memories close while doing a bit of good:
Grab your garden tools: Many schools have their own gardens and these resources need lots of TLC. In the fall, there is often a lot of weeding and cleaning that takes place or the planting of bulbs that will make your school beautiful in the spring. During the growing season, volunteers can help maintain and harvest the garden. Contact your neighborhood school and find out how you can help.
Read: Early grades often host guest readers. Some classrooms have plenty of parents and grandparents knocking down the door to read to their little ones. Others do not. If your neighborhood school doesn’t need you, a neighboring community could.
Lend your expertise: Maybe you’re an architect, weekend seamstress or a DIY connoisseur. Check with your drama club or theater department to see if they need help with sets or costumes. Are you an accountant or auditor? Most school districts have audit committees that include members of the community who have experience with financial reporting. And more and more school districts are looking for STEM experts to help expand learning opportunities, so if you work in science, technology, engineering or math, your insight could go a long way toward helping students.
Clean some more: Take a closer look around your house. Do you have musical instruments collecting dust or sports equipment that will never be used? Donate those items to your school or booster club and you have yourself a win-win.
Vote: Just because your children are no longer in school, it doesn’t mean you should stop turning out to vote on your school budget or board of education elections. Plus, if you’ve been missing those school bake sales, you are very likely to find one on Election Day or School Budget Vote Day.
Just take a break: Perhaps it’s too soon to give up your new-found freedom. That’s ok. Take a break from volunteering and maybe even from your mini-van. You deserve it. But once you are refreshed, don’t forget that your schools are an integral part of your community and they need support from those who know them best!
JoEllen Gardner has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2011. In her ample spare time, she stalks her three sons on social media and texts them relentlessly. They love it.
Copyright ©2015 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission