As the mother of five boys, I have embraced the Boy Scouts of America programs with open arms as they have helped me in my homeschooling. From the very beginning in Cub Scouts to the very end - Eagle (and beyond), there is much to learn and use in your homeschool. I will share with you examples from the different programs.
Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not participate in the Tiger Scouts portion of the Cub Scout program, I can not write about it, but I have read through the book and it is a great book for parents to use if they desire. The Church has used the Boy Scouts of America as their boys' and Young Men's activities for many years and I think there is a reason they have stuck with them as long as they have. Scouts has a way of taking young boys and molding them, shaping them and turning them into responsible young men.
When you son turns eight he is encouraged to join Cub Scouts. As a parent, when they are this age you are very willing to let someone else have your child for an hour a week. If you are the leader, you are so thankful it is only an hour each week. These young boys are full of enthusiasm for life and have a strong desire to do "man" things and learn. The Bobcat is where all Cubs begin. It is very easy to earn but the things a Bobcat learns are very important. One of the most important things to read with your son is the beginning pull-out section of the book on protection. This is a perfect time to sit down with your son who is probably just fresh from the waters of baptism and talk about being safe and clean.
Once the Bobcat is earned the boy goes on to a Wolf, Bear and then a WEBELOS ("WE'll BE LOyal Scouts").
The Wolf and Bear achievements are worked on at home as much as in the den. Parents are strongly encouraged to take an active part in their cub's learning and growing as they spend their first two years in Cub Scouts. WEBELOS is where the reigns are beginning to be turned over to the leaders. (Hopefully you have good leaders and if not, volunteer; your son is worth it!) Once they have reached the rank of WEBELOS and turn 11 they are now in Boy Scouts.
This presents a problem because in the Church we do not let our young boys join in Young Men's activities until their 12th birthday. When I was a young girl these "in limbo" boys did what was called "Blazer Scouts." Now we call it "11 year old scouts." They have their own separate leader (or they should) who should have the goal of getting them to the rank of First Class by their 12th birthday.
No ward is perfect and no leader is perfect. All of these leaders will need your help in getting these young boys and young men through the ranks. The best way you can help your leaders is by attending meetings, getting involved and listening. Get involved and help your son move through the ranks. It will bring the family closer together just as your teen is trying to pull away and it is so much fun.
Some of the things we have learned with our cub scouts:
- The pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem
- How to tie knots
- How to start a fire and how to put it out
- How to be safe while riding bikes
- How to take care of a garden
- How to use tools and care for them
- About the Native Americans
- Secret codes
- Sports we didn't even know how to play (anyone up for a game of marbles?)
- How to help the fireman
- Cleaning up our planet and recycling
- How to be safe from "bad guys"
- Orienteering (that is using a compass and map for those who didn't know that one)
- How to swim
- About music, plays and art
- How to read a bus chart or train schedule
- How to be a great family member
- How to serve in your community
- How to fix things in your home
- How to make your home safe (For the past six years we have had at least one family home evening on what to do when the smoke alarms go off. We have also had annual perimeter checked to make sure our house is safe. The smile on a young son's face when he can report to dad that the house is safe is priceless.)
And the list goes on and on; everything a young boy ages 8-11 would want to do.
The fun doesn't end when they move into Boy Scouts; in fact, it just continues. For the first while the young men are working towards advancements and doing what they call "Scout Skills" but that shouldn't stop you, as parents, from getting a merit badge book from the library or scout shop and using it as a curriculum. Our family has done the following as units while a son received a merit badge for his work.
- Environmental Science
- Aviation (we even flew in a plane)
- Indian Lore
- Snow Sports
- Dog Care
- Citizenship in the Word, Nation and Community
There are over 120 merit badges that a Boy Scout can earn all the way from Textiles to Painting, Emergency Preparedness to Horsemanship, Insect Study to Music, Oceanography to Public Speaking and the list goes on. You need to know that there are required merit badges if your son wants to earn the rank of Eagle. Please consult with your Young Men's leaders and Scout Master so you know how the program is run in your ward, stake and scout district. I am not so much interested in getting the badges and ranks as I am the education and learning that came from getting there.
You don't have to have sons to take advantage of the great resource the Boy Scouts of America have in their little merit badge books. Girls and families can learn a lot just from reading the books (they are never long, but they are thorough) and doing a few of the requirements. In fact one of my favorite websiteswww.meritbadge.com has ready made worksheets that you can print out and use in your homeschool as you learn about the subject.
Appling to School
Let me take you through our journey while my oldest was earning his Weather Merit Badge. At this time, he was the only son old enough to earn this merit badge, but we all learned along with him. An added bonus was that two years later when son #2 came along, he just had to read the merit badge book, look at his notebook from that unit and he called the councilor and got the badge. It took him an afternoon to refresh his memory and an hour at the same house passing it off.
There are 9 requirements for the weather merit badge and none were too hard. For example:
#3 Draw cross sections of a cold front and a warm front showing the location and movements of the cold and warm air, the frontal slope, the location and types of clouds associated with the front, and the locations of rain. Tell the differences between a cold front and a warm front.
# 7 Define acid rain. Identify which human activities pollute the atmosphere as well as the effects such pollution can have on people.
As I read through these requirements I outlined the things that my son would have to learn in order to pass off the merit badge with his merit badge counselor. (Make sure if you are doing this for the award that you follow protocol for your troop.) After I had the list of things he would have to learn, I set about gathering books. Many were listed in the back of the merit badge book I borrowed from our local library. I also found many websites listed in the merit badge book or at www.meritbadge.com. Once I had my outline, it was quite simple to teach the whole family about weather and how it affects our lives. In the process of learning I made sure we did all the activities, performed all the experiments and wrote all the reports necessary for my oldest to pass off the requirements.
On the appointed day I took my sons (scouts have to have a buddy and we went during public school hours) to Brother Needham's house to see what we, I mean he, had left to learn. I picked him up an hour later and as I was ushering them out the door, Brother Needham remarked at how well prepared both boys were and how they really understood weather unlike many of the other young scouts who cross his threshold. Brother Needham is a commercial airline pilot and so he needs to know a lot about weather, but even better than that, Brother Needham was a homeschooilng dad whose children had left the nest so he understood and appreciated what we were doing.
Three months later we were back on Brother Needham's doorstep, this time to pass off the Aviation Merit Badge. My son got to fly Brother Needham's plane! Now how fun is that?! Homeschooling and the Boy Scouts of America: one great lesson, I mean adventure, after another.
We also have visited Yellowstone National Park while a young boy was working on his camping merit badge and his cooking merit badge. We have gone to our state capital, visited national monuments, built park benches, held a bike rodeo, delivered wood block kits to Salt Lake City, gone on bike rides, taken a ton of pictures, put on a play, hiked, swam, raised a dog, flew a plane, learned about Native Americans and had a great time doing it.
I've had the privilege of having three of my five sons pin the Eagle Scout mother's pin on me. Yes, it was a lot of hard work for my kids, as well as me and my husband, but we sure did learn a lot as a family while helping that young man earn his Eagle. I'm looking forward to the last two earning theirs as well. We still have many adventures to go on.
For more scouting information, visit:
You can leave your thoughts, comments or suggestions here on my feedback page. Thanks!