My family participates in a type of scout group called the Baden-Powell Service Association, or BPSA for short. This is a program that is inclusive to all scouts no matter what
religion, or lack thereof, gender, orientation or ability level they have. The motto is “Scouting for All.” Our family started BPSA group #17 several years ago. And, while I could tell you that story in a beautiful and heart-warming way…. I’m going to tell you the truth instead.
Several years ago, I was an exhausted and nearly burnt out homeschool mom. My three children were small and I rarely got a break from being with them. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my kids. But I had reached the stage of parenting where I fantasied about having a few hours to myself to do things like take a bath and watch a movie without a tiny person asking for something. My husband wasn’t great at figuring out ways to take the kids out and give me a break. Because of food allergies and celiac disease, he couldn’t just take them out for fast food, and this made many “kid-friendly” outings a no-go.
So, one day I heard about someone who was giving a talk about starting a BPSA group. I checked their website and it sounded like a good fit for my family. My husband was an Eagle Scout and loved his scouting experience. But he didn’t want to participate in BSA with our own son. I sent him to the meeting and he came home excited to start a group.
We were both happy to have a scouting group that all three of our kids could participate in, instead of having to take them to gender-specific groups. And after having been both a Brownie scout leader and a cookie mom, I was thrilled to be part of a program that requires us to sell NOTHING.
And the motto, “Scouting for All” resounded with us. BPSA scouting is for people of all genders, religions (or lack thereof), orientations or abilities. Accepting everyone for who they are is an important value I want to raise my kids with. I want to participate in a scout program that believes in that too.
Building a Community
My husband’s one qualm was that he didn’t think we could find enough kids to participate to get a group started. I took that as a dare and talked to my homeschool connections. We launched that fall with 12 scouts that were spread over all three BPSA age groups for youth. The process of starting our own group was pretty straight forward and doable for us. I happily ran the troop calendar of events, signed up both leaders and scouts and took up dues. All to just get a few hours each month as a break. It was worth it.
The first time my husband took the kids camping, I missed them all. But that 24 hours of real and true break from parenting helped me regroup as a human. I don’t really enjoy camping anyway, and I hope that going on these trips helps my kids learn to like it. Even more than that, I hope they learn that they can take care of themselves and enjoy nature. The scout group has taken them kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, geocaching, and hiking too. All to demonstrate that there is more to do outside than just camp.
Being of Service To Our Community
Our scout group has done at least two community service projects each year since we began. I make sure those projects are hands-on and get the kids involved in many different ways. I want my kids to know that community service isn’t just one thing and that there are many ways to help the people in your community. We’ve made kits for the homeless, tied together blankets for refugees, made toys for the animal shelter and visited local nursing homes to perform songs and skits. This year we even plan to help with the wreath-laying at our local military cemetery in December.
BPSA is for Adults too
BPSA also has an adult level of scouting that doesn’t require you to be a scout leader, and that was one more reason my husband was drawn to this program. As a youth, he felt like scouting dropped out from under him once he attained his Eagle Scout Award. This thing that had been important to him, was suddenly gone. Joining BPSA has been healing and enjoyable for him on a level he didn’t expect. We are happy about how our kids can age out of the youth program, but still have a scout group with BPSA to participate in if they want to. Scouting has provided all of us with a community, friends, challenges, and opportunities that we would not have otherwise had.
As a homeschooler, I have appreciated having scouting as part of our lives and all the things it has given my kids a chance to do. The chance to work with other kids and other adults in a very different way than most kid activities is what I treasure most. I love that my daughters are getting to lead co-ed groups at scouts. My son is seeing female scout leaders light fires and tie knots and be leaders as well as the men. My kids are all accepted for who they are and can explore that in the context of a supportive group. We’ve joined many co-ops over the years, but scouting has remained a constant for us.
If you would like more information about joining BPSA, visit their website, or message me. I’d be happy to help you launch your own group!
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.