Monday, October 20, 2008

4-H Benefits Homeschooling

If you don't already belong, consider joining 4-H. Until recently, we were city rats. Yet we participated in 4-H for many years. It is a lot more than farm animals and crops (which we'll be getting into more now that we're in the country).

At previous years. county fairs, my children have come home with loads of ribbons for canning, quilting, creative writing, and a variety of shooting sports.

One moment that sticks out in my mind was when we found out our 13-year old son won the Judge's Choice for creative writing. I'm so sentimental that I started to cry. You see, my son was required to write a book (yes a book!) for his history co-op that year. He did a terrific job so I encouraged him to enter it as an independent 4-H project at the fair. As a result, he got a blue ribbon, Best of Show (fictional writing), and Judge's Choice (creative writing). In addition to his ribbons, he received a gift certificate to a local bookstore. That encouraged him to lengthen the story to a full blown book. He even checked the Children's Writers Market Guide out from the library to find publishers who publish historical fiction and to get the writers' guidelines for submissions. This is a child, who until he was 12 absolutely hated to write!

My oldest three children have all had creative writing entries and all got blue ribbons (hope you don't mind me bragging). The best part though was that the judges gave the children lots of good tips on improving their writing in addition to praising their efforts. For some reason, children take these things more seriously from people other than their parents.

If you do join 4-H, the cost is minimal. For our club, the fee is $5 per family (which pays for the newsletter) and then $1.50 per child. Sometimes there are activity fees for craft projects, but they do their best to keep it inexpensive. (One bonus is a discount to the county fair.) And it may not take much extra work on your part as you can enter projects that you are already doing independently in your homeschool. Your children may become more enthused about school projects if they know that they will go on display and that they can earn a ribbon and even a little money.

Another advantage of 4-H for us has been the organized group projects. For example, my five oldest children belong to the archery club. Once a week, during spring and summer, I drive them to the leader's home where they learn archery skills and get to practice with several of their homeschool friends (most of the children in our 4-H club are homeschoolers).

The children have also signed up for glass etching, model building, and knitting. In the past I've led canning projects, which is way fun - I love passing this tradition on to a new generation.

Other projects that you may be interested in include sewing, art, crocheting, clowning, performance arts, leadership skills, animals, crops, and more, more, more.

This year, the children are really looking forward to showing goats. Now that'll be a new experience for us all!

If you are not sure about how to find a 4-H club in your area, try asking others in your homeschool group or search the Internet. You can also try calling your county fairgrounds or extension office.

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