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New to 4-H and wanting to know what to expect

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

My 6.5yo daughter just started 4-H.  I like that our group is so close to us and the families and kids are very nice.  But so far we are a bit underwhelmed.  It is because our expectations are too high?  Is it just the beginning of the year?  The parents seem to be doing a lot of the activities I think the kids should be doing, but then I expect the kids to be taking charge of their own projects (this expectation is reinforced by our unschooling approach to homeschooling-- where kids positively own their education.  We are the only homeschoolers in this club.)  


Am I too impatient?  Do we just need to forge our own way?  My daughter also wants more immediate *action* and has a laundry list of subjects she wants to learn about.  So, do we try to mesh this path with what this group has to offer?  Or find another group?  Even I admit it's a bit early to decide that.


I have nothing really to compare this to, and I don't want to express doubts aloud in front of my daughter.


What is your experience with 4-H?



post #2 of 12

We love 4-H-- it's given my kids the opportunity to hang out with a wide age range of kids, and they LOVE taking projects to the fair.  However 4-H is very confusing if you're new to it, and coming with a scouting background.  In our club, most of the project work happens at home or at special project meetings, and the club meetings are organizational and social (we have a business meeting followed by an activity).


4-H varies from state to state, but where I live, a 6 year old would be a "Cloverbud" and the expectations for 4-H projects are much less clearly defined-- actually they are wide open.  Kids aren't considered "real" 4-Hers until 4th grade, and that's when the projects get more rigid and competitive.  I believe the reason that they have less defined expectations for lower elementary is two-fold.  First, its not age appropriate to be judging little kids-- the range of ability is so great, and it would be a shame to discourage, for example, a 7 year old who loves to draw but who's fine motor skills haven't fully developed.  Second, animal projects are part of 4-H, and caring for an animal for several months and then sending it to the butcher is hard enough for some of the older kids.


So, I would expect 4-H at this age to be mostly about getting together once a month for fun, and learning about projects your daughter can bring to the fair when she is older.  Although if there's something she's especially excited about, there's no reason she couldn't just learn about it now.  Enjoy the freedom, and let her dabble as much as you can.  


If you don't like the vibe of the group, it would be fine to look into other clubs.  How many meetings have you attended?  I have a rule that we never judge a group harshly based on one meeting-- every group  can have a bad day.  You could also choose to stick with this club for this year, and then "shop" for a new club at the fair-- it can be a good place to get a feel for what other clubs are doing.


Is that any help at all?

post #3 of 12

Yes, I also am assuming you were at a Cloverbud meeting - kiddos 5-8 years of age, which is intended to expose them to 4-H projects and give them an idea what 4-H is about.  The meetings are monthly, low-key, sociable.  These can differ a lot by region.  My sister is the Cloverbud leader in her county and does monthly meetings where they've done breadmaking (learning about yeast and kneading), nutrition things, simple sewing, an annual community service project (delivering Valentines to a care home, etc.).  Where I am, Cloverbuds is coordinated by the Junior Leaders (13 and older), and has ranged from making simple rockets to "Eat Your Colors" (different colors of fruits and samples of them) to simple science stuff (the cornstarch mixtures), seed-starting, etc.  etc.  Cloverbuds can get a "participant" ribbon for putting projects in the fair, and sometimes can even do interview 'judging,' but regular 4-H doesn't start 'til you're older. 

If you were at a regular 4-H club meeting, the rule is 8 as of January 1st I think.  4-H clubs also meet once a month.  Often, younger siblings are there too (at our club, two younger siblings are now officially members but have been at the meetings for years so it's been an easy transition for them).  Some clubs are set up with a variety of project types, other clubs may be more focused (sometimes there is a club where ALL the members are taking horsemanship, for instance; other projects that they're taking are fine, but horse is what they all have in common).  The club we belong to is a nonspecific club, so there are kids who don't take any livestock projects at all, mixed with kids who take mostly livestock projects.  The kids in our club range in age from 8 to 15.  And there are about 15 kids in the club, it's a big club. 

