Wow, have I been busy! But it has been a good kind of busy. Last week my oldest daughter was awarded the Stars and Stripes Award from the American Heritage Girls. It was quite an honor; it is comparable to an Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts.
American Heritage Girls is a Christian, character-development, scouting organization that is very similar to the Boy Scouts of America. In fact, it now enjoys a formal relationship with BSA. The organization is quite new – only 16 years old.
When our troop, GA2007, was chartered by the local homeschool support group four years ago, my daughter and I were eager to participate. At that time I was pregnant with my seventh son, and she and I were feeling, well, rather surrounded by boys. I am not sure many can understand that feeling. We were quite outnumbered.
Perhaps there is no place that demonstrates our plight like the choice in family read-aloud books. My husband reads to the children from literature several nights a week when possible. He has read most of the great classics: Les Miserables, Huck Finn, Moby Dick, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy… There are notable, gaping holes in our selections. Forget Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre! No, for us it is always Count of Monte Cristo, Three Musketeers, or even Crime and Punishment. I think my husband read one page of Anne of Avonlea, one paragraph of Heidi, and only opened the cover of Little Women. Well, at least he tried.
My daughter and I were delighted for an opportunity to spend time with girls pursuing feminine activities. It has been a resounding success! Four years ago I volunteered as a unit leader for the Patriots, the high-school-aged girls. For two years I have combined my Patriots with the Pioneers, the middle-school-aged girls. Together we have worked on earning badges and performing service projects. The badges are a great idea for so many reasons. They encouraged us to learn new things, such as Needle Arts, Space Exploration, or Geology. Some of the required badges ensured we learned essential life skills. For Emergency Preparedness, we had to learn self-defense and get certified in CPR. Home Repair required the use of power tools and basic home maintenance. Several of the badges were downright difficult. Fishing required the cleaning of a fish. Outdoor Skills required us to learn knots and lashing techniques, and to construct a useful structure. I had the greatest pleasure seeing the girls earn the Canoeing Badge. It was challenging.
It required the girls to get in the water (so we had to find an alligator-free lake), to pull each other out, to swamp their canoes, and to pass the flooded canoe over another canoe before turning it upright and climbing back it.
It was difficult, but they accepted the challenge, and when they succeeded their faces beamed with delight: ”I did it!”
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the American Heritage Girls is the emphasis that is placed on having the girls serve their family, their church, their community, and one another. So many of the badges require a girl to teach or demonstrate a skill to younger girls. Those younger girls adore the teens. One of the strengths of homeschooling is that it encourages children not to be dependent on their peer group. AHG has a similar effect, allowing girls to bond with others who are not their age. I love that.
To earn the Stars and Stripes Award, my daughter had to plan and implement a sizable project that would require 100 volunteer hours. For several years she had visited an Alzheimer care facility to play her harp for the patients. For her project, she designed and constructed a garden to be enjoyed by Alzheimer’s patients and their families. The raised garden is wheel-chair accessible and filled with aromatic plants that can be used in therapy for the patients. Apparently, the sense of smell is one of the first to diminish in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Her project was not without complications! Her winter was filled with college applications and harp auditions, lots of paperwork and bureaucratic obstacles. Then finally the week that the garden was to be installed, the week before her 18th birthday (the deadline), the heavens opened up and poured rain for days and days. I was so proud and thankful to see American Heritage Girls of all ages, their brothers, mothers, and fathers turn up to help get her garden constructed and completed before her deadline.
The Stars and Stripes Award ceremony was wonderful! It was both solemn and joyful. I was proud of my daughter and all that she had achieved. She set a goal, she reached for it, it stretched her, and she grew.
The ceremony would not have gone so smoothly without the time and commitment of the other AHG leaders. I am so grateful for their time and efforts. Mothers are busy people, and I daresay homeschooling mothers are busier than most. But these gracious women gave their time and creative energy to write and implement a Stars and Stripes Award Ceremony that was both meaningful and lovely. I am so thankful.
My daughter was the first to earn the Stars and Stripes Award in our troop, the third in the state of Georgia, and the fortieth nation-wide. I now hold in my arms another daughter, only one year old. It is my hope that she may follow in the footsteps of her older sister, to reach for the Stars and Stripes Award and embrace the AHG Mission: “Building women of integrity through service to God, family, community, and country.”
Comments (15) Aug 09 2011