Thursday, 13 October 2011

No Brownie Points for Brownies

Daughter started Brownies five months ago and apart from the initial "Welcome to Brownies" leaflet, I've had no information at all.

Five months on and every week daughter comes home upset that she hasn't done her promise yet, but I've no idea what she needs to do or how long it will take, so I can't placate her.

I haven't had any lists of dates of meetings (vital since daughter does not have local school holidays so I don't know whether Brownies are meeting or not) or of Church Parades, consequently we missed the first Church Parade of the year. Luckily my MIL told me when Harvest Festival was so we didn't miss that one and I assumed they would need a Harvest Box.

Last week, in sheer desparation, knowing that some sort of subs must be due, I sent a blank cheque with a note saying I didn't know how much it was or who to make it payable to!

The last straw came tonight:

Daughter said that this week was "Badge Night"

"What does that mean?" I asked her.

"Don't know"

I assumed that they would be doing some activities toward a badge.

When I picked her up I asked

"Did you get a badge?"

"No" came the dejected reply, "But loads of girls got two or three!"

"How?" I asked.

"Don't know"

I now have one very demoralised Brownie on my hands.

Now, I know there are some wonderful Brownie leaders out there who read my blog, so I want some advice:

I don't want to be the "mithery mum", but should I phone Brown Owl and ask what is going on, when daughter will do her promise, ask for a list of dates and what daughter needs to do to get badges? Or do I just let it run it's course and all will be revealed at some point?


ADDY said...

Seems a bit disorganised to me. We used to get letters telling us when something was happening or the Brown Owl would call us over to tell us things when we collected our darlings at the end of the meetings. I would have a chat with her next time you see her (either at he beginning or the end of the meeting) and tell her you are completely in the dark.

Maggie May said...

My oldest granddaughter( being a bit of a tomboy) joined the cubs along with some other girls from school not long ago.
She has worked towards several badges already and I've sewn 4 onto her cub jumper.These were just given out after the meeting.
She also hasn't done her promise yet. I think these might be done in the next church service that all the uniformed children go to.

Do you take your daughter to Brownies? I think you should just go in and ask Brown Owl, or stay behind and ask when she's picked up.
Sounds like you are definitely missing out on information.
Hope you will be better informed.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

AGuidingLife said...

I've sent the link to some Brown Owls to see if they'll comment from other people perpectives. This is mine:

This is a hard call because whoever is running the pack is a volunteer and is probably doing the best she can but sometimes some packs aren't as well run as maybe they might be. I would normally expect an enrolment to happen in 6 weeks and also a letter to go out every term with an indication of what is happening, will happen and what is expected of the girls and parents. Don't pay subs unless you are asked for them! I would pop in at the end of the meeting (not start) and ask initially about subs (and your cheque if not cashed yet) which will then open the door for a 'is there a term plan with any key dates on?' and 'do you have an enrolment date set so you can get it into your calendar?' If she has particular friends there then persevere but if not I would be tempted (if you are towny rather than rural) to put feelers out for another local pack and try a transfer. Going for a 'she has the opportunity to do crocodile taming on your night now could she transfer' angle? If you get absolutely nowhere I would try the district commissioner for advice, there is a way to get the details of that person. Above all be gentle with Brown Owl, she will be doing the best she can. Secondary thought: ask if there is a 'mums rota' that way you get a chance to see for yourself what is happening. Feel free to mail me directly.

Anonymous said...

As a brown owl I would suggest that you contact your brown owl and ask all the questions you have put in this blog!
Someone should be giving you this information you just need to be brave and bite the bullet! Maybe even say how upset your daughter was not to get a badge - mind you can't earn a badge until you are enrolled :)
Brown Owl should be approachable - maybe if you say how you are feeling it will jog her to maybe look at how she gives out her info - we have a half termly newsletter - all sent by email, and we have recently set up a closed Facebook page for a trip to London and have now extended it to all the parents that want access.
Hope that this gives you the courage to ask :)
My parents even ring when I am in the bath and my wonderful husband justs pasts the phone to me - embaressing to be sure :)
A xx

Jen said...

