DU Staff - Valorie Eversole

Valorie Eversole, Staff Writer

Another 4-H fair is done and champions and their projects are now moving on to the Illinois State Fair.

My family spent many years working toward the State Fair goal – that was our big “family day,” and we counted on the kids to take us there. The reward was not only the kids’ but my husband’s and mine was well.

As parents we prodded our kids along on their projects, threatening that they need to be done by the end on June or they weren’t entered. Yet there we were, two days (and sometimes the night before the fair) finishing the projects. The kids reached a point of not caring as they were up half the night, but somehow the projects got done, and each displayed well.

4-H isn’t just for kids; the parents learn, too. Each of my kids picked things they were interested in (sometimes with a little coaxing) and things we thought they should try. My son got into aerospace and computers. My girls were into foods and interior decorating. They all had dairy cattle to show, thanks to their grandparents.

I grew up a city girl. My siblings and I were into scouting; country kids were the ones who took 4-H. That seemed to be the way it was. My kids were town kids. But my husband grew up with 4-H and my kids were indoctrinated into 4-H early on. Thus began my 4-H experience – as an adult and parent.

So I learned that 4-H was so much more than farm animals. The areas cover almost any interest a person can have. As each of my kids became interested in different things, I learned things along with them. So of their 4-H projects and home schooling projects were the same. My son wrote research papers on the “Space Race” and the “History of Lake Shelbyville” and used them as Independent Study 4-H projects. Each of the girls did a 4-H reading project from books they read in their schooling. Both girls got their home economics experience by means of 4-H projects. Their art lessons supplied projects for 4-H.

My son was interested in computer programming. My husband gained a lot of computer knowledge through the 4-H projects. He encouraged the computer projects for two of our kids. My daughter built a computer with his guidance one year.

I learned a bit about dairy cattle through my kids and 4-H. They may be big animals, but generally are gentle creatures. And I understood the phrase when someone is referred as having “cow eyes”. They have beautiful eyes that just melt your heart. On the flip side, I know how much a cow weighs when it steps on your foot, or how it has the strength to throw you into the air when it decides to take off running while you still have the rope.

I learned how to make a lot of cookies and breads in a short period of time in the July heat. I also learned how eager girls are to start such projects and then about halfway through the batch say “Mom, will you finish them. I’m tired.” (Like I’m not?) I made sure they picked their display cookies from the ones they made.

My husband and I both learned how much or how little patience we had as we helped each get displays ready in the days before and the night before they were to be judged. There were a lot of late nights, and sometimes a bit of frustration words, but we got them done.

Then there were the lists I made to make sure each kid’s project had everything needed to be judged. This included sheets or papers about “What I Learned From This Project”. Somehow the kids struggled with that part. Maybe they didn’t learn as much as we parents did about the project.

I think the hardest part about the fair as a parent was watching each child talking with the judge about his or her project. I could rarely hear what was said, which added to the nervousness.

Then there was the pride we felt as each of our kids had State Fair or State Fair Alternate ribbons on their projects. We went to the State Fair for 10 years straight with one, two , or all three of the kids showing their projects.

4-H isn’t just for kids. Each one in the family can learn something about the project. I’m sure each of my kids have learned something about themselves through their 4-H projects. We as parents have learned something about our kids. It’s a positive learning experience for all.

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