So you’ve got a high schooler and you find yourself searching the internet for great advice about which high school electives he/she should take. Perfect. There are so many awesome elective courses your student will love!
You’re in the right place. But first, I want to ask you a question. Do you remember the elective classes you took in high school?
Electives are definitely the source of some of my most favorite memories. When I was in high school, I played the flute/piccolo in the band. Of course, over my four-year high school career, I learned a lot about music theory, playing an instrument, blending musical sounds with a group, and all of that important stuff.
While those skills were crucial as the backbone of my musical ability, the memories were in the OTHER stuff I learned. Like how to know when to cheer for the football team (ya know, by actually understanding how the game is played) or how to appreciate classical music.
Most people think that the point of high school electives is knowledge, and, of course, you’ll get some of that. But I contend that the REAL point is exposure to various disciplines, passions, ideas, and skills that the core subjects simply don’t cover.
The beauty of high school electives is in giving your kids the chance to explore career options, prepare themselves for life, and strengthen their God-given passions and talents.
3 Criteria For Choosing Your High School Electives
As I mentioned above, homeschool electives for your high schooler are about far more than just getting that credit for your transcript. These classes are the golden nuggets of a well-rounded education. They are your opportunity to really shine!
Here are three crucial things you should look for when you choose your electives classes.
Explore Career Options
Oh how I wish someone had encouraged me to seriously think about career options BEFORE I went to college! So many young people end up on the five-year college plan or with a degree they can’t use or don’t want simply because no one took the time to help them consider a career path.
Use your high school electives to do that! Take an education class or an engineering class. Pursue Marine Biology or a culinary class. Whatever your child is leaning toward, take courses that will help further expose them to the idea.
Prepare Yourself for Life
For the same reasons, high school electives should help prepare you for life. Colleges and businesses are becoming increasingly frustrated that students are prepared for academic life, but not for the real world. They can’t handle jobs, responsibility, and, most importantly, finances.
The beauty of homeschooling is that we get to fill in this gap! Make sure your students get a good solid course in personal finance (I’ve listed my favorite below). Make sure they can cook, clean, and care for themselves. Just because you don’t find these things in a typical high school doesn’t mean they are not valuable courses. In fact, I’d argue they are even MORE important!
Strengthen Your God-given Passions and Talents
The final category for high school electives is to find things that help you strengthen the talents and passions God gave you. Yes, that includes things like band, orchestra, piano, drama, pretty much anything your child has a particular interest in. God uses our giftings to further His kingdom; we can honor Him by strengthening the gifts He has given us.
5 MUST-TAKE High School Electives for Homeschoolers
Depending on your state requirements, most high schoolers take between one and three electives each year. Some of those are mandatory credits, so you’ll want to check with your state to see how many credits your student needs in order to graduate.
Above, we discussed criteria for selecting the perfect high school electives for your homeschooler, but you might be wondering if there are particular electives that are better than others or perhaps highly recommended.
Most of the time, I want electives to be guided by the interests and passions of my kids, but there are five must-take high school electives on our list.
1. Foreign Language Elective Courses
In our home, college is not the holy grail. If my kids want to start their own business or go to trade school, that’s great. But, my rule is, we don’t close the door unless we can’t keep it open.
Most colleges require two years of a foreign language, so with that in mind, unless my kids literally can’t handle it, they take foreign language so the door is open should they decide to go to college. No one wants to decide in their senior year to go to college after all and realize they didn’t get the credits they needed.
Pro tip: Sign language is a really great option for a student who struggles with language arts and is worried about conjugating verbs.
My kids have personally chosen Latin, Greek, and sign language so far. Here are our favorite resources:
These are some our friends have tried and loved:
- BJU Press online (offers Spanish and French)
- Schoolhouse Teachers online (Spanish, French, Latin, ASL)
- AOP online and LifePacs (Spanish, French)
- Rosetta Stone (works for multiple ages and languages)
- Abeka (Spanish and French)
- Compass Classroom (Latin)
- Memoria Press (Greek, Latin, French, Spanish)
2. Personal Finance Elective Courses
More than 80% of Americans have debt they can’t afford to pay back. That’s a staggering number, but worse is the number of people who live paycheck to paycheck, have no money for a rainy day, and can’t afford even a “little” emergency.
