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Scouting and homework: Can the two coexist?

It’s 5:30 on Monday evening, and your 16-year-old son says he has four hours of homework to finish tonight — all due tomorrow. Can, or should, your son attend his 90-minute troop meeting at 7 p.m.? Who should make that decision?

Today’s students are given more out-of-school assignments than ever, making it difficult for a young man or woman to keep all the plates spinning: school, sports, friends, student groups, religion, family, and — of course — Scouting.

It’s tough on parents, too. So I asked our Facebook friends for guidance, and they provided some excellent insight. Here’s a look at some of my favorite responses, categorized by the Scouter’s general opinion on the matter:

School comes first. Period.

For several of you, this situation is pretty black and white.

  • “School should come before Scouting. This shouldn’t even be a question!” — Jeff K.
  • “We never ask the Scouts to make the choice of school or Scouts. School always comes before Scouts. The troop can wait. Applying the squeeze at this point in their lives only serves to stress an already stressed boy.” — Tracey L.
  • “As both a parent and a den leader, homework comes first. Extracurricular activities are just that: extra. Good homework habits are learned at a very young age, and teaching your grade schooler to skip homework in order to go to Scouts is the same thing as teaching your future high schooler to skip homework to go to a sports game or school dance.” — Audri T.
  • “It is not at all uncommon for my high schoolers to have two-plus hours of homework on any given night. Scouts is important to us, but school takes priority.” — Beverly S.

There’s time for both.

Many of you said that there’s no need to choose when both are so vital to a young person’s growth.

  • “I am high school junior in all honors and AP classes. I always make time for Boy Scout meetings and camps. It comes down to managing your time well and planning ahead.” — Ryan L.
  • My Eagle Scout son, with four to six hours of IB homework, never missed a meeting. He may have had to come straight home from school/practice, went to homework, eat dinner, did homework, went to his meeting and came home and did homework … but he always made it happen.” — Sharon L.
  • I agree with the parents that said that there is a balance. Educating our children is not just academics. It is also character building and preparing them to be strong men of character, and good citizens. This is very important. Scouting will help with this. So, in some ways, Scouting is part of school, not separate.” — Jennifer D.
  • “Kids know ahead of time when their projects and tests are, they should be able to get them done ahead of time.” — J. David G.

Scouting shouldn’t take a back seat.

While none of you said school doesn’t matter, a few thought Scouts should be the priority.

  • “I have two Eagle Scouts. They are both in college now. We put Scouts over homework on meeting night. Even most campouts. I did not pressure them to make all A’s. They are much better men because of Scouts than school. Teachers get carried away with all the homework they give.” — Jeannine P.
  • Our kids are not the fastest at getting their homework done, but I can’t see that as a valid reason to miss a one-hour meeting. The change-up from homework can be a good rest and help motivate them when they get home. Learning is essential to progress, and that is not limited just to school work. I think kids learn just as much from Scouting, too.” — Scott C.

One more good point.

Gerry M. offers a final thought: “Maybe they can sub the Xbox time for homework once in a while and still make the troop meeting!”

What’s your opinion?

School first, Scouts first, or somewhere in between? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

43 Comments on Scouting and homework: Can the two coexist?

  1. As my oldest son once told me, “School is my job.”
    His point being that it was top priority now until he was finished and got a job. If he plans his time and does the important things, then he may have time for fun activities, like Scouts or ultimate frisbee or video games.

  2. Homeschooling allows for both and they are often interconnected.

    • Yes, but as a homeschooler in all advanced classes, it can be hard to find time to do the scout “homework” (used loosely) such as planning as well as a whole lot of school.

  3. As a teacher and a parent there is no doubt school comes first, but there is a balance. At Open House my husband and I let the teachers know that our children are Scouts. On Scout nights their first responsibility is to get as much done as they are able when they get home from school. If they have a lot of work we look at what the work is and what the plans are for Scouts. I have emailed teachers and asked for an extra time (sometimes deadlines are arbitrary and an extra day is no problem). Other times they have missed Scouts -or have arrived a little late or had to leave a little early – to get the work done. As a Scout leader I know some things can be done between meetings on their own without much loss from the experience. Whenever a choice like this needs to be made we discuss it with our children weighing the priorities. Our children have impressed us with their decision making skills and the choices that they make. Which is why they are in Scouts, and in school, in the first place

  4. School is more important but the scout needs to learn to budget time so the scout can make it to the meeting. I have 2 Girl Scouts and 2 cub scouts. On meeting nights, they do their homework during lunch, on the ride home and before dinner.

    Have the scout skip the social media during homework and it is amazing how fast they can get things done.

  5. Bryan, thanks for bringing up a very important and relevant topic! School work must be an A-1 priority, but it’s overly simplistic to say that a Scout must complete all of their homework before they can participate in Scouting (or any other) activities. The biggest lessons to be learned here are *time management,* making *choices* and setting *priorities.* If the Scout chooses Scouting as one of their priorities, then it is indeed possible to fit both Scouting and school into their lives, just as I juggle my career, family and volunteering as a Scouting leader. These are critical life skills that Scouts (and the rest of us, for that matter) need to use day in and day out for the rest of their lives. It then becomes a matter of planning ahead, setting aside time for each. It only becomes a problem when there’s a conflict, e.g., you want to go to your troop meetinig but you have a 10-page paper due tomorrow morning and you simply don’t have enough time to do both. Then and only then they must choose school over Scouting. But with careful planning, a Scout will find that these occasions are few and far between.

  6. Scouting and School both offer so much to children. And, I definetly think time management is important. But some people have to work harder at academics than others. And drooning away hours and hours on math or science can be quiet disheartening for those who require more time. Breaking up academics with scouting can REALLY PROVE a BENEFIT ! ! ! And like so many mentioned, I would defintly prefer time at scouts to time spent with TV or video games. Life requires responsibility, balance, and discerne. What works for one boy, may not work for another.

  7. School & Scouting are both important. Both will have a legacy for life. Time management is the key to be make the best of both.

  8. I do not know of any school or teachers in K-12 that “spring” 4 hours of homework on a student…. both my children are in scouting and have at least an hour of homework each day in addition to church volunteerism and Kung Fu training.. the order of priority as i teach is duty to God, duty to country, community and that which makes responsible citizens and last duty to self as in extra activities… Failure to stay reasonably consistent with timely homework completion results in the loss of well liked personal choice activities…. first to suffer is Martial Art lessons and training and second to go is Scouts… Rarely do we have to skip midweek Church service or church related social activities. just how we do it here at this home… seems to work quite well……

    • Students can have over 4+ hours of homework when they take multiple college level AP classes in high school, sometimes up to 4 or 5 a semester.

      I’m a Senior in high school right now currently taking 4 AP classes. Frankly, Scouting has taken a back seat and that is something that I’ve talked to my Scoutmaster about that. In addition to the 4 APs, college applications and SAT Testing is coming up.

      Luckily, I already got my Eagle and recently got the Vigil Honor. However, I can understand the stress and the extreme lack of sleep that balancing out school and Scouting can cause.

  9. I am proud to say I have two Eagles; both did well academically; both are multiple sport athletes, one is in business now raising a family, the other serves in the US Army overseas. Both have been able to use Scouting Skills to their advantage, while pee-wee and even High School sports, although an important part of their lives growing up, have contributed nothing to their adult lives. Fond memories, but not much to show but trophies and letters. School is important, but even schoolingh does not round the boy out. Sports, to me, is a great diversion, but when it comes down to it, a properly run Troop has made more of a difference in my son’s lives and in the lives of the scouts I have seen go through the program, in the past 20 plus years. Parents – teach your sons time management with this great tool we call Scouting.

