The following is a post from contributing writer Angie.
When I first told my mother that I planned to do 4-H with my children, she was a bit mystified. She mentioned my children’s general disdain for animals and wondered why we would consider participating in 4-H. I quickly assured her that 4-H wasn’t just for kids living in the country and it most definitely wasn’t just about animal projects. In fact, not only do my non-animal loving kids love participating in the program, but 4-H has also been an amazing way to supplement our homeschooling.
What is 4-H?
4-H is an extracurricular group that focuses on life skills, citizenship, and leadership through hands on activities for children. 4-H can be found all over the United States, as well as in 80 countries around the world.
There is no set age for participation 4-H, as it varies from state to state. To find out the ages that can participate in your area, you should look up information about your local 4-H office for all of the details on the clubs in your state or area.
How can 4-H be used to supplement a homeschool curriculum?
One of the things that I really love about 4-H is how it mixes learning with practical life skills. For instance, when we decided to do a project for health one year, we did activities that helped us to learn how much blood each of our bodies held (which was a good reminder not to get upset over a little blood from things like small cuts and nose bleeds), learned first aid for many basic household injuries, and created our own paste to use for bug bites.
In addition to those learning activities that we had to do in our project books (we were able to pick three activities from many options), each of our children who are old enough for 4-H put together a project to submit for fair judging. One made his own First Aid kit, which included not only store bought items, but also his own bug bite paste and cards that he made with step-by-step instructions for many basic injuries.
Our other son was able to feel empowered in regards to his fear of storms because his project was to make an emergency kit to be used in case of a long term (three days) power outage. Not only did he get to learn all about preparing for storms and power outages, but we ended up with a kit to keep at home after the fair.
When should a child start 4-H?
As I mentioned earlier, it varies quite a bit from state to state as to when children are eligible to start participating. However, my personal recommendation would be to start as early as you are able to begin. When children are younger, they are more easily able to take more projects and to be introduced to lots of different types of learning and projects.
As children get older, projects become more time consuming, so it’s great for them to already know which projects they are most passionate about. For example, when we have watched the woodworking projects at our county fair, many of the first year members (many in third grade) bring in things like very simple shelves (think two small boards with one long board in between), letter/napkin holders, and other more easily done projects. Just a few short years later, high school students are showing items they have built like roll top desks, intricately designed coffee tables, and china cabinets.
Can I use 4-H materials without being in a 4-H club?
While I would advocate joining a club and participating in local (and possibly state) fairs, 4-H curriculum can be purchased and used as an add-on to your own homeschooling curriculum. 4-H has a national curriculum with items that can be purchased online. Not all local organizations use every project in the national curriculum (and some use slightly different books for some projects).
Another option for purchasing 4-H curriculum to add to your curriculum (or to gear up for your 4-H projects through a club) would be to contact your local 4-H office to find out if you can just walk in and buy project booklets.
These booklets would also make an amazing spine to use for teaching a class at a homeschool co-op or with another small group!
Why I love 4-H for my children.
I love that 4-H gives us the push we need to work on wonderful life skills with our children. They are the kinds of things that we might just skip over in our busy days, but it instead makes us slow down and work on things like making rolled biscuits, learning about different types of stain for wood, and working through the steps of what to do if someone twists an ankle. I love the variety of skills that my children are learning about, as well as the time management and planning skills that are required. 4-H is the perfect addition to our homeschooling!
Do your children participate in 4-H?