Friday, July 10, 2009

Homeschooling and Scouting--Part 2

Previously, we covered what homeschooling is and how Scouting should be looking at this group.

As promised at the end of that post, now we need to look at why homeschoolers don't "just join" Scouting.

Already busy
  • Already committed to a large number of activities. Sports, clubs, teams, church youth organizations.
  • Volunteer service: pregnancy centers, Red Cross, local fire and rescue squads, BSA's own Explorer units.
  • Organizations and churches have figured out that homeschoolers are available during the day! Many homeschooling families can tell you stories about being asked constantly to "help out (or join us) since you are home all day anyway"...
  • Their church doesn't support Scouting. I've seen this in Protestant and Catholic churches alike. "Scouting isn't Catholic enough to be part of the parish." "Scouts don't focus enough on Jesus!"
  • Competition from "similar" organizations. Do you know how many there are out there? 4-H, American Heritage Girls, Royal Rangers, Knights of Columbus' Squires, Civil Air Patrol, and more.
Special Homeschooling Concerns

OK, a couple of blunt answers:

Kids in public and private schools don't often reflect the values homeschooling families want their kids exposed to. This is a major factor in why they homeschool. Bad language, sexual influences, drugs, bullying (30% of kids are exposed to this), social programs, drinking, absense of religious values, teen pregnancy and more. Not to say that homeschooled kids as a whole don't have these issues in their lives, but the incidence is significantly lower.

Better education. Study after study shows that regardless of a homeschool families educational background or economic level, their kids out-perform public and private school kids. It also takes less time to accomplish, and kids receive a greater depth in material. If the average school child is a "50" from 1-100, homeschooled students consistently score in the low 70s as a group.

Homeschooling culture

When we started homeschooling, it was widely viewed with suspicion. The laws were not widely understood, and social workers, the police and truant officers were a common threat by the schools. According to Home School Legal Defense at the time, the number one person likely to turn in a family for "not sending their kids to school" were the students grandparents. Education of the child services departments and law enforcement agencies across the nation have caused the number of these contacts to drop--but they still happen all over the country, despite being legal in all 50 states.

When the government and your own family may be against you, it makes you a little skittish about joining "them" in activities like Scouting. Your attitude will be everything. If they trust you and your program, you will see a lot of kids headed your way.

How can you reach these families?
  • Be honest in your assessment of your unit and program. Does the description of a typical homeschooled student fit in with your unit? We have primarily a homeschooled units, with a few public school students mixed in. But they are "birds of a feather", so it works. We don't recruit at the public school round-ups, but rely on word of mouth.
  • Be knowledgeable about the Lone Scout and Lone Cub Scout programs through the BSA. Even Scouting on your own is better than no Scouting. Help a potential Scout by being a Lone Scout Counselor.
  • Offer a socially safe environment. If Timmy Tiger comes home with the "new word" he learned at Scouts, you will have a problem.
  • No bullying or hazing. Stop it as soon as it starts.
  • Be a Scouting unit! If you are a play group or an after-school hangout, you aren't offering the active program they are looking for.
After re-reading some of this, homeschooling sounds a little "exclusionary". And it is. We have personally homeschooled for 18 years so far--and only 16 more to go! I've run across all stripes of homeschoolers, and my views are based on the thousands of homeschoolers I've observed over the years.

They tend to be great families and great Scouts. More of them need the chance.

Do you have homeschooled Scouts? Any luck with recruitment? Does your council have a contact person that "gets" homeschooling to help you? Share your comments below!


Melissa said...

We have several homeschooled scouts in our pack, including my son. Because I have good contacts with the local homeschool group, I put the information out there. We'll see if we get any hits this year. :)

boyandgirlscoutsdotcom said...

I helped get a pack started that was an association of homeschool kids. The families lived in a widespread area here in Los Angeles, but belonged to the same homeschooling group and that's what brought them together. My association helped them decide to bridge into our Boy Scout troop after the boys had earned their arrows of light. Not only lone scout, but starting a pack based on homeschooling assocations is a viable alternative. As my experience showed, being a cheerful facilitator of a Scouting solution opens the families up to considering your troop in the future.