Last week was one of the most exhausting weeks of our school year. Five of our children competed in our 4 day county junior livestock show through our local 4-H  group.
Many children compete in stock shows like these each year through programs in their schools, like FFA (Future Farmers of America). Since we homeschool, 4-H is the perfect way for us to participate.
Our stock show has divisions for market steers, hogs, lambs, goats, chickens, and rabbits. There is also a family living division which allows entries in baked goods, homemade candies, jellies, quilts, knitted items, purses, jewelry, pencil drawings, sculptures, paintings, etc.
You can see a few of the divisions we entered above. The grand champion item in the picture is a weighted flannel blanket made by my 17 year old. She filled each section with equal amounts of poly beads to equal 10% of her body weight, plus one pound. These blankets are often used as sensory therapy for autistic children .
The teddy bear was sewn by my 8 year old, and you can see that we made a showing in the goat and rabbit divisions, as well as many family living items not shown.
The final day of the 4 day event is an auction, in which local businessmen attend. Many of them come with their entire year's advertising budgets, ready to spend on a child's project. One by one, the children enter the ring with their prize winning projects and the bidding begins.
"$300? Who will give this young lady $300? $400? Who will make it $400?"
They are not bidding to actually buy the animal or quilt, or because a rabbit is worth that much, but they are bidding to have their company's name appear in the paper and on a banner in the show barn as contributors to the county junior livestock show.
All in all, my girls made $2,900 at the auction on their projects!
Every year, toward the end of the stress-filled week , I always say, "We are never doing stock show again!"
But after the auction I always change my mind.
(Pearl snaps are a must at the county stock show.)
It's then I realize that participating in the stock show has allowed many opportunities to learn new skills and practice being committed to seeing a task through to the end. The children get to practice being gracious winners and good losers. They learn perseverance and the importance of following directions. They must answer questions about their animals before the judges. They carefully write out directions for sewing a teddy bear or baking a cake. They remember to say "ma'am" and "sir". They understand that animals must be fed and cared for, even in the rain and sleet. They put away a portion of their money to buy more animals the following year.
Yes, many good lessons in the midst of the stress.
I guess we'll be doing the stock show again this time next year.
You can find out about joining 4-H and competing in your county stock show by contacting your county extension agent. Look in the phone book under the name of your county in the government listings.