Thursday, September 02, 2010

Secular Thursday: Patch Club

It's been a while since I've written a Secular Thursday post, I know! The main reason? I don't often write just about homeschooling. I'd like to do more of that, so here I am!

Let me tell you about something new we'll be participating in this year: Patch Club. This is a semi-brilliant idea from one of the moms I know through our homeschool co-op. In addition to coming up with this idea, she's putting it into action (love people like that!), and I think that if this takes off, it will become a homeschooling tradition for us.

Patch Club is an alternative to Boy and Girl Scouts. What we're going to do is meet once a month (at first--this may change depending on the activities), do a group activity together, and earn a patch. Larger or more involved activities may require work done at home outside of the official meetings (I sort of remember doing this in Brownies and Girl Scouts). At each meeting, we'll determine the patch we'll work toward next time.

The ages of the kids in Patch Club will be from about 5 (Morgan will probably be the youngest) to about 15, and includes both boys and girls. Depending on how many kids we get in the group, we may subdivide by ages a bit, maybe 5-9 and 10-15. The requirements for the patches will be generally the same for each child, but the younger kids will not be expected to delve as deeply or learn as many knots to tie or put up a tent all by themselves. The parents are all acting as co-leaders (with the mom, S, who came up with the idea in the role of Organizer/Idea-Generator), and will determine if their kids met the requirements for earning the patch.

S will order patches from Advantage Emblem, a company with a patch for every occasion it seems (alas, no "World Domination" patch--I checked). We've already agreed that we won't pursue the "fluff" patches, such as the ones for making s'mores. The activities we'll pursue include typical scouting things like camping, hiking, and cooking, and other enrichment skills/learning such as Georgia history, science stuff (like rocks and minerals), genealogy, and more. We might even put on a play or do a mock trial, and there was talk of doing some of the activities in The Dangerous Book for Boys. Each kid/family can decide if he wants to earn the next patch, and if not, no worries--just skip that meeting! For example, I'm not super into doing anything "green" or environmental, so we might skip those (I'm inclined to let the kids make the decision, though).

The reason I'm so excited about this club (besides the fact that I don't have to organize it!) is that I was really feeling torn about the Boy Scouts for Ryan. On one hand, the BSA is a pretty religious/spiritual kind of group, and as atheists, we would not be welcome--or at least Brendan and I would not be allowed to be Den Leaders. I'm not exactly sure what the requirements are for little boys, who, if Ryan is any indication, may change their theological ideas on a weekly basis. Also the BSA is kinda down on homosexuals, and having gay friends and family members . . . well, I just don't like that attitude one bit.

(By the way, I fully support their right to set these policies, since I believe they are a private organization. If I've got my facts wrong, please let me know. The issue isn't such a big one for the Girl Scouts, who have a more wide-open anyone-can-join sort of policy, as I understand it.)

On the other hand, Ryan would LOVE Scouts. The scouting tradition is strong in my family--my dad was an Eagle Scout and my mom was whatever the Girl Scout equivalent of Eagle Scout is. My great-grandfather helped establish the Philmont Scout Ranch way back in the day. I dropped out in 4th grade, so you can imagine it was mildly scandalous for someone in our family to leave Scouts so early.

Ryan definitely seems to have the scouting thing in his blood, though. He'd love the activities, learning the skills, earning badges, going to the jamborees (is that what they're called?), everything. Because being a Scout involves learning real-live peopleguy skills!


I've heard of Cub Scout packs around here that are more liberal, where the Den Leader has a "don't ask-don't tell" policy about religion, etc. I've tried to find one of these packs for Ryan to join, but was unsuccessful. Most (around here anyway) are explicitly affiliated with a church of some sort.

Patch Club offers us a unique solution to our dilemma. Ryan can learn the kinds of things he'll enjoy learning, with kids who are fun, and nobody cares that his parents are atheists. (Because I have a hard time considering any 8 year old kid an atheist, or a Christian, or [insert religion/theological ideas here] because, you know, he's eight.) Parents of Patch Club kids are atheists, Christians, pagans, agnostics . . . and nobody cares. Because the purpose of our group is to give our kids some of the scouting experience, the fun of earning patches, with a "we welcome everyone, even Pastafarians" policy, too. WIN-WIN!

Our first activity is a group hike at the end of the month (wish me luck, as I'll have Sean riding in a backpack!), and the kids will earn their first hiking patch. Yay!


FGM said...

This is SUCH a cool idea, Jen! We've been looking for something like this for Vinnie but it seems that the only things we could find were the Scouts and other religious Scout-like organizations. Unfortunately, we live a bit far from you all....


Kelly Elmore said...

I'm also really glad that S organized this because girl scouts is so service oriented and altruistic. I would worry putting Livy into that kind of organization. And I wouldn't begin to pay for or transport a child to BSA. I boycott them for their anti-gay, anti-atheist mumbo jumbo.