Got an email today that I thought I would share about homeschool high school electives. It is from HSLDA.
Courses to Whet Your Teens’ Appetites—Is It Possible?
About this time of year, your teens may be wondering if school is ever going to end. Maybe they can’t wait to finish up that uninteresting course they don’t perceive to be useful in “real” life. Or, you are busy looking ahead to next year in order to take advantage of upcoming homeschool conferences and book fairs. In either case, let’s talk about including courses that will enliven your program and stimulate your teens’ interests. We’re talking … electives!
What are Electives?
To refresh your memory, there are two basic kinds of courses in a high school plan, core courses, and electives. The core courses fall into the English, history, math, science, and foreign language categories and are usually taken to graduate high school or for college admissions. Electives, on the other hand, are courses of interest or choice that your teen wishes to take (or you wish him to take). They come in all shapes and sizes and provide an excellent way to involve your teens in course selection.
Some electives are skill-based; others are academic in nature. For example, home maintenance and repair is a course that teaches your teen skills useful in owning a home or saving money, or in starting a business. Geography is also useful especially if your teen does a lot of traveling, but it is an academic-based elective falling under the history umbrella.
How Many Electives to Choose?
You will find that it is quite easy to add electives to your program. Without being aware of it, you can end up majoring in electives rather than in the core courses. However, we recommend letting the core courses form the nucleus of your high school program while using a couple of electives each year to round out your teen’s transcript. Electives will allow those reading the transcript to learn more about your teen, her interests, her talents, and maybe her quirks.
Where Do I Find Electives?
The HSLDA High School website is a good place to begin looking for these courses. To get started, click here. Also check with your state support group, local supports, co-op, and classes that may have access to extracurriculars that would count as electives. Sometimes you have to be creative.
For example, if your daughter is working on a novel for publication, she may wish to learn computer desktop publishing. She can access some of this knowledge on the internet, often for free. Other sources could include computer stores, community colleges, recreational centers, libraries, adult education programs, homeschool alumni, and more.
For a teen interested in sculpture check out museums and local artists for instruction and mentorship. Courses in health such as CPR or first aid may be given by local hospitals, recreational centers, or the YMCA.
Maybe your son is interested in landscape design and horticulture. Nurseries, garden shops, or local extension cooperatives may be places to find resources for building a course to include on his high school transcript.
The main objective of electives is to provide opportunities for your teens to discover and hone their interests and talents. Don’t let the lack of a formal curriculum keep you from designing a course to teach the necessary skills.
How Do I Title and Describe an Elective?
Now that you have courses selected, the next step will be to give them titles and descriptions. The titles for many electives will be self-evident, such as Computer Skills or Entrepreneurship. Others, not so easy. Maybe your daughter is studying nutrition, learning cooking and sewing skills, caring for younger siblings, practicing how to organize a home, and preparing a budget. The question becomes, “What do I call all of these things?” You want to choose a title that’s not too creative, but one that will give the reader of the transcript a clear idea of what your teen learned in the course; so you could name the course Home Management.
It is important to keep a description of these courses in your records. They do not need to be lengthy. If you use a prepared curriculum, the publisher likely summarized it in the catalog or online for you; save yourself time and use it. A textbook-based course can be described by simply copying the table of contents. Otherwise, concisely list the major components of a course, including course objectives and method of instruction (book-based, hands-on projects, apprenticing, etc.) and include the year or grade the course was taken, the grade received, and the credit earned.
These records will be primarily for your use unless they are requested by admission counselors of the schools to which your teen is applying. However, they are valuable in other ways. The course descriptions will provide a summary to re-familiarize your teens with their high school classes before they go to job or college interviews. They will be prepared to give informative answers to questions (often out of interest) about their courses. Reviewing with your teens all the coursework accomplished during high school will also give them a sense of accomplishment to press on.
How Do I Evaluate Electives for Credits and Grades?
Because electives can be non-traditional, non-book-learning courses, evaluating them for credits and grades will often be different. If you are using a curriculum from a publisher, they have likely evaluated the course for credit. If not, logging hours of the time your teen spent completing the course requirements will be the best way to calculate credit. A standard scale to use is 120 hours for one year of credit and 60 hours for ½ years of credit. HSLDA has great information about how to log credit, just click here.
Electives may also present a challenge when it comes to grading. You always have the option of using pass/fail grades. Even though this is an easy grading method, be aware that courses graded pass/fail will not be included when calculating your teen’s grade point average (GPA) so we suggest keeping them to a minimum. Since your teen is undoubtedly enthusiastic about such courses and most likely will do well in them, a good letter grade will positively impact the GPA. In this case, it may be worthwhile to come up with a method for grading. A letter grade could be based on completing projects, reaching certain goals, and/or learning a set of skills rather than through tests and quizzes.
Why Should I Include Electives?
Reasons for including electives in your high school program were sprinkled throughout this newsletter. We hope you caught some of them: interesting, fun, innovative, career-orienting, challenging. In addition, college admission requirements may include a certain number of elective credits. Also, these courses give others a window into what type of person your teen is, what he’s interested in, what talents he exhibits, and more. We hope you will take the time to review your high school program and add electives that will inspire and kindle enthusiasm in your teens. Electives can be the sugar that helps the medicine (core courses) go down!
Come back next month as we discuss reading lists for parents. No time to read? You might be surprised!
Joyously electing to serve you,
Becky Cooke & Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants
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“Homeschooling Thru Highschool” is a newsletter of the Home School Legal Defense Association. All rights reserved. For more information on Homeschooling Thru Highschool or the Home School Legal Defense Association please contact us at:
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