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A question for scout parents re: merit badges


Serenade
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Do you feel your scouts adequately meet the requirements for badges?  

 

Ugh.  My older son just came home from scouts and told me he got his Personal Management badge signed off.   I didn't control my tongue very well and made a disparaging remark because he didn't really do it properly -- just filled out a lot of junk words on the worksheet and didn't really properly track his earnings and expenditures.  Some of his answers were just plain wrong.  He, his dad, and I went over it a bit last week, trying to help him with stuff that was just plain wrong or not done correctly, but he wasn't interested in correcting it, saying things like, "Well, I've written more than most people," or "Nobody reads it anyhow," or "It doesn't matter."  I was going to micromanage him and make him put the correct answers (I've done that before), but this time I didn't. I'm tired of making sure he does what he's supposed to do when the scouting organization doesn't.  

 

The problem is, he's right.  The leaders don't really look at what the kids wrote.  I can't even say I blame them -- who wants to look at over 18 sheets of paper written in messy handwriting? Occasionally the leaders will ask some questions, but often they just glance at the paperwork and sign off.  Our new troop is even better than our old troop -- i.e., the scoutmasters take a little more interest in what the kids do and they at least make them show the paperwork.  But still, so often the requirements are not really fully met.   I guess I'm at the point of washing my hands of the matter.  My son knows I'm disappointed in him for cheating the system, but I know he's correct in that the other kids do it, too.  Apparently they all brag about it.  Not that it makes things right.  It just seems that nobody really cares. And these are what I would call good kids.  It just seems that half-assed merit badge worksheets are the norm.  I'm on the Committee and I could bring this up, but it would make me very unpopular, and I'm not going to go there.   Most of the parents just want things signed off, too. 

 

Is this just the way it is?    And should I have bitten my tongue and told my son, "Congratulations."  I think he would have known I was just faking it.  He's very astute that way.  :-)  I guess perhaps this is a parenting problem, that we were never able to teach him to do his best work, even if others never saw it.  

 

Mostly I'm just asking, how do they handle merit badge sign-offs in your Troop?

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I'm pretty sure I couldn't adequately answer for our merit badges. Counsellors can be overly picky too. It's discouraging.

 

 

Yes, I've heard of places where the counselors are too picky, too.  Seems like there should be a middle ground.

 

Actually, I guess my feelings are that it's mostly on the scouts.  They are supposed to be honest and do their best work, not try to get away with doing less.

 

I'm so disappointed in my son.  It hurts to even write that.

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It depends on the merit badge and the counselor.

 

I am a High School Civics and Government teacher by background.... So I am pretty horrified with what passes for a Citizenship merit badge class (any of the three) at a Merit Badge Workshop sometimes.

 

But most of the counselors directly connected to our troop are pretty good and thorough... a few are a little lax, some are too focused on the letter rather than the spirit of the merit badge requirements (for example, I would rather have a kid listen to a meeting that they actually know what happened than attend a meeting and zone it out) but on the whole GOOD.

 

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I teach some MB classes and I am fairly strict.  I tell them that I will teach them most of it, but they have to attend and they have to listen, and they have to do the homework.  I don't allow them to write while I "lecture" only because I will never get through it.  All the boys start in with, "Hold on, I haven't written that down" and I never get through the slides.

 

I give them a link to the slides they can watch again on their own, I present it, I tell them, "This is important, jot this down" and I teach it.

 

I don't like the boys doing min. work and then coming to me and I have to be the bad guy and tell them, "NOPE, that doesn't count."

 

I have had parents upset with me when I say their child didn't fulfill the requirements so I won't sign until they do.  They argue that they DID a little bit, so that should count.  

 

Makes me nuts.  Esp. when I have TOLD them what to do, exactly what to do.

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Do you feel your scouts adequately meet the requirements for badges?  

 

Ugh.  My older son just came home from scouts and told me he got his Personal Management badge signed off.   I didn't control my tongue very well and made a disparaging remark because he didn't really do it properly -- just filled out a lot of junk words on the worksheet and didn't really properly track his earnings and expenditures.  Some of his answers were just plain wrong.  He, his dad, and I went over it a bit last week, trying to help him with stuff that was just plain wrong or not done correctly, but he wasn't interested in correcting it, saying things like, "Well, I've written more than most people," or "Nobody reads it anyhow," or "It doesn't matter."  I was going to micromanage him and make him put the correct answers (I've done that before), but this time I didn't. I'm tired of making sure he does what he's supposed to do when the scouting organization doesn't.  

 

The problem is, he's right.  The leaders don't really look at what the kids wrote.  I can't even say I blame them -- who wants to look at over 18 sheets of paper written in messy handwriting? Occasionally the leaders will ask some questions, but often they just glance at the paperwork and sign off.  Our new troop is even better than our old troop -- i.e., the scoutmasters take a little more interest in what the kids do and they at least make them show the paperwork.  But still, so often the requirements are not really fully met.   I guess I'm at the point of washing my hands of the matter.  My son knows I'm disappointed in him for cheating the system, but I know he's correct in that the other kids do it, too.  Apparently they all brag about it.  Not that it makes things right.  It just seems that nobody really cares. And these are what I would call good kids.  It just seems that half-assed merit badge worksheets are the norm.  I'm on the Committee and I could bring this up, but it would make me very unpopular, and I'm not going to go there.   Most of the parents just want things signed off, too. 

