Sunday, July 26, 2009

My new favorite homeschool resource

Last week my Boy Scout came home ready to work on his first merit badge: Space Exploration. He had a booklet to read and a 6-page worksheet packet to complete. There were questions to answer about the history of space exploration, space pioneers, and rocket parts and functions. He had to draw a diagram or make a model of an inhabited space base and describe how it would work. Design a mission to another planet. It looked like a lot of work, and he had one week to complete it. (The short time frame has to do with the upcoming summer camp, at which the boys working on this badge will build and launch rockets.) Along with the questions, the worksheet packet included a list of websites to use for additional research.

This boy does love to read and learn about space (and many other topics as well), but does not like to write, and the thought of filling out those worksheets by hand was very daunting. I started looking around online, and did I ever find a treasure: Boy Scout Merit Badge worksheets. Worksheets for all 100+ Boy Scout merit badges. Stuff for Cubs and Webelos, too, though I didn't really look at that. Printable as .pdfs or Word documents.

Whew! My boy was happy to learn he could type his up. Still a lot of work, but not as tedious as hand-writing it all. I was happy to find this great resource. The worksheets are free printables. The booklets are available for less than $5 from the Scout website (and, maybe, Scout stores).

Now I'm dreaming of the ways I could use these as study guides for various topics for both my kids. (I looked around the Girl Scout website but couldn't find anything comparable.) Art, Bird Study, American Heritage, Citizenship, Chemistry... lots of great stuff to study.

My Scout is also working on his First Aid badge, and while his leader is not requiring the worksheets for that, I am. He needs all the opportunities he can get to improve his written communication skills. It's an area in which he struggles. But this is a great way to combine two "subjects." Compare assignments: write a book report, or write an explanation of the proper way to treat a shock victim or devise a splint in the wilderness. For my kid, anyway, there is no comparison. If one of the goals of the assignment is getting a child comfortable and proficient in composition, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, the result is the same. (If literary criticism is a goal, go for the book report.)

Of course a Scout working on a merit badge has to have a leader on board and use the official Scout booklet to work on a badge. But I think a non-Scout who wanted to use a worksheet as a sort of "study guide" for learning about a particular topic could do without the booklet, though the two I've seen have lots of great information and are pretty cheap. The worksheets I've seen include links to useful websites, and of course most kids have their own books, library books, and google at their fingertips for their own research.

Sometime back I'd heard about a homeschool mom who keyed her curriculum to her Scouts' badge work. I didn't really understand that at the time. Now I get it, and as I've looked around the 'net the past few days, I see other homeschoolers have had this idea long before I did. I'll give my Scout all the time he needs to work on his badges. Besides learning about the topics themselves, all the writing required is going to help him more than any "language arts" curriculum I could toss his way.

Let's see, I think I'll start my girl on the Dog Care, and then go on to Nature. Hmm... maybe I should work on Home Repairs and Gardening myself...

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