The following is a post from contributing writer Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home.
Scouting has always been an integral part of our family life: Cub Scouts and then Boy Scouts for our boys (our oldest is an Eagle Scout), and American Heritage Girls for our daughter. We deliberately chose to put scouting at the top of our family’s priority list even before we began our journey in home education, but we have been amazed and delighted at how the programs complement homeschooling.
Readers are no doubt familiar with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010 (BSA includes both Cub Scouts for 1st-5th grade and Boy Scouts for 6th grade and up), and likely less familiar with American Heritage Girls (AHG), which began in 1995. A couple of years ago, the two groups entered into an agreement to “provide mutual support to each other” (from BSA–AHG brochure). The groups have similar mission statements, both seeking to instill strong moral principles in young people:
The mission of the BSA is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
The mission of American Heritage Girls is to “build women of integrity through service to God, family, community, and country.”
Both groups offer merit badges, service projects, leadership opportunities, and outdoor activities. Both encourage members to grow in their faith in God, personal integrity, family values, citizenship, and community service.
Years before BSA and AHG formed an agreement to support one another, we partnered up in our homeschooling co-op. All the groups are chartered through our support group. Our Cub Scout pack and AHG troop meet at the same time and location to make “one-stop shopping” for families. (Our Boy Scout troop meets at a different time.) Twice monthly, about 125 kids from ages 5-18 gather in the same building, Cub Scouts in one area and AHG in another.
Both organizations are a natural fit for homeschoolers. Meetings focus primarily on badge/requirement work and service projects. Service is an integral part of both programs, and homeschooling families find myriad ways to incorporate service into their lifestyle. (For service ideas, see Doing for Others: Making Community Service Part of Your Homeschool.)
In the past year the girls in our troop logged 2,500 service hours, including packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, reading poetry at nursing homes, providing childcare and more. Our groups also promote appreciation and respect for our nation’s veterans, participating in Knoxville’s Veterans Day parade and putting flags and/or flowers on veterans’ graves at Memorial Day and Veterans Day. From beautifying neighborhoods to providing boat safety course to collecting coats for the cold, these young people are learning to be servants.
Not only do the badges and service enrich any homeschooling program, but kids have a safe place to build relationships. Meetings provide an opportunity for our children to interact on a regular basis. And the relationship building isn’t just for the kids: AHG is family-focused. Each month we plan an optional family activity. Annual events include a Scouting family camping weekend, fall campfire-hayride, Mother-Daughter-Grandmother Christmas tea, Father/Daughter banquet, and lots of hikes.
Cub Scouts has a variety of requirements, achievements, and academic or sports-oriented belt loops and pins; AHG has 80 badges and many sports pins; and BSA over 100 merit badges. All can easily be incorporated into any home education program. The AHG Handbook and the BSA merit badge books are like personal guides to dozens of multi-level unit studies on a wide variety of disciplines, including history, art, science, personal living, outdoor skills, and much more.
Homeschooling and scouting is a natural blend: badges and/or Cub Scout requirements can enrich your curriculum and your homeschooling materials can enrich the scouting experience. While members are not required to do badges outside of troop time, most families look upon these “outside” badges as a great opportunity.
Both AHG and BSA’s Engineering badges, for example, can be a complete unit study for all ages. From demonstrating engineering principles with marshmallows and licorice at the AHG earliest levels, to researching both modern engineering specialties and historic engineering accomplishments at the upper levels, the handbooks can be used as a map for both introductory information and serious studies.
I was excited to discover Homeschool Legacy last year at our local resource fair. This company has designed once-a-week unit studies that embrace the “learn while they earn” philosophy by incorporating badge work (both AHG and BSA) with unit studies. I’ll be using their We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution study in the fall, helping my Boy Scout earn his Citizenship in the Nation merit badge and my American Heritage Girl earn her Government and Our Flag badges. (Visit Homeschool Legacy to view all the unit studies that incorporate badge earning.)
I encourage homeschooling parents to consider joining BSA or AHG or forming a troop if you don’t have one that meets your needs locally. Ask your church or your homeschooling support group to consider chartering BSA and AHG. If you can’t find troops near you or if you live abroad, both groups allow you to do it yourself, with AHG’s Trailblazer or BSA’s Lone Scout options.) You can visit American Heritage Girls and/or Boy Scouts of America for more information on how to find troops near you or how to start one yourself.
Sarah Small writes about homeschooling, writing, parenting, and life in general at SmallWorld at Home. She is in her 13th year of homeschooling, currently with a 10th grader and a 6th-ish grader. Her older son, who was homeschooled all the way through high school, is a junior at Belmont University. The Smalls live near the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.