Home Education Magazine
July-August 2000 - Articles
Questions and Answers - Ask Carol
Daisies and Rainbows and Scouts, Oh My!
Who are you and what makes you an expert on homeschooling?
I'm a homeschooler of seven years, living and learning with my husband of 22 years, our 15-year-old son and our nine-year-old daughter. I've provided information and support to homeschoolers on the Internet for several years as a chat host and message board manager on AOL. In "real life," I sometimes invite individual homeschoolers to my home for an informal session I call Homeschooling 101, little more than encouragement and some information on the finer points of our state homeschool code. I am the editor of Home Education Magazine's Online News, a free monthly newsletter and our family owns an art and custom framing franchise in Cincinnati, Ohio. That's the short version of my life story.
As for what makes me an expert on homeschooling, I have to admit I recognize few experts, and I don't see one when I look in the mirror. Seems to me many experts must have received their accreditation from the Wizard of Oz, and most of us hold the answers we need inside us already. I don't think I've ever met an expert on homeschooling, although I've met many parents who were expert in nurturing and providing for the needs of their own families. My goal is not to tell you what you should do, because you are the only expert on your family. My goal is to provide you with options, ideas and resources to help you make choices and deal with issues in a way that best suits your family.
I hope you'll take the time to send in your questions. Homeschooling is becoming more common, but it's still difficult sometimes to find the answers to homeschooling questions or lay to rest worries in a public school-driven society. No question is too trivial or too stupid. If you are wondering about something, it's a sure bet there are other homeschoolers who share your doubts and concerns, or who would like to see more information on a certain issue.
This is your opportunity to provide input into HEM's content. Instead of reading only the wonderful and engaging articles and columns we run in each issue, you can ask for the information you'd like to see in the magazine as well. Although I can't promise to answer all the questions I receive, I will try to answer as many as I can, as thoroughly as I can.
And now, on to the next question.
I'm considering starting up a Homeschool Girl Scout troop, including girls of different ages, all part of the same troop. I've asked the council (I am currently a Brownie leader for a school-based troop) and they say that it's not a problem to have Daisies, Brownies and Juniors all in the same troop. So I'm looking into that. Would you know of anyone already doing such a thing?
I'm glad you asked this question because I'm a big fan of the Girl Scout (GSUSA) program. The handbooks and badge activities provide a well-rounded curriculum that is useful even to homeschoolers who aren't involved in scouting. The Girl Scout program stresses the importance of pluralism, while encouraging girls to sample and experience many activities and adventures, fostering independence and self-confidence. Sounds like homeschooling to me. Fortunately, GSUSA encourages leaders and girls to find a way of running the troop that works for them, while providing good support, materials and encouragement.
What you're describing is called a rainbow troop, a troop that includes girls of more than one age-level of scouting. While rainbow troops are uncommon, they are a good way for older and younger scouts to benefit from working with each other on common goals, and provide built-in mentoring possibilities between girls of differing levels. There are several ways to organize a rainbow troop. Experiment with these ideas and others of your own until you find a way that works for you.
As always, the commitment of other parents will help determine whether your troop is successful or whether it becomes a leader burnout event. Involve the parents (usually moms) as much as possible from the beginning. As you're setting up the troop, let them know you'll need a trained camper, a cookie person and someone trained in first aid, and that they'll be expected to help the girls with badge work, service projects and other activities as well. Ideally, you should have at least one co-leader; you'll want more if your troop numbers over a dozen girls. With homeschool moms you shouldn't have a problem with lack of involvement, but don't let them use you for babysitting. If you do, you will instantly suffer your first symptom of rainbow troop burnout.
Your rainbow troop can serve a wide age range. I'll talk here about a Daisy through Junior troop, but you can apply any of this to troops with older girls as well, adjusting for maturity and experience. The wider your age range, the more you'll have to plan for activities that suit all the ages you serve.
One advantage of the homeschool rainbow troop is that you don't have to follow a school-day schedule. If your troop wants to meet in the morning on Tuesdays, that's when you meet. I know of one troop that held one daylong meeting every month. The leaders offered lots of options and made sure the girls had periods of both active and less-active time, with breaks for lunch and snacks. They scheduled their field trips and other outside activities for other times during the month, and the girls worked independently on projects as well.