Five months and no communication? That is madness. Our parents get an email every week or two from us plus a term diary with pencilled in dates, ie we will have a set of things we will be doing but it might not be in the order on the diary if we have to swap things around. Plus everywhere we go out of the meeting place needs a consent form unless the meeting starts and ends at the meeting place, eg we can go for a walk locally without a form but if we meet somewhere else, we need one.

A new brownie should be working through the becoming a brownie book and this should have been supplied by the leader - a very few packs do not use this, for cost reasons, but they should have some equivalent a girl can work through. While there is no set time before she can take her promise, I usually feel they are ready 6 to 10 weeks after starting, so the same term they started for most girls.

Honestly, I would be speaking to the brown owl, at a time that suits her - for me that is after the meeting as we are always rushed at the start. I would be asking what she needs to do to work towards her promise as she is keen to take it. And I would be asking if I was missing out on newsletters or communication, maybe make a joke of it out of daughter's earshot, such as "daughter never remembers to give me notes, do you ever email them out as well, if so can I give you my email?"

I think daughter is being let down here, while I would never expect every pack to run the same way as mine, I would at the very least expect some termly communication with key dates and information plus for daughter to have made her promise long before now.

For what it's worth, I am happy to send you a copy of becoming a brownie so you can work through it with her, though whether that will advance your cause with brown owl I don't know.

The badge aspect - that may be because she just didn't do enough on the night to finish a badge, I'd give the benefit of the doubt on that, I do occasionally get a parent come up to me ask me why did her daughter not get a badge bat others did get, and there is always a reason, just sometimes that is hard to get across.

If you want to talk more, feel free to email.

Jen xx

Working Mum said...

Thank you so much for all your helpful comments.

Addy & Maggie - I do collect daughter (and another Brownie) so I think I might wait until all Brownies have left and have a word.

Kelloggsville - you are quite right, the leaders are volunteers which is why I don't want to seem to be a mithery mum, but, having been a cub leader myself in the past, I was expecting more information. I like your idea of approaching via the subs question. I'll give it a go.

Anonymous - thank you so much for taking the trouble to leave a comment. Interesting that you say they can't get badges until they are enrolled; my neighbour's daughter came home with three badges last night and she isn't enrolled yet. I will take on board your suggestions and hope that, if I phone, I don't catch Brown Owl in the bath!

Jen - Thank you for your perspective. I will speak to Brown Owl and see if I can find out more about enrolment (she was asked to learn her promise last June, but nothing since). I wish you were my daughter's Brown Owl; you're my sort of organised person!

Nicky said...

I can only agree with what has been said, speak to Brown Owl and get some clarification from her. I run Guides and I send a letter out at the beginning of term detailing subs, etc.

Jen and Kellogs have given you great advice, that should sort it out.

Working Mum said...

Tawny - thank you for joining in. I am right to expect a list of dates at the start of term, I think, so I need to talk to Brown Owl.

MumReinvented said...

Sounds like a bit of a disorganised group to me! When my daughter was at Brownies she took her promise within a few weeks and we were even invited along to watch her do it - it takes 5 minutes so it's not like it can't be squeezed in at the end of a meeting, which is exactly what they did with my daughter.

She used to love going on this website which is the official brownie website and has all the information you need about working towards badges on there you could possibly need. Her Brownie pack used to work towards badges within the group and get presented with the badges (again at the end of the session) and she also used to work towards badges at home and take in evidence that she had done so in order that she could get other badges that she wanted to earn for herself and the website was great for that.

I got her the Brownie badge book, although with this website it wasn't needed at all and I also got her the Brownie Adventure Book which was packed full of activities and information about being a Brownie which she really liked. These were all from the Brownie section of the girlguiding shop at

As for subs, they were £2 a session a year ago, whether they've changed or not since then I don't know.

Fingers crossed your Brown Owl will pull her finger out soon!