If there are a lot of newer members, the leaders/parents may be more involved initially.  One of the things I really appreciate about 4-H is that it teaches parliamentary procedure (the basic structure for meetings, how to make a motion, etc.).  Until kids understand that, parents often have to remind them that once a motion has been made and seconded, they should ask for discussion, then move to a vote.  My husband thinks this is overkill, but really it's great preparation for many meetings that we attend as adults.  The co-ed meetings, record keeping, and project structures are also great I think. 

Onatightrope's description of club meetings is accurate.  Our 'old business' at our last meeting included a National 4-H week community service project, final plans for our community service project (highway clean-up), review of upcoming due dates with record books.  New business was planning a Christmas tree decorating project for a local charity, and nominations for club officers.  Afterwards, a member gave a demonstration from his project (how to show a cat), and there were treats.  Occasionally, there will be a training session at the meeting of a nonspecific project club - for instance, something on leadership or character development or public speaking.  But that's not the norm.

Project meetings are separate from club meetings (unless you are in a club which focuses on a specific project, like the horsemanship club mentioned above).  I'm a project leader for sewing - we will have several skills workshops over the course of the year.  We have a junior leader who does a spectacular job with a two-county, day-long workshop for first time sewists every year; I'll be adding some additional workshops where kids can bring projects and work on them with me, and possibly a few workshops for the older sewists to work on more advanced skills, like welt pockets or bound buttonholes or tailoring pants patterns to their builds or etc.  Our leathercraft leader holds a monthly leathercraft project meeting; the dog project leader doesn't start dog project work until spring, then they have workshops every three weeks or so. 

Does that give you a better idea how it works?  Obviously it will vary by area, but typically, leaders are parents who are skilled in a project area, and willing to teach other kids.  If parents don't know how to do entymology or something, then the project leader will help kids who need help.  The 4-H program is only as good as the volunteer leaders and the support structure for those leaders.  Some leaders will do very structured, class-room like project meetings; others will have "bring your project and we'll talk about it" meetings.  It's going to depend on the personality of the leader, and the needs of the project members. 

(I come from a long line of 4-Hers, and was active all the way through high school and into college, and worked at the Extension office as a Home Economist for several years as well, so am pretty familiar with the program and really believe it's great.)


Edited by elanorh - 10/16/11 at 8:48pm
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

As I've said, these folks are very nice, and yes we have been to just one meeting and a project meeting to make a poster board for a wall display.  4 of the active "parents" are actually grandparents, whose kids are the parents of the kids in the club.  It is truly much too early to judge if we are going to get what we seek from this group.  My daughter just really wants to get into the animals....NOW!  There is a lot of support I am giving her, and we already hope to do several project areas on our own if no one else in the club is doing them.  She is 6.5, turning 7 in February, and I was told that they need to be turning 7 during the school year to join 4-H, but now I'm getting conflicting information and even my younger daughter might be able to join up.  (???)   Another call to the extension office is in order!


Their grandmother grew up "in 4-H" and so many people have gushed about it, my expectations are probably just sky high, probably wanting that "magic" to appear instantly.  That's why I'm reaching out to others for their experiences.  My daughter is also asking when the "exciting stuff" is going to happen.  She probably means something like ordering her chicks.  (And I think I'm impatient!)  She desperately wants to be a farmer.  She also wants to do horses.  No one in our group is doing horses so if we want to do the "horseless horse" I think we'll have to look around for a sponsor by ourselves.


This is all so new to us.  I don't plan on changing a thing this year, partly because I have no experience from which to judge this by.  Things are just getting going and I need to just stop thinking so much.  And find out if any of the kids need a leader for gardening or knitting or something.



post #5 of 12

SweetSilver, when you call the extension office, ask about age restrictions on animal projects.  In our state only kids who are 4th grade or older can bring animals to the fair.  Your daughter can have chickens before she is old enough to show them, of course.

post #6 of 12

Typically the animal projects (with the possible exceptions of dog/horse/dairy cattle) begin more in the spring.  Counties/states will have guidelines for when the animals should have been born etc., which the 4-Hers follow (since many 4-H animals are for the 4-H livestock sale).  Chicks are usually not a good idea for purchase as you enter the winter, but your dd could research which breeds she is most interested in, and read up on henhouses etc. and work on getting ready for the chicks - saving money for the warming lamps, feeders, etc. in readiness for chicks. 


