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What You Need to Know About High School Electives


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Use this list of elective ideas to help you discover fun learning opportunities for your homeschool student. From life skills to career exploration, high school electives help teens develop their unique skills and explore their passions.

I got my first taste of elective classes in 8th grade. All two elective classrooms were at the end of the hall across from one another. The girls turned left to home ec, and the boys turned right to woodshop.

Then, I went to high school. Freshman year, our elective choices were pretty limited, but after that, the elective world opened up to dozens of possibilities. I can’t overstate the excitement of getting to choose how to spend a few hours of my high school day.

What You Need to Know About High School Electives

As homeschooling families, it’s even more exciting. The possibilities we can offer our students for electives are astounding!

What Are High School Electives?

High school electives are the fun classes – the one kids choose (or, you know, elect) to take. Electives offer teens a chance to explore their interests, develop their passions, and customize their education. Even if you’re a more traditional, school-at-home family, high school electives let you dip your toes in interest-led learning.

Electives also provide an excellent way for college-bound students to strengthen their transcripts. If your teen already has a career path in mind, she should consider elective courses that prepare her for that path. A future writer may want to take a variety of writing electives such as journalism, creative writing, or fiction writing. A  potential graphic design major may want to consider courses such as web design, computer animation, or art history.

Where Can Homeschoolers Find Classes?

Finding elective classes isn’t hard. Homeschool curriculum publishers and co-ops offer many options, but because electives are interest-based courses, the possibilities outside of standard curriculum are plentiful.

Local Sources for High School Electives:

  • Local community classes – Check hobby stores for art classes or community centers for pottery, for example.
  • Community colleges (online or on campus) – Adult continuing education classes make great elective credit courses
  • Private instructors – Music classes, for example
  • Churches – Some offer classes for the community, such as American Sign Language
Pottery Examples of High School Electives

Online Options for High School Electives:

  • Outschool – Outschool offers over 4,000 classes taught live to small groups using video chat.
  • 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.
  • Udemy – My son has done several of the coding courses from Udemy. He’s also taken one of their guitar lessons. They offer a little bit of everything, and the classes are reasonably priced. You can also catch some fantastic sales if you visit regularly.
  • MasterClass – MasterClass offers self-paced courses taught by masters in their fields. You can take photography from Annie Leibovitz, cooking from Gordon Ramsey, or directing from Ron Howard. There are currently over 35 instructors teaching a wide variety of classes.
  • 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.
  • Aistear Irish Dance – Learn Irish dance even if you can’t get to a studio with these membership lessons that include a weekly instructional video, weekly feedback, and access to live, one-on-one instruction with Aistear-affiliated instructors across the U.S.
  • Masterpiece Society – Learn art and art appreciation with these fun, self-paced art courses covering a variety of mediums and styles

Depending on your teen’s interests, you may also be able to find self-paced video courses on YouTube.

How Can I Give Credit for Electives?

I’ve written about how to assign credit for high school electives before. The two easiest options are assigning credit based on hours or mastery. One credit hour is generally equivalent to 150-180 hours. So, if your student spends an hour a day most weekdays of a school year on his elective topic, he’s earned a credit hour for it.

You can also award credit based on mastery of the subject or skill. If your teen achieves what you determine to be high school level (or above) mastery of a subject, award credit for it.

As a source of reference, 6-7 elective credit hours are common graduation requirements for students in public school. If your teen plans to attend college, two of those hours should be in one foreign language.

Art Supplies - Examples of High School Electives

What Are Some Examples of Electives?

You can count nearly any hobby or skill that interests your student as elective credit, but sometimes it helps to see examples. Following are just a few topics that your teen may want to add to his course of study.

Foreign Language

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Japanese
  • Chinese
  • German
  • Hebrew
  • American Sign Language (Some colleges count this as a foreign language. Others don’t. Check with the schools your teen is considering.)

Visual and Performing Arts

  • Art history
  • Music history
  • Music theory
  • Drama
  • Music
  • Set production
  • Stage make-up
  • Sculpting
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Anime
  • Animation
  • Dance
  • Textile arts – knitting, crocheting, sewing

Digital Media

  • Photography
  • Film-making
  • Video-production
  • Web design
  • Video game design
  • Graphic design
  • Coding

Vocational Skills

  • Woodworking
  • Blacksmithing
  • Leatherworking
  • Carpentry
  • Auto mechanics
  • Robotics
  • Drafting

Life Skills

  • Cooking
  • Childcare
  • Drivers’ education
  • Beekeeping
  • Cheesemaking
  • Genealogy
  • Nutrition
  • CPR/First aid
  • Personal finance

Humanities

  • Creative writing
  • Journalism
  • Blogging
  • Speech
  • Poetry
  • Shakespeare

Social Studies

American history and world history are two social studies classes that high schools require for graduation, but there are many other social studies course that can earn elective credit.

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Philosophy
  • U.S. Government/Civics
  • Mythology
  • Religion
  • European history
  • The Middle Ages

Let your teen’s passions, interests, and career possibilities guide you in determining high school elective credit. Home ec and woodshop don’t even begin to scratch the surface.

What electives are on your teen’s transcript?

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Author profile

Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 29 years ago, and they live in the South with their three children. Hannah, age 25, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 24, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 18, is the remaining homeschool student. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.

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