You may want to plan your meetings for the attention spans of the different age groups. Juniors can probably sit through longer business meetings than Brownies and Daisies. Let them take more responsibility for planning and for leadership with the younger girls by beginning to lead the meetings, helping with or writing for the newsletter and planning activities for the troop. Don't make them take all the responsibility for clean-up or use them as babysitters for the younger ones. They need to have as much fun as the younger girls do.
If you have Daisies in your troop, there will be some activities they can't do, like sell cookies or fund-raise in other ways. It will be nice if you have a mom/co-leader who can help the Daisies do something special or different during the parts of the meeting that don't pertain to them. You may want to plan for the Daisies to come for the opening and a song or two, do a short project, then go to another space to play together while the other girls continue working on projects and finish their business meeting. Most activities, field trips and service projects can include Daisies, though, especially if their moms can be involved with them.
While you won't want to make earning badges the whole reason for your program, you can get a lot of ideas from the badge or try-it requirements. Many of the Junior badges and Brownie try-its complement each other, and some of the Junior badges even require working with younger girls. When you work on badges, you may want to set up different stations with materials to complete requirements from the different levels of badges. The scouts may want to work in patrols appropriate for their age or maturity, or they may work well together and be able to accomplish a lot without breaking into groups.
For instance, if your Brownies are working on their Science in Action try-it and the Juniors are doing their Science in Everyday Life badge, you can begin with color theory, maybe even asking the Juniors to lead the Brownies in their discovery activities. The Juniors can help the Brownies and Daisies put primary-colored balloons over flashlights and break sunlight into rainbows (Brownie try-it), then all of them can mix paints and create paintings with a variety of colors (Junior badge). There are endless choices for badge requirements, so none of your girls should have to repeat activities and become bored. And neither should you!
You will find that the girls are more than willing to take the materials and ideas you present to them and go directions you haven't planned. Pam S., a rainbow troop leader from California, says, "Our experience was that the girls of all ages ended up liking ALL the stations. When you put materials out for a station for Brownies, say they are making mobius strips, for example, the older girls ALWAYS enjoy using those same materials Æ sometimes to do the same activity, often to expand on it (they might think of drawing things on the mobius strips, for example). Same thing with the stations you might think are for Junior badge activities Æ the Brownies often figure out a way to utilize the same materials and have a great (and very creative) time with them. The trick is that the leaders should encourage creative use of materials and be very, very flexible."
Encourage your girls to work on badges independently, too. Some leaders don't allow it, but if you have girls in your troop who want to explore and learn on their own or with their families, why would you prevent them from doing so? Ask a girl's mom to sign off on outside requirements and ask the girl to show you or explain to what she did to complete the requirement. Then celebrate her independence and initiative.
As I said above, don't rely entirely on badge work for ideas. Service to the community is an important component of a well-rounded program. Field trips are fun and educational, and help prevent boredom. Take advantage of what your service unit and council have to offer. You can almost fill your schedule with service projects, classes, plays, camps and trips that most GSUSA councils offer. They can also provide you with a list of museums, companies and other groups who provide programs for earning badges and patches. Your service unit may provide day camps, service projects, and other camping opportunities as well. It's to your advantage to stay involved in the larger support structure. You and your girls will benefit from the ideas and nurturing you get there, and the other leaders will be enriched by the unique perspective homeschoolers have to offer.
As your girls get older, they may prefer to work on their own, following their own interests and setting their own goals. Or you may find you don't have enough support among the parents to run regular meetings and activities. An option you might consider is a troop of independent Girl Scouts who meet less frequently and work more on their own than with the troop. Your girls can register as independent Girl Scouts, as can any girl, and take advantage of council, service unit and troop activities without making a specific time and energy commitment to a troop. Registering as an independent Girl Scout is also an option for any girl who wants to take advantage of GSUSA programming, but who can't or doesn't want to find a troop situation.
Girl Scouts is a wonderful group for girls, but don't forget co-ed youth organizations like 4-H and Camp Fire Boys and Girls. Both provide good educational programming and support for kids in multi-age groups, as well as volunteer opportunities for adults and older youth. To find a chapter near you, look in your local yellow pages under "youth organizations" or use the following contact information:
Girl Scouts of the USA
420 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10018-2798
Camp Fire Boys and Girls
4601 Madison Avenue
Kansas City, MO 64112-1278
You can get more information about 4-H by calling your local cooperative extension office, which should be listed in your phone book under county government. The county extension 4-H agent can give you information on either starting a new 4-H group or joining an existing group. Or you may go to their web site at http://www.fourhcouncil.edu.
© 2000, Carol Narigon
July-August 2000 Issue
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