    • Johnathan Eaton // September 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm // Reply

      This is the best comment I have read. You have made some of the same points I have. First off it is all about time management. Second you are absolutely correct on the points made about sports and scouts. Sports are fun, but you do not learn any life lessons to apply in adulthood. I received my Eagle in 1996 when I was halfway through the 8th grade. From that day forward I applied so many things learned such as leadership skills in my every day life. I started Tiger Cubs in 1989 and was very active till I went to college and got a job. Within the last 4 years I have rejoined scouting first as a Webelos Den leader and then an Assistant Scoutmaster. It was time for me to give back to scouting what I received out of it and to help younger scouts reach their own goals in life.

  10. It is about priorities, you can find time for everything that is important. I was the senior patrol leader for an EXCELLENT troop, and a large, active one, during my junior year of high school which was filled with honors, AP, IB, etc classes. I always found more than enough time for both and to get my Eagle. In fact, homework was usually not that bad unless I had a large assignment like writing a paper, which you should have plan of time in advance to plan around. Schools dont surprise students with very much in high school, you know when the tests are and large papers are due. A responsible scout will take these into account and be able to do everything. As to which one comes first, it depends on the importance of the work you have to do, a camping trip plan, reservations, and meeting prep take preference over a chapter of reading, but an essay deadline is more important than rearranging the quartermaster’s closet (it can wait til you have time), but there is time for both. Im currently in medical school, and I spend on average 10-13 hrs a day at school. But I can still find time to get to the gym occasionally, go grocery shopping, cook meals, and even take an hour or two somewhere to watch a fun tv show or play a computer game for an hour.

  11. School work should always be first. There are other meetings and activities.
    Myself as a Den Leader and Cub Master; I contact the parents (via email) inquiring about the scout. I also (as a Den Leader), let the parents know what occured at the Den meeting (requirments and electives).

  12. As a Freshman in college and an Eagle Scout, I never had an issue with homework and meetings. I was involved in both track and cross country and worked in my school’s theater department for all four years in high school, so my load was anything but light. During finals, sure I stayed home and studied, or if a big project was due I would skip a meeting to complete it, but for me, being at the Scout meeting was pretty important. On meeting nights I would get home and start my homework immediately and work until it was time to leave, and then continue after my meeting. Sometimes I would have to stay up a little later to finish everything, but it was worth it. The experiences I had at Scout meetings, especially as an older high school aged Scout where I was developing leadership skills, were invaluable. Plus, having a 90 minute break from homework really helped me to relax and come back with a fresh mind if I was stuck on a problem or had writers block.

    One thing to always remember is that if parents place Scouts as the lowest priority, the Scout will begin to get the same message and the risk of that Scout dropping out of the program will increase tremendously.

    • Great comments, especially about the lose of interest.

  13. Bravo! This is the best comment on this post yet! :-)

  14. Johnathan Eaton // September 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm // Reply

    It is hard, but it can be done. I also graduated high school and college and reached the rank of Eagle Scout with 51 merit badges. I have been active in scouts since the Tiger Cubs in the 1st grade. The only meetings I ever missed were during football season, due to the fact I was in the band the it had evening practice same night and at the same time, however I did not miss any of the outings. They were always scheduled around school related events.If you apply the right balance between both it can be done. I would work on homework from around 3:30 to 6:30, attend scout from from 7 to 8:30, then it was home to finish any homework or test studying that might have been assigned and was in bed by 10. This was the same schedule my brother who is also an Eagle Scout followed and it work for him as well. From all I learned in school and scouts together, I have to say that I have applied more of the things I learned in scouts in my everyday life. However, I do agree though that homework should come first, because without a solid foundation in education the things learned in scouting are pointless if you don’t have a place or job to apply them.

  15. I learned more from scouting than any school book or sporting event practice..

  16. There is a big difference between homework and school sports. I have an issue with school sports coming before scouts because the number of young men that make sports their job is relatively small in the grand scheam of things, but if my son had more homework than he could get done before the meeting then he skipped the meeting. I encouraged him to work ahead and plan accordingly to make sure he had time for scouts. He is now a sophomore in college, and an Eagle Scout and OA vigil member. A lot of who he is today and the confidence and leadership skills he now possesses came from scouting.