 

Is this just the way it is?    And should I have bitten my tongue and told my son, "Congratulations."  I think he would have known I was just faking it.  He's very astute that way.  :-)  I guess perhaps this is a parenting problem, that we were never able to teach him to do his best work, even if others never saw it.  

 

Mostly I'm just asking, how do they handle merit badge sign-offs in your Troop?

 

 

That is pretty much what happens at scout camp.  They call it a "merit badge mill" and it is, they don't always do the work.  

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That is pretty much what happens at scout camp.  They call it a "merit badge mill" and it is, they don't always do the work.  

 

 

I once refused to let the scoutmaster give my son a badge he "earned" at camp.  It was very obvious that he didn't do the requirements because it was a crafty badge.  I'm not sure I did the right thing with that -- perhaps it was not my place to step in.  I've felt guilty about it many times. 

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I teach some MB classes and I am fairly strict.  I tell them that I will teach them most of it, but they have to attend and they have to listen, and they have to do the homework.  I don't allow them to write while I "lecture" only because I will never get through it.  All the boys start in with, "Hold on, I haven't written that down" and I never get through the slides.

 

I give them a link to the slides they can watch again on their own, I present it, I tell them, "This is important, jot this down" and I teach it.

 

I don't like the boys doing min. work and then coming to me and I have to be the bad guy and tell them, "NOPE, that doesn't count."

 

I have had parents upset with me when I say their child didn't fulfill the requirements so I won't sign until they do.  They argue that they DID a little bit, so that should count.  

 

Makes me nuts.  Esp. when I have TOLD them what to do, exactly what to do.

 

See, so often it seems like merit badges are treated as Webelos pins, rather than something that is supposed to be at a higher level of understanding.  It's not just sitting there and earning the badge because you participated.  

 

And I wouldn't have a hard time with my son earning the badge if he really tried to learn something and simply got some things wrong, KWIM?  It's the blowing -it-off attitude that bugs me.  There was some question about why one should save money, and he wrote, "Because it's a good thing to do."    That is the sort of thing that just bugs me.  And he knows better.  He just thinks it's funny.

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I am not experienced in boy scouts, only girl scouts. And something I have noticed in girl scouts is that the way they set up the earning of badges seems to be ever evolving. But also, lots of GS badges and patches are earned as a troop or group. So for example, for a camping badge the leader might plan an overnight at one of the camps and the activities for the overnight are planned around the badge requirements. Now again, the badges and how they are aquired are ever evolving. My oldest is 20 and she quit like 10 yrs ago. My next is only 7 and this was just her first year. but its my experience that jts not common for GS to do badges on their own. (its possible of course, just not common.) And what doing them all as a group does is eliminate the type of problem you mention-kids half assing it and leaders barely checking anything.

 

 

I agree that things are ever-evolving.

 

When my older son first started scouts, it was rare for a scout to have to fill out a merit badge worksheet.  Now it seems like this is more common, and it's probably a good thing.

 

I think if some of these badges are getting too complicated for kids to do in one big chunk, and for merit badge counselors to review in one big chunk, perhaps it would be wiser to have simpler, more manageable badges that are easier to manage.  When I sat down with my son to look at his personal management worksheet, it just seemed to go on and on forever, eliciting internal groans.  I was feeling sorry for the scoutmaster!

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It depends on the merit badge and the counselor.

 

I am a High School Civics and Government teacher by background.... So I am pretty horrified with what passes for a Citizenship merit badge class (any of the three) at a Merit Badge Workshop sometimes.

 

But most of the counselors directly connected to our troop are pretty good and thorough... a few are a little lax, some are too focused on the letter rather than the spirit of the merit badge requirements (for example, I would rather have a kid listen to a meeting that they actually know what happened than attend a meeting and zone it out) but on the whole GOOD.

 

I think often the kids are so tired in the evening when they do some of these badges that they all zone out.  My husband was at the meeting tonight, and he noticed that my son was sitting in on an Eagle prep session, and it was  very clear that he was totally zoned out.

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I usually stressed to my kids that the merit badges were about learning something, not just checking the boxes.  My oldest was honest to a fault and didn't feel that a badge meant anything if it wasn't really done well.  He didn't see the point of the badges after a while.  They weren't really accomplishments.  He saw other kids who he knew were total goofballs and idiots amassing tons of badges for poor effort, but they were assertive enough to but people to get the sign offs.  Ds was not an assertive person, although he could swim circles around some of these other kids.  He never did progress beyond life scout and that was OK with him.  His black belt in Karate meant so much more to him because he knew he earned it. 

 

I was a Rock Climbing merit badge counselor and I was very strict.  Some parents were irritated with me.  But, climbing is an activity where doing things half-assed could put someone's life in danger.  Thinking you know more than you actually do is dangerous.  There is no way that I would be comfortable with some of those kids belaying my kid.  Getting that merit badge implies some sort of competence and I wanted that to mean something. 

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My son's troop tends to go to the other extreme. I think he had to spend something like 40 hours on his personal management badge in order to please the merit badge counselor. Ugh. It was awful. I wouldn't want them to just hand out the badges either, but a nice middle of the road approach would be nice. My son has earned pretty much all of the badges he wanted to and is working on his eagle project. The end is in sight!

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See, so often it seems like merit badges are treated as Webelos pins, rather than something that is supposed to be at a higher level of understanding.  It's not just sitting there and earning the badge because you participated.  

