Graphic. AgriculturesAgriculturesGraphic. Purdue University.

Winter 2002

Head, Heart, Hands, Health and some home school
By Olivia Maddox

Image: Maryann Alldredge, Laura and John.
Maryann Alldredge (background) has home schooled all six of her children, using 4-H materials to supplement their curriculum. Laura and John work on lessons in the living room. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

For Matthew and Alex Gerth, home and school are one and the same. While the den in their Carmel home has been turned into their designated classroom, the boys have also developed favorite study niches throughout the house: reading while curled up in a beanbag chair in front of the fireplace, writing at the kitchen table or spreading a project out on the wood floor in the foyer.

Their mother, Kayte Gerth, uses much the same approach in assembling their lesson plans. Starting with a particular curriculum, she pulls out the parts that work best and then adds bits and pieces of others, customizing the boys' studies for each subject. One of the programs that she uses in her build-a-curriculum approach is 4-H.

A 4-H leader for more than 20 years, Gerth was well versed in what 4-H had to offer when it came time to teach her children. "4-H works in our curriculum so nicely," Gerth says, making her point by naming some of the 21 projects that Matthew, 8, and Alex, 9, completed last year, their first as 4-Hers.

The photography and scrapbook projects became their yearbook, chronicling their school year. Plant science, geology, weather and entomology projects were part of their science curriculum. The bicycle project was a group effort with scouting and home-schooled friends. Foods, electricity, arts and crafts, recycling and health were among the other projects completed for both school and 4-H.

The home school-4-H match-up is not a new revelation. Kyle Becker, a sophomore animal sciences major, was home schooled beginning with the second grade. He was also a 10-year 4-Her. And with projects like dairy, beef, sheep, swine and veterinary science, it's no surprise that this academic scholarship recipient has his eye on vet school.

"Since I was home schooled, I probably was able to do more in 4-H than kids in public school," Becker says. And while 4-H wasn't a formal part of his curriculum, there was a definite connection between what he was learning in science--particularly anatomy and biology--and what he was learning in 4-H. "It was like putting two and two together," he says.

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