Trouble With 4H Projects

How do I handle this one? My younger daughters all sew and are in 4H. Our club does not have a sewing project leader, so they work their projects at home. We also homeschool, and we do sewing and other home ec projects as well. We also have Amish roots, and needlework is sort of in our blood. It is taught at a very early age. My girls projects are of the level of an Amish girls the same age, but not of an "Englishers". As a result, they are very good little seamstress, and have made numerous high quality outfits, better than many adults can sew.

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Our problem is when they enter their projects in the fair, they are marked down with reasons of "outfit or project skills are not age appropriate" or projects are removed with a tag of "appears the parent made this project". We have tried putting photos of them making their projects in with the project, but that does not help.

The kids and the leaders of our group are not allowed to talk to the judges until after the project is judged. We have different judges each event, so they are not likely to remember that they are skilled little girls. Last fair a judge said at their age they should be making 2 piece pillows, not a dress and purse set.

My girls love sewing and don't want to drop it as a project, nor do I feel they should enter a 2 piece pillow instead of what they are really capable of. We have another fair next month and I am trying to look for a way to get a better grip on it, without discouraging the girls. FYI, in 4H, they are not judged against other kids projects. Instead all projects are judged against a checklist, so technically all entered projects could get a blue, red, white or yellow ribbon.

April from NW Missouri

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

Do you have a local newspaper? Ask them to write an article about sewing and how well your girls can sew and love it. I learned to sew at a young age and it makes me happy to hear that sewing is still taught... and loved!

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

I understand your problem. My suggestion is that they just make the age appropriate two piece pillow or some other simple item if that is what is expected by the judges. You know they can sew, they know they can sew, and their friends know they can sew. I am sure their pillows will be far superior to the other entries. It would seem to me to be better for them to do a project that will be considered than to do all that work on a difficult project only to have it removed before it is even judged. That would be very discouraging. Maybe they could enter one of their dress projects in the general sewing category and not the 4H one. Just a suggestion.

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

Hi, How would they feel entering the regular (adult) category, alot of times these do not ask age and so should not have age restrictions. Good job letting your girls progress with their capabilities and glad you dont hold them back!

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

How fortunate your daughters are! My mother has trouble with straight seams and consequently...but I learned.

Maybe since the event hasn't happened you and the leaders could go to the head of the event instead of to the judges. I would think if you went as a group you would stand a better chance of being heard.

Maybe you could have signed letters from people who KNOW your children are doing their own work.

I agree with you that they should not have to down grade their work to meet lower standards. What a shame that somebody would suggest this! It reminds me of when my son was 5 and wanted a globe for his birthday. The store owner chidded me for "trying to push the kid" but he wanted it because he was curious.

Maybe your children could compete in the adult class. They sound good enough! Surely if you and the leaders talked to the chairman of the fair SOMETHING could be done.

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

Have you tried going to the Extension office and talking to the agent, or even to the Jr. Fairboard. Good Luck, it's a shame this has to happen

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

Although it seems demeaning, the girls need to make the pillows. It seems they have an unfair advantage otherwise.

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

The very reason we left 4H, nobody expected "kids" to really know anything. My daughter was in cooking, scary that people didn't think it was important to know the right way to clean a counter before you cook on it. Actually I agree on this point, make the pillows "as unto the Lord". Make them as charity projects and donate them to a local shelter. It will teach a different lesson.

Does your county have fashion review? We do it here in Washington. The member models (or has a piece they've made modeled) for the judges, then answers questions about the piece. This would allow them to show the judges their knowledge.

This is also a good time to teach them that what they do is important because they know it's right, not because the world thinks it's wrong.

Oh, another idea. Ask the sewing superintendent if your girls can do a sewing demonstration. Then everyone will see how good they really are on their own.

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

Dear April,

It is delightful that your girls are learning to sew so beautifully. I had all boys, but we had a 6th grade teacher that accused me of typing his paper for him...he had self taught himself and when in high school could type 100 wpm. People don't understand. I agree with idea that perhaps the girls could make a pillow to give to a nursing home, but it does seems sad that people can't give them credit for what they are doing. It is part of learning about the world and the way it unfortunately is not always fair. Let them know that many people here think it is terrific that they sew so well and they should be proud of their accomplishments and continue to advance their skills. Not many people today really sew well.

God's blessings on your household,

Harriet

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

Have the news paper do an article on your wonderful kids, and the discrimination they have been subjected to. Save the article. Post it with the entries to 4 H. All else fails, *threaten* to sue for discrimination.

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

That is a shame! Now there's already a lesson learned: life is not always fair. Sad, but so true. Do you have access to a video camera to document your girls working on future projects? Maybe a friend or neighbor would be willing to make a short clip for proof.

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

I learned to sew and do embroidery at a very early age too. My problem came in school. We had to take sewing and my teachers always accused me of having my mother help or do the project for me. I finally sat down and sewed a dress and jacket entirely in class to prove that I could do it by myself. It is such a shame that adults can't seem to realize that some children CAN do things on an adult level. I agree with earlier ideas about having the newspaper do an article. Also talking to the people in charge before the fair might help. Good luck. Have your girls keep up their excellent work.

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October 1, 20080 found this helpful

Being of a family that taught domesticity as a way of life, I learned to cook, sew and crochet by the time I was 8, 10, and 4. Once, I remember going with my step fathers little sister, to have a local neighbor measure and make her dress.

Then she turned to me and said "So, what kind of dress would you like me to make you?" I told her that I had already made mine, and she chuckled and said "No, really, what kind of dress?"

I went out to the car, got my light blue dress that I made with lace over the entire thing, and showed her. My step grandmother confirmed that I not only made the dress, but "it was on my old treadle!"