Jen said...

Ha, if you saw the state of my Brownies boxes you wouldn't say I was organised! I dread needing to find anything from more than a term ago!

If daughter was asked to learn her promise last June, it may be that Brown Owl thinks she did make it and it has slipped her mind.

And they can get badges before they are enrolled, I tend to let mine earn them then give them out at their enrolment but it is down to the leader really. It's an old rule that they can't get badges before they are enrolled, hasn't applied for years.

I agree with Kelloggsville by the way, if you don't get enough answers, then see if you can get a transfer to another unit.

Nicky said...

I don't actually give a list out of dates as all of my kids go to a mixture of about 4 schools. But I will always give at least 3 weeks notice if anything special needs to be brought in.

When I ran Brownies, we did give a timetable for the term, but Guides tends to be a bit more flexible.

Let us know how you get on.

Jo said...

I used to be a Brownie Leader and I can only really echo what has already been said. There is nothing to stop you working for badges with your daughter at home, taking the evidence of completion to her Brownie leader and when she is enrolled she will get a badge or two then to give her some encouragement.

Brownie leaders are volunteers but this is quite appalling. It either shows lazy leaders, leaders who don't know what they are doing or leaders who don't care. Whichever one it is, it isn't right. Talk to your daughter's Brownie leader first but if you have no joy, talk to the area District Commissioner who is in overall charge for the area. Her contact details should be available through the Girl Guiding UK website.

Good luck :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi new to your blog. I saw your comment on Strictly and so thought I would add my tuppance!

Ask Brown Owl. 5 months is too long. Make sure she has your email, phone number and address and ask if they email info out rather than paper etc etc..

Badge wise she should have made her promise before earning them but you can look hem up online and so could approach Brown Owl and say that said Brownie would like to do badge X...can you just go ahead and do it or do they have a set procedure blah blah blah

If no joy, then as others have said put out feelers…


Anonymous said...

If they have completed the badge during the build up to their enrollent I tend to give it on their enrollment night - we don't encourage to go out and buy the uniform until they are sure they want to stay - that way they get lots of badges to sew on their new uniform and it doesn't look as bare :)
A xx

Muddling Along said...

I'm generally out of the loop because of the working more than average around here so not getting all the gen through the usual networks - my advice, hassle Brown Owl so you get all the dates and information, it's better we are thought of as pushy b!tches than our daughters suffer because we weren't plugged into to unofficial network

scrappysue said...

hmmmm, doesn't sound like a very well run unit! hope you get some more communication and soon! love the new family pic!

Working Mum said...

MumReinvented - thanks for that, I had been on the Brownie website so now I've printed off some badge information and I'll see if we can sort out some evidence for them.

Muddling Along Mummy - I too am out of the loop because not only do I work full time, my daughter doesn't go to the local primary so she doesn't mix with the other Brownies other than at Brownies and so neither of us is in the loop! I might try a conversation with my neighbour whose daughter goes to the same Brownies and we share drop off and pick up.

Jo, J and A - thank you so much for your thoughts, very helpful. I'm going to contact Brown Owl tactfully to find out what daughter and I need to do to improve her experience of Brownies. I'll do an update post and let you know.

Polly said...

Well Id be in there asking the questions, no point participating if its only going to make her sad. Who cares if you seem interferring, she is your daughter and it shows you are interested and care.

Unknown said...

Hi, I'm a brownie leader and district commissioner. I'm sorry that you have had a bad experience of brownies- there is obvious a problem here and you need mention it - if no joy with Brown owl then contact the DC and she will sort it out and do visits to make sure the unit is running as it should. Please don't be disheartened with Girlguiding- there are wonderful opps to be had and I hope all is sorted now. :)

Working Mum said...

Hi Adele

Please don't worry, as an ex Queen's Guide myself I have a great admiration for the organisation. I did speak to Brown Owl and she was lovely and very helpful. Daughter has had a great time at Brownies since and is due to go up to Guides any time now.