Electives are an important part of any child’s education, including the homeschooled child. They’re a very important piece of your child’s education, and nothing encourages the love of learning quite as well.
Let’s talk about homeschool electives!
Watch me talk about electives!
What is an elective class?
Electives are non-compulsory classes that a child takes of their own choosing. These are classes outside of the typical reading, writing, math, science, social science classes one takes in school. Electives include foreign language, art classes, home economics, and specialized courses in an area of interest.
Why are electives important for the homeschooled child?
Electives serve several purposes. Evaluators and colleges like to see electives to show that the child has a well-rounded education, and while that is important, it’s even more important on a personal level. Electives allow children to explore careers, to learn more about their interests, or to take the time to specialize in a topic they already know a lot about.
What is the difference between extracurricular activities and an elective?
It’s true that most homeschooled kids are exposed to far more “elective content” than kids who attend a traditional school. That doesn’t mean that everything your child does should qualify as an elective credit, however. There is a difference between taking a few art classes (extracurricular) and studying art (elective), for example. An elective needs to meet credit requirements to be counted (see my post about counting credits for more info). This doesn’t mean that those art classes aren’t important, it just means that you need to be intentional in determining what does and doesn’t make up a credit.
TIP: Both extracurricular activities and electives need to be listed on your child’s transcript and you can overlap them!
For the art student: Weekly art classes qualify as an extracurricular activity BUT if you add in some books about art theory and history you have an art elective!
For the sports star: Playing soccer on a team is a great extracurricular to list on your transcript. Add in some resources about learning the history of the game and how to referee and you have a PE elective!
Are there are any electives you recommend more than others?
There are only four electives I highly suggest: at least two consecutive full credits of the same foreign language, one high school credit of PE & Health (1/2 credit each), and at least 1 full credit of some kind of art (1/2 of which involves a performing art). Why? Because a lot of colleges like to see these credits even if they aren’t required for high school graduation.
The fourth elective I recommend is 1/2 credit in Driver’s Education, trust me when I say it makes your life a whole lot easier when your child starts driving.
How many elective credits does my child need?
First, check to see if your state has a requirement, if any state scholarships have requirements, and then look to see if the colleges in your area do. My state requires 8 credits for graduation. The major universities in my state require 4, 2 of which have to be consecutive foreign language.
Once you know any state requirements, the rest is up to you. It’s my experience that most homeschooled kids get way more elective credits than their traditionally-schooled peers because they have more time to pursue their interests.
What kind of electives have your kids taken?
I have two teens at the moment, and have two graduated kids. Some of the electives they have taken are:
-Community volunteering (yes, I count it because they’ve done over 120 hours for the same organization)
-Home Ec (1/2 credit sewing, 1/2 credit cooking)
-Drama & Musical Theatre
-Spanish 1 & 2
-Japanese 1 & 2
-HOPE (Health Opportunities through Physical Education)
-Design Basics (completed via dual enrollment at the local community college)
-Entrepreneurship & Money Management
Can I count electives in the middle schools years as high school credit?
Yes. Also no.
See, it all depends on if the work is high school level. There are plenty of electives out there that a middle school child can do that would qualify, but that doesn’t mean you should list it on their high school transcript.
Most colleges are more interested in which classes were taken once the child is of 9th grade age. I generally suggest to have your child take the electives but not to put anything before 9th grade on their transcript.
Now, we’re homeschoolers so there is some wiggle room here. You need to decide if you want to go with 9th grade level work OR 9th grade level age, or even a mixture of both. Using Spanish 1 as an example, again: if your child takes Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 before 9th grade and then stops taking a foreign language I would list Spanish 1 & 2 on their transcript along with the years taken. If they continue to Spanish 3 & 4 I would only list those courses and not Spanish 1 & 2.
How do we decide what electives to take?
Again, look at high school graduation and college admission requirements, even if your child doesn’t want to go to college. Once you’ve done that:
-Ask your child if thy’d like to explore a specific career. Examples: military history, computer programming, car maintenance
-Choose skills that are beneficial to adult life. Examples: CPR/first aid, cooking, money management
-Go more in-depth in a something they already love. Examples: history of cinema, women in literature
-Pick something they’ve never tried. Examples: photography, sewing, animation
When should my child start taking electives?
I suggest allowing your child to take a few as young as middle school, but get really serious about them once your child has reached 9th grade.
Meg Grooms is a decades-long secular homeschooling mother of 6 children, ranging in age from preschool to married with kids of their own. Always a vagabond at heart, Meg and her family have embraced a slow travel lifestyle, currently calling Southern California home. Your guess is as good as hers as to where they’ll end up next.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool.