How involved are you at your kids' school? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 24 Old 09-11-2013, 01:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And what is your work/SAH situation? Just curious -- I know everyone's interest, availability, school policies, and lots of other factors vary greatly.

I've become more involved in my kids' school over the past couple of years, as I don't have a baby anymore and have more time. I WAH, so I have to be careful to leave time for that and not take on too much at school. OTOH, I know people with very demanding jobs (physician, attorney, etc.) and more kids than I have (one woman has 6 kids, two still in diapers) who manage to still be highly involved in the PTA, clubs, fundraisers, etc. So the drive/desire definitely varies too -- I enjoy being involved, but I also enjoy family down time (and solo down time!) and like to create a balance instead of saying "yes" to everything.

Anyway, my current involvement is that I'm room parent for DS's 4th grade classroom, chairing one PTA event, helping coach running club, and helping in DD's kindergarten classroom once a week. That's manageable for me, and makes each kid feel special while allowing time during school hours to get some work done.

So how about you? And what have you learned from past years in terms of managing your school volunteer time?

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#2 of 24 Old 09-11-2013, 05:32 PM
 
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I volunteer for the teacher treats at Christmas and one time a year in the classroom. I absolutely hate volunteering in the classroom, I love being a teacher but hate volunteering, so I use my job as an excuse not to.
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#3 of 24 Old 09-11-2013, 10:21 PM
 
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I'm a SAHM with a 4yr old and a 1st grader. This year, I volunteer to do office work for my son's class. Photocopying, folders, etc. I can't volunteer and work with kids on account of my 4 yr old tagging along.
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#4 of 24 Old 09-11-2013, 10:28 PM
 
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i love children. so i love volunteering in the classroom. which is sad coz by 2nd grade teh teachers dont really need classroom help.

 

i was working when dd was in k and 1. my days off were weekdays so on one of those days i spent half the day at dd's k and first grade. the teachers really needed a lot of help and i did a variety of tasks in the classroom. it was so much fun. we used to laugh and giggle so much in the back (helping the troubled kids) that we would get in trouble with the teacher sometimes and had to be admonished. all in fun though. 

 

i was never interested in teh PTA or being a classroom parent. i wasnt interested in 'management' and we always had enough parents to help with that. i wanted one on one time with the kids. 

 

so from second grade i went to field trips (took time off from work, so went to a few not all) and took part in evening school events either having a stall myself or assisting. on field trips i was always given the 'difficult' kids, and since i'd known them since k or 1st i always had a blast with the merry bunch. 

 

what i have learnt from my volunteer experience?

 

that there's politics everywhere. even in PTA and i wanted to stay way clear of that. that volunteering helped me figure out my dd's issues in K (that's the reason why i began). it taught me life through dd's eyes in K and 1st is not actually as dramatic and terrible IRL. 

 

i learnt the squeaky wheel gets the grease. not that i was intending to. but everyone knew who i was and who dd was. i never had to attend any PTA the first couple of years coz for me every week was PTA. 

 

for me i got to watch these kids grow from K. i got to bond with them - so much so that one of the problem kids told ME what was going on in his family rather than tell the teacher. one great bonus of that was that the kids spoke to me very honestly even pointing out that perhaps i am behind the times on certain things which i was. the discussions i have had with them have blown me away - philosophical, moral or  even politics. gosh which 5th grader knows politics or even is aware of it. just blew my mind.  

 

i was the garden parent in 4th grade. i loved the interaction with the kids esp. over food. it completely blew me away how many kids were willing to try a new vegetable.  


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#5 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 12:14 AM
 
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I made the mistake of joining the PTA my sons kindergarten year. That was a mistake. It's just not my cup of tea to be discussing what muffins to serve on the back to school breakfast for half an hour.

I like attending the school board meetings. I don't have highly important thoughts or things to say but I like watching the process and get a deeper understanding of things. I volunteer at PTA functions but on a work only capacity. Not interested in meetings or decision making involved there. Tell me what to do and I'll do my best. I try to go to field trips that are preschooler friendly.
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#6 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 04:02 AM
 
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Sad really. My son is in public and I am on the PTA, not because I really want to anymore after 3 years, but because no one else seems to give a d*mn. We can't get anyone to volunteer for anything there. The school is basically a place you drop off your kids while you go to work, if they ever even learn anything is irrelevant. That is the attitude and it is really sad. 