 

And I wouldn't have a hard time with my son earning the badge if he really tried to learn something and simply got some things wrong, KWIM?  It's the blowing -it-off attitude that bugs me.  There was some question about why one should save money, and he wrote, "Because it's a good thing to do."    That is the sort of thing that just bugs me.  And he knows better.  He just thinks it's funny.

 

 

Oh I get it.  And I am not a hard nose if the kid really can't get it.  We had a special needs boy whose parents weren't going to sign him up for my class because they weren't sure he could do the work up to par.  I told them that I would make accommodations for him and get him through it.

 

I am not as mean as I sound, but like you, it bugs me when I see they really did do minimal work and didn't put any effort in, possibly even filling it out in the car on the way to scouts with one word answers or smart alec-y answers.  

 

One boy said a family game night should count for his family project.  UM, NOPE!  And another PARENT got upset that I would require anything more than a regular chore for their personal project because their kids were "so busy" in sports.  Um, then maybe scouting isn't for your son.  Regular chores go on the chore chart.

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My son's troop tends to go to the other extreme. I think he had to spend something like 40 hours on his personal management badge in order to please the merit badge counselor. Ugh. It was awful. I wouldn't want them to just hand out the badges either, but a nice middle of the road approach would be nice. My son has earned pretty much all of the badges he wanted to and is working on his eagle project. The end is in sight!

 

 

I agree with this one too!  

 

We had one troop locally that required every rank to write a 3 page paper on what they learned in order to rank advance.  They also had to write down every single answer for merit badges, sometimes making them 25 pages long with all paragraphs, no one sentence answers.  They were nuts.  

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I was actually referring to the "attend a public meeting" requirement in Citizenship in the Community... but yes, it's hard to accomplish some things during an evening Scout meeting!

 

 

Our troop allowed the boys to watch online as all the city meetings are recorded.  I opted to have them watch a 25 min. section of the 3 hour meeting and we watched and re-watched, and they had to take notes.

 

And since they were talking about a particular area and adding rail lines and a road, I had them look up the area, look at an ariel view, figure out where the lines were going in, etc.......

 

They got much more out of it than sitting in a meeting and not fully understanding what was going on.

 

The rail lines and road were to expand a food kitchen for the area since they were having trouble getting trucks in and out and the people who needed the food were not finding parking or didn't have transportation. 

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This depends on the merit badge counselor.

 

I'm a swimming merit badge counselor. Swimming is a safety skill so I can't imagine a counselor letting some things slide. In fact I was working with a sn scout on basic swimming (not MB). I was pretty angry that his scout master signed off on his swim before he'd done it. The young man was afraid to jump into deep water. Why sign off that he did it--doing that will compromise safety at various activities. For the mb, I'm not going to be picky about stroke quality. I am going to expect full distances.

 

I think MB counselors try to consider what the essential skills the badge is teaching when evaluating the scouts work. The effort should be new and different and beyond, which is why regular chores don't count.

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Merit badges -- oh my!

 

I'm the MB counselor for numerous things, and I'm not overly strict (I don't expect the worksheet to be filled out, but they better be able to give a thorough answer -- except for things that need to be logged.  I expect to see the log done to a high degree of accuracy).  I have sent a scout home to look up certain things they clearly didn't understand, or fix something that was clearly incorrect.  But, I do expect skills/safety badges to be taught accurately!  Most of my MB's are more content than skills (except for swimming).  There are certain skills we go over in cooking, which are safety related -- those get quizzed a lot, but unlike our other cooking MBI, I don't quiz over all of the different food-borne illnesses and how they can be caused.  I go through them, we discuss each one, and they keep their FBI Information sheet.  

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Yes, I've heard of places where the counselors are too picky, too.  Seems like there should be a middle ground.

 

Actually, I guess my feelings are that it's mostly on the scouts.  They are supposed to be honest and do their best work, not try to get away with doing less.

 

I'm so disappointed in my son.  It hurts to even write that.

 

 

Teaching moment.

 

This stinks, but he could really learn from it.

 

It's called "pencil whipping" but I'm not sure if that's Army lingo or scout lingo...  Knowing my husband, it's Army.  

 

On my honor I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country

And to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake, and morally straight.

 

IMO, I'd go over that first sentence and not a chance that merit badge would go on the sash until he's actually earned it.

 

I also think you lucked out in this happening - it's just SUCH a valuable lesson to not half heartedly do something - and that a lot of times, in adulthood, it's on your honor to do things to completion, not half way. 

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I'm not involved in BSA at all.

 

From the outside, I assumed that a *merit* badge indicates going above and beyond. Like everyone learns basic skills in an area but those who really go beyond are rewarded with a merit badge.

 

I would expect that someone with a badge would have significant skills in that subject.

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Teaching moment.

 

This stinks, but he could really learn from it.

 

It's called "pencil whipping" but I'm not sure if that's Army lingo or scout lingo... Knowing my husband, it's Army.

 

On my honor I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country

And to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake, and morally straight.

 

IMO, I'd go over that first sentence and not a chance that merit badge would go on the sash until he's actually earned it.

 

I also think you lucked out in this happening - it's just SUCH a valuable lesson to not half heartedly do something - and that a lot of times, in adulthood, it's on your honor to do things to completion, not half way.

I wholeheartedly agree. MB counsellor training includes the instructions to ask for all that's required, and no more than what's required. BSA boys aren't Cub Scouts anymore, they're young men and should rise to the expected standard.

