November - December 2002
Learning and Scouting at Home
By Cathleen Ann Steg
Families in Charlotte, N.C., use a pack, troop, and crew to provide curriculum enrichment for their home-educated children.
On the shore of Lake Tillery at Morrow Mountain State Park in central North Carolina, three Venturers are explaining the intricacies of orienteering to a group of Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, siblings, and parents.
The map-and-compass lesson is part of a June family camp-out that also includes canoeing, swimming, hiking, and lots of camaraderie. It's a four-day celebration of Pack, Troop, and Crew 447's first year as registered units in the Etowah District of Charlotte-based Mecklenburg County Council.
The three units are special because their youth members are all educated at home, or homeschooled. Looking at the events of the previous year, Venturing crew Advisor Chuck Kish saw many reasons to celebrate this successful blend of homeschooling with Scouting's three age-appropriate programs.
"It's a perfect fit," explained Kish. "There's so much Scouting can offer homeschoolers, whether they're in a mixed unit or an all-homeschooler unit."
The breadth and depth of all Scouting programs provide curriculum enrichment for many home-educated students, added Joy Kish, who is Chuck's wife and crew committee chairman. In fact, for many families, "Scouting is the curriculum," she noted. "We turn our Scout program into unit studies; I just incorporate everything we do, expanding on all areas."
For example, Nathan, their 13-year-old son (and troop senior patrol leader) used the Geology merit badge as a springboard for in-depth work in the earth sciences; daughter (and crew vice president for administration) Kristyn worked on her public speaking and organizational skillstypical parts of a high school English lesson planthrough her position in the crew.
Scouting also adds valuable leadership training to a homeschooler's educational experience. Membership in a pack, troop, or crew provides the kind of leadership opportunities available to students in public and private schools through student council, marching band, and other school organizations. Scouting leadership positions provide occasions to learn and demonstrate skills that are a vital part of any student's growth.
"I've been to professional management and leadership courses that teach exactly the same thing we're teaching these kids in their [BSA] junior leader training," said Scoutmaster Tim Minerd, watching Troop 447 junior leaders organize the evening flag ceremony around a homemade pole. "It's exciting to think how much further along they will be than I was at their age."
Older Scouts and Venturers particularly enjoy this benefit, said David Smith, president of Crew 447. A graduate of homeschooling and now a college student, David explained that "leadership development was something we all wanted," when the Venturing crew first hammered out its bylaws.
Working with the younger Scouts, and just knowing that "we are being watched," has been "a great experience," David added. "Being with these younger students at this camp-out has reminded us that you have to set a good example."
Social life, values reinforcement
The Scout program can offer advantages to a homeschooler's social life as well. "Almost all my social life is with Scouting," observed 15-year-old Kristyn Kish.
She described some recent events and activities in which the boys and girls of Crew 447 participatedswimming at the local pool, whitewater rafting, camping, and taking skill-building programs at a councilwide Venturing jamboree.
As a bonus, the homeschooled Scouts of Troop 447 appreciate the way Scouting reinforces their values.
While member families of the pack, troop, and crew are Christian, homeschooled students of all faiths are welcome to join, said Chuck Kish. "We're Christ-centered and family-oriented," he added, noting that the Duty to God point of the Scout Law dovetails nicely with the beliefs of all member families. In fact, when the group was chartered in May 2001, they requested the number 447 for all three units, based on Philippians 4:4-7.
During their drizzly Friday morning Bible study around the campfire, the crew's associate Advisor Debbie Bateman encouraged the group to think about the meaning of the Bible verses that gave the group their identity.
The lines, which begin with the word "Rejoice," are "all about attitude," Bateman explained. "Your attitude affects everything else in Scouting. How does that tie in with the Scout Law?"
"A Scout is cheerful," shouted the Scouts around the fire.
Good for Scouting, too
Families are able to involve themselves more easily and more deeply in Scouting, thanks to the flexibility in the homeschoolers' calendar.
As an example, Chuck Kish pointed to all the tents filling the wooded campsite on Friday morning. "We've been here since Thursday," he observed. "Just thinkhomeschooled Scouts can camp pretty much whenever they feel like it."
And his family would accompany him in Septemberfor the third timeto the BSA's Philmont Training Center in New Mexico for a course on Scouting and homeschooling, he noted. "It's a great plus for homeschoolers to get to go when the crowds aren't there."
Though home-educated students may have as many activities as their traditionally schooled peers, they usually have more flexibility in their schedules. This makes it easier for all three units to camp together, allowing older Scouts to interact with the younger Cub Scouts. Unlike their counterparts from public schools, leaders for 447 didn't have to coordinate their Cub Scout den schedules with the busy high school sports and club regimens of Boy Scout and Venturing students.
"It's so much easier for the older Scouts to give back to the younger ones when they can all meet at the same time," says Pack 447 Cubmaster Tony Bateman. "It's a great teaching experience for them, plus the dens benefit, as do the den leaders."
Recruiting adult leaders
Homeschool units also can have an easier time recruiting adult leaders.
Parents in a homeschool Scout unit already teach their own children and help with a host of clubs, athletic activities, and field trips. So putting on the extra mantle of Scout leadership doesn't seem so daunting.
"We've had very little problem recruiting leadership," said Tony Bateman, noting that their current Webelos den leader has five uniformed assistants.
Debbie Bateman agreed, adding that "a lot of these homeschool families are used to learning about something by doing it, by diving into something new."
Finally, the emphasis on familyso important in homeschooling and Scoutinggets a real boost at events like 447's camp-out.
For evidence, just look at the brother-sister team of Nathan and Kristyn Kish, stir-frying chicken fajitas side by side at their camp stove; parents working with their son to set up a ham radio demonstration for Saturday morning; or whole families hiking together up the steep, craggy segment of the Venturing crew's orienteering trail, with younger siblings "doing their best" to imitate their Webelos Scout big brothers.
All help to illustrate the type of perfect partnership available between Scouting and America's homeschoolers.
In Scouting's October issue, contributing editor Cathy Steg described how the Scouting program supplements the curriculum at another educational venue, Virginia's Hargrave Military Academy.
November-December 2002 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2002 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.