Reader Question: Do Busy Dads Have To Find Time To Volunteer At Private Elementary School?


Question: At one of our speaking events, a dad in the audience asked a good question: How can busy dads who work full-time still volunteer at their kids school?

Answer: This is a great question! There are so many volunteer opportunities at private elementary schools (unlike smaller preschools) that most dads who aren’t at-home dads can usually find volunteer tasks to fit their schedule. At The Willows School, dads chaperone field trips, talk to kids about their careers/jobs, help set-up/break down events, fundraise, and help with computer technology projects and serve on committees, among other things. Also, look for volunteer tasks that can be done from home like graphic design, fundraising, and work that doesn’t require taking a day off work.


The 1950s dad is a thing of the past (mostly). These days, dads tend to be involved in all aspects of their kids’ lives, including school. In addition to this being important for their family, it is also VERY important to private schools to have dads involved. In most households, dads are involved in the financial decisions for the family. Especially when it comes to writing checks for tuition, annual giving and other school fundraisers. If dads are disconnected from the school, are rarely at the school and have little or no idea of the wonderful things the school is doing, they will be less inclined to contribute generously to the school. The schools know this and therefore actively recruit dads for volunteer roles.

For the dads out there, during your first year at a school, pick a volunteer job that you will be able to complete. There’s nothing worse than a volunteer (mom or dad) who signs up to do something and cancels at the last minute. This is avoidable if you plan ahead and don’t take on too much.



Hint:  During the admissions process, some families try to signal they/their husbands have “important” or high-paying jobs by telling the admissions directors these guys will be able to help the school “behind the scenes” or by “serving on committees”. It’s code for “we’re rich”.

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Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of two kids who attended The Willows School in Culver City and Viewpoint School in Calabasas. My daughter is a graduate of Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism ('23) and my son is a sophomore at UPenn/Wharton ('26). I live in Coldwater Canyon with my husband, Barry, and our dogs. Contact me at

7 thoughts to “Reader Question: Do Busy Dads Have To Find Time To Volunteer At Private Elementary School?”

  1. What about busy moms too? The fact this article was headlined as such makes me wonder… will we be one of the few families in a private school environment with both parents have to work hard to make ends meet and afford private school? Sometimes mom have the busier job, and the tables are reversed. It would be nice to see that acknowledged as well, or talk about volunteer possibilities for full time working parents, regardless of their gender. Thanks!

  2. Hi Anon, thanks for the question! This question came about as a result of a dad at one of our events asking the question and then talking to me privately after the event. We've written several pieces on this blog about volunteering because it's such a big part of life at private elementary schools. Depending on the school your kid attends, you'll find lots of families where both parents work full-time and where some of these families (not all) find time to volunteer. We plan to write more about volunteerism as the year progresses.

  3. Anon, I totally agree. The message underlying this question is that somehow working fathers are more important or less disposable than their female counterparts. You're not alone as a working mom – there's no way we could afford private school (or our mortgage, for that matter), but I intendnt to make time and enjoy it while I'm at it! The "Dad" question is loaded and sexist and makes me wonder how many people think we are stuck in the '50s, despite the blogger's reminder. As Rosie said, we can do it!

  4. Not only is the notion of the Dad Waiver offensive, but so is the Rich Parent Waiver. So if you have enough money, just give the secret handshake and the school will wink and exempt you from having to do your share, participate in the school community, and – god forbid – be a part of your kid's life by volunteering. I guess it's a reality that there is a tiered class system at work in our private schools. Now, that's a great message to send to our kids.

  5. I've noticed that the proportion of Dads volunteering to chaperone field trips increases the younger and cuter the teachers. Coincidence?

  6. You definitely can! And what's the big deal if you take off a day of work every once in a while? It's to be with your kid.

  7. Everyone's schedule is different, and it really depends on the individual and what is going on his life. But I think every dad can take some time, some more than others, to volunteer and be a good role model for their children.

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