  17. Since my sons get out of school at 2:30, that gives them 4 hours of time to work on their homework before scouting. When my sons are in school athletics, that’s where they feel the pinch, because they can spend an additional 3 hours after school every day at their sport. Luckily for them we are talking about a 3-month time frame of learning to balance life carefully. Which is exactly what life is – a balancing act between work, home, and activities you want to do. Being a parent means playing a part in helping your son set priorities, make sacrifices, and wise choices or suffer the consequences. It isn’t going to be any different when they get to college or start working, so why not keep it real?

  18. I try to make decisions based on the 10 rule…what difference will this make 10 minutes from now, 10 days from now and 10 years from now. Like most, I agree that choosing one or the other should be rare and I know I would consider scouts over schooling depending on the school assignment and the troop event. The shaping of my son’s character through scouting as opposed to public school is a priority.

  19. School is a place to learn a new knowledge, and scout is the place to grow our personality! with that personality, the knowledge will be usefull. because without any soul, knowledge is nothing. ^^

  20. As a mom, a CubMaster, and a former Girl Scout troop leader, I understand the dilemma. However like so many have already said it is about balance. There is no reason to not be able to do both, and if necessary you could think of your scout meeting as a break from homework, and get back to it when your meeting is finished. That way you can look at it with fresh eyes. Besides that, if your child is telling you that they have a 10 page paper due tomorrow, they are probably not telling you that they have had the assignment for 2 weeks and have done nothing about it. Time management and prioritizing are the keys to success!

  21. Chris Kettenbach // September 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm // Reply

    I am one that suffered from this very dilema. I was putting off homework and school work when I was 17 to get my Eagle finished up. I finished my Eagle project just before I was 18. The next Board of Review was after my 18th birthday. I passed my Board of Review but they told me, since I was over 18, I had to write to the Boy Scouts a reason my Board of Review was after my birthday. Mean while, my grades were slipping. So, I then concentrated on that and missed the deadline of mailing my “reason”.

    I ended up graduating highschool with a 3.333 with a Scholastic diploma.

    So, I earned the Eagle Scout badge, but never received it. :( I still have my application completely signed with all the merit badge cards from 1995.

    • Sir, Did you try and contact National they have in the past made limited exceptions in cases like yours.

  22. On Scout meeting days a Scout may need to work on homework assignments between classes, if possible, or soon after school is over. It’s easy enough to say that school comes first, which solves the problem of choice and accountability. Attending to activities outside of homework can help the scout develop skills in time management, learn responsibility to those who are depending on him, understand that life means that we balance all those things that that develops our spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional well-being. The Scout Law in itself helps develop a well-rounded character and personality.

  23. Everyone goes to school-Scouting’s Mission is to prepare youth to make ethical and moral decisions over their lifetime by instilling within the principals of the Scout Oath and Law.

    I have learned way more important skills in Scouting than I ever did in School. I am not suggesting to drop out of school. Stay in school, but put as much as you can into Scouts. It changed my life and made me a better person. Find the balance between School and Scouts. I work 40 hours a week, am taking 15hours of college classes and still find time for Scouts now. And College homework is a bit more than High School. Cut Video Games out, and you will have lots of time.

  24. Scoutmaster Drops // September 22, 2011 at 3:15 pm // Reply

    Our troop rarely has this issue since we meet on Sunday evenings at 7pm. We went to that day for our meetings when over 50% of our troop was involved in marching band and they had practice at the same time as our weekday meeting. We also changed it to allow for the adults who worked second shift during the week to be available to help out with the troop. It has allowed our small troop to grow, and it is a point that some boys like. They do not have to decide between school activities, homework, or scouts on the week night. The families like it since most are already home from whatever they be doing as a family, and are able to attend as well as do the family thing. I am not saying it is for everyone, but it does help the boys involved in sports stay active during the seasons they participate.

