Homeschool 4-H

Unit studies that combine curriculum and socialization

Homeschool 4-H groups are popping up all over the place. Why? 4-H and homeschool are a great match. When I tell other home educators about 4H I often hear, “I thought that was for farmers.” Not so. This youth organization is a perfect supplement to curriculum and can even be similar to a homeschool unit study group within the 4-H organization. Not to mention it is a great answer to homeschool socialization questions.

homeschool 4-H

Many families with right brain learners enjoy unit studies. 4-H is another framework for creating unit studies on a larger scale than just your immediate family. This allows you to draw on the knowledge of other parents as well as do activities that are hard to do alone if you only have a few children or an only child.

Until about 2 years ago, I'll admit I knew nothing about 4-H, even though my grandfather was an extension agent, my grandmother led a club, my mom was a member, and in college I worked for IFAS (the branch of the University of Florida that oversees this program.)

I saw a post on our local homeschool group’s e-mail chain about a crochet class offered at the county extension office, so signed my girls up. While they were learning how to make a granny square, I was learning about all the other opportunities available through 4-H.

The more I learned, I realized this program wasn’t all about farming and animals (although those are still well represented in the program overall.) There were homeschool 4-H clubs in our county that focused on everything from poultry, to shooting sports, to electricity. Basically unit studies within a framework of a group. Best of all, most of what was offered was free or low cost.

The 4-H pledge:

I pledge my HEAD to clearer thinking,

My heart to greater loyalty,

My HANDS to larger service,

and my health to better living

for my club, my community, my country and my world.

beginning sewing

homeschool socialization I was convinced that joining a club would be like having extra homeschool curriculum. First, it would provide an “audience” (besides me) for my children’s writing, projects, and creative efforts. Next, it would be a great way to make friends that share similar interests (we all know about that homeschool socialization question.) Finally, it would make service projects easier and more enjoyable to plan and execute if we were involved with a homeschool 4-H group.

BUT, all the homeschool 4-H clubs in our county were FULL! I was so disappointed. The agent suggested I start a new club. What? No way! I knew nothing about running a 4H club. I’d never even been to a meeting. Hmmm…I think I remember a similar comment before starting to homeschool. (Does that give you a hint on where this is going?)

After several weeks of thinking it over, I really wanted this to be a part of my home school curriculum. I started asking questions of other leaders, and decided I might be able to do it despite my lack of any experience. One club let us visit a few times to get an idea of what a meeting was like.

In September 2006 I took a chance and held the first meeting of the (now named) Hawks Club – a group that focuses on public speaking. This homeschool 4-H club would allow us to take full advantage of all the opportunities.

I am blessed to have 12 great kids, 5 other awesome adult volunteers, and 2 super extension agents who all help plan programs, projects and field trips, teach units, serve as encouragers and provide supplies.

extracurricular activities

The kids (ages 6-12) already know more parliamentary procedure than many adults, and are getting very confident in running meetings on their own.

The kids in the Homeschool 4-H group have planned and implemented over a dozen service projects in our community.

youth community service 4H

Each child gives a short speech at each meeting and will speak at retirement homes on occasion.

public speaking nursing home visit

4H activities

There are many opportunities for kids 9 and older to compete with projects they complete. (Some counties allow children younger than 9 to participate without competing.) It is a big motivator for my kids to know someone besides family will be seeing and evaluating their work. Sometimes having mom and dad always being the judge gets tough and finding non-family members to evaluate work and give a different perspective is hard for many homeschool families.

I have been so pleased with the opportunities we have been given in 4-H AND combined with our homeschool. It is worth checking with your County Extension Office to see if a program exists in your area. If none of the current clubs fit your needs, don't be afraid to start your own homeschool 4-H group!

Some good books on unit studies:

581413: Unit Studies Made Easy Unit Studies Made Easy

Dump tedious textbooks---and make the most of your child's home-based education! Learn to create student-tailored curriculums with this 4-in-1 collection. Combining How to Create Your Own Unit Study, The Unit Study Idea Book, For the Love of Reading, and Success with Unit Studies---plus new and expanded material---it covers everything from evaluating resources and understanding educational philosophies to getting started and record-keeping. 336 pages, softcover from Bendt Family Ministries.
7044405: Everything You Need to Know About Homeschool Unit Studies Everything You Need to Know About Homeschool Unit Studies

A mother of eight children herself, Jennifer Steward has created more than her fair share of unit studies! Now compiling years of experience and practical know-how into one book, she offers inforamtion, tips, ideas and insights that she's learned throughout the years. Whether you're looking for a roadmap or some new and fun ideas to try, you'll enjoy her conversational tone, intriguing quotes and easy-to-follow explanations of what exactly a unit study is, and how it comes about. 197 pages, softcover.

4-H has planned curriculum unit books for purchase as well for a reasonable price. Check with your local County Extension Agent for information. If you are looking for some craft ideas to supplement your studies, check out Creative Activities for Kids.

Click here for a link to the National 4-H Council website.

More homeschool activity ideas!

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