This is a serious problem and it’s largely caused by the fact that schools (and parents) are no longer teaching any kind of personal finance classes. Don’t let that happen to your kids.
One of the most important classes they can take in high school is money management! Not just because of the debt problem, but because people who don’t understand money are easily scammed and never get ahead.
In addition to this curriculum, my kids read a few crucial books:
- Smart Money, Smart Kids (targeted at parents, but good for teens too)
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad
- The Millionaire Next Door
- Debt Free Degree and 5 College Mistakes
Here are a few other ideas to look at in case you want a different approach:
- Financial Literacy by Sara Hayes
- Money Matters Workbook for Teens by Larry Burkett
- Personal Finance in Bite-Size Chunks (Schoolhouse Teachers)
- Consumer Math (Abeka has several finance/consumer math options)
3. Fine Arts Elective Courses
Most states require some sort of fine arts credit for high schoolers. I love this idea because even if art doesn’t seem to be “your thing,” there is so much to be learned from the study of music, theater, and art. Here are some of my favorites by category.
- Still Singing Hymn Study (music appreciation)
- Music Theory I and II
- Instrument Lessons
- Orchestra/Band (call local schools or youth orchestras to join)
- Voice lessons (here’s a place that does online lessons)
- Piano lessons (we take local lessons, but this online option is interesting)
If your student hasn’t really shown much interest in fine arts, opt for a course that is labeled “appreciation” like our hymn study curriculum below.
- Art Appreciation (or this Art Appreciation curriculum is for grades 4-8!)
- Drawing with Realism (video course)
- Lamppost Homeschool (has drawing textbooks if you prefer a book)
- Creating a Masterpiece (video course for budding artists—great for parents who aren’t. Haha. My kids love this one.)
- Studio art
Other Fine Arts Elective Classes
The sky’s the limit on fine arts electives. You don’t have to stick with art and music. For example, my kids are actively involved at The Academy of Arts. Their mission is to make the Bible come alive for young people and I can personally testify that they do it so very well!
The Academy of Arts provides online classes in drama and filmmaking, plus in-person seminars for groups. They will bring a team to your area or you can come to Greenville, SC. My kids are actively involved here and have been so blessed by this ministry.
- Performing Literature by BJU Press
- Jewelry making
- Film School 4 Teens
- Schoolhouse Teachers (filmmaking course)
- Fashion design
- Interior design
- Graphic design
- Web game design
4. Health and Life Skills Courses
This is one of those electives that most of us skip over. Most schools are skipping over it too. But this is super important. If we send our kids out into the world with math and science knowledge, but they can’t take care of themselves, what good have we really done them?
Here are just a few ideas for health and life skills electives:
- Health (textbook)
- First Aid/CPR
- Home economics
- Babysitting Basics
- 4-H gardening, animal care, etc.
- Driver’s Education
- Grocery Budget Makeover
- Wilton’s Cake Decorating
- Sewing, Crocheting, Knitting, etc.
Many states require a physical education elective credit as a part of this category. This could include a general class, one you joined at the YMCA (check with your local branch for homeschool classes), or a favorite sport such as:
- Horseback riding
- Martial arts
5. Christian Worldview Elective Courses
You know what they say: last, but not least. In fact, this category might be the most important. Our kids need a STRONG worldview and we aren’t going to get there with one or two high school electives. BUT, I think this is still a crucial addition to your high school transcript.
Here are some of the things we’ve done:
- Comparative Religions by Masterbooks
- Apologetics in Action by Ken Ham and Masterbooks
- Impact 360 (Leadership academy for Christian teens)
- Biblical Archeology by Masterbooks
- National Bible Bee (Bible quizzing memorization)
4 Ways to Get Your High School Electives In
So now that we’ve listed so many great options, you might be wondering how you can possibly fit all of these things in! Good question. Ya know, sometimes we just make things harder than they really are.
Rest assured, there are so many ways to fit in electives for high schoolers!
- Take a class at a homeschool co-op. I find that this is a great use of co-ops. They don’t control your core curriculum this way, they give your kids the chance to get out, and they provide classes you might not have the equipment/skill to teach.
- Take a dual enrollment class at a local college. This is a great option for intro classes in your student’s desired field of study with the added bonus of helping them see if it’s really the direction they want to pursue.
