Homeschooling and Girl Scouting

Joylyn Fowler
June, 2003

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 skills develop.

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 protect themselves.

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 become advisors.

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 and valuable.

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.]