Livestock projects where the animal carries from year to year, can/would have some work done in the fall as well - breeding ewes, cow/calf pairs, dairy cattle, etc., but there tend to be fewer people doing those long-term projects so there are fewer project meetings (if any).  I know when my cousins took dairy cattle, they were the only ones the entire time they were in the project for their whole county; their parents were the dairy leaders and no one else started the project during that time (which is sad). 


Once you're established in animal projects, then there is a rhythm that is established and your dd will find that she has animal work to do in the fall too (analagous in many ways to what farmers/ranchers do in the fall - more record-keeping and preparation for the next year). 

If you're interested in becoming a project leader, definitely talk with the 4-H Agent about what it would entail.  If you're really lucky, there will already be a coordinating volunteer leader that you can work with and learn from (our county is set up with a "Fiber Arts" coordinating leader who works with individual leaders who do quilting, knitting, crochet, embroidery, sewing etc., for instance).  I am Pollyanna-ing this a bit for my county; we just began this new structure, and I'm excited about it, and we desperately need a knitting and crochet leader to step up, we have several quilting leaders, several sewing leaders, and one embroidery leader.  Do start slow and familiarize yourself with what's expected - it is very easy, especially with a new leader, to bite off more than you can chew and become overwhelmed.  If they have a regional or state 4-H leader's forum coming up this fall, consider attending that, as well, as it will give you a better idea how things work and allow you to build some networks with other leaders to learn what they have done, are doing, and would really recommend you NOT do.  wink1.gif  If you have a good agent, the agent will probably want you to build gradually into a full leader role so that you aren't burned out by taking on too much too soon. 


post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you and thank you again.  (But please keep responding!)  Onatightrope, under 4th grade does get to show, but it is non-competitive.  We are looking at breeds and making wish lists.  Both my daughters want banty breeds, I want more of the larger breeds (I love our Buff Orpingtons).  


We'll get in the groove, I'm sure.

post #8 of 12
Originally Posted by elanorh View Post

 I know when my cousins took dairy cattle, they were the only ones the entire time they were in the project for their whole county; their parents were the dairy leaders and no one else started the project during that time (which is sad). 




Dairy is the most popular project in my county.  Isn't amazing how these things vary from place to place?

post #9 of 12
Sometimes you need to shop around for the 4-H club that fits your needs. If you want to show chickens, find a club that has an active chicken project, even if you have to drive farther. The older kids mentor the younger ones in a good club and parents find ways for everyone to be involved. 4-H varies a lot from state to state and even county to county, so it's hard to make generalizations. 4-h is great, stick with it.
post #10 of 12

Edited by member234098 - 5/28/12 at 9:17pm
post #11 of 12

We love doing 4-H here.  We have a separate 4-H club for homeschooling families.  So far, the little ones don't do any projects.  That is saved for the olders, but we go to club meeting which are split off into olders and youngers.  It is very laid back.  There's nothing to do at home with 4-H unless we want there to be.  For example, if we want to do a animal project we would also need to join their Polutry Club or Livestock Club.  If we wanted to do crafting, we'd need to join their Art Club. etc...  Sounds a little different than what you all have going.

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

We went to our first really fun group project today: tie-dyed T-shirts that will eventually get a 4-H logo on them.  Things have been really slow to get going, in part because our county is getting a new director and the 4-H office was down to one lady doing all the work for the entire county.  


So, we got the good news that their is no additional age limit for Horseless Horse, and our group leader will help try to hook us up with a mentor.  (Our club doesn't have any Horse Group.)


We are making a list of chicken breeds we all want.  We will move to our property next spring and will have room for more than 4 chickens.  *I* am excited.  Endless chicken poo for the garden!  Oh, and eggs I guess.....


And..... the age requirement is 5 by December 31st, so dd2 is signed up as well.  She is sooooo excited!  We're doing well, then, and we'll just take our first year slowly and see what happens.

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