Every holiday season, one school in Ireland does something unique to help spread joy and help kids learn the value of giving gifts with meaning They ditch homework and assign acts of kindness, instead! Read on to see learn more, and check out some kindness assignments for your own kids!
Irish School Ditches Homework and Assigns Acts of Kindness Instead
While many of us would love to see schools ban homework (or at least significantly reduce it) year-round, I think we can all agree that December is the worst month to pile it on. After all, kids are supposed to be spending more time with family, not working on times tables! Not to mention, all the excitement of the season makes it incredibly hard for kids to concentrate on something as mundane as spelling words or history worksheets.
Rather than fighting a losing battle and trying to get kids to stay focused on boring tasks, the Gaelscoil Mhichil Ui Choileain in Clonakilty, Ireland is instead directing it into something positive. Their brilliant idea? Ditch traditional homework entirely for the month of December. Instead, kids have one very special assignment: Do random acts of kindness.
While the details in this story are from their 2019 school year, if the pattern holds, this will be their 4th year following the tradition. I know that things- especially school- look a lot different this year, but we need a little more kindness in our world now more than ever before. So, see how this Irish school does it, then read on for some easy ways to incorporate their lessons into your kids’ festivities this year…and every year!
How the Gaelscoil Mhichil Ui Choileain spreads kindness every year
In their 2019 Facebook post, the school says: “For the third year running, pupils at Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Uí Choileáin, Clonakilty will not have any formal homework for the month of December!
Instead, they are asked to carry out acts of kindness and giving to others in their families and community – and to record these in a special “Dialann Cineáltais” (Kindness Diary) which each pupil will fill in daily which will then be signed by their parents.”
Administrators go on to explain that the project was inspired by the success of their 2018 “gratitude” project. Kids kept a diary detailing the small things that made them feel grateful. The following year, instead of focusing on their own joy, they made it a mission is to spread that same good feeling to others.
Like a homework schedule, the kids have specific assignments that they must do on different days of the week. After they complete each assignment, they put it in their diary (either by writing or drawing pictures). Parents then sign off on them, so it really helps get everyone in the family involved.. Here’s what their schedule looks like:
- Monday – Brighten the day of an elderly person. Kids can call them, send a letter, or even stop by for a visit.
- Tuesday- Do chores (outside of their regular ones, of course) to help make their parents’ lives easier.
- Wednesday- Random acts of kindness day, make someone’s life better with a kind word or simple act.
- Thursday- Self-kindness acts. Kids do something that makes them feel good about themselves.
- Friday- While this wasn’t listed on their schedule, they have another initiative that takes place on Fridays. Keep reading to learn more.
Other Kindness Initiatives at the Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Uí Choileáin School
The Kindness Diary made news because it completely replaced homework. However, it isn’t the only way the school spreads joy each year. They also have a special “Buicéad Cineáltais” (kindness bucket) for kids to write down nice things about each other. Every Friday throughout the season, teachers share random selections from the bucket with classmates. The goal? To show kids that even just a kind word can change someone’s day for the better.
From small acts to grand finales, the school has one more great initiative in play. It’s called “Gníomh Cineáltais Ranga,” or Class Kindness Act. Throughout the entire month, each class spends some time thinking about unique ways that they can make the holidays better for their whole community together. Kids lead the entire project. Staff may help guide their ideas and flesh them out, but children come up with the general plan and put it into action.
The school hopes that by spending an entire month learning about kindness, kids will discover that helping others really makes us feel good about ourselves, too. Their hope is that children will realize that making someone’s life better and brighter is an even better gift than an expensive new toy.
“We hope that this new Kindness Initiative will make the preparation for Christmas all the more meaningful and special.” I think we can all agree that it certainly does!
5 Kindness Projects to Assign to Your Own Kids This Year
We can all take a page from the Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Uí Choileáin playbook and spread more joy this year! I think we can all agree that we’ve never needed it more. Of course, we also have to be responsible and keep our kids safe. So, with that in mind, here are some ideas for “kindness projects” that respect social distancing that you can assign to your own kids.
1. Make fun videos for nursing home residents
Nursing homes are asking people to write letters to residents who are really feeling the strain of social distancing. Many can’t receive visitors right now for safety reason. That’s hard enough at any time of the year, but it’s especially challenging during the holidays.
While letters are wonderful, take it a step farther and ask your kids to make fun videos for the residents! They can sing songs, tell stories, or even just let the seniors know that we’re all thinking of them. Not comfortable putting your kids on video for strangers? Make sock puppets to represent them on camera!
2. Give a gift of kind words
If you’re looking for an inexpensive homemade gift idea that kids of all ages can make, word art is a fantastic option! Let’s say you’re making a gift for grandma. Ask your kids to write (or tell you, if they’re very young) all of the things that come to mind when they think of her. Then, head over to this free word art generator and plug the words in. Let your kids choose the color, shape, fonts and more. Print it out, frame it, and send it to grandma for Christmas!
If your kids are crafty and you have the supplies on hand, you can make word art without a generator, too. Draw a shape on a piece of paper, then have your kids fill it in with their kind words. Either way, whenever grandma needs a little boost, she can look at her beautiful word art gift and remember just how much her grandchildren love her. Here’s an example, in case you’re not sure what word art is:
3. Paint kindness rocks to leave around your neighborhood
Want to brighten up a random stranger’s day from a safe distance? Grab some rocks from your backyard (or during your next family hike) and let your kids paint them. If they’re old enough to write, they can paint beautiful words of encouragement. Even if they’re too little for that, though, they can paint pretty pictures or even just create abstract art rocks.
During your next family walk, set your rocks free along the path for others to discover. You could even make a fun community project of it! Ask all of the kids in the neighborhood to create their own painted rock, then turn it into a scavenger hunt to see who can find them all. Just leave them where you find them so that others can enjoy them, too.
4. Fill a jar with gratitude
Did you know that studies show expressing gratitude makes us healthier overall? With everything that happened this year, it’s easy to forget that the world has far more light than darkness in it. A gratitude jar is an ongoing reminder that we truly do have so much to be thankful for. It’s a super easy craft, too.
Just grab a large jar- even an empty coffee can works- and let your kids decorate it. Then, every morning at breakfast (so you start your day on a positive note), ask everyone to write down something that they’re grateful for. Add each one to your jar. Then, every Sunday night (or any night, really) sit down together and take turns reading each one. As the weeks go on, your jar will fill up more and more.
5. Sponsor a family in need
This is an old one, I know, but if ever there was a year to reach out and help a family in need, it’s this one. So many people lost everything and are struggling just to put food on the table. Christmas gifts are a luxury they can’t afford. If you have extra, then choose a family and ask your kids to come up with some gifts that you can give them together. You’ll not only brighten a child’s life, but also take a lot of pressure off moms and dads who are feeling overwhelmed and depressed about their financial situation this holiday season.
Remember, kind people are the smartest of all according to experts. In other words, teaching them empathy at a young age helps them as much as it helps others. If you’re looking for more tips to get kids into the giving spirit, I also recommend my post on 7 amazing books that will teach your kids kindness.