 

At my daughters private school I can't join the PTA, because there are so many people on it already! People are practically in line for spots. The activity and interest is great. 

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#7 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 06:00 AM
 
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Over the years, my involvement has waxed and waned. These days, although I am currently a SAHM, I don't do much. However, DD is in high school now and there are fewer opportunities to do the volunteer stuff I really enjoy, like helping in the classroom and working with children. Last year, I helped with some wardrobe for a school production. I make donations (financial and otherwise) and attend fundraisers, but I don't have much desire to organize them anymore. 

 

When my DC were younger, I was a full-time and then part-time WOHM. I did quite a bit back then, as a volunteer in the classrooms and on the parent council and for various school initiatives and programs. At one point, I was working outside the home and also volunteering in 3 different schools - DS's middle school, DD's primary school and their former school which neither of them attended anymore but it was our neighbourhood school and I still felt we had a commitment there. I served various roles on the parent council (secretary, chair, head of committees), organized debate club, helped out with fundraisers, assisted on field trips, helped plant the school garden, worked in school libraries, been a "canteen mom", helped with choir, helped with sports teams and running club and skating, participated in school safety surveys, organized pizza lunches, written newsletters, produced the yearbook, did school yard clean ups, done lots of photocopying and filing,..... and lots more stuff that I've forgotten. 

 

Time management is always an issue. A volunteer is a walking target and will be asked to give more and more and to do more and more. It helps to just say "no" but I always had trouble with that. It's actually one reason I backed away from volunteering when I became a SAHM. I didn't have my go-to excuse ("I'm really busy at work right now") to use anymore. I'd say the biggest lessons to learn are to know your limits, to say "no" and mean it. 

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#8 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 06:26 AM
 
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dd was in a public elem, but it looked more like a private school where the PTA was concerned. the parents were all very high position professionals mainly who were super involved in school management level. parents joined the PTA to change stuff like school lunches till they realised how difficult it is to change at a district level. most of the parents are very well off and have fundraising positions themselves so there was never a dearth of those kinda people. we had two PTOs and along with generous parents we were able to have things like the art program, etc. 

 

what was missing were the lack of people filling in 'peon' positions. for instance for halloween no one wanted to run the nacho stand or the popcorn stand. people would sign up and not show up. while others worked in shifts - half hour here or there, i worked the whole event with even set up and take down. 

 

many of the SAHMs had younger children so they could not help much in the classroom, so i filled in there too. 

 

so true about v. too much. by the end of first grade the PTO figured out i was happy to fill out 'menial' positions so got calls for help a lot. i was getting burnt out by end of first grade - i'd spend half a day and maybe 2  evenings at the school every week. so when that changed i was grateful but missing interacting with the kids. 


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#9 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 06:28 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post
Time management is always an issue. A volunteer is a walking target and will be asked to give more and more and to do more and more. It helps to just say "no" but I always had trouble with that. It's actually one reason I backed away from volunteering when I became a SAHM. I didn't have my go-to excuse ("I'm really busy at work right now") to use anymore. I'd say the biggest lessons to learn are to know your limits, to say "no" and mean it. 

Great point!

 

I am not very involved in my kids' schools, although I help out with the odd event (maybe 1x/yr.), donate a little money to the bookstore, find books for the classroom library now and then, that kind of thing. I am from an ethnic background where we have an active, but small, community in my metro area, and I am on a board for our community organization and also teach in a kids' program on Saturdays, so that takes up my volunteering time. I figure my ethnic community is really small, so they need me, but the school community is pretty large, so someone else is going to have to take that on.