  25. I have two Freshman and one 7th grader. They are all in honors classes. They have rarely had to skip a Scout meeting or event. They know that School is their primary responsibility and A or expected. When there is a conflict, we discuss the pros an cons. If I have found that the times they seem to be overwelmed, they procrastinated and should have used better time management.

    If they have made a prior committment to lead at Scouts they have to follow through with it. I expect them to talk to the teacher about extending the deadline but I will support them – even if it means standgn behind them. If not, we go for 1/2 the meeting and leave early.

  26. My son has severe Dyslexia. We work with the teachers to allow them to substitute reading merit badge pamphlets and chapters of the Boy Scout Handbook for his reading assignments at school. He had to do a 5 page biographical report last year and we used Scouting as the historical figure and read the Scouting Heritage Pamphlet to complete requirements for both.

  27. School is important, but on Scout nights my 2 boys, 16 Life and 14 Star with Asphergers, have always been told to Be Prepared and Do There Best and my 14 yoa teachers know the importants of the Scouting program in our lives.

  28. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all answer here. Every child learns at a different pace, and some kids won’t do well on important assignments if they are interrupted, go to scouts, and come back. That having been said, some kids can apply themselves effectively enough to get the work done and do scouts, but we need to be understanding enough that our children may each handle this situation differently.

  29. As an Eagle scout who just entered college, I have to say that this was never an issue for me. I budgeted my time and arranged long term projects so that I didn’t have to do much work on Scouts night, or would stay up after meetings to finish it off. In 7 years of scouting I missed 6 meetings, and only 2 of those were for homework.(both times that we had a meeting the night before finals). I still got good grades because I made sure to do homework when I could at other times. For weekend trips, I would either work more on Sunday, start early in the week, or sometimes ask teachers for an extension. Funnily enough, Scouting taught me the skills that enabled me to attend almost every scout meeting

    • Yes what you said lastly it does!

  30. Well my mum thinks homework is less important than scouts but, i am getting education in school!

  31. ScoutingMom // August 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm // Reply

    Each kid is different and each kid has different goals. For the kid going into a vocational program after high school? He can easily do both. For the kid who struggles with learning struggles to do well in hiss classes? He may miss some scouting. For the super smart driven type A scout? He will do both. For the kid trying to get into an elite 4 year college where one B can drastically reduce your chances? No – he will AT TIMES not be able to go to scouts. What I hate is that our scoutmaster (who did not go to college) gives my son a hard time for missing scouts. If he has a huge physics test the next day and he is is struggling in the class – you had better believe he’s not going to scouts. When his sport is in season? He will not be at a campout for 3 months. Well rounded should be our goal but school will always come first. When he misses scouts, he is NOT home sitting on the sofa or playing video games. He’s been in scouts for 10 years… He has absorbed the program and missing some meetings or outings while in high school doesn’t diminish the fact that he is a scout.

  32. Howard Marcus // August 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm // Reply

    The question is can scouting and homework coexist. I say one is mutually supportive of the other. Most adults will agree that school comes first as it is required and doing as well as you can has long-term benefits. I have found scouts to be able to develop better time management skills than most other people their age. It is my opinion that scouting provides a better college preparation experience and development of work ethic than most schools these days. Scouting made me a better student. About twenty years ago I finished a ten exam series for a professional designation. As with the Eagle rank this designation had only a few percent of those starting completing. Only twenty percent who finished did so in less than ten years. I finished in less than five without going to classes, review courses and study groups. People were shocked and asked me how I did it. I said that I was in the scouts and approached these exams as if they were merit badges. As a scout I learned to plan for everything I wanted to do. Our son does the same with school, music, sports, OA, clubs and friends. Homework and scouting can coexist. Some scouts need the help of adults along the way to make this work.

  33. There is no reason to put one ahead of the other. Just like with Work, Family and God. Sometimes work has to come before family. Sometimes family has to come before God. Sometime God before the rest. It depends on the moment. Figure out whats right and do it.

