Curriculum Series: Homeschooling with 4H
What is 4H? 4H is an organization designed to give young people the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and life skills. For $45 a year, any child can sign up for up to 3 projects. Many projects have leaders while others can be studied on their own. I love using 4H as a part of our homeschool curriculum. To me, it seems like a trade school for kids. They can try a project for a year and if they like it they can continue, if they don’t like it they can try something else the next year. They can choose from many projects like electricity, robotics, sewing, photography and much much more. 4H encourages kids to act and think like adults. They are expected to meet certain requirements like giving a presentation, doing community service, keeping a record of activities and expenses related to their project and enter something into the county fair. If you would like more information about 4H, please follow this link https://4-h.org/ .
My home school teaching style is a variation on unit studies. Unit studies are collections of learning activities tied to a theme that the homeschooled student is interested in. They provide a hands-on approach to learning that incorporates subjects such as math, science, language arts, and the social sciences. 4H naturally fits our curriculum for that reason. This year my kids are each taking 1 project. My 12-year-old is taking Electricity Unit 1 and my 10-year-old is taking Poultry Unit 1: Raising Pullets.
When they complete a project to be turned in and judged at the county fair, they must also include their erecord, which is a documentation of the activities they participated in for 4h that year. They must keep track of expenses, project meetings, community service, club fundraisers and anything else they did with their 4H group. They must also include a story about their 4H experience. There is a project guide included with these projects. For example;
Raising Pullets: Junior
- Complete the “planning your project” section of this guide
- Members new to this project must explore interest areas 1-5. When repeating this project explore any 5 interest areas.
- In each interest area plan at least 2 of the things to do.
- Take part in at least 2 project learning experiences.
- Become involved in at least 2 citizen/leadership activities.
- Write a 1-page report about what was done and learned through this project.
- Complete the record keeping section on pages 14-20 of project manual.
What are the Benefits of incorporating 4H into homeschool?
- Friendly competition
For a long time, my homeschool students couldn’t understand why they would want to work hard at creating the best project they could. They had never had to worry about grades because we will work on a skill until it is mastered. They haven’t really had any peer pressure either. It took joining 4H and being competitive for them to finally want to be the best at something. Actually, for the first year of 4H my kids didn’t really care about competition. But then something happened that had never happened to them before. They failed. They didn’t win and they got to see the people they knew win prizes. In that first year, they learned a lesson in losing with grace. They also learned that they want to win! It has greatly improved their work ethics and the end product of much of their school work and 4H projects.
- There are plenty of opportunities to practice the skills they have been taught at home out on their own.
I feel like finding space for my kids to spend time away from me is so important. As a homeschooling family, we spend a lot of time together and I am always wary of what my kids are doing and how they are behaving. They are also very aware that I am there and adjust their behavior accordingly to my rules. I am teaching them the skills they need to live on their own and they need a little practice in a safe environment and away from me. There are so many occasions for homeschooled kids to go out and experience life without their parents but also still be under trusted adult supervision. Colorado Youth experience, 4H camp, and leadership camps are just a few examples.
- Gaining hands-on experience and doing their part to contribute to their community (social studies)
Each club member must participate in at least 1 community service activity. These activities are decided on and planned by the group. Youth gain hands-on experience planning and executing an event. With this, they can see the things that adults do at their jobs and see that they can do these things too.
Doing community service is not only an opportunity to give back to our community, but it is also a reminder to these kids and their parents to be grateful for what they have. It develops a sense of compassion and teaches us all that anything could happen.
Working with club members builds bonds and creates friendships which develop confidence and establishes the beginnings of their personal network. When they go out into the world to find their own jobs they will have accomplishments of their own to list on their resumes.
Personal growth is something we don’t even realize is happening and it’s activities like these that spur that look within one’s self.
We have participated in many community service events including passing out hot chocolate and cookies at the local holiday lighting, preparing laundry detergent for Free Laundry Day for the homeless, preparing homeless survival bags, helping to clean the Raptor Center, visiting our local assisted living center, and so many more.
- Interactive experiences that create life long memories
Project meetings give club members the opportunity to act as an apprentice and gain real hands-on experience in whatever new skill they are trying to learn. It also allows them to meet and learn from someone who already knows this skill and uses it in real life. Our club has several group activities. As a requirement of our club, each member must sign up for one of three committees; the Historical Committee, the Community Service Committee, and the Carnival Committee. Each of these committees gives these kids the chance to take initiative and plan some projects with some subtle guidance from an adult leader. These are activities that they enjoy and these experiences become life long memories.
- Club meetings are run like the local government. (social studies)
Club meetings are all youth-led, with the watchful guidance of trusted adults. They vote on a club president, vice president, treasurer, recorder and pledge leader. They have an agenda created by the president and they all participate in discussions and voting on each item. It really is run as if it were a town government which is excellent practice for anyone considering involvement in government. This is also an excellent opportunity to discuss government in a way that means something to these kids personally. For a whopping $10 per child, they can attend a half a day of officer training where they learn about their desired position. Then they get pizza and swimming!
- Being exposed to people who use these skills in the real world
A variety of people volunteer to be 4H project leaders. They are often experts in their field and come specifically to pass those skills on to someone else. My kids not only get the opportunity to try something like robotics or electrical projects, but they also get to learn from someone who isn’t mom and has used these skills in the real world. I add to this pool of teachers by volunteering as the photography project leader.
4h is filled with new learning experiences and opportunities to refine basic skills that will be used all through life. Do you use 4H as a part of your curriculum? Tell me about your experiences or ask me your questions in the comments!