I remember being in home ec, what a joke, in 10th grade, drawing a line between the picture of a ladle and the word "Ladle", etc. When asked to submit a project that took at least 12 hours, I submitted a 16" doily I had made two years before.

In the future, your children will remember that you fought for what is right, and they won't remember these anonymous judges one bit. No wonder kids have no self esteem!

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

My daughter is in 4h also. At our exhibit days judging, our county agent is allowed to be with the judges to answer any questions that they may have. We have children who are also very gifted along side with children with special needs. It is important that the judges know before they start judging what age levels have these children involved. We also have a clothing construction contest each year for clothing that the children have made. This is a great way for your girls to demonstrate their sewing ability. Foremost, your girls should have fun and enjoy doing their projects!! Talk to your county agent about how you feel and he or she maybe able to help you. If not, they have a boss too!!! Keep going to stand up for your girls.

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

I had a similar problem while raising my son. Among other things, he was an accomplished golfer at an early age. Rather than placing him in junior golf, he played mainly with the adults in adult tournaments. He won the club championship at the age of 12. Children need to be challenged to achieve their best; making simple pillows would be far below their skill level. Never allow a female to "dumb down," God gave her a brain and talent for a reason. Could they compete in the adult section? Could they make a set of complicated pillows with needlework inserted panels? How about crocheting a decorative front for the pillow, like a smocked design? Whatever you decide, definitely talk to those in charge and fight for your children. I learned early that it's the parents who make the most noise that get the best results for their children. You'll only be labeled a troublemaker until others notice that your children really have the talent, and you are not merely a pushy parent. Good luck.

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

My son went through this in middle school. He participated in the science fair and was accused of having his parents(us) make his project. He has always been technologically advanced. He now has a very important computer management career. We had to explain the "life is not fair" concept to him many times. We finally quit entering "contests" or displays that were judged. As we explained to our son, judging is just people's opinions and that doesn't make it right or wrong. It is just expressing what a particular person likes or doesn't like. My son's self confidence grew slowly over the years as he was "rewarded" for his performances by his excellent work. We tried to find other places for him to use his skills where they were appreciated. He knew he made the projects himself and we knew and were proud of him.

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

The issue here is that you and your children are being called liars. There is a point where explanation becomes defense. It's ridiculous. Would a child be made to defend a bad project? Can you imagine a judge saying that "This isn't the work of an nine year old. It must be from a toddler." No, of course not. Then why do they think nothing of criticizing an accomplishment? Don't they realize that it has the same detrimental effect? In fact, worse? Could it be suggested that there is an "Advanced" category, to separate the more experienced from the less experienced, in the same age group? That way, they are given credit for their accomplishments, instead of being denigrated for them.

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

Hello,

As an Extension Educator for Youth development/4-H, some advice I could give you: Contact your local Leaders association, let them know what is happening at fashion revue and fairs with your judge. Judges with experience are hard to come by sometimes, and most not paid for their time, but they also need to know, and to understand, that not all youth sit at home in front of the TV and would cheat. I too started sewing when I was 7yrs in 4-H (at 15yr I chose to become a 4-H agent (Extension Educator-we bleed green). I knew more than my Jr high home teacher and I was sewing for others in high school. My sister also home schools her children, and they a very active in 4-H, they don't seem to have this problem, but that is in South Dakota.

In SD we have a form that is filled out with the entry and picture. Make sure the child fills it out completely. Give a history about when they started sewing, etc. You can give more information than what is on the form. This also goes for Open class Exhibits in any category.

Find out who contacts the judges, let them know (if not already done), how you and "others" feel. Go to you county Fairboard and also let them know. My previous county, let the Extension office set the judges all up, but they had to approved by the Educator/agent on staff. I would imagine, you may have had that discussion with them. All I can say in keep going up the ladder. There should be an Extension board that also oversee's the Extension office, and then they also have a State Association. Call and talk to a 4-H Specialist at Missouri State University. They are to train their educators with updates and such in different area's of the 4-H program, and if it hasn't been done with "Training for Judges", encourage your local leaders association with assistance from the 4-H specialist and the county educator to get this done.

You didn't say, if the judging of items was done during an "interview Judging" time. Interview judging is when the judge and the youth sit down together (usual a long line of youth waiting in line in my county) and discuss the item. At this time, the judge should be finding out verbal information as to how this item was developed. The judge should not be making opinions about how they believe the item came from somewhere else. They should be judging on workmanship, quality of the item and presentation. They all have guidelines like you mentioned. I could go on all day with topic. If you have any more questions you can contact me at cougargirl95 AT hotmail.com

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

As an avid "sewer" as well as being a 4H leader with several members that sew, I have run into the same problem. As the club leader I talked to the Leader's Council as well as the 4H Extention Agent. Our 4H agent and myself met with the judges and the sewing superintendent prior to judging. (All of this was started well in advance of the day of judging.) This year the judging went very well - most of the judges are volunteers and don't know the kids that are sewing - the only thing they have to go by are the guidelines that they are given. Don't give up!

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October 17, 20080 found this helpful

I do agree with posts that suggest you take this on up the ladder. In fact, I think you should go straight to the top of the ladder, and get this settled for once and for all. I also agree that your local paper could do a feature on these skilled and talented children, we don't see enough of that. I do not believe your girls should dumb down their work. They are better than that, and they know it. Do the judges also have children involved in these shows?  I certainly hope not.

If you set up something with your paper first, and then go to someone with authority in 4-H, you have two strings to your bow. "We have a problem" and "We could always settle this with publicity." Keep fighting. 

BTW, my son made place mats and napkins for me in high school, and folks thought I had made them.

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