 

Sadly I have seen the "spirit of the badge" concept applied too liberally, too. It's meant for accommodating those exceptional circumstances when the requirement truly can't be met as written. It's not meant to enable half-hearted badge completion. Getting rewarded for substandard work is a disservice to the scout. It's also demoralizing for others who do strive for excellence to see that others receive the same credit for achievements with only a fraction of the effort. Of course there will be a range in how thoroughly different individuals complete each requirement, because some kids will have more interest in certain areas of study; however, each badge requirement should at least minimally be intentionally met and documented in some way. I get pretty annoyed when I hear a MB counselor rush a kid through with sayings like, "Oh, you've done something like this before, at school or something, haven't you?" and then check it off (in the presence of other kids who really purposefully worked on the same thing - grrrr!).

 

I do understand there are times when large group campouts or MB workshops require adjusting the requirements due to time and crowd size constraints. My initial reaction is well, maybe the leaders chose the wrong badge to work on! Such adjustments should not be so substantial that they cut out the intended purpose of the requirements.

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We have the opposite issue at times. My son has been denied the sign off on a mb because the counselor wanted him to do more work than the merit badge asked for, and it was not an eagle. It was quite ridiculous. I agree, a middle ground would be best.

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I haven't heard of anyone in our troop being told they didn't do enough, but they interrogate the girls pretty hard, so nobody wants to show up unprepared.  :P  My kids' first badge was cooking (they were 8) and it had been a while between the time they did the work and the time they had the interview.  They couldn't remember some stuff and it was pretty painful, LOL.  So after that, we prepared more carefully.  For their most recent badge, I had them make a PowerPoint presentation and bring it with, just to prove they really did all the stuff.  This was for the Tenderheart" level (age 6-9).

 

Now they are "crossed over" to Explorer (age 9-12) and I will not be helping them as much, but I will require them to bring a presentation with documentation of all the independent badge work they did.  IMO it's good practice for life.  :)

 

The badges they earn in a group with the troop seem to be less policed.  It seems just being there counts for a lot of stuff.  But they do make kids do some of the work at home if it isn't done at the troop meeting with them present.

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Do you feel your scouts adequately meet the requirements for merit badges?

 

....

 

Mostly I'm just asking, how do they handle merit badge sign-offs in your Troop?

Yes. I do. When they are NOT done as a part of camp or "university". I think those are a joke.

 

My son has work really hard on his badges and should be proud of them. We require a lot of him before he's allowed top get then signed off, so I know he's ready. I'm also a troop committee chair, so I know what's going on in our troop. The worksheets are not required per BSA, so their completion is moot. Well done ones make it easier to see a boy had done the work, but it's the interview and hands on demo from the boy that matters.

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One counselor was picky, and I thought many bad things towards him. I was sweating bullets. DS had attended a workshop which should have answered all the merit badge questions, but didn't. DS and I researched the topic as well as we could, and he answered the questions as best as he could (it was an industry I have bare familiarity with so I helped). The pamphlet as written was useless.

 

My ill-will vanished when the counselor wrote DS a personal note about his dedication and hard work towards such a difficult subject.

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Some merit badge counselors were better than others at looking for and assessing understanding and competence--and insisting on it.  My son always came away proud of the badges he KNEW he had earned; the easy-peasy ones, he knew he had skated because nothing had really been demanded of him, and he doesn't think much of the accomplishment.

 

I know he was super proud of his skiing merit badge (the other three in the group all bagged on the complicated run the first time out, and he got this badge before he even made Tenderfoot), the birding one (he really had to know bird biology and had to identify several species common to our area, both by sight and by sound) and his swimming and water-safety badges (because he worked hard to be good at these things).  He also was proud of doing the mile swim every year.  

 

He was not so proud of some of the others--the cooking one, they let him skate and mooch off the other boys' knowledge.  There were about three others like that.  

 

The rest, he was glad he got, but not *proud* of himself (in the good sense of that word).  

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It's been a few years since my son was in scouts, but his troop was not at all lenient with merit badges. They didn't consider completed worksheets to be a sign that the student had done any work whatsoever. The worksheets were not official scout materials (that may have changed, I don't know), they were just a learning aid that the scout could use to help them learn the required information. They were expected to demonstrate skills for the merit badge counselor and have educated, appropriate discussion about information for the information-based badges. Scout meetings weren't for merit badge counselor meetings - those were to be set up before or after the scheduled weekly troop meeting or on the one week per month that there wasn't a troop meeting. 

 

I guess this explains why so many kids I've heard of are able to "earn" their Eagle Scout so young. The average age in ds' troop for earning Eagle rank was 16 1/2. 

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I do understand there are times when large group campouts or MB workshops require adjusting the requirements due to time and crowd size constraints. My initial reaction is well, maybe the leaders chose the wrong badge to work on! Such adjustments should not be so substantial that they cut out the intended purpose of the requirements.

 

That wasn't allowed in my son's troop. Just because you went to camp or a class didn't mean that your badge requirements were met. They had to come back to the troop and meet with our merit badge counselors to demonstrate that they met the requirements. The scout was still responsible for material not covered at camp or in class. 

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I could have written the OP myself about my third son (who was my third scout) when he was about 13-14. He wasn't that eager bushy-tailed new Scout anymore, nor was he the mature Life Scout that he is now. He was in flux and bending towards the "Can I get away with it?" and "If everyone else is, when in Rome ..." mentalities that I decided was just a normal part of the maturation process - even for decent, good kids. Maybe especially for decent, good kids who have spent their short lives doing everything "right" and by the book. 

