Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Homeschooling High School ~ Electives

Does thinking of Elective courses for your High School student make you sigh, or tremble?

Fear not!

This month's Homeschooling High School blog hop is all about electives - from choosing them to fitting them in, plus thoughts about following passions, finding a job for your teen, and being intentional about teaching life skills.

Start here with what we've shared, and then click on over to see how our friends tackle electives. You and your students can have fun, learn a lot, be challenged, and be inspired all with elective coursework. Stop being afraid of electives, and find some great ideas. Read on!

High School Electives

Elective: (of a course of study) chosen by the student rather than compulsory.

Dearest parents,
Just in case you skimmed over that definition, it says chosen by the student, not chosen by the teacher, parent, guidance counselor, or lunch lady. (Even if you are all four of them!)

I have found that letting our girls choose their electives means they actually complete them, without whining, and without dawdling. It really is important to let your High School student choose their own elective courses. 

Many states require some direction on electives; i.e. they need two art classes or two foreign language credits. If this is the case in your state, keep it in mind when you sit down and truly listen while you talk over electives with your student. If your son or daughter really, REALLY wants to take Russian, make it happen. I'm not saying you need to plunk down $179 or more for Rosetta stone, but you need to evaluate how and where your student can learn Russian. Perhaps your local library subscribes to Mango or Rocket Languages. Maybe your student is a YouTube whiz and can piece together their lessons, or you have a small community of Russians who live nearby that would teach your student Russian in exchange for your teen teaching them English. There are so many solutions to the things we often think of as problems, that we need to just step back and laugh at ourselves sometimes.

If your child needs two elective credits in Art, find out what kinds of art intrigue them. Maybe your daughter has always wanted to learn watercolors (ARTistic Pursuits has a great book for that,) or your son wants to learn graphic arts so he can illustrate his own comic books. PLEASE tell me I'm not the only Mama out there who wants her children to have fun and not be bored to death doing their schoolwork!

Learning can be SO much fun if we just break out of the mold we grew up with in Public School! Stop thinking about your own education, and start imagining something much, much better for your High Schoolers. Imagine what it would be like if you could enjoy High School alongside your students. Case in point, a little over a year ago our girls were working on the Fiber Arts section of Sculpture Technique: Model from ARTistic Pursuits. They were having so much fun that I joined them. I learned how to dry felt, and I made a rose.

So lets think about some categories for electives:
Arts - including music
World Languages
Business, Marketing or Information Technology
Family and Consumer Sciences
Trade Education/ apprenticeships
Agriculture/ Botany or non-normative sciences

Basically, electives are any course that isn't a core required course for a High School diploma. They can also be additional courses in core subjects that go beyond your state's requirements. In the state of Indiana, students must have 8 semesters of English/ Language Arts, 6 of Math, 6 of science, 6 of social studies, 2 semesters of Physical Education and a semester of Health & Wellness. If a student has 8 semesters of Science or Social Studies, they can count the extra coursework credits as electives.

Here students are also required to have 5 semesters' worth of "Directed Electives" which include World Languages, Fine Arts, or Career and Technical Education. Finally, they are required to have a minimum of 6 other elective courses. Don't limit your child on the number of electives they can take... as long as they get those core requirements met! 

It is the choosing of their own elective courses that often spurs your High Schooler on to finish the core courses. Trust me, I know! 

Here are the electives that Emily has already completed: Drawing, Art History, Latin, American Sign Language, Theatre Arts, Advanced Acting, Civics, Photography, Fiber Arts, Speech, Chorus, and Music Arts and Appreciation. The electives she's still working on or I'm hoping she will complete before graduation include: Piano/ keyboarding, Desktop publishing, Chemistry of Food, Consumer Economics, and Personal Financial Responsibility. 

Arlene is younger, but already has quite a few electives completed: Theatre Arts, Advanced Acting, Photography, Fiber Arts, Culinary Arts, Chorus, Drawing, Painting, American Sign Language, and Civics. She plans to take coursework for credit in Natural Resource management, Survival Skills, and possible Entrepreneurship as well. She still has three years to add electives to her list. As long as she is getting her required courses completed satisfactorily, we're game to her exploring new things.

What are your High School students interested in? Does your son want to be an audio technician or your daughter an Interior Designer? Turn their interests, desires, passions, and wonderings into elective courses. Let your students explore Fashion Merchandising or Hospitality and Tourism.

As important as electives are to finishing your diploma requirements for college, they are even more important for students who are considering a career over college upon graduation. Electives are where they explore, this is where they are challenged to try something new, this is where they GROW!

Now to the nitty-gritty: how do you fit them all in? Carefully!

We have found that it is often easier to do the bulk of elective classes on Thursday or Friday afternoons, or even over the summer. If your student is a lifeguard at the local pool, I truly hope you're counting at least some of that time towards their Phys Ed credits. If your student works as a summer camp counselor and hikes all over kingdom come with a group of 5th graders, the same applies. Art classes are usually easier to do in chunks of time than an hour each day because you don't spend as much of your total time just getting your supplies out and putting them away. Many music course are completed fifteen or thirty minutes a day during practice and lesson times for their chosen instrument.

Is your High School student involved in local theatre? It doesn't take long for that play practice to add up to enough hours for a semester credit. Our girls rack up hours for acting and theater coursework while reenacting at a local living history museum.

High School Electives

Elective course also give you time to focus on being intentional about teaching life skills. Home Ec may have a different name in your state, but it should still involve learning how to prepare foods, doing laundry, learning how to clean the entire house, and understanding how to balance a checkbook, even if your teen never writes an actual check!

Your teen may be looking for a job. Give credit where it is due for life or business skills they learn on the job. Running their own lawn care business can be listed as entrepreneurship or business management. Being a regular babysitter can go under child development or family and consumer sciences.

Sit down with your teen and discuss what courses they have thought about for electives. Then honesty discuss how much funding is available for those courses. Work together to find solutions. If your daughter truly wants to take violin lessons, budget in the purchase of her first violin, and then help her figure out ways to earn money to pay for her ongoing lessons.

Electives can be so much fun, and they can happen anywhere. 
After all - LIFE is a field trip!

High School Electives

Visit some of our friends listed below and learn how they tackle electives!

Read More on Electives in the High School Years

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