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#10 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 07:57 AM
 
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It's gone through phases. When my eldest was in elementary, I was at the school daily because DD was a unique case and being there helped get her what she needed in a non "pushy" way. They eventually hired me and I tutored many, many kids during those years. DS went to a Spanish immersion school. I didn't know the language and so I was pretty useless in the classroom. I still wanted to help so I made copies once a week for his various teachers and that was all. Once the kids hit middle school, I backed off from helping at school completely. I wanted to give the kids their space to be middle schoolers, to make their mistakes without mom right there to see every one. I have never had positive experiences with the PTA and so that was not an option for me. I shifted my volunteering to my kid's youth theatre which I continue to this day (mine are 8th and 12th graders now.) It's my social circle. I don't work with the kids... I work with families and staff and I enjoy it greatly. It let's my kids know I care about them without being too entrenched in the world they are creating for themselves.

 

What drives me crazy is assumptions that other parents make. I had a band mom get all nasty about my not being involved without even considering that I ran a Girl Scout troop and was spending countless hours helping the youth theatre. *I* just prefer to focus my volunteering in a couple key areas where me and my talents can be of most use. If I volunteered for every school and activity, yikes... I'd be a pile of mush at the end of the day lol. Just because you don't see a parent at the school doesn't mean they aren't heavily involved in some other aspect of their kid's lives!


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#11 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 08:33 AM
 
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I don't like to be in highly visible positions, but I will volunteer behind the scenes. For several years I have worked at the different schools my kids have attended on things like the newsletter. I haven't done it at my dd2's elementary school, because they have a very active PTA and already had someone doing that job. I am not good with other people's kids so I don't want to volunteer in the classroom, but I did say that I would help the teachers set up websites and that kind of thing if they needed it. I haven't heard back from the mom heading that committee, though. I am in almost daily contact with my dd2's teacher, though, since I pick her up at school.

 

At my dd1's school I can't work with one of the moms that's running the parent organization. I can get along with her okay if I don't have to work right with her, but she absolutely rubs me the wrong way in a work situation and it's just not worth it. I did the newsletter last year, but have stepped down this year because of her and the new administration's fear of parents using technology. Just too much stress for me. I'll help on clean-up days where I just have to dust or mop floors or something. I frequently see dd1's teachers, too, because I pick her up, too.


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#12 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

A volunteer is a walking target and will be asked to give more and more and to do more and more.

This is so true! Even at my kids' school, which has tons of parent involvement and lots of resources, I feel like now that I've shown myself to be a competent, organized, willing participant, I'm locked into their radar and now get asked to do loooots of stuff -- uh oh! I'm practicing saying, "Sorry, I can't take that on right now" and, "Sorry, that just won't work for me" so I can say it with confidence when the situation arises!
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What drives me crazy is assumptions that other parents make...Just because you don't see a parent at the school doesn't mean they aren't heavily involved in some other aspect of their kid's lives!

Great point. I remember a couple years back, it seemed like nearly all my friends were room moms for their kids' classrooms, and they would urge me to do it too, and I would just think, "Why do we all need to be exactly the same kind of person?" It takes queen bees AND worker bees to get stuff done, and I was happier in the role of worker bee, and the stuff I contributed in that role was valuable. And yes, if a parent chooses to focus their attention/effort on one or two activities, or not volunteer hands-on at all but contribute financially or with carpooling a few kids to practice or whatever, it's ALL valuable.

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#13 of 24 Old 09-12-2013, 12:47 PM
 
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Time management is always an issue. A volunteer is a walking target and will be asked to give more and more and to do more and more. It helps to just say "no" but I always had trouble with that. It's actually one reason I backed away from volunteering when I became a SAHM. I didn't have my go-to excuse ("I'm really busy at work right now") to use anymore. I'd say the biggest lessons to learn are to know your limits, to say "no" and mean it.

This is why I like volunteering for teachers directly. There is a limit to the work. PTA on the other hand... I mean kudos to the hard workers in the PTA but it seems like it's never-ending.

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#14 of 24 Old 09-15-2013, 03:29 AM
 
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When DS was in public preschool and the first half of K, before DD was born, I spent a lot of time at his school. Most of my volunteer hours were spent in the library, shelving books and doing other tasks for the librarian to free her up to do the many other parts of her job. She was thrilled that I was willing to shelve the nonfiction books. Apparently the one other parent who helped shelve books thought that finding the position of the books using numbers instead of letters was too much work. Um, yeah..... that's kind of silly. I also helped once or twice a week in DS's kindergarten class the first semester. I mostly made copies, laminated stuff, etc. I also sometimes worked with students. There was one student in particular who was helped by my presence in the classroom. He came from a Spanish speaking home and knew no English at the start of the year. I'm a former Spanish teacher and was the only adult he ever saw at school who could communicate with him. I also translated the weekly "family journals" that his parents wrote to him, which, of course, they wrote in Spanish. Thankfully, by the time I had to stop volunteering in January after DD's birth, he was pretty comfortable in English. I enjoyed seeing my son's class environment, and it helped me understand that the problems he was having academically weren't curriculum related, but rather related to the way he learns.

