The most common response I receive after telling a new acquaintance that my kids are in 4H is “Oh, so you live on a farm?” Well, yes, actually I do live on a mini-farm. But the 4-H came first in our lives; the mini-farm came after we succumbed to our children’s wish to have real farm animals. (We only had chickens when we lived in town). My point is that most people equate 4-H with farms and farmers. While there are 4-Hers who live on farms, many do not. We live near a city with numerous 4-H clubs whose members learn about everything from aerospace to wildlife conservation.
The 4-H organization is continually updating and expanding its programs to remain current and relevant to today’s technology and society. Fortunately, these updated programs retain and promote the important life skills from the past that we, as a society, can not afford to forget. These traditional “heritage” skills include food preservation, crocheting/knitting, sewing, curing hams and woodworking as well as learning how to care for farm animals such as cattle, sheep and poultry. “Newer” projects include: film-making, geospatial science, robotics, photography, advanced visual arts, interior home design, international foods, sport-fishing, theater arts, veterinary science, leadership, hiking/camping, entrepreneurship, global education, bicycles, child development, electricity, health/fitness and computers. As you can see, there are a lot of projects that are not just for farmers. 4-H literally has “something for everyone”. For a complete list of projects and their descriptions, see: http://4h.missouri.edu/resources/clover/docs/cloverprojects.pdf
Neither my husband nor I participated in 4-H as children, so we didn’t know what to expect when our oldest wanted to join 4-H in order to learn about horses (through the horseless horse program). We discovered that one of the things we loved most about 4-H is that knowledgeable, enthusiastic adults taught our kids subjects about which we knew nothing. This, in turn, motivated us to share our skills and knowledge with others. And it motivated us to make the time to share more of our skills with our own children.
Moms who love a good deal will love 4-H. First of all, 4-H is inexpensive (the club to which my family belongs charges dues of $15 per YEAR per child). Second, it’s like a 2 for 1 special: the projects themselves are educational, plus the extracurricular social and service activities are beneficial and educational. And along with that, projects like energy, public speaking or entomology can easily supplement your curriculum. Your kids will develop their skills through year-long projects, hands-on demonstrations and leadership activities. Many club activities are community service oriented and the development of youth leadership skills is a priority.
You can locate a club near you at http://www.4-h.org/
Jenn is a home-schooling mom of 3. She and her husband have been 4-H volunteers for seven years.
These views are entirely my own and I was not compensated by 4-H for this article (well, unless you count the many blessings my family receives for being a part of our local 4-H community).