Homeschool High School Electives
Electives are probably my favorite part about homeschooling. The best thing about using high school electives in your homeschool is that they can be so helpful to your teen as he’s thinking about possible future careers.
The worst thing about electives is that it’s so hard to narrow them down! Just this morning my going-into-9th-grader and I were working on her schedule. It was pretty easy to pin down math, science, and foreign language.
We don’t really do language arts (shhh, don’t tell!) except for reading tons of great literature, so all we had left to do was decide on some electives. That shouldn’t have been too hard, right?
She wants to take this awesome architecture class we found at Outschool, where you build an actual scale model of a victorian farmhouse. And she loved the Makerspace class she took last year at our local children’s museum and would like to take the next level up.
But her heart is also set on learning film scoring and music production, and we just happen to have a fantastic local class, but it’s pricey and time consuming.
And then there are swimming, skiing, ballroom dance, violin lessons, piano lessons and orchestra!
Luckily, since we homeschool, we aren’t limited to one elective per semester!
Because her outschool class is only 4 weeks long, and she can take swimming lessons during the summer and skiing lessons during the winter, and because she just has more time in her day than your average public high schooler, she can fit all of those extracurricular classes into her schedule.
I won’t include them all on her high school transcript (Should you really be thinking about high school transcripts already?) but I’ll fit them in where I can. Swimming and skiing both count as Phys. Ed. credits (which are required elective credits), architecture can count as her required elective tech credit since she’ll be using CAD software, and the rest will put her WAY over the required elective art credit, but that’s okay. It’s the least of my worries.
I’ll use the rest of her music classes to fill her optional elective credits. I’ve found that my kids are far busier in 11th and 12th grade, so it never hurts to front-load a transcript, meaning complete as much as possible, as early as possible, so there is breathing room in the upper grades.
What is a high school elective anyway?
What are high school electives?
Electives are coursework that is accomplished outside of the core curriculum for high school (Math, Language Arts, Science, History and Foreign Language). Most universities require a certain number of elective credits, like PE, tech and art credits. Some also consider Foreign Language courses required electives.
The remaining elective credits (6 additional elective credits are required by most universities) are generally fun classes chosen by the student, based on his interests. You don’t need to limit your student to that many credits, though.
Electives offer students the opportunity to explore their interests and develop their talents. They can also be a great way to explore potential career paths. My 3rd child wanted to take all the computer repair and coding classes he could get his hands on, even as a little tyke. He graduated our homeschool a couple of months ago, and guess what his college major is?
If your child isn’t sure what he wants to do with the rest of his life, electives can help him explore different options. Electives are also a great way to keep learning enjoyable!
You’ll find (or you can create) classes geared to pretty much any field of study or interest. It will benefit him greatly to help steer his elective choices toward those that align with future goals whether he plans to attend college or not.
Do high school electives matter on your homeschool transcript?
If your teen is even thinking about going on to college, he will definitely need a transcript. So, yes, his high school electives will matter.
Universities all have different requirements for application and scholarships, so that’s the place to start. Search your teens preferred university and find out what the requirements are. In addition to required electives, universities will want to see electives that that help them understand your teens unique strengths and interests.
Colleges also know that students who participate in the arts often do better in school and on standardized tests. The arts help students to grow stronger neural pathways as they recognize patterns, notice differences and similarities. So most colleges require or recommend one or two semesters in the arts. I’ll say it again — be sure to check the specific requirements at your preferred university.
Where do I find homeschool high school electives?
You’ll find the standard options through homeschool curriculum publishers and local co-ops, but you can find endless options through local community classes, rec centers, private lessons, vocational schools, apprenticeships, or art classes taught through art supply stores.
There are also so many online homeschool high school electives out there it’s almost overwhelming. The providers listed below are just a small sample of what is out there. I’ve used most of them with my own family and can heartily recommend them.
Online providers of high school electives for homeschoolers:
- Outschool – Outschool offers over 4,000 live, online synchronous classes. You’ll find everything from semester-long core classes to fun, 2-3 week long elective classes about every subject you can imagine. They even have short literature classes centered around children’s books for young children.
- Udemy – My children have used several of the coding courses from Udemy. Be sure to get on their mailing list, because they have periodic sales where thousands of their classes will be reduced to the $10-$30 range. Also be sure to check the reviews for each class. I’m sure most of their classes are great, but we’ve had a couple of duds.
- Creating a Masterpiece — Build creativity and confidence with easy to follow step-by-step video instruction. You can try your first class free to see if it’s a good fit.
- Masterpiece Society – Learn art and art appreciation with these fun, self-paced art courses covering a variety of mediums and styles.
- Power Homeschool – Power Homeschool offers self-paced, interactive video lessons on topics such as foreign language, physical education, fine arts, and career and technical classes.
- SchoolhouseTeachers.com — This site is chock full of fun elective classes for your homeschooled high schooler, and the best thing is that you get access to all of them with your membership. Everything is included, there are no books to buy (nothing to store) and no extra fees. And right now memberships are on sale!
- TakeLessons – Get live instruction in music, language, dance, computer skills and more one-on-one with an instructor. You can search by area or by subject.