 

DS's school has an official policy that siblings (even infants who are sleeping in a wrap, I tried to get away with that) cannot be at school with parents volunteers because they could "disrupt the learning environment." This is kind of silly if parents will be making copies or shelving books in an empty library, but the principal is very much a rule follower, and that's the way it is. For that reason, I've had minimal involvement since DD was born until this fall when she's started preschool once a week. What I've been able to do is leave her with DH or a friend while I've chaperoned a few field trips, and work at book fairs in the before school time slot, which is by far the craziest, busiest time. This year is just underway, but I've told DS's teacher that I can help for an hour or two one morning a week, and she's happy to have the help. Eventually I'm told I'll spend part of my time working with a small group of students, but they're still getting their small groups underway, so last week when I was there I made copies. I had about 20 minutes left when I was done making copies for DS's teacher, so I found a specials teacher on her planning hour and asked if she needed anything. She was thrilled to send me with some things to copy and laminate and spend her time lesson planning.

 

DS's school has a very active PTA. I pay the small fee to join every year, but I've never actually gone to a meeting. Perhaps I will someday, but I'm just not that interested in the things the PTA does. I'd rather help the teachers directly. DS never sells much for the annual fundraiser, and that doesn't bother me. We buy a lot at the school book fair, which is also a fundraiser, and I figure that's enough. We also send in lots of box tops and labels for education. I think it's great that there's a whole group of parents who are eager to spend lots of time fundraising, planning what muffins to serve at the Best Man Breakfast, etc, but that's not my style. Thankfully, there's no pressure to do that.

 

I'm glad that I'm currently privileged not to work for pay and have a chance to help out the school a little, but I don't think DS would be hurt educationally if I couldn't help at his school. I think what I do with him outside of school to extend and enhance his learning is much more important.


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#15 of 24 Old 09-15-2013, 08:02 AM
 
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I do a lot. For the last 2 years I was on the PTO board. Last year and this year I am the Library Volunteer Coordinator - due to budget cuts, individual schools do not have a librarian, so I manage, schedule and train about 50 parent volunteers and spend between 15-20 hours/week in the library. I am in charge of the class baskets for this year's auction as well, but the library takes up most of my time. I wish I could be paid for my library work because it's really my dream to actually BE a children's librarian, but at this point, I just enjoy being able to spend time helping kids find awesome books, introducting them to new authors and reading out loud.

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#16 of 24 Old 09-15-2013, 12:43 PM
 
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I also do a lot, and am cutting back this year. I would rather help out in the classroom but in the past I have initiated a fundraiser that raised 15k for our school. I am just burnt out after last year and not really wanting to help with anything. It is always the same hardworking folks who run everything and they are all wonderful but I just get tired of asking people to do stuff.
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#17 of 24 Old 09-15-2013, 04:17 PM
 
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Very, and I used to be even more involved.  I was PTO secretary at ds's 1st school (charter, great school but low enrollment).  It closed and the charter school he went to after that doesn't allow a PTO bc the founder is a control freak who doesn't want to give up an ounce of control.

 

I do volunteer at least once a week in the classroom.  I go on all of the field trips, even if I can't get a spot on the bus.  I just let ds ride the bus and I meet at the park or zoo or wherever.  This year I've been covering the front desk while the clerks go to lunch.  I enjoy being at the school so much I am planning to apply for a job there this week.

 

ETA:  I don't work now but when I did work 5 days a week I still make time to be in the classroom every couple of weeks and I would do cutting or stapling or grading at home.


