I recently received a copy of Beginning Boy Scouts by Jeremy and Heather Reed. The subtitle is “An unofficial practical guide to Boy Scouts for parents and new leaders.” And that describes the book perfectly. If you know somebody who is new to the Scouts BSA program, then this would be a great resource to give them an overview of the program. Note that this book only covers the Scouts BSA program, not Cub Scouts or Venturing.
(Note: Also the name reflects that it was written before the Boy Scout program name changed, but the information all still applies.)
I’m thinking about recommending that our Committee Chair pick up a few copies of this book to give to our new families when their boys crossover to the troop in February. For parents whose first son is entering the program, this would answer a lot of questions. As one parent in our troop once said, “Scouts BSA has a steep learning curve for parents who are used to Cub Scouts.” I think this book might help them with the transition.
The book has 13 chapters. Here is an overview of the information in the book:
- Introduction – This chapter introduces the Scout Oath and Law, gives a little history, and explains how the chartering organization fits in the picture.
- Getting Started – This chapter covers how to find a troop and get registered.
- The Patrol Method – This chapter should be a must read for all new Boy Scout parents. The patrol method is so very basic to Scouts BSA, but to many new parents it doesn’t make much sense. “Why not find a more efficient method of doing things?”, they ask. This chapter explains that the patrol method allows the youth to lead and then goes on to explain the various leadership positions in the troop.
- Adult Leadership – This chapter covers the roles of adults in a troop, from the positions for registered adults to other ways parent can support their sons in Scouts BSA. It also covers the concept of two-deep leadership.
- Meetings, Activities, and Administrivia – This chapter explains what typically happens at the different types of meetings such as troop meetings, patrol meetings, and Court of Honors. It also discusses the ways different troops handle things like finances and communication.
- The Uniform and Scout Supplies – Many new parents will turn to this chapter frequently. “Where does the rank badge or this patch go on the uniform?” It also explains other uniform parts, like the merit badge sash, and how to purchase them.
- Rank Advancement – We find that many parents new to our troop have a lot of questions about advancement. This chapter explains the different ranks as well as things like the Scoutmaster Conference and the Board of Review. It also points out the advancement is the responsibility of the youth, not their parents.
- Merit Badges – We also tend to field a lot of questions about merit badges. This chapter explains how the process of earning a merit badge works, from the initial step of getting a card from the Scoutmaster to contacting a counselor. It also lists the Eagle required merit badges. This is helpful, since we find some parents have a hard time understanding that while it is great that Johnny has 20 electives, he can’t earn Star or Life or Eagle until he also has the correct number of Eagle required badges.
- Other Awards, Achievements, and Recognitions – This chapter lists some other recognitions youth can try to earn. While these might not help him advance, they will enhance his experience in the program. Among the topics covered in this chapter is the Order of the Arrow.
- Setting Goals and Keeping Track – Another thing parents find very different from Cub Scouting is that Scouts BSA advance at their own pace and are responsible for their own advancement. This chapter covers some more advancement topics, including keeping track of things like nights of camping and other things which require long term record keeping for advancement.
- Camping and Outdoor Activities – This is usually why the boys join. This chapter covers how short term campouts are planned, what skills are needed, and what to pack along with some other helpful information.
- Summer Camps, High Adventure, and Special Events – Summer camp is the highlight of the scouting year. This chapter explains what typically goes on there. It also covers special events, like camporees, and the high adventure bases. (Summit Bechtel Reserve – the newest adventure base – is not covered.)
- Earning the Eagle – It is funny, but some new parents seem most concerned with “getting their sons to Eagle”. Of course, this is the Scout’s responsibility, not the parent’s. This chapter explains the process and answers a lot of questions which are commonly asked about about how to earn the honor of being called an Eagle Scout.