Sorry about the acronyms. Let me explain:
BSA – Boy Scouts of America.
GSUSA – Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
Why not Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts?
If you’re like us, sometimes you find yourself searching for the “right” activity, the “right” extracurricular for the kids. We wanted to try scouting, but we really didn’t feel that BSA was a good fit for the Engineer for multiple reasons all related to his needs and interests.
Here in our area, we also have the American Heritage Girls troops and a few Trail Life USA (the boys’ version) groups, but those were also not a good fit (heavily faith-based.) So we started looking deeper. We found a local BPSA group.
What is BPSA?
Baden-Powell Service Association is an inclusive scouting group. Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion: all are welcome. The group focuses on outdoor skills, leadership, service, and community.
For reference, BPSA has 4 main age groups:
- Otters (ages 5-7)
- Timberwolves (ages 8-10)
- Pathfinders (ages 11-17)
- Rovers (18+ All leaders are required to be Rovers)
They’re not kidding when they say “outdoor skills.” Two of the last camping trips have been rainy, and one was frigidly chilly. The meetings are often held outdoors, even during the winter. They truly want the kids to learn survival skills in a supportive setting.
Why did we chose this?
The inclusiveness of BPSA isn’t the only draw. We like the focus of the group. While the scouts work towards badges, it’s not nearly as competitive as BSA or GSUSA. There are no problems keeping on track with badges, unlike my husband’s experience with BSA. He did the math as a teen and realized that because he didn’t start just at the right time, he could never make Eagle Scout. Disappointing!
I’m not here to bash BSA or GSUSA at all, so please don’t take this post that way. BPSA scouts are a sibling scouting group – we’re all one big family. It’s just that this side of the family has different priorities and focus than the other side.
For example, the GSUSA badge track puts emphasis on manners, art, cookie sales, and normative “girl” stuff. The BSA badge track is serious business: life skills like emergency preparedness, survival skills, STEM skills, and so on. I want my daughter (and sons!) to learn things the Boy Scouts are doing rather than go door to door selling cookies.
Most importantly, because BPSA is so inclusive they rarely blink an eye at neurodiversity. They also focus on hands-on learning – teaching through doing. That works really well for my kids because of their neurodiversity.
Why do we do scouts at all?
For our family, scouting is a great social activity that helps us with some of the social issues we’re dealing with. It’s something that Mr. Genius can share with the kids that he enjoys (mostly – no one enjoys camping in the rain) and it’s a fairly cheap activity compared to martial arts or other activities. Plus, we can do it as a family next season because the Princess is almost old enough to be an Otter. The Destroyer will tag along as a Chipmunk – a play-group kind of child care for tag-alongs while their siblings do scout things.
Plus, BSA and GSA are generally school-based groups, and it’s hard to integrate into a group that already goes to school with each other and knows each other. Homeschoolers are often the odd-man-out anyway, so the wide range of BPSA groups makes it easier on the kids to fit in.
And not least of all of that – BPSA starts their Otters at age 5. Boy Scouts are not until age 7.
If you’re looking for a scout group but not entirely happy with Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, see if BPSA has a troop in your area. It might be worth your time, and your kids may love it. Just be prepared to go camping in the rain!
Edit: I got the Girl Scouts name wrong. My apologies! I fixed everything but the cover photo.
I got a lot of pushback from BSA and GSUSA members who felt I attacked their troops in this post. They also pointed out my egregious error of comparing Cub Scouts (age 7) to BPSA’s Otters (age 5.) Cub Scouts now include Lion troops at age 5, but because the official website does not mention them I didn’t know to write about them. ( link for reference: https://www.scouting.org/programs/cub-scouts/youth/being-a-cub-scout/scouting/ ) So if you’re looking for a BSA troop for your 5-year-old, ask if they offer a Lion troop.