Meredith did 4-H for the first time this year. I have no background in 4-H. I was a Girl Scout. Although I have no background in 4-H, I've heard enough stories about Kevin's experiences, including art projects and a foray into the world of sheep showmanship, that I have definitely participated in 4-H vicariously.
When the topic of 4-H came up in our house, I was unsure whether or not I had time to take something else on. Would my bright-eyed, beautiful, scrawny little 3rd grader be able to do this by herself? She is so mature, yet still needs so much help to get through much of her school work. Visions of being up until midnight helping her paste a sub-par, quickly put-together, much-stressed-over, stupid poster, came to mind. There was no way that was happening. Would Meredith come through and do it herself? Yes, she promised she would. So, we decided to start with just one project, to get our feet wet. Meredith chose Horsemen Without Horses.
I was completely unimpressed with the online information 4-H provides. There's no good 4-H for Dummies website! Since we couldn't make club meetings, because Meredith had a prior commitment, it took us a while to make sense of everything. Thankfully her project leader, once we finally figured out who she was, was super nice and held our hands through the process.
About two weeks before her project was due, I realized Meredith was still only in the beginning phases of research. I had taken her to the library and she had gone off to some dark recesses of the building with the children's librarian to find books that fell within the parameters of her project. She selected four books, but had probably only read a few pages.
I marked a sheet of paper with the exact amount of days she had left before her deadline and hung it on the refrigerator. On day four, when she still had made no progress, I said, "Meredith if you blow off this deadline, you are going to have to write a long letter to your project leader apologizing for laziness and deliver it in person." Her eyes widened, she disappeared into her room, and read two of her books before dinner time. (I'm glad that a healthy dose of pride is that motivating for her!) She read the next two books the following day. She ended up with four pages of hand-written summaries. I helped her type them out and then she printed pictures and pasted everything to the poster entirely by herself.
This is what a sense of accomplishment looks like!
In the end, it wasn't just the sense of accomplishment and the dose of confidence she got, realizing she could complete something almost entirely on her own, that made 4-H worthwhile. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of Meredith's learning is hand-selected by either her teachers at school or by her Tiger Mom (yes, me). She doesn't often get the opportunity to deeply delve into something that she personally has selected to study. 4-H was an outlet for her to choose something she is independently interested in (she chose horses) and then go learn about it. I liked that she was able to complete a self-directed project. I think 4-H is a great tool to help kids to be motivated, lifelong learners.
Next year Meredith wants to do four projects. We shall see about that ...