Homeschooling and Scouting: An Inexpensive Curriculum Even for Non-Scouts

By Crystal Ladwig, Ph. D.

No one loves a good deal quite like a homeschooler. Perhaps it’s because so many of us are single-income families, entrepreneurs, or want to turn everything into a learning opportunity, but we tend to jump at low-cost, high-quality curricular options. When we started homeschooling, scouting was an obvious place to turn.

Merit badges are used as part of the advancement process in Scouts BSA (formerly Boy Scouts of America). Children as young as 10 can join. Each merit badge focuses on a specific topic. To earn the merit badge, scouts learn about that topic, perform activities related to it, and explore careers in that area.


Here’s where the homeschooling link comes in. Many of the more than 100 merit badges available are academic in nature. A merit badge book can be purchased for $5 online as an eBook or paper book or purchased at a Scout Shop. You don’t have to be a scout to purchase one either. Each merit badge also has a free downloadable workbook for kids to use as they track their progress. Older versions of the books are available online in PDF form for free download.

Most of the merit badges lend themselves nicely to supplement social studies or science curricula or even to use as a low-cost curriculum for middle and high school students. Common social studies content includes Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World, American Cultures, American Heritage and Indian Lore, among others. Science is heavily represented with content on Astronomy, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Insect Study, Mammal Study, Nuclear Science and Oceanography. Many others are great to help kids develop important life skills like First Aid, Personal Management, Family Life and Cooking.

Each merit badge book begins with a list of requirements to earn the badge.The remainder of the book includes reading material needed to help meet those requirements. They do require students to work outside of the book as well. For example, students working in the Environmental Science book would also create a timeline of the history of environmental science in America, conduct experiments, conduct their own online research, write and present a report, conduct observational analyses and learn about careers in environmental science.


One of the things homeschoolers like best is being able to individualize instruction to suit the interests of our kids. Scouting merit badge content is helpful there too. If you have a child who is interested in computers, they may use content for Programming, Animation, Digital Technology, Robotics and Graphic Arts. If you have a child who is interested in working with animals one day, they may use content for Animal Science, Bird Study, Dog Care, Horsemanship, Insect Study, Mammal Study, Pets, Reptile and Amphibian Study and Veterinary Medicine. Whether your child is interested in scouting or not, the content in most merit badge books lends itself nicely to homeschooling. Use them for academics, for life skills or just for fun (like learning about archery, camping, or canoeing). It’s an easy way to learn a lot without spending a lot.


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