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#18 of 24 Old 09-15-2013, 05:16 PM
 
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My kids are just joining public school so we will see how my involvement is. I joined the PTA and the first meeting is Tuesday night which I'm going to. I'll help as much as I can if there are things I can do or would be interested in and I do plan to go on the field trips and such. I don't think I'll be involved too much in the little things at school though because I have a two yr old at home that'd have to go with me during the day and in the evenings we are busy. I work PT 3+ nights a week and the kids activities usually keep us busy 1-2 of the other nights. Our school also does 4H for the classrooms and the kids will have involvement in it that I'll have to help with. I am looking into chartering a Spiral Scouts hearth for our family so the kids can do it and that will be most of our free time. I just don't really see being involved too much in the little things at school but I do purchase/help with Scholastic and the fundraisers, will attend the meetings, etc.


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#19 of 24 Old 11-20-2013, 05:08 PM
 
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I work nights so no pta. I volunteer once a month in the classroom, usually for one on one reading. it's fun, I find some of the parents clique-y so it keeps me out of that


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#20 of 24 Old 11-22-2013, 11:33 AM
 
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For some reason it's important to me to be active but not be too involved so as to stand out. I'm not sure why that is. In DC's last school I was really friendly with the administration and teachers so I had good insight into what was really appreciated so I did those things. For that school a big thing needed was to help boost a diverse parent community. So, I focused on that. I hosted the fundraising events and cooked, played music, served drinks and tried to make it super welcoming. That also involved a lot of communication (and clique busting, star*mora).  

 

At DC's middle school, volunteerism seems slightly more mainstream and less personal. I've pitched in at a few events and attend as many meetings as I can. I'm not sure what else I'll do. 


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#21 of 24 Old 11-23-2013, 12:29 AM
 
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I also do a lot, and am cutting back this year. I would rather help out in the classroom but in the past I have initiated a fundraiser that raised 15k for our school. I am just burnt out after last year and not really wanting to help with anything. It is always the same hardworking folks who run everything and they are all wonderful but I just get tired of asking people to do stuff.
. I would love to know more about this fundraiser...
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#22 of 24 Old 11-23-2013, 04:35 AM
 
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. I would love to know more about this fundraiser...

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#23 of 24 Old 11-27-2013, 09:00 AM
 
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And what is your work/SAH situation? Just curious -- I know everyone's interest, availability, school policies, and lots of other factors vary greatly.

I've become more involved in my kids' school over the past couple of years, as I don't have a baby anymore and have more time. I WAH, so I have to be careful to leave time for that and not take on too much at school. OTOH, I know people with very demanding jobs (physician, attorney, etc.) and more kids than I have (one woman has 6 kids, two still in diapers) who manage to still be highly involved in the PTA, clubs, fundraisers, etc. So the drive/desire definitely varies too -- I enjoy being involved, but I also enjoy family down time (and solo down time!) and like to create a balance instead of saying "yes" to everything.

Anyway, my current involvement is that I'm room parent for DS's 4th grade classroom, chairing one PTA event, helping coach running club, and helping in DD's kindergarten classroom once a week. That's manageable for me, and makes each kid feel special while allowing time during school hours to get some work done.

So how about you? And what have you learned from past years in terms of managing your school volunteer time?

You can't compare yourself to others.  She may have 6 kids and a nanny  who is prepping meals, a house cleaner, a spouse who is home frequently, etc.

I don't work and yet I still struggle with getting it all done.  I'm in a classroom once per week for 3.5 hours, I do lunch and recess 3X/month, volunteer photocopy 3X/week and don't do any fundraising.  I try to do all field trips but don't often volunteer for special events which can get very labor intensive and I'm bad at saying no when I see it needs to be done!

 

I'm not in the middle school AT ALL.   Only the elementary schools.


Me.  With 1 spouse, 4 kids, 16 chickens, 74 matchbox cars, 968,562+ legos, a dishwasher waiting to be emptied, a washing machine waiting to be filled and a lost cup of tea in the house.

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#24 of 24 Old 12-01-2013, 09:39 PM
 
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I volunteer a lot, both as when I am working and now that I am laid off and home with the baby. My son goes to public charter that is under resourced so I spend a lot of time scheming with other parents. I am also a librarian professionally so I spent at least  90 hours this summer cataloging books. 

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