Here’s why Scouts can offer your kids something that nothing else can!

On a grassy hillside a small cream brick hall overlooked the driveway. It’s weathered  green eaves and window frames matched with the sprigs of new growth and native trees surrounding the campsite. It looked so picturesque, perched against the forest backdrop but in just a few hours it would become the dormitory for our Cub Scouts. The rain was heavy in the sky again but for now, the sunshine had pushed its way through. Cars started rolling in with bundled up sleeping gear packed high against the windows, squishy kid’s faces pressed against them. Pillows and laughter tumbled from the backseats into what would be our campsite for the weekend.

Many hands

Volunteering for the weekend to help with 20 energetic 9 and 10-year-old was a first for me. But ever since my own wild child had joined, I’d been eager to jump in and help out. A swag of other parents were on hand along with the cub’s leaders who had the weekend laid out with just the right doses of adventure walks, craft time, bush discovery and life-learning, for both us and the kids. The Dads took over the kitchen in a sort of Jamie Oliver free for all; piles of mince, chopped tomatoes and diced onions filled the little kitchen in the food hall, fervidly sloshed into enormous pots. We laughed, us gals on the sideline, thoroughly entertained by the lavish herb tossing. By nightfall the rain had set in and while it might have hampered our campfire efforts, the singalong was in full swing. 

It takes a village

It’s true that every child is different. And because of that, the way we parent kids is also different. Their distinct personalities influence a lot of what works in the uncertain world of parenting. I’ve tried, tested (and tossed) plenty of activities to energise my son and hook him onto his happiness. Some stick and some don’t. Some come with too much competition, some feel elitist, others just don’t hold his interest. That’s why the communal world of Scouts is such a refreshing alternative for kids and families. Run by leaders who are in every sense the salt of the earth, giving of their time with generosity, humility and earnestness. In Scouts everyone has a place, everyone has opportunity, connection and a sense of belonging. 

Be the change

Some days I find primary school overwhelming. There just seems to be so much pressure on kids with after school activities, wide-ranging social issues to contend with and a diversity of subjects that feels like the volume has doubled from my school days. There’s hardly a chance for downtime and not everyone can keep pace. Yet for all the academic, sporting and social expectations on kids, we’ve still overlooked some of the inherant know-how and smarts that kids need to develop into capable, resilient and likeable grown-ups. And this is why Scouts can offer something that nothing else can. Fresh-air, zero screen time, the great outdoors, mixing with kids from all backgrounds, community fundraising, creating something out of nothing and jumping into activities otherwise unexplored.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood

Sunday morning at camp was soggy and grey. The kids scattered into the bush, clambering up the muddy slopes to play hide and seek before packing up. If it wasn’t for the fat leeches squirming inside their wet socks, they might have stayed longer. On the coastal drive back home, the hours quickly filled with stories of friendship and outbursts of laughter. Another early Spring camp marked off the calendar.

As a member of a Sea Scouts group, our summer months are spent canoeing along the river until sunset. I can hardly think of a more uplifting way to spend a weeknight during busy city school life. Everything done is with a sense of relaxed community and as parents, we ebb and flow on the sidelines. There’s a clear tradition upon which Scouts is built, blended with the individual nature of each child. It makes for a collective and unpretentious little neighbourhood, where the door’s always open.

All photographs courtesy of Scouts Australia online images

9 Comments on “Here’s why Scouts can offer your kids something that nothing else can!

  1. An absolutely beautiful piece Lee! All of it so true! I know, because of my own time in the cubs and Sea Scouts so many many years ago. I recall the fun as well as the discomfort of being washed out of tents by sudden downpours, all held in place by the gentle discipline of our Scoutmasters. We learned so many things, physically and mentally, just to collect another badge on the shirt. My own respect and love of that time has actually grown since then and I would stand at the front of any line that is there to suggest to all parents and grandparents to do everything they can, to have their kids join up. How many parents and grandparents tell me their kids spend too much time gazing at a screen ? Well, if that’s the case, Google to find the closest Scouts, Sea or land group and at least go and talk with them. You will be doing a wonderful service to your child. Once again Lee, an excellent story. Congratulations.

  2. This piece of elegant writing once again, done with all the parental know how, Lee writes this gorgeous and uplifting story on the much loved and sometimes forgotten Scouts. Henry now can tie us up in multiple knots.

    • Lee beautiful words. I am so glad you and Henry love our group and enjoy our camps.
      Let hope we get permission from scouts to do our next camp in September. That’s the reason I keep doing it for 40 years.

      • Yes we hope so too! Thank you.

  3. Lee as a cub leader, your article in essence sums up why so many of us volunteer our time to scouting. a child joins us and in the beginning it takes a little time for leader and cub to get to know each other. Bit by bit, activity by activity they form a bond. As you say there is so much scheduling of kids today and very little time to just “be”. Scouts give every child time to explore themselves and their interests and discover who they are and what interests them and to learn new things and just have fun. Every child is different. Every group is different but at it’s core we are a community working together. And as much as we give kids confidence, skills and leadership ability, they also teach us their leaders a wealth of things and perspectives that you can’t get out of a textbook or online learning. Our cubs enrich us as leaders as much as we help them evolve into well rounded humans. But at it’s core, we show cubs how to pitch in and help out, but we also teach them that if things don’t go to plan, then we always have plan B or we can invent one. Either way both are essential life skills. In the almost 10 years that I have been a leader, so many of “my” cubs have gone on to earn leadership opportunities and awards. Whether it is local council awards, local newspapers or school speech night, I have a parental sense of pride when I see these cubs evolve into fine examples of leadership in young men and women. I have been known to sit at my own son’s speech night and lean over to another parent and proudly announce “he was a cub of mine” as they collect their acknowledgement or prize. The outdoors give as all a chance to reboot and test ourselves. The older the child, the more important the need to reboot and remove ourselves from the business of life. It is also important to have a circle of friends outside of school where you have a sense of belonging. As we tread into the rocky teenage years and friendships ebb and flow and stop altogether, or bullying on social media takes hold, it is important for a child to feel they are welcome somewhere else and that they have worth and value. Scouting is game changer. Thank you Lee on behalf of leaders everywhere for a wonderful article. It really brought a big smile to my face.

    • Thank you, lovely comment and great insight into the total experience.

  4. Wonderful piece Lee, beautiful way of bringing this experience to life.

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