- Find a local theater, art studio, or gym that offers classes. It doesn’t have to be a homeschool class or one that will give a complete credit. You can always combine things to get your hours in. More on that below.
- Create your own course. You are NOT boxed in to a preset curriculum or course. You can create one that fits into the passions or talents of your student. This is especially valuable when pursuing possible careers.
How to Create Your Own High School Electives Courses
It’s EASY to create your own elective course! Plus, when you do, you get the most bang for your buck. Instead of taking electives your student is mildly interested in, they can take things they LOVE. Let them pursue potential career fields or interests.
The first thing you should know is that your elective can be half a credit (0.5) or 1 credit. You determine the credit based on the amount of time spent doing the assignments required for the course.
60 hours would earn 0.5 or half of a credit.
120 hours would earn 1 credit.
If you divide that up by 36 weeks (a typical school year), you would need about 3.5 hours per week to earn a full credit. That’s not so intimidating now is it?
Let’s say your student loves cars and wants to learn how to work on them. If they spend 3.5 hours a week watching YouTube videos and practicing their skills, you’ve got yourself a high school credit! It really is that simple.
I typically create a semester project or test for my students to make sure they have the chance to showcase what they have learned. This could be traditional, like a research paper, but it doesn’t have to be.
This year my 12th grader is taking apologetics. Her first semester project is to create a video with 6-8 alleged “contradictions” in the Bible and show why they aren’t contradictions along with what they really mean.
I strongly encourage you to let your student guide the project assignments. They will enjoy doing them and learn so much more that way!
How to Document Your Homeschool Electives
Documenting is something most people feel overwhelmed by. Don’t let that be you. You’ve got this! Documenting is just a fancy word for keeping track. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. You can literally just write down your hours in an hour log.
We do that sometimes, but we also do “field study” reports to note the different things we do that count for credit. For example, whenever my kids are in a play, they document rehearsal and performance hours on the page, but they also note what they did and what they learned from it.
We have this form and an hour tracker in our FREE Back to School pack here.
Of course, you’ll also want to document your electives courses on your transcript. There are several free transcript makers online. Get a free homeschool high school transcript template here.
Electives Courses or Extra-Curricular Activities
Wondering about the difference between high school electives and extra-curricular activities? Often the lines get blurred for homeschoolers, because school is life and life is school. We are always learning!
But let’s think about this in terms of your transcript. You want both of these activities listed, but in a different way. An elective is a course with academic content (at least on some level) that you take once or twice. An extra-curricular activity is generally something you participate in over the scope of your high school years.
This distinction is important to colleges. Extra-curricular activities should be documented on your extra-curricular sheet or listing (learn more here), while high school electives go on your transcript.
Here are some tips from the college board regarding how to choose and document extra-curricular activities.
Typically, these are activities such as volunteering, employment or internships, community service, or competitive sports. Often, they reflect a student’s passions, hobbies, or interests like:
- music festivals
- working in children’s church
- teaching Vacation Bible School
- club involvement
Other High School Electives for Homeschoolers
I’ve listed our top five must-take electives for high schoolers above, but once you’ve dabbled in those, you’re likely to still have some room for more. Remember, the sky is the limit. Find some that help you pursue your passions, talents, and possible career.
Here are a few more you might not have thought of:
Computers/Technology Elective Classes
- Fundamentals of Computer Systems
- Computer Applications/Software
- App development
- Audio production
- Computer programming
- Computer repair
- Film production
- Graphic design
- Media technology
- Music production
- Video game development
- Web design
- Web programming
- Word processing
Study Skills Elective Classes
Business/Apprenticeship Elective Classes
- Business plan creation
- Digital art & product design
- Internet entrepreneurship
- Business law
- Business management
- Consumer education
- Entrepreneurial skills
- Introduction to business
- Public Speaking School House Teachers or BJU Press
- The National Christian Forensics and Communications Association
- Argumentation and Debate (textbook)
Vocation Elective Classes
- Auto body repair
- Computer-aided drafting
- Criminal justice
- FFA (Future Farmers of America)
- Fire science
- Hospitality and tourism
- JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps)
- Production technology
More Homeschool Resources for High Schoolers
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.