HOMESCHOOLING AND GIRL SCOUTING
Bio: Four years in Girl Scouts as a girl, three years in GS as an adult,
with the last two as a leader. I am currently a leader in a multi level
troop (Brownies and Juniors) with three other leaders. We unschooling
our two daughters, ages 4 and 8.
Augmentation of a Homeschooling Program through Girl Scouts
Reading: Girls must read in order to complete badges, but the reading
can go so much further. My girls have had to read to memorize various
items, including songs, the promise and law, and their parts in
different plays. We also read the story of Girl Scouts, and Juliet Low,
the Founder. The girls are also required to read the rules for product
sales, and of course, the incentives they can earn by selling the
products. Girls must decide how to spend the money earned by the product
sales, and in doing so often do research. The older the GS the more
reading is necessary. We learn to read best by reading those things that
are important to us, and those things for which we can see practical
value. Girls usually enjoy scouts and therefore the reading is valuable
to them. In some cases, the reading might be a bit above their comfort
level, but because they are motivated to read, reading happens, and
Writing: There are constant opportunities for writing. The girls in my
troop have written the following: thank you notes, posters for product
sales, invitations to various ceremonies, letters for many occasions
(including one to the President), and more. As the girls get older, GS
encourages the girls to write notes to people who have purchased
cookies. Again, as with reading, the writing within GS is usually
meaningful, practical and useful.
Math: The math opportunities are endless. Product sales provide lots of
opportunities for math both in handling money and figuring out how many
more boxes of cookies you need to sell in order to reach your personal
goal. Dues are also vital and the youngest of scouts can be responsible
for paying their own dues. As the girls get older, they take an active
role in troop finances. They decide how to spend the money, and budget
the various trips, activities, and service projects as a troop. At the
Senior level, they actually take over the troop checking account, along
with their adult advisor. There are math badges at all levels, as well.
Science: There are many science badges, at all levels. The founder of
girl scouts and the current folks who write GS badges must realize how
important science (and math) is (are) to girls. Girl Scouts also
provides a wonderful setting (all girls, nothing but girls) for the
learning of science (and math). Ecology and the natural environment is
stressed, as are nutrition, health, hygiene, smoking and drug education,
and more. The health sciences are covered as well.
History/Social Studies: Social Studies is very much in evident in the
girl scout program. Girls learn about the history of girl scouts, and
women. There are badges which address this subject as well.
Physical Education: There are badges at all levels geared
toward physical activities. Girls learn all about basic sports, but the
GS program goes further, encouraging a great deal of physical
activities, including horseback riding, boating, camping, skiing,
swimming, hiking, backpacking, no facilities camping (ie, out door
toilets), etc. The girls are taught the skills they need in order to
take on very active roles in the camping experience, doing the majority
of the cooking, cleaning, setting up and tearing down of camp
themselves. Camping is vital to the GS program, although many leaders
wait until the Junior level to camp. Each girl is encouraged to learn
self defense including how to avoid dangerous situation and how to
Music: No GS program is complete without music. Campfire songs and fun
songs, songs to sing on car trips to various outings, and songs to sing
when meetings are opening and meetings are closing, songs from different
cultures, and songs from the past. GS meetings are not complete without
the girls singing at least a few songs!
Arts and Crafts: This is my favorite. As a GS leader, I can plan
wonderful projects for the girls to do that I might not do in my own
home. We have painted, drawn with markers, crayons, pencils, and more.
We've woven, sewn, tie dyed, painted t-shirt, made mobiles and
collages, gift baskets and ghosts out of tissue and lollipops. My girls
have made cards for all occasions, sock puppets, and made presents for
service projects (the nursing home and the homeless).
Service Projects: Service Projects are a vital part of the GS program.
Service projects help girls to learn how they, as a single person or a
group of girls, can have an effect upon this world. My girls have done
the following projects: feeding the homeless; giving cookies from our
troop to the homeless; performed at nursing homes and retirement
communities; made tray decorations for Meals on Wheels; collected food
for a food bank; collected food, baby items, etc. for a pregnant mom in
need; collected toys and food and other items for a family in need
(adopted that family for Christmas); given gifts to various community
members at appropriate times (new baby, marriage, etc.); picked up trash
in a park, etc. Service projects can be endless, and should be something
that is stressed in the GS troop. The older the girls, the more
intricate the projects can be. Older girls can also be more involved in
the planning process and implementation.
Responsibility: GS teaches girls to be responsible, because as the girls
grow older, they take on ever-increasingly difficult tasks in the
management of the troop, with the adults being trained to step back and
Spiritual Training: Girl Scouts are not required to believe in God or a
higher power, as personal beliefs are not only respected but diversity
is valued in the program. Girls can omit any part of the GS promise or
law, as fits their personal belief system. The diverse environment helps
girls to see that there are many types of folks in this world, and that
learning to get along with lots of different people is valuable. Girls promise to be a sister to every scout,
regardless of race, religion, or any other category.
Patriotism: The GS allows a girl, if it does not interfere with her
personal belief system, to learn to be a good citizen for her country.
Girl Scouts is in almost all countries in the world, and the GS
organization wants each girl to support her own country, and be a good
citizen of that country. Flag ceremonies, saying of the pledge and
other forms of patriotism are encouraged but at not time is any girl
forced to participate in anything that makes her uncomfortable or goes
against her beliefs. This is good for ALL girls, allowing them to see
that people can do things a bit differently and still be Girl Scouts.
"The 'S' word" Social Skills: Girl Scouts is a great place for girls to be
with girls, to make friends, especially with friends who otherwise they
might not get to meet. We do not allow, in our troop, cliques or
groups. All the girls work with all the girls. The younger are helped by
the older, good friends can sometimes work with each other and at other
times, the girls know they need to learn to get along with and work with
people who are not their best friends. Our troop is a very supportive
one, with an environment where the girls are encouraging and loving to
each other. The social skills learned in a good GS troop are positive
FUN! This is probably the most important part of the GS program. This is
a time for girls to come together and be with friends, to sing songs, to
paint or draw, to complete badges and help our neighbors. As seriously as
I take the GS program, as part of our lives and part of our educational
plan for our daughters, I never forget that fun is so important. We
laugh and hug and really love to be with each other, and that is what GS
is all about!
[Prepared for a homeschooling conference held June 14, 2003.]
More information on unschooling, or more specialty topics for homeschoolers.