We go camping with good friends every summer. Since we do this every summer, I know I've gone on about it before, explaining how this is one of my best friends from my elementary school years, who happened to have a baby only two days before I had mine, and how we found each other when said kids were not quite two, and have reforged a magnificent friendship since then that has spilled over to our husbands and children.
Since I know I've gone on and on before about that, I won't do it again here. Nor will I go on and on about how much fun the kids have, and how great it is to get away and experience the great outdoors and the wonders of campfire smoke in the eyes while trying to make s'mores, or popcorn, or dinner, or the fire itself.
I also won't make this yet another post about hiking and wildlife, since we all know how much I can go on and on about that, or birds, since everyone excepting me is probably birded out for the year.
And since that leaves very little to talk about, here is a photo essay of our annual camping trip, spent this year in Tawas State Park.
Before homeschooling I knew one thing about 4H: that it was a club for kids who raised adorable baby animals so that they could later sell them off for slaughter. It was indelibly linked in my mind to the story of Charlotte's Web and the fate that awaited poor Wilbur. I've never been a vegitarian, nor have I ever been deluded about where my food comes from, but I'm far too much of a softy to have ever met any of my meals in the spring of their lives.
None of that has really changed for me, my son is equally soft hearted, and we live in a suburban area that doesn't even allow the rearing of backyard chickens, and yet we have been 4H members for several years now because, as it turns out, 4H is about more—way more—than farming. We were introduced to the 4H program when we joined our homeschooling group. I turned in my paperwork and was handed a bonafide 4H membership card that entitled me to a discount at the local Tractor Supply Co. I was also handed an information sheet about all the activities the program had to offer, from summer craft camps to weekly archery classes, all with the main goal of helping kids grow to their full potential.
Each summer the 4H year culminates in a county-wide Youth Show where the animals so dutifully raised and, in some cases, trained, are shown and put up for auction. But the show isn't only for the farmers in the group. In addition to barns upon barns full of animals, there is a building dedicated solely to "still" projects, or projects other than animals that are presented for judging. These projects are meant to demonstrate any level of beginnership on up through mastery of any hobby or skill imaginable worked on over the previous year. Kids present finished projects to judges to earn grades of A, B, or C. Some projects will also be given a ranking of Honors, and from those Honors projects will be chosen a single Best in Show per category by age. It's a system that rewards individual effort as well as overall.
Calvin has presented projects in the Youth Show for three years now, but for those first three years he received only participation ribbons, as do all the youngest participants. This, then, was the first year he was old enough to be elligible for grading, and he took that challenge very seriously. When he registered to submit ten projects in six different project areas, I was concerned—about him completing them on time, about the quality of the finished work, about what he could possibly learn from so many different projects—but I was wrong to worry. I wasn't really surprised that he tackled some of the same projects (wildlife and wildflower info pages and photography) with the same skill and attention he'd afforded them in previous years, but I was completely blown away by his attention to detail in new project areas, like rock collecting, container plants, and especially sewing, which he had never before tackled in all his life.
Ten projects, ten A grades, eight Honors rankings, four Best in Shows, and lots and lots of fun.