 

He basically leapt off the pedestal I had placed him on! And not just in scouts, but in school and sports also. He was consistent, if nothing else. I tried discussing it with him but my older sons hushed me and said to save my breath. They talked to him some and planted some seeds. They told me he'd come around and to trust him and how he was raised. I couldn't trust; I prayed a lot instead LOL. He went from being the kid to refuse a participation trophy in a tournament to taking credit a SM mis-assigned to him. Disappointed doesn't begin to describe it.

 

But I felt at 14 it wasn't my place to step in, that he had to do right on his own accord. So instead I took a hiatus from scouts, only participating in conferences as a committee member so as not to affect other scouts trying to advance. I refused to let him share his enthusiasm with me re: scout rank or camps. Every other part of our intertwined lives were unaffected. I didn't handle it well as a mother, but the point was made: I love you, but I don't always like the person you choose to be.

 

And then I hit him over the head with CHARACTER stuff. We'd read about it, I pointed it out in television shows and news articles and his friends. We studied and memorized great speeches in school. We discussed political and military leaders, and their qualities. He's always confided in me about his friends' drama, and he's their go-to for advice. I think it helped using others as a place to start defining who he wanted to be associated with and what he wanted to be known for. And he came around. He still takes short cuts I wish he wouldn't, but they're not the kind that would have him take credit for something he didn't do. I can live with that. I kind of have to, I guess.

 

My favorite resource for character and morality stuff is the Medal of Honor project. This is the child that is pursuing a military career so it particularly spoke to him. It's free and easy to incorporate into a homeschool, or just daily thing: http://www.cmohedu.org/

 

Sorry your son disappointed you. :grouphug: It totally sucks when they do that.

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The merit badge counselors in my area are very strict. It's not at all easy to get it signed off unless they can show that they've done all the requirements. I can't think of a single badge that can be earned that quickly. The Personal Management badge is one that should take weeks or months! My son was able to earn the law badge in one day, but that's because a local bar association set up a whole day of lessons that met every one of the requirements.

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That is pretty much what happens at scout camp.  They call it a "merit badge mill" and it is, they don't always do the work.  

 

Wow, this is not at all true at our camp! If boys don't do the prerequisites (things that can't be completed at camp), they only get partial credit and have to finish the badge on their own. For craft type badges, we are allowed to take boys back on later weeks just so they can finish projects or show camp merit badge counselors that they finished something. Our Scouts are doing really well if they complete one or two badges at camp.

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My husband was Scoutmaster for years and the boys would come to a conference woefully unprepared.  There were certain items that the scouts were required to "put into their own words," or explain how to "live in their daily lives.  The scouts would look at the floor and say, "Uhhhh...Be trustworthy, I guess."  That is the same words, not your own words.  Dh was not looking for eloquence here, but any inkling that the scout had thought about the oath outside of memorizing it.  

 

Another sticking place was the service hours.  He'd ask the scout what he did.  The answer was always, "stuff."  "Stuff with my family."  "Picked up stuff."  "Helped with stuff."  The scout usually had his service hours log filled out, but he could rarely remember any details or even if he had done it at all.  

 

Before you ask, the scouts were not afraid of Dh.  He was at weekly meetings, monthly camp outs & we even team teach the Sunday School class for the 11-12 yos so they know him from that. He always has the 12 yo cabin at Scout Camp because he is the best at the ones who are homesick or afraid. Not to mention Dh is the biggest goofball ever.  We have had special needs scouts that he has gently guided.  

 

Scouting can be a hard row to how, but as homeschoolers I think it is a glimpse into some of the things that non-homeschoolers think our kids are missing.  I hear all the time:

 

If your child never has to deal with a "bad" teacher; how will he deal with a bad boss?

If your child never has to deal with a classroom; how will he deal with a workplace environment?

If your child never has a difficult classmate; how will he learn to get along?

And so on.....

 

Now, obviously, I don't think all of these experiences are necessary for my child to have to function because my dds are functioning fine & they were not in Scouts, but I do appreciate the scouting experience because my ds is allowed to experience leaders that are exacting and leaders that are more likely to pass him along for showing up.  He learns that life isn't fair, sometimes in his favor and sometimes not.  Most importantly he learns to hold himself to his own standards.  He knows if he did all the work or not,

 

Amber in SJ

Edited by Amber in SJ
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Thank you for all of the responses to this thread.  I really appreciate the thoughts shared here.  Seems like there is a wide variety in how merit badge counselors and different troops approach the process.

 

I think I might do what someone suggested upthread and require my son to adequately answer the questions that he blew off before he gets the badge on his sash.  I really hate to do that, because that means I have to get involved,  but perhaps it is the best option.  As I said earlier, I have in the past asked a scoutmaster NOT to give my son a merit badge he "earned" at camp, but I have always felt a bit guilty about that knowing that others got it who also didn't earn it.  

 

I will not make a stink about this to the Scoutmaster and/or Committee Chair.  We came to this troop from a bad situation at our old troop, and these leaders have been so good and kind to my boys in so many ways.    I guess in some ways the merit badge situation is minor compared to all the good this troop has done for my kids.  

 

I think in our area, most troops are merit badge factories.  I think many troops are afraid of losing boys if they make things too hard, and that's a shame.  

