Today, over at National Catholic Register, an Indiana friend of mine writes about the alternatives to Girl Scouts. I have one more alternative to add to the mix: 4-H.

For many reasons – some religious and some not – families choose not to participate in Girl Scouts, or even Boy Scouts for that matter. I think both are great organizations. When I was a kid growing up in small town America, I was a proud member of the Girl Scouts. But, our 4-H program was stronger and had more opportunities. Fast forward nine years and my 4-H suitcase had loads of life skills and $16,000 in college scholarships. When I say I’m on the 4-H bandwagon, there’s some valid reasons.

WHO CAN JOIN?
Wherever you live in the country, there is a 4-H program.
Every county has one and while some are more active than others, they exist. It doesn’t matter where you get your schooling – public, private or home – nor does it matter if you live in the city or on the farm. 4-H is for kids, ages 9-19. They also have a Clover Kid program where younger children can participate on the county level only. It’s great experience and as the mom of only one bona fide 4-Her, I love that my other children can participate, too. If you live in Austin and you’d like to join, leave me a comment below (or email me). I’m seriously considering starting a club meeting place closer to our home and it would be great to have some friends along for the ride.

HOW CAN I JOIN?
The quickest and easiest way is to click on over to the National 4-H page and find your local program. Once you find your local county office, choose a club that suits your interests, register your child/ren through the online system and start attending meetings. The fee to join is usually nominal ($10/kid in Texas). If you live in Texas, here are a few more blogs and sites you’ll want to visit:

Texas 4-H and Youth Development
Texas 4-H Friends and Alumni
Travis County 4-H (this one is for my local Austin folks, but many, many counties have one, just hit up Mr. Google)

WHAT CAN I LEARN?
The thing about 4-H is that it is self-paced and YOU decide the extent you want to get involved. You can participate in many projects and make one your “main” project. At the conclusion of each year, you can compile a record book in that main project. In it, you summarize your activities that relate to that project. For example, if your main project is food and nutrition, your involvement might include the food show (where you cook and then explain your dish/food knowledge to a panel of judges), community service (food collection, distribution, etc.), food/cooking skills learned. The record book also includes a brief narrative story, written by your 4-Her and photos of your child participating in events related to his/her main project. There’s also areas to describe involvement in other projects, as well.

The record book is key. By doing one every year, you build experience – kinda like a resume – that opens the doors for scholarships. It was through my record book that I earned all that money for college. I also earned national trips, awards and conferences because of 4-H. This record book link to the Texas 4-H page will explain it all.

Through 4-H, I participated in multiple activities. I gained skills and knowledge in 4-H that I NEVER could have done anywhere else. If you’re wondering if I’m a 4-H nut, then yes. I believe it is the best youth program around.

WHAT ARE THE RECORD BOOK CATEGORIES?
Aquatic Science
Beef
Citizenship & Civic Education
Clothing & Textiles
Communication and Expressive Arts Open
Conservation of Natural Resources
Consumer and Family Science Open
Consumer Education
Dairy
Energy Management
Entomology
Environmental Science Open
Family Life
Food & Nutrition
Forestry
Gardening & Horticulture
Goat
Health
Healthy Lifestyles Open Category
Horse
Housing & Home Environment
Leadership
Personal Development/Leadership Open
Photography
Plant & Soil Science
Plants & Animals Open
Poultry
Public Speaking
Rabbit
Range Management
Recreation
Safety
Science & Technology
Sheep
Shooting Sports
Sportfishing
Swine
Veterinary Science
Wildlife & Fisheries

And THAT is your 4-H 411!

6 Comments

  1. Blair on August 23, 2012 at 9:56 am

    We’re grateful that our Catholic homeschool group here in Corpus hosts a 4-H club! My daughter participated minimally last year since we moved there mid-year, but this year we hope to do a lot more. We’re also hoping to add the Clover Kid program to our local club, so our younger kids can take part. So glad to hear of someone else that had a great 4-H experience; thanks for the info on the record book, too!

  2. Leslie on August 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

    We’re in!

  3. Michelle on August 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Here’s one more reason: They support and accept special needs! So many clubs we’ve tried for our son on the autism spectrum were not as “inclusive” or “understanding” as they portrayed. Either the people running it tried but didn’t understand what to do, or the program itself was a poor fit. 4-H, however, was not just accepting. It is empowering. My son has never been treated different, or even been recognized as anything other than just another boy with an interest in science and bugs who wanted to grow into a better person in all areas – head, hand, heart and health. Who couldn’t benefit from that lesson?!

  4. Christy Songy on August 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Hooray for 4-H! Great post that brought back great memories, Kathryn.

  5. Alexis on August 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Count us in…in about 5 years!

  6. Brandy on June 20, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Growing up on a Michigan farm my 4H friendships were my best friendships. So many skills learned in and out of the show thing about business, life skills, discipline, team work…. I could go on and on. Now my own children participate in other areas of this amazing program.

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