Our sons have long since graduated, but this time of year never fails to bring to mind fond memories of our years in 4-H. At the beginning of every school year, our club held its annual planning meeting. Each child contributed ideas for activities and came prepared with campaign speeches explaining why he or she was the best choice for club president, vice-president, reporter, and so forth. After members voted for activities and club officers we spent the remaining part of the afternoon enjoying each other’s company over a friendly pot luck lunch. This meeting was not only productive but served as an enthusiastic jump-start to our school year as well.-
But, I’m getting ahead of myself! Let me begin by telling you how I first discovered 4-H. Like most people, I knew 4-H had something do with livestock and farming and I couldn’t have been more right…or WRONG! Allow me to explain. One spring, while attending our state’s annual homeschool convention there was one booth in particular that caught my eye. It was a 4-H booth. Out of politeness I stopped and let the lady tell me about the organization. Of course, since we had no livestock I knew this wasn’t for us, but like I said…I was being polite. But, the more she talked the more it sounded like 4-H was the PERFECT FIT for homeschooling AND an equally perfect fit for a unit study family such as ours! “But, we don’t have any livestock,” I sadly remarked to the woman. That was when I learned that we DID NOT NEED TO OWN LIVESTOCK and that we could make our club anything we wanted it to be! She went on to tell me about the opportunities 4-H affords kids from leadership and public speaking to community service and competitions including something called a self-directed “Project Record.” I really liked the sound of that one, because it sounded like a glorified unit study and an amazing opportunity for our sons to immerse themselves in a topic which they could later submit as a formal school report for competition. Ideal for preparing them for college! YEP! I knew right then and there I needed to go home and contact our local 4-H office.
They were so helpful! They even sent a lady to our home to tell us about 4-H and how to start our own club. She also informed us that there was already a wonderful, homeschool 4-H club in our area that we might want to join. After looking into the club we found it was just what we were looking for! A few members did own livestock, but most did not. It was a Christian homeschool club and we especially liked how the founder had designed it. Many 4-H clubs focus on one particular topic such as rabbits, bees, sewing, cooking, riflery, archery, livestock, or gardening which are all wonderful, but this club chose a different activity each month which often centered on a field trip. The club met only once-a-month which was something this busy homeschool mom particularly liked. Families were encouraged to participate in 4-H competitions, but it was not mandatory. I also liked that Moms were required to stay with their children and that the club consisted of kids of varying ages, from two to seventeen, though youngsters could not officially become members until they turned five.
One thing I personally like about 4-H is that kids run the meetings. This teaches leaderships and enables them to learn how to make and second a motion and conduct a meeting in an orderly fashion. Parents are there mainly to assist, guide, and supervise the members, but we moms did invoke one rule. That was that the club MUST complete at least two community service projects each year. We served in missions, put in landscaping at a local church, made a baby quilt for a 4-H official, visited nursing homes, and participated in countless other projects including one of the kids’ regular favorites…Operation Christmas Child.
Years later our family moved to a different county so we started a new club, but we loved our previous one so much that we patterned the new one after it. During our fifteen years in 4-H, our children enjoyed educational field trips, community service projects, and competitions, and delighted in family outings such as hiking, whitewater rafting, biking, and holiday parties. Does it sound like we had a blast? We did! But, the things our kids learned were immeasurable. 4-H helped our sons develop confidence and self-esteem as well as leadership, public speaking, and report writing skills. They also won awards and learned to care for others while serving their community. As a result, 4-H provided our kids with opportunities for growth which, in time, were instrumental in helping them build impressive high school transcripts and receive generous college scholarships.
As with anything else in life, the more you put into 4-H, the more you’ll get out of it. For our family, I can confidently say that 4-H was without a doubt one of the most enjoyable, productive, and invaluable uses of our time.
So, you say you don’t have any livestock? No problem!. You can 4-H too!