By James Green
Sports like baseball or soccer are great. They teach kids teamwork and physical skills and can give them a sense of accomplishment. However, to help your child become truly well-rounded you should consider Scouting as well. Whether it’s Brownies, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, scouting provides many benefits that are different from sports.
Scouting builds self-confidence, provides a strong sense of achievement, encourages your child to learn new skills, helps them learn citizenship and community involvement, provides opportunities for them to learn from older boys and girls who are good role models and is above all –fun! However, with all of the demands of school and other activities many parents ask, do we have time for scouting? How much “at home” work is required? Our family is new to scouting this year. Our 7 year old joined the Cub Scouts this year and I volunteered to be the Den Leader for his Tiger den. As a new scouting family and a Den Leader I can help shed some light on what is required for scouting.
Our Cub Scout pack typically meets a few times per month. We have at least one den (in Cub Scouts, dens are organized by grades) meeting per month, which lasts approximately one hour, and one pack meeting per month. Cub Scout pack meetings, which include all dens, are often field trips or other group outings. The meeting structure varies somewhat between Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but the time commitment is about the same.
There are numerous other pack or troop events like camping trips, community service days, overnight trips to SciWorks or the zoo and trips to ride the Virginia Creeper trail or visit the Yorktown battleship. These are a lot of fun, but not required. They are usually scheduled for the weekend. Often these outings welcome the entire family to join in on the fun. While it is definitely important to have time in your schedule for your child to attend meetings and outings, none of the meetings or outings are required. If you miss a meeting you can usually make up anything you missed or fulfill a missed requirement on your own.
Because of the monthly meetings, one way to choose a pack or troop is to find one that meets at a convenient time for your schedule. The pack my son and I are in, Pack 910, meets at 4:00 on Sunday afternoons at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Other troops and packs meet at other times during the week or on the weekend.
Today’s scouting programs are designed to be flexible allowing requirements to be fulfilled at organized meetings or on your own. This allows you to miss a few meetings if necessary, yet still keep up. While many packs and troops meet at and are sponsored by churches you do not have to attend that church to join the pack or troop.
Home activities are not overly burdensome. Many rank requirements or awards involve parents, and, unlike homework, are a fun way to bond with your child. A typical scout spends a few hours a month outside of meetings completing “at home” requirements. Many of the rank requirements, awards or merit badges correspond with activities your son or daughter is probably already doing. There are awards for everything including: art, baseball, soccer, science, foreign languages, caring for children, the environment, archery and even computers and video games. At home activities can include practicing a fire drill with your family or learning about personal financial management. One of the best things about scouting is that there is something for everyone and room for varying levels of commitment. Whether you want to work with your child to earn every merit badge available, or take a more relaxed approach to advancement, there’s room for both.
Joining Scouts is easy. You can join at any time although sign up is typically in the fall and corresponds with the start of the new school year. There are usually some inexpensive fees associated with joining and registering that help cover the costs of outings, handbooks and other expenses. These are different for each pack or troop.
For those facing financial challenges, troops or packs often can provide financial assistance to those who need it. Most packs and troops also hold fundraising campaigns to help offset the cost of activities. Everyone is familiar with the Girl Scouts’ fundraising efforts – selling cookies. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts sell popcorn. Some packs and troops are very dependent on these sales and others put less emphasis on fundraising campaigns.
Your child will probably get information about scouting from their school. For more information, visit the Old Hickory Council website for the Winston-Salem area or the Old North State Council website for the Greensboro area. This is a great place to learn about Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts. For Girl Scouts, the Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont Council is the best place to start. You can also visit the Pack 910 website, http://www.cubpack910.com/, to learn more about my pack. Feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll be happy to answer any additional questions if I can or at least try to steer you in the right direction.
As a new scouting family, we have really enjoyed being a part of Cub Scouts this year. Our son, Jackson, has made a lot of new friends and we have done more fun things in one year than I could have imagined. However, as a parent perhaps the most rewarding thing about scouting is watching your child grow and learn before your eyes.