- YouTube – just search for anything of interest, because it’s highly likely that someone is teaching it on youtube. We’ve found free guitar and voice lessons that were pretty high quality on youtube.
- DriversEd.com — This is a great way to give your teen credit for Drivers Ed, if he is required to take it anyway. The classroom portion is entirely online, but your teen will still be required to meet with a road-driving instructor for a certain number of hours, plus whatever else your state requires. My state, Utah, requires 40 hours of driving time with a parent.
- Bluprint — These guys offer everything from fitness and nutrition classes to quilting and sewing classes.
- LearnandMaster.com – Have you ever wanted to learn the arts from a master? Check out these courses by Steve Krenz. He even offers homeschool-specific editions of most of his music classes.
- takelessons.com – offers high quality, private, online dance instruction in just about every discipline.
- Great Courses – You’ll find, literally, thousands of courses on pretty much every topic you can imagine, taught be experts in their fields. These video courses are so engaging you could binge watch an entire university course in a weekend. Watch for sales, because, while the typical prices look high, they frequently have terrific sales.
This is just a small smattering of the high school elective courses offered online. You can probably find whatever your teen is interested in by searching the internet by topic. The most difficult aspect of choosing elective courses will likely be limiting yourselves to a realistic amount of coursework.
How do I assign credit for electives?
Most universities (and public schools) require 6-7 elective credits in addition to the required credits.
Each semester-long elective course is worth .5 credit on your teens homeschool transcript.
I keep a spreadsheet in my Google Drive for each of my kiddos and spend just a few minutes each semester adding course descriptions and credits, so that when the time comes I can easily piece together my teens transcripts.
Be sure to keep track of the daily things your teen is doing that could provide credit! For example, all of my children study music. I feel like practicing an hour or more, plus weekly private instruction, daily music theory and periodic recitals is absolutely worthy of credit!
Unfortunately, universities only require (generally) 1 art credit, and they like to see a variety of elective credits, so my children don’t receive nearly as much credit for music on their transcripts as they deserve. But for sure always look for ways to give credit for work that is already being completed.
Here are a few more electives examples from my homeschool.
Sometimes it helps to see examples of what someone else is doing and how they’re doing it. So here are a few more examples of high school electives in our homeschool:
Physical Education: My daughter took both Irish and Ballroom dance, and was dancing for several hours a week, plus performing multiple times each semester. I also give PE credit for participation in swim team and community sports.
Driver’s Ed: In my state, Utah, teens have to drive 40 hours with their parents, in addition to taking a class and completing formal driving instruction with a certified driving instructor. That sounds deserving of a credit to me!
Programming: It’s essential nowdays that kids are well-versed in tech, right down to understanding how to program. I use a combination of W3 schools and code combat (both free) until they’re ready for a more formal study of coding languages.
Foreign Language: My kids start learning Spanish before kindergarten, because Spanish study is just a way of life around here. We hired a native Spanish speaker to come to our house for two afternoons each week and teach an hour formal lesson, then cook or clean or read with the kids for another couple of hours. She also gives them homework and leaves Spanish games and books for them.
Work-Study: All of my kiddos start working just as soon as they’re old enough, because I don’t give them allowance or any spending money. They usually work full-time during the summer and part-time during the school year. They learn so much (my kids have learned customer service, business, marketing and advertising, construction, and chemistry – by my son who worked as a pyrotechnician – not to mention financial literacy skills as they learn to handle money.)
Speech and Debate: A fellow homeschooler has created the most fabulous speech and debate program for all of the kids in our region. He travels around teaching weekly classes and holds monthly debate meets. He has been so successful that a few private schools have joined his debate league and participate in the meets. He is incredibly inspiring, so in addition to excellent public speaking skills my teens are learning concern for their situation in the world and how to ask the right questions. We have intelligent, nightly dinnertime discussions about whether wealthy nations should provide developmental assistance to developing nations, whether U. S. reporters should have the right to protect confidential sources, and other such interesting topics thanks to this fabulous homeschool class. I can’t think of another class more deserving of an elective credit.
U. S. Government: My kiddos participate in Patriot Camp every summer, where they work on learning all about both U. S. History and the functions of the different branches of the government. They particpate in simulations similar to Model UN, only based around the U. S. Government.
ACT Prep: Hey, the public schools give an elective credit for this, so why shouldn’t we homeschoolers? My kiddos have used a combination of physical ACT Prep books and online resources. They spend a considerable amount of time studying — might as well give them credit.
Final advice for high school electives in your homeschool.
The above examples are just a few I could think of off the top of my head. I write myself little notes (on my recordkeeping spreadsheet) each semester about what my kids have participated in so I’ll remember when I’m filling out their transcripts as they apply to universities during their senior years.
We always end up having far more than we actually need, because if I translated everything they do into credit they’d earn upwards of 20 credits each semester. I think many homeschoolers find themselves in a similar situation, since our teens have more time to pursue interests and passions than their public-schooled counterparts.
Regardless, it helps to have all those notes at transcript-making time so I can structure each child’s elective credits to look well-rounded and impressive to college admissions personnel. Begin with the end in mind, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey as well!
I’d love to hear all of your creative ideas for homeschool electives! Please share them in the comments below!