In my last post, I discussed making a plan with your child as they approach their high school years. I am a big believer in goal setting and the communication that surrounds it. TALK to your kids and enter their world, discovering what makes them tick and what they are passionate about. There are SO MANY resources out there to pursue dreams and interests, and it is extremely easy for a home school parent to match up their child's special interests with some very neat opportunities. Home schooling gives the student the time and flexibility to not only learn their core courses, but to do so while spending plenty of time on special interests, and getting credit for them as electives.
When should this planning and investigating begin? I highly suggest parents start looking into building electives while the student is in 7th and 8th grade. Often, there are deadlines or even scholarships available for special classes that can be taken as electives, so the earlier the better to start looking for these.
Check your state's home school regulations to make sure you know the minimum requirements that you must meet. In our state, during high school our students are required to take two years of foreign language, as well as physical education, and arts. While the electives requirements are very broad, we must still be sure to meet the minimum requirements as well. Those will be the foundation that you can build around.
Once you have an idea what kind of special interests your child has, you can begin the process of finding what is available in your area to meet those needs. Many community colleges offer classes at a very reduced rate to homeschoolers. Check websites or call the admissions office to see what is available. The side benefit to this is that the student can earn full college credits while still in high school, that will transfer to their undergraduate studies if they pursue college after graduation.
Another opportunity is internships or apprenticeship, especially for vocational interests. Personally, our oldest two children were interested in health and medical fields, so we were able to set up an internship during their senior year at the local children's hospital, where they could be in a patient care setting and learn valuable lessons. A huge benefit to this is that the student can 'test the waters' to see if they really are interested in that particular area by experiencing it first hand. Perhaps you have a student who wants to be a paramedic but discovers they don't do well in emergency situations or with lots of blood! It's better to find out as a younger person, before time and energy is invested in pursuing a goal that will only change once they experience it firsthand.
Most students who have an interest in a vocational area, such as auto mechanics, electrician, plumbing, or building, can easily find someone who will allow them to spend some time working with them in that area, to test out whether they have the aptitude for that area or not. A creative home school parent can even build coursework around such an opportunity, to allow the student to actually earn high school credits for their time invested.
Here are some suggestions for creatively fulfilling electives:
Physical Education: Participation in community sports or home school group sports, gymnastics, horseback riding, swimming, running. If your student would like to really push themselves, you can download the Army Physical Training Guide and let them work on that!
Foreign Language: We have reviewed two programs that have been very effective and challenging. For Spanish, I highly recommend Homeschool Spanish Academy, which is a program that utilizes online, native-speaking tutors through Skype. Also Middlebury Interactive Languages has a wonderful program that is very easy to work with, in an assortment of languages for high school. Foreign language is a great program to look into at a local community college as well. Often the beginning classes are available to students who have no experience with the language. A great, fun idea for a language is to have your student learn American Sign Language. If they become proficient enough, they can even be hired as an interpreter!
Arts: There are no shortage of opportunities to build art electives into your curriculum. Community classes, private classes, and continuing education classes are available at local libraries, colleges, and craft stores. There are even online classes that can be purchased through AC Moore. If your child is interested in sewing or cooking, they can take video classes or find a local store that offers those. Photography and Videography can also be fit in to this category.
Computers: Again, plenty of great opportunities abound both online and at local libraries or community colleges. Students can learn basic MS office all the way up to complicated graphics design or programming. Many local non-profits would welcome a student doing some "volunteer" work for them, making graphics designs or posters, to give the student some real world practice.
Music: Look for opportunities for private or group lessons, as well as group opportunities to learn through churches or local home school groups. There are also some wonderful online courses available, such as Piano with Willie.
Volunteer Work: If you can find a place for your student to volunteer regularly, it will benefit them in many ways. It will help them to be compassionate towards the needs of others without always expecting to be paid back for their kindness, and it will teach them important skills of interacting with others. Also, students can learn a lot about their intended area of study by spending regular time working in that environment. Parents can tailor studies around the volunteer work, and require students to do research about their area of volunteerism, and write a research report about it. This will round out volunteer work enough to earn either a half-credit or credit, depending on the number of hours spent.
There are many ways to incorporate special interests into your high schooler's life. This is the very best time for them to pursue those interests, before the responsibilities of life engulf them. Supportive parents can make their home school student's life full and enriching, while investing in their future!
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Here are some other blogs on the High School Blog Hop, with lots of great information about choosing electives for your high school home school.