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September 3, 2002

Home school families add 4-H to the 3 Rs

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – For the Alldredge family, home and school are one and the same.

The six siblings – Christi, Aaron, Carla, Rachel, Laura and John – have all been home schooled, and all have been taught with a curriculum that included 4-H educational materials.

"4-H is the perfect complement for home schooling," says Maryann Alldredge, Elberfeld, Ind., who is both mother and teacher. "It's family-oriented, hands-on learning, and the activities can be done in the home."

Janet Gordon, Purdue University 4-H Youth department head, says, "We've always encouraged parents to be involved in 4-H, and it's a natural fit for educators. The helper's guide designed for 4-H leaders is like a teacher's handbook. Whether it's leaders, teachers or parents using the curriculum, the instructional materials are already there. And with 50 to 60 projects, there's something for everyone."

4-H, which is administered through the Cooperative Extension Service, offers a variety of programs and teaching materials for K-12 that supplement traditional book learning with interactive approaches to topics such as space, electricity and natural resources. These materials attract both classroom teachers and parents who are building a home school curriculum. Many home school families also incorporate the 4-H club programs into their curriculum. Activities in computers, art and environmental sciences, among others, serve as both school and 4-H projects.

"I just can't say enough good things about 4-H," says Allredge, a coordinator for the 4-H Japanese Exchange program and a former 4-H Council member in Vanderburgh County. Additionally, she and her husband, Dan, previously served as regional representatives for the Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE). Committed to both home schooling and 4-H, Alldredge promotes the educational merits of 4-H among Indiana's home school families.

"I'm really pleased from the response of the home school community," she says. "People come up to me and say, 'I'm so glad that you told me about 4-H.' They're happy with the materials. They see the same results that I see."

The programs are appealing, Gordon says, because they are research-based, written by university faculty and targeted to age-appropriate educational standards. They are available for a nominal fee.

The growing interest in 4-H educational programs with home school families coincides with a rapid rate of growth in home school enrollment, which has doubled – and possibly tripled – during the last decade. A report released in 2001 by the U.S. Department of Education estimated that in spring 1999, 850,000 students nationwide were being home schooled. The National Home Education Research Institute, however, estimates that the number may have been as high as 1.3 million for the 1999-2000 school year.

Indiana is following the national trend. For the 2001-02 school year, the Indiana Department of Education reported home school enrollment of 20,915 – nearly four times the number of home schooled students reported in the state five years ago. The actual number may be even higher, though, since Indiana does not require families to notify the state if they are home schooling.

But home school families are just one of the many audiences for 4-H educational materials.

Some 300,000 Indiana youths participate in 4-H programs, the majority through a school or community-sponsored program. The 4-H staff reaches out to all youth-serving organizations with 4-H exhibits at conferences that have included IAHE, the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Head Start, Search Institute and the Indiana Youth Institute.

Online catalogs of 4-H teaching materials, including publications, videos, Web sites and CD-ROMs, are available.

Writer: Olivia Maddox, (765) 496-3207; maddoxol@purdue.edu

Sources: Janet Gordon, (765) 292-8422, jrgordon@purdue.edu

Maryann Alldredge, (812) 983-4819, allfamily8@juno.com

Related Web sites:

Department of 4-H Youth

Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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