My good friend Chelsea over at Mama Fish Saves dropped me a line the other day to ask if I might be interested in writing a bit about my two boys experience in Boy Scouts. I thought that was a great idea, given that my oldest is now a high school freshman and has been a scout since he was a Tiger in first grade. Right now he’s a First Class and is on track to earn his Star scout by the end of the year. My middle son is in Cub Scouts but will transition to Boy Scouts at the start of the next school year.
Before I start, this is simply the tale of one family’s journey in scouting. This is not endorsed by the Boy Scouts and all opinions and observations are my own.
Cub Scouts? Boy Scouts? First Class? What Are You Talking About?
So if you’re not the parent of a scout, these terms might not make sense to you. Let me break them down a bit with a quick overview of scouting.
- Cub Scouts are what most parents are actually familiar with, and what many people might think of when they think of boy scouts. This is the kind of scouting kids do in elementary school. Obviously there’s a big difference between what a first grader and a fifth grader can do in terms of skill level and attention span, so they divide the kids into groups based on their age.
- Tigers = first grade; Wolf=second grade; Bear=third grade; Webelos 1=fourth grade; Webelos 2 = fifth grade
- Kids activities are planned according to their attention spans and skill levels. It also varies a HUGE amount by pack (the group of scouts). Some packs are very active in activities, camping, outdoors, etc. and others…are not. There are some with hugely active parents and some without anyone to take on a role. So if you are looking for something specific in scouting, make sure you join a pack that aligns with what you’re looking for (and get involved!)
- Boys Scouts start in sixth grade, when the kids enter middle school. This is when, in my experience, scouting gets serious. Sure the kids still have lots of fun, but there’s a lot of hard work involved. In our case, our troop is very serious about hard work, camping, learning survival skills, etc.
- Our troop practices a lot of scout-led activities, where the boys are the ones leading the other boys to practice leadership skills. We also have a lot of Eagle scouts. Every year there are probably between two and five different Eagle projects going on.
- Again your experience will vary by troop. So if you just want your son hanging around with other boys, goofing off and having fun, there are some troops where that’s pretty much what they do. But if you’re serious about your son learning the skills and becoming an Eagle scout, ,you need to find a troop structure that will support that.
- Boy scouts has multiple ranks, and this time they’re based on achievement-not grade. They are Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class (where my son is now), Star (where he’ll be at the end of the month), Life, and finally the one everyone knows – Eagle Scout.
One of Chelsea’s questions to me was whether it’s possible to do scouting and sports at the same time. In elementary school, yes, without a doubt. My middle son did football for a year and scouting, and it was busy but manageable. And last year he was in band, drama, and scouts without an issue. As the parent of a high school aged son I can tell you that elementary is the time to have your kids try out a lot of different things. Once they hit high school it gets harder to experiment.
I do know boys that have done it at the Boy Scout level, but it’s almost impossible to do both scouting and sports at a high level at the same time. Something I didn’t realize when my kids were young is just how high the demands are on teenagers if they want to be seriously involved in an activity. So if you want to do an OK job at a bunch of things, you can, but if you want to seriously succeed you have to focus on just a few things. Sports at the high school level demand near-constant practice, games, traveling, etc. Add on top of that maintaining good grades, homework, studying for tests and trying to have some sort of free time-it’s really hard to manage multiple activities at a that level. A lot of that depends on your family, your kids, the sports and scouts schedules, and just how much juggling you can take.
Honestly, though, you can be a casual scout and still have plenty of fun and learn a lot. Nothing says that you have to become an Eagle scout to be a success. Even if a boy doesn’t advance to that rank, he still learns a ton, has fun, gains leadership skills, helps his community, and makes valuable friendships.
The Financial Breakdown
So how much does scouting cost? It depends on your pack/troop, really, how much they charge. Sometimes parts of the costs are offset by troop fundraising, or individual fundraising. So I can only tell you what we pay.
For my 10 year old, a Webelos 2, we pay the membership fee of $92 per year. Then after that we don’t pay anything. Sometimes there’s a potluck and we have to bring something, but all the activities are covered. They do camping, hikes, outdoor activities, weekly meetings, monthly den meetings, activities, and more. We also have to pay for the books which are around $13 per year (you need a different book for each rank). So in total the cost is $105, or $8.75 per month.
My high schooler, though, is a different story. You don’t have to buy the book every year, but you have to buy handbooks for all those merit badges (although you can sometimes borrow them from the troop). The fee is also $145 per year. He goes to Boy Scout camp in the summer which costs $325, and some of the camping trips and activities have fees. All in all I’d say we pay $600 per year.
It doesn’t have to cost that much, or it can cost much more. You can get along with the $145 membership fee, skip the activities with a separate fee, and borrow the merit badge books. Or you can go all-out and send your kid across the country to events like the Boy Scout Jamboree, which costs $1,000 – not including the travel. Similar to many activities for kids, it can be an expensive endeavor or a bargain.
In addition to the outdoors, survival skills, leadership, and community service, scouting can also teach your kids about finances. Yes that’s right. The Personal Management merit badge, required for Eagle rank, is all about money and time management. Your child has to plan a savings strategy to make a large purchase, create a budget, explain the difference between saving and investing, and more. You can see the full list of requirements here. So your investment of a scouting fee pays off in a number of ways.
What About You?
If you’re the parent of a high schooler, have you noticed the same thing I did in terms of kids activities having higher demands? If you were a scout, are the parent of a scout, or have questions about scouting – let me know in the comments!
Want to learn more about teaching kids about money? Check out this great page with my top articles and resources I’ve found from around the web.
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