I know I tell you all the time that I love Girl Scouts, and that it's revolutionized our homeschooling.
I say it so often because it's true.
I loved Girl Scouts when the children were Juliettes and we did all of our badge work independently, but I love it even more now, as part of a troop of enthusiastic kids and their parents who are just as dedicated as I am to providing these engaging and enriching experiences.
As most of us are homeschoolers, our troop also trends toward the non-traditional. The children are expected to do much of their badge work, again, independently, under the mentorship of their parents, but we also meet together at least monthly, co-op-style, to complete a badge activity that works better as a group, or go on a field trip or service project, or just hold a regular meeting at a kid's request.
This particular field trip was inspired by the Girl Scout Junior Independence badge, which Sydney is working on. Their badge work is generally a mix of kid-led and adult-led activities--they choose the badge because they're inspired by one or two of the activities, and those are the ones they're usually eager to complete all on their own. I step in to guide the activities that they're less eager to complete, and as their mentor I also reserve the right to also ask them to complete activities that I think will be valuable experiences for them. With the Independence badge, Syd was very interested in the fashion design components (of course!), the sewing and home organization, and, weirdly, the bad habit-breaking. I, then, am teaching both children how to completely do the laundry from start to finish this week (they can fill the washer, switch over laundry, and put away clean clothes, of course, but know nothing about sorting or water temperature, etc.), I asked Matt to teach them how to hang things on the walls (Matt and I have always had areas of expertise AND complicated walls, and he's the one who holds all the information on complicated wall-hanging. I'm the one who knows how to change the oil in the lawnmower), and I'm tentatively planning an entire Girl Scout meeting around button-sewing (first teaching the children how to sew on a button, then having them switch out the buttons on an item that they've brought from home--I'm sure their parents will be THRILLED).
Syd was also interested in the bicycle repair and maintenance activity for this badge. Now, I know exactly as much about bicycle repair and maintenance as she does, but what I DO know is the name of an acquaintance who volunteers with a local non-profit, the Bloomington Community Bike Project. When I contacted her, she generously put me in touch with the woman in charge, who VERY generously set up our entire Girl Scout troop with a workshop!
These women showed up early on a Saturday morning to teach all the kids how to change the tires on their bicycles and oil their chains. And then?
The kids changed the tires on their bicycles and oiled their chains!
Can you even imagine? Eight little kids in the hands of three experts, who somehow managed to give each child the individual attention that let each kid take her bike tire completely apart and put it completely together again, handling all the resultant catastrophes. One kid punctured his inner tube, one kid's inner tube was adhered to the wheel, one kid had hand brakes to detach, one kid's rim was rusted. Each kid learned how to take the tire off of her bike, how to deflate her tires, how to lever off the tire, how to remove the tube, how to check that tube for punctures, how to put it all back together again, how to reinflate her tire (and how much to reinflate it!), and how to reassemble her bicycle.
Afterwards, the children wheeled their bicycles out to our cross-town walking/biking trail that's next door to the bike shop, and they gleefully rode up and down the trail, careening past people attempting to go to and from the farmer's market, absolutely delighted at what they'd accomplished.
It was a wonderful workshop.
While we were there, we also learned that both kids have managed to grow out of their bicycles this summer.We can pass Will's down to Syd, but for Will, I think we're going to do something different. She's tall enough now for an adult bicycle, and the Community Bike Project has an Earn-a-Bike program. You volunteer three hours with them, and then you are given all the gently-used parts and all the expert guidance that you need to BUILD yourself a bicycle.
Don't you think that sounds like the perfect parent/big kid winter project?