There are more activities and sports available to children than minutes in a day and choosing the ones that offer the most without draining family time and passion from the child can be a daunting task. For homeschooled children the options are unlimited, and sometimes the best option is one the child creates for herself.
In Minnesota we are fortunate to have a well established 4-H program available to our youth. The projects are not limited to farm animals and sewing. Robotics, Photography, Rocketry, and Citizenship are just some areas where children can flourish. Club members are also able to design projects to exhibit based truly on their interests. If there is no pre-determined category, the 4-Her can develop her own topic under Self-Determined.
Not only can youth explore wide ranges of topics, they have opportunities for leadership camps and multitudes of options for leading other youth. Each club has officers, ranging from President to Club Photographer. County Ambassadors are 4-Hers in 7th-12th grades who help lead activities county-wide, not just within their own clubs.
The modern 4-H club might not look anything like the one this author belonged to – almost all kids living on farms, almost all projects and activities related to animals, and not always a ‘cool’ club to which youth could belong. The face of 4-H has changed. In the Clever Clovers club from St. Clair, most of the children do not live on farms, and about 1/3 of them are homeschooled. There is room for everyone, no matter the interest or age level.
As a homeschooling parent of 4-Hers it is wonderful to see all of the connections between what 4-H has to offer and our own curriculum. The county has materials on all subjects which can be utilized to learn more about particular topics, everything from books to robot kits. Blue Earth County provides 4-H Project Boxes which are thematic units filled with curriculum, materials, and lesson plan ideas. There is no cost to use them, only the request to replenish supplies along the way. A homeschooled child might be researching a topic for ‘school’ purposes and developing a project to exhibit at the fair at the same time.
4-Hers have opportunities for grants, scholarships, and numerous ways to expand their leadership skills and qualifications. Just as homeschooling provides ways of personalized learning, 4-H supports those efforts by promoting youth development. Families can participate together and learn together, without constant separation by age and ability. There is no cost to join a local 4-H club, but the rewards are paid back ten-fold.