  34. Pete Brewer // August 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm // Reply

    I am an Eagle Scout and recently graduated college with an Engineering degree. I took all AP classes in high school and graduated in the top 10% of my high school class, I was also in the choir, active with my troop until I turned 18, even though I earned my Eagle when I was 14, I was active in my church group and had a job as a children’s soccer referee. It is possible to do it all and still succeed at school, it’s called time management.

    All that being said, on scout nights, GET YOUR SCOUT TO HIS MEETING, even if he has a mound of homework taller than him. Why? By the time the meeting rolls around, he should have been working on his homework for a couple of hours, by which point he will desperately need a break. As an engineering student, I know about throwing oneself into homework to the exclusion of all else, it’s not healthy, you need to get out.

    What about campouts one weekends when your scout has a lot of homework? Campout I regularly needed my campouts as a time to relax, refresh and rejuvenate myself. It was amazing how much better I felt when I got back from a campout. Besides, if there is an insane amount of homework, there’s the drive to and from the campout, or if he’s feeling especially productive, he might even take it out during the campout and do some work in the woods, I know I did, as did many other older scouts in my troop.

    Also, college and even job recruiters after college love Eagle Scouts, it helped me get my new job.

  35. Gina Di Nola // August 25, 2014 at 12:31 pm // Reply

    It IS possible to combine Scouting with Schoolwork. My son is a homeschooled Lone Scout, and we use the Cub Scout handbooks for many of our subjects. For example, each requirement under Artist is done on a different day for Art class; for Science, we follow the Scientist requirements, and for Foreign Language class, we complete the Sign Language requirement under the Communicator badge. This helps the Scout learn while completing badge requirements. Although you only have to complete a few requirements to earn a badge, we still do all them to satisfy the homeschool requirements. It is a win-win situation. Best part of all this is that there is no (or little) homework.

  36. Jim Lemerand - Scoutmaster T1770 Wyandotte MI // August 26, 2014 at 8:48 am // Reply

    WOW! What awesome comments!

    There have been several suggestions… school only, school and scouting, scouting as a priority… I would submit that each case is highly individual. While some kids may spend all night on homework, others may breeze through… all very personal. I’ve also read that “school is my job”. While that may make mom and dad proud, how will it play out in 20 years… when their child is working insane hours? However, having said that, again it’s very personal. I will relate a story.. though not lifesaving, it did make me smile.

    My son earned his Eagle Scout rank at the last minute… almost literally. When he went off to college, he joined the rowing team. While setting up the canopy, none of the crewmembers could get the guys to stay. One yelled over, “Hey… your’re a Boy Scout… come help us with this. He set all the guys and the race went on.

    Scouting also helped him decide what he wanted to do for a living. He spent a lot of attention to meal prep… When his patrol was in charge of meals, he experimented with different spices and ways of preparing what we had… He worked at a Michelin 2 star restaurant and is now a chef at a top 100 restaurant in San Francisco. I’d read somewhere that careers are often chosen based on what was learned earning a merit badge… Also, if the student has the military in his sights, He’ll get an automatic bump in rate if he’s earned his Eagle Scout rank. In addition, it is a line item on military academy applications. Preference is given to those who have shown leadership required to earn the rank. I know two Eagle scouts who took advantage. One attended West Point and the other the Coast Guard Academy. I also personally know of 2 individuals who got the jobs they applied for simply because of their scouting experience… so… while academics are important, the benefits of being involved in a Pack or Troop should not be underestimated.

  37. rscoutingmom // November 25, 2014 at 9:45 am // Reply

    Gina Di Nola. I do the same thing. I have 4 kids under 10 and we Homeschool. 2 are in scouts and my daughter is in AHG. I have worked scouts into our school time so at least once a week each child has a dedicated hour for scout requirements. This is including doing as you said anything under its appropriate subject. This way no one has home work of any kind.

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