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Our Troop does not use those unofficial worksheets. The lad is expected to use his skills and organize his material for the mtg with the mbc. If its not, its not accepted and he can try again. Its very helpful as the documentation and discussions for the Eagle rank are cookbook as they are so well prepared from earning the previous ranks.

 

The one mbc that tried to use those wokshts was set straight by the CM. We are an inclusive Troop, so most of our boys cannot write legibly in those tiny areas given on the worksheets. They are expected to up on their computer skills and use them if they cant write legibly.

 

 

Both our old troop and our new troop heavily encourage their use.  They are probably not technically required, but when I asked about it once I was told that it's best if they use them.

 

This was not the case when my older son first started scouts.  It was after his first year or two that I saw a heavy increase in the use of these worksheets.  I'm not too fond of them myself, but perhaps the leaders thought that the sheets could/would bring more accountability to earning the badges.

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I could have written the OP myself about my third son (who was my third scout) when he was about 13-14. He wasn't that eager bushy-tailed new Scout anymore, nor was he the mature Life Scout that he is now. He was in flux and bending towards the "Can I get away with it?" and "If everyone else is, when in Rome ..." mentalities that I decided was just a normal part of the maturation process - even for decent, good kids. Maybe especially for decent, good kids who have spent their short lives doing everything "right" and by the book. 

 

He basically leapt off the pedestal I had placed him on! And not just in scouts, but in school and sports also. He was consistent, if nothing else. I tried discussing it with him but my older sons hushed me and said to save my breath. They talked to him some and planted some seeds. They told me he'd come around and to trust him and how he was raised. I couldn't trust; I prayed a lot instead LOL. He went from being the kid to refuse a participation trophy in a tournament to taking credit a SM mis-assigned to him. Disappointed doesn't begin to describe it.

 

But I felt at 14 it wasn't my place to step in, that he had to do right on his own accord. So instead I took a hiatus from scouts, only participating in conferences as a committee member so as not to affect other scouts trying to advance. I refused to let him share his enthusiasm with me re: scout rank or camps. Every other part of our intertwined lives were unaffected. I didn't handle it well as a mother, but the point was made: I love you, but I don't always like the person you choose to be.

 

And then I hit him over the head with CHARACTER stuff. We'd read about it, I pointed it out in television shows and news articles and his friends. We studied and memorized great speeches in school. We discussed political and military leaders, and their qualities. He's always confided in me about his friends' drama, and he's their go-to for advice. I think it helped using others as a place to start defining who he wanted to be associated with and what he wanted to be known for. And he came around. He still takes short cuts I wish he wouldn't, but they're not the kind that would have him take credit for something he didn't do. I can live with that. I kind of have to, I guess.

 

My favorite resource for character and morality stuff is the Medal of Honor project. This is the child that is pursuing a military career so it particularly spoke to him. It's free and easy to incorporate into a homeschool, or just daily thing: http://www.cmohedu.org/

 

Sorry your son disappointed you. :grouphug: It totally sucks when they do that.

 

 

Thank you very much for this post.  I really appreciate what you've shared here.  I think your first paragraph describes exactly what is going on with my son.  He is 16, but he is very immature, so acts more like a kid a couple of years younger than he is.  He is maturing, but it is a slow process.

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That wasn't allowed in my son's troop. Just because you went to camp or a class didn't mean that your badge requirements were met. They had to come back to the troop and meet with our merit badge counselors to demonstrate that they met the requirements. The scout was still responsible for material not covered at camp or in class. 

 

 

With both of the troops we've belonged to, if the summer camp report says a requirement was completed, the troop considers it completed.  I think this can be tricky because troops need to be careful not to require scouts to do the same requirement twice or go above and beyond the requirements.    Many of the sessions at camp are led by older scouts, who I guess just report back to some adult leader what the attending scouts have accomplished.   I mean, scouts under the age of 18 who lead merit badge sessions can't be merit badge counselors themselves, can they?

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IMO, I'd go over that first sentence and not a chance that merit badge would go on the sash until he's actually earned it.

 

I also think you lucked out in this happening - it's just SUCH a valuable lesson to not half heartedly do something - and that a lot of times, in adulthood, it's on your honor to do things to completion, not half way. 

 

I think this is good advice.

 

My younger son is gone this week so DH and I have had some good opportunities to talk with our older son without the pressure of his younger brother around.  

 

I think with my boys there is a bit of sibling rivalry going on that pushes both boys to extremes -- my younger son is a diligent rule follower who often will do more, rather than less.  This bugs my older son, and I think sometimes he takes things to the other extreme as a result. 

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dh and I found the whole process to have the same standard of excellence as our workplaces. The preparation was actually better than offered at our lad's college, as he gained the skills of cold calling, small talk, requesting assistance and clarification, organizing his points, recognizing when to add additional detail, interviewing, presenting, and so forth. None of that would have been gained if a workbook was submitted instead.

 

 

DH and I had a really good conversation with my son over lunch today.   I shared with him what you posted above, and also what some of the other people shared on this thread.  He seemed more open to what we said than he usually is, maybe because his little brother isn't around and he didn't feel the need to compete.  Anyhow, I thank all of you on this thread for giving me some good points to discuss with him.

Edited by Serenade
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When my boys first started in Scouts I thought they had to use the mb worksheets since everyone around here had them. My boys wrote down what needed to be written but showed what was required to be shown. It took me about a year to find out that they aren't required and then just recently that they are discouraged.

