3 Must-Have High School Electives
By Lee Binz
Every high school offers elective classes. What crazy electives were available at your high school? I took Polynesian History, which was offered by my teacher so he could go to Hawaii every summer and write it off as a business expense. My brother-in-law taught Sports Communication and History of Baseball at his public high school because he loved baseball, and could listen to games during class time.
Homeschoolers are not limited by the whims of teachers, or the preferences of principals or the school district. Instead, we can choose electives that are legally required, important to us, and fun for our students. There are three critical elective types to cover in high school, but the individual electives aren’t the same for all homeschool families. In fact, they don’t even have to be the same for each child in your family!
1. Electives Required by State Law
Each state has different homeschool laws. Usually the requirements involve subjects parents would teach their children anyway, such as reading, writing, math, science, and foreign language. That’s why increased state regulation doesn’t tend to affect our homeschool performance. Truth be told, parents often have stiffer requirements than state laws. However, look at your state law to see what is required, and find out if any of those requirements are electives. For example, Washington State requires that parents teach “Occupational Education.” Other states might require “Technology” or “Computer Applications.” Add these required classes to your high school class list.
Don’t look up your state “graduation requirements.” Those are requirements specifically for your local public high school, and not for private schools or homeschools. Public school requirements change frequently, and may not reflect what is important or significant. Trying to meet public school requirements can lead to frustration, and feelings of inadequacy. These requirements often stem from societal problems that are not meaningful in your homeschool. Look for electives required by state homeschool law instead.
2. Electives Required by Parents
There are some subjects you believe should be required in high school, but aren’t required by the state. That’s one reason looking at public school requirements can be so frustrating – their inflexible guidelines can seem nonsensical in the context of your own child in your own home. Instead, look carefully at the subjects you believe are critical. Subjects that parents require for high school vary significantly. One parent might require Bible classes and another require auto mechanics or home economics. Your best friend might require logic, or critical thinking, or debate. All homeschool parents have subjects they deem critical for high school. Add yours to the high school class list.
Set reasonable expectations for the number of high school classes. There are a million subjects we would love to teach our children, but we certainly can’t make our children learn in four years what has taken us a lifetime to learn. Each one credit class indicates about one hour of study per day. If your child takes more than eight classes each year, you are expecting your child to sit still and study for more than 8 hours a day. Is that reasonable? Keep your learning goals balanced, and don’t expect your child to work longer than an adult works at a full time job.
3. Electives from Delight Directed Learning
Learning for fun can take almost any form; it’s not limited by the interests of the teacher, the school, or the purchase of a special curriculum. Any learning your child does for fun can be included on the high school transcript as electives. To be quite honest, sometimes parents don’t see these subjects as delight directed learning. Often, parents will see this learning as just an annoying interruption. What is your child doing when they should be “doing school”? Could that behavior translate into some high school credits? If they are constantly playing the banjo, riding horses, drawing Anime, or mapping the moons of Jupiter, it can indicate some high school level learning.
Don’t turn delight into a total drag. When your child is learning for fun, and you want to put that information on the transcript, the temptation is to force that subject into the public school mold. Don’t do it! You don’t want to beat the love of learning out of your child, or make them hate their most-beloved pastime. Don’t make delight directed learning a boring school subject. You don’t need to purchase textbooks (although your child may request some for further study). You don’t need to create tests. Instead, watch closely, listen, and learn from your children. They are capable of learning without any intervention. Your job isn’t to make them learn, your job is to collect what they have already learned.
There can be impediments to learning for fun. If it seems like your child doesn’t take joy in any delight directed learning, look for stumbling blocks that are getting in their way. Sometimes the problem is simply a lack of maturity. Young students may need to explore more of the world before they catch fire for a subject. Sometimes the problem is time, and a schedule crammed full to the gills. If they are so busy doing “school” each day, and don’t have any free time, they may not have the necessary hours to learn how to enjoy other topics just for fun. Sometimes the problem is technology, if your children spend all their free hours glued to a screen, playing games or using social media. This kind of technology use can decrease creativity and enjoyment in other areas. Try limiting technology, and freeing up more time to see if your child can start learning for fun.
How to Capture High School Electives
Electives don’t need to have a curriculum, quizzes or fill-in the bubble tests to be included on the high school transcript. Many electives are achieved through natural learning that doesn’t resemble school. Even without making these classes part of “school” you can still include this quality learning on the high school transcript.
Name each of your classes using the name of the experience: Tai Kwon Do, Novel Writing, Creative Thinking, Leadership Skills, Farm Management, Small Business, and Entrepreneurship. Calculate credits based on the number of hours worked. About 120-180 hours, or at least one hour a day, is enough to call it a high school credit.
Estimate grades without requiring tests. Consider how a piano teacher evaluates learning at the piano, mostly through watching and listening: watching the skill of the hands, listening to the music and the rhythm, feeling the child’s involvement, recognizing practice.
Categorize the learning into subject groups if possible. Tai Kwon Do can be part of your PE class; Novel Writing can fit into your English class. When possible, exceed expectations in existing subject areas first, so you have more than four credits of social studies or music. If the elective doesn’t fit into an existing subject area, then let it stand in a separate category as an “elective.” In other words, “elective” might mean, “I don’t know where else to list this work.”
Exceed Expectations with Electives
Your job is to educate your children, and colleges want to see rigorous college preparation in high school. By including electives, you can exceed expectations in many categories. Look at the college admission requirements for colleges you are considering. Compare their requirements to the education you are giving your child. Is there anything missing? Can you exceed expectations with your electives? Include all of your academic but natural learning, whether it was intentional or mandated by the state, or even during the summer, when other subjects were on hiatus. We homeschoolers might be crazy enough to school year-round. We might even require or allow our children to learn something during the summer. Summer school counts, too!
Exceed expectations and put electives on your high school transcript!
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.
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