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?
photo credits: RichardBH, Montgomery County Planning Commission
Amber Hurd says
I love 4H. My oldest son whom is almost 12 just started last year. I wish I would have started him sooner. He shows rabbits and loves it. He won an award at this year’s fair for one of his rabbits. That is the only thing he is interested in right now. I am going to sign up my daughter (she is 6) to do a few craft projects or anything else she is interested in. 4H is a great community and inexpensive, learning activity for kids.
Jme Harris says
This is a fantastic idea…. I am new to homeschooling, and had no idea that 4H was even an option outside of public school! We now live in Oklahoma and attended the state fair last week… My 5 year old was amazed with the 4H animals and exihibits! Going to check into it! Thanks!
How did you sign your kids up for 4-H? I home school my children and I cant seem to find out how to join? Please reply if possible.
Michelle Taylor says
I am a 4-H mom and Community Leader and I couldn’t agree with you more! Our little club is a great combination of kid’s from three public schools and half of our kid’s are home schooled. It is an awesome program and you are so right about the life skills that they learn.
Mary Jane says
Thanks for the great post, Angie! We, too, are a 4-H family. Last March, I had a temporary moment of insanity and agreed that my kids could take 3 or 4 projects…each! “Why, yes, dear, you can take a scrapbooking project,” or “Sure, honey, a foods project sounds nice.”
What sounded like a good idea then turned into a nightmare as we got to August and realized how much work we still needed to complete to get ready for early September judging! I was tempted to jump ship, but my husband insisted that we finish what we start. I’m so glad we did! They had a great experience with judging and are already planning next year’s projects. 4-H is a wonderful youth-development program and ideal for blending with the homeschool curriculum.
Thanks again for sharing!
Our first year in 4-H, my boys each did four projects. The second year, they did nine and eleven projects. I thought we were going to die! LOL Our third year, they did three and five projects. It felt so much more doable.
Demetria @ Christian Homeschool Moms says
We’ve thought about 4-H in the past but our kids were really young back then. Now I have a 5th grader and it’s something I wonder about (how it would fit in with our current schedule, etc. or should I just revamp our school year to center around projects). I’m also not aware that we have a 4-H in our area so it’s something to look into. Thanks for the links to the national curriculum.
My kids love 4-H too! At first I was not sure if I would like it to be honest. To me I did not feel they met enough ( they meet once a month where I live). Still, its a nice added bonus to our current education routine. Especially, now that I am also homeschooling a highschooler and just havn’t figured out how to get started. Thankyou Internet for the free support and info 😉
Anyways, loved reading your article!
Check out ~> LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com community for parents and kids who homeschool high school.
Richard John Jordan says
Basically, I am new to 4-H homeschool curriculum. I find it awesome. Exposing kids to different environment sounds good to me. Almost all kids love to play and experience new things while learning. In this supplement, they can learn while enjoying. Thumbs up!
Pam Aanas says
What an awesome article, thanks for promoting 4-H. I’m a 4-H Program Coordinator in Minnesota and we have home school families who are very involved in 4-H. Through 4-H we see youth grow in their leadership skills and learning to speak in front of crowds. When I see the exhibits at the county fair I am always amazed at the talent of the youth. The kids who show animals don’t just show an animal, they learn all they can about the animal, care for it and share their knowledge with people attending the fair. Youth also learn the importance of community service and volunteering. We have many adults who say their career began with 4-H. Everyone with children check with your local extension office and join 4-H!