 

I ask my older ds not to use them--he does just fine without and telling people what he's learned and discovered. But my younger ds really needs them. He has a very hard time talking to people, especially when they are asking him questions. Right now he's doing Citizenship in the World and it's been invaluable for him to be able to write down what he's learned to either help him open up with a mb counselor or to hand to her (she's female) if he can't bring himself to talk. We'll have to figure something else out for the more showing ones.

 

So, I can see both sides of the mb worksheets. I do think that in general we should move away from them as much as we can but sometimes they do have a real purpose.

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Our troop does use the work sheets as a note taking device. However, when going through the requirements, the scout needs to actually have a conversation with me (discuss, explain) and show/demonstrate specific parts.

 

Do we have to use the worksheets? No. When 3/4 of our current troop is 12 and under, it's incredibly helpful. I am praying some older scouts move in this year. We have lost all but four scouts over the age of 14 due to moves or aging out.

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Generally the merit badge worksheets/workbooks are allowed/encouraged to be used as a note-taking device... a preparation tool for meeting with the councilor so that the scout has his thoughts and notes in order. If a requirement says Scout will Show/Discuss/Demonstrate etc... that's the action required - discussing, showing, etc. (There are some written requirements like writing to a senator, keeping a log of something etc. but even if there is a form in the merit badge handbook, the format is NOT usually defined.)

 

Worksheets/workbooks are NOT allowed to be REQUIRED. No counselor should be telling a boy who has done the work that his work isn't good enough because he didn't complete the unofficial worksheets. And no one should be requiring a boy to turn one in to 'prove' the work that a counselor has signed off on. Nor should a counselor say "Well you filled out the workbook, you're done." BUT If a certified counselor has signed off on the badge, technically under the guidelines... that's it, the boy has earned the badge and it's a matter of his honesty and honor for him to decide what to do with it, there's not supposed to be retesting. There's not supposed to be a "our troop has special rules" to approve what the counselor did -- because that's adding to the requirements approved by national.

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I'm in Canada, and scouts here are different... the badge process is a lot simpler, but is a lot more variable. And at the scout level, challenge badges (merit badges) can have specific requirements, and some are basically not specified but should be a challenge for the individual scout.

 

Mostly I think our troop is pretty good.... but a few things have popped up. My kids got credited for camping in winter in temporary shelters when they had been in cabins. That finished the badge for one, but not the other. I wouldn't let him accept the badge... but a couple of weeks later he slept in a quinzee (snow hut) at a church camp (also scouts but a different troop...) so then the badge counted. I think it is still marked off for my daughter even though I asked them to remove it.

 

Sometimes it seems the other way. In their outdoor skills badges for their awards (ranks) most of the stuff needs to be done at camps. I and my husband are now physically unable to camp. I expect it will be worked on at scout camps, but it sometimes seems nothing gets done. Sigh. My son has been to every single camp. He finally was getting stuff marked off with dh and I asking him what was done at camp and marking stuff as ready to test (I think we are the only family using the system.) One that the scouter didn't mark off with that was to demonstrate a good campsite layout... said he would have to do it the next camp (my son has helped setup camps at least 12 camps as a scout). There was a couple of months to the next camp and this was the single requirement holding up him earning Voyageur Scout. The next badge night, my dh took a Lego model of a campsite that he created and explained it all, including the bucket of water for the fire. He did earn the requirement and his Voyageur Scout Award.

 

I am concerned about the Pathfinder and Cheif Scout requirements, as some I just don't see how the troop does them... and I recently had a glimpse that has me worried. For Pathfinder Scout one requirement in there is to organize a project to help the environment... that is a paraphrase and I think includes researching an environmental concern then doing the project..... I had wondered about this as I hadn't seen any projects except the standard scoutrees project which is an annual Scouts Canada project. A couple of weeks ago we had a cub camp and one of the leaders had arranged a planting milkweed to help polinators at the camp. The scouts and venturers were having a work-day at the camp to check tents for repairs etc. I had heard they would be planting trees. Well, turns out that was the 'project' (the trees) for one of the scouts who is being somewhat pressured to finish his pathfinder / cheif scout... he did not want to be there, and was basically told to take the scouts over to the pre-roto-tilled ground over in the field to plant the trees that I'm sure he did not arrange to get. Argh! Well, my daughter will probably get her forestry badge out of that and the other tree planting... I think I'll have to make sure the knowledge stuff gets done as they likely won't check that. Sigh.

 

And our program is changing (worst roll-out ever)... and the new Personal Achievement Badges (merit badges) have no set requirements except to pick an area that falls in the badge area, decide on 5 tasks/activities. Get them ok'd, and do them. Ideally it is at a level of appropriate challenge for that scout.... I can see this going badly. For cubs it is 4 areas. I have 30 cubs.... this is going to be a nightmare. And the badges will mean nothing... a swimming type badge ("water" I think) on one uniform might mean the scout earned the bronze medaklion for life saving. On another, it migh mean that he finally got the courage to put his face in the water. Yes, it might have taken the same amount of work and effort.... but it tells me nothing about the scouts' abilities.

 

Sent from my SM-T530NU using Tapatalk

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Generally the merit badge worksheets/workbooks are allowed/encouraged to be used as a note-taking device... a preparation tool for meeting with the councilor so that the scout has his thoughts and notes in order. If a requirement says Scout will Show/Discuss/Demonstrate etc... that's the action required - discussing, showing, etc. (There are some written requirements like writing to a senator, keeping a log of something etc. but even if there is a form in the merit badge handbook, the format is NOT usually defined.)

 

Worksheets/workbooks are NOT allowed to be REQUIRED. No counselor should be telling a boy who has done the work that his work isn't good enough because he didn't complete the unofficial worksheets. And no one should be requiring a boy to turn one in to 'prove' the work that a counselor has signed off on. Nor should a counselor say "Well you filled out the workbook, you're done." BUT If a certified counselor has signed off on the badge, technically under the guidelines... that's it, the boy has earned the badge and it's a matter of his honesty and honor for him to decide what to do with it, there's not supposed to be retesting. There's not supposed to be a "our troop has special rules" to approve what the counselor did -- because that's adding to the requirements approved by national.

 

 

Huh.

 

Every merit badge workshop, camp, or meeting that my children have attended, they have had to show the workbook.  The MB counselors wouldn't sign off if they didn't.   Maybe it was because in a class size, they can't sit down with each individually so written is the way they prove they did it?

 

How would you prove that every child knew the requirements in his head when there are 20 per class and only a few answer ?

 

When I taught classes, I always required the terms, questions, etc....to be filled out.  No one questioned me.  I also said attendance was required.  If you couldn't attend, then sign up later with me individually.  I was not having a class (there were 24 signed up) of people coming and going and then having to meet with them individually anyway.  It was a waste of everyone's time, but mostly mine.  

 

Unfortunately I still ended up with kids who missed 3 out of 5 sessions and then would get  upset that I couldn't do a make up class just for them, before the next class.

 

Dawn

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It seems our Troop is somewhat middle of the road. My son got the communications MB but had not attended a meeting yet so we made sure he went ahead and attended(along with other boys that had went to that session of MB workshop). For the MB workshops he's done so far there has generally been work to do before and/or after as well. I know my son did say that he had done more than the other Scouts for his Space Exploration badge but I just had him follow whatever was in the book. He is getting ready to attend his first camp I'll be interested to see what he says about his MB work there. Anything he does at home it is either dh or I guiding him and half-ass is not acceptable- so far it doesn't seem to occur to him to try to get away with doing whatever as like us he assumes he is to do whatever it says- of course if he starts seeing that other guys perpetually get away with doing half as much I see him pushing back some but unlucky for him dh is also Asst. Cubmaster with no tolerance for laziness from him or anyone else.

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Requiring something not listed in the merit badge guidelines (be it filling out the worksheets or meeting with a secondary in troop counselor) is against the regulations set forth by National. 7.04.8

 

http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/GuideToAdvancement/TheMeritBadgeProgram.aspx

 

Meritbadge.org is not an official scout source. Scouting.org IS.

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Which is why mb classes should not be done 20 boys at a time--you simply cannot know which boys know the material. Yes, it takes longer doing 2-3 at a time, but it ensures that each boy has done the requirements. 

 

 

Actually, I don't agree.  The boys often learn a lot by taking a class, things they might miss just looking it up by themselves.  And I am not teaching it 22 individual times.

 

But either way, I won't do 22 kids one at a time.  I just won't.  I taught the class because that particular class (family life) wasn't offered at camp.  

 

When I taught Cooking, I limited it to 8 boys.  It was fun for them to cook together, etc.....

 

When I offered to do the MB class for FL, I said I would have 8-10 boys at a time and the leadership stepped in and said I had to offer it to everyone.  So I did.  I would rather have had 8-10 at a time.

 

So you are also saying that boys shouldn't go to summer camp, merit badge manias, merit badge university, etc.....????

Edited by DawnM
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OP, mostly I agree with you on the slack requirements for merit badge in Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts. But for Boy Scouts, I think it's important to remember that not all of these boys are 16 and 17; many of them are very young 12 and 13and 14 years old, and they are working to their capability even if it isn't near adult level. The requirements of the badges, however, have to be written for boys roughly between the ages of 12 and 17. So those requirements really can't be too difficult for 13 year-old to achieve, which might make him a little easy for the 17 year old.

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<snip>

 

So you are also saying that boys shouldn't go to summer camp, merit badge manias, merit badge university, etc.....????

I'm not the person to whom you are directing your question but I am one who firmly believes that merit badge unis, manias, etc should be discouraged by the BSA, Councils, troops, etc.

 

When DS first joined Boy Scouts I thought the idea of MBUs was awesome.  We researched a few and he asked to go check it out.  We were homeschooling and were able to do lots of extra activities so I didn't see a problem.  I have been disappointed in every MBU I went to with DS.  Some classes were held in college classroom holding 100+ scouts.  The person leading the class did everything!  The boys literally sat in a lecture hall for 5 hours and received a merit badge.

 

Others have been smaller but almost every single one has the merit badge counsellor teaching the badge with little hands on activity or active participation by the scout. This sharing of knowledge does not meet the spirit of merit badges.  

 

Merit badges earned at a Boy Scout summer camp, taught by Boy Scouts or BSA selected and trained individuals is something much different than an MBU.

 

I've sat in on too many BORs and asked boys about their merit badges (What is your favorite, what was your favorite activity, what was tough about earning it, etc) and they were unable to share anything they learned because the MB was earned at an MBU.  99% of the scouts never even look at the MB book or know what the requirements are.  They sure are quick to turn in those blue cards, though.

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