Let’s talk about homeschool electives! Once you’ve nailed down your plans for your child’s core subjects (math, language arts, etc.) it’s time to consider a few electives.
Basic homeschool electives will generally fall into three major categories: Art, Music, and Physical Education (P.E.). You’ll want to spend some time, probably on a weekly basis, working on those subjects. You can approach these subjects in one of two ways: doing or learning.
For example, your child could take piano lessons and you could count the lessons and the time spent practicing as their music elective for the year. Or instead, you could pick a musical genre like Jazz, and study the history and components of Jazz music, making time to listen to Jazz music each week. If you have a child who is passionate about music and wants to do all they can with the subject, have them study Jazz music, and learn to play some songs in that genre on their instrument!
Any of these activities would count for your child’s music elective credit for the year, though they are very different ways of enhancing their understanding of music.
It’s important to note that electives for young children (up through 8th grade) are a totally different ballgame than electives for senior high students.
That’s because students from 9th-12th grade are counting credits towards their high school graduation.
This will of course, vary depending on the requirements of your state, or homeschool diploma program.
For now, let’s stick to homeschool electives for kids in those younger years. I’ll address electives for high school students later in this post, so scroll down a little bit if that’s the information you’re looking for.
ELECTIVES FOR K-8th GRADE
It’s important to find a balance when adding homeschool electives to your young children’s education. You want to make sure you’re exposing them to new things and getting them a little out of their comfort zone, but you want to play to their interests too. After all, if you have a kid who doesn’t find a lot of joy in the core school subjects, electives are their chance to discover a love of learning!
What do they already enjoy doing?
Does your son play on a little league team? Let him practice his skills in the backyard at least once a week and count this for his P.E. course for the year. Do you have a daughter who draws non-stop all day long? (I do! So many papers… lol) Let’s add some How to Draw books to our home library and encourage her to try drawing something other than rainbows and unicorns. (I kid, I kid. You can never have too many unicorns.)
The point is, your child may already be doing things that you can count as their homeschool electives. And maybe with a little direction from you, they can even branch out and further develop their skills.
Try something new!
What about the child who doesn’t already have clear interests? What about the kid who is afraid to try new things?
This is where I feel like the advantage of a parent being right alongside their child is a huge benefit. If your child is anxious or disinterested in a new experience, stay right by their side and tackle it together. For Art, you might try making pottery at home or at a pottery studio. Get your hands messy and encourage your I-don’t-like-slimy-things kid to do the same. Watch an exercise video and work out with your child for P.E. You might not get their whole-hearted participation right at the start, but keep a positive attitude and work on the subject together regularly. Consider any progress you see with your child a win!
Learn about the subject through books, curriculum, and other resources.
It’s not always possible or practical to teach an elective course in a hands-on way.
If that’s where you find yourself, you are not out of luck! You can find homeschool curriculum to cover Art, Music, P.E. as well as a broad range of other electives. Search for “Electives” on The Homeschool Search’s curriculum finder tool. We have an ever-growing, carefully curated list of options to help you in your search.
You can also develop your own course of study by picking a topic and consuming every resource you can find.
Instead of learning to draw, your child might instead choose a famous artist whose style they admire, and learn about that person’s life and the history of their artistic style.
Check your library for books, documentaries, and (especially for music) audio recordings of works in your desired field of study.
If your child is old enough to take the lead on this search, encourage them to do so.
As adults, if we want to learn something new, we look for new information on that topic. We want our kids to learn to do the same! By researching a musical style, famous painter, or the history of the Olympic games, your child is not just completing a homeschool elective course, they are also developing research skills that will help them in every area of their life.
Check the homeschool guidelines for your area, to see if a certain number of hours or days of instruction are required for elective studies. Do you need to submit some sort of documentation of these courses at the end of the year? If so, take pictures of your child completing these activities, save any finished art pages, copies of music learned, or awards won. You likely won’t need to grade your child on their electives, but you may have to provide some evidence that they actually worked on them.
ELECTIVES FOR 9th-12th GRADES
Once your child reaches 9th grade, they may need to complete a certain number of electives as part of their credits towards graduation. Usually, this is 2-3 electives per year, but you’ll need to see what is required by your state or diploma program.
Additionally, you may need to assign your child a grade at the end of the course, which will be factored into their overall GPA. It’s also possible that a final grade is not required in your area, and in that case, you can evaluate your child’s work on a Pass/Fail basis. Obviously, if they need the credit to count towards graduation, they will need to achieve a Pass ranking.
Now that your child is in high school, there is a lot of variety to choose from when considering homeschool electives. You can still complete courses that fall under Art, Music, or P.E., but there are many other options.
Your student can take a homeschool elective course in a Foreign Language (this may be required for graduation in your area), Home Economics, Technology/Coding, Shop Class, or Life Skills. This is just a short list. There is an endless array of options!
As with younger students, it’s important to choose some electives based on what your child is already interested in.
Now that they’re nearing the end of their home education years, electives are a great way for your child to explore interests that might lead them to their future choice of career.
Does your daughter want to be a veterinarian? Try a homeschool elective course on animal health and care. She can read books about the subject at home, and volunteer time at a local veterinary clinic or animal shelter. The hands-on experience will be invaluable in helping her determine if this is a career she wants to pursue. Additionally, if she does decide to pursue veterinary medicine as a major, working in the field, even on a volunteer basis, will look great on her college admissions paperwork.
Does your child have a part-time job? It may be able to count towards a homeschool electives credit.
Common jobs for teens like lifeguarding or babysitting often require a First Aid and CPR certification. Count the time your student spends preparing for these exams and working at their part time jobs as an electives course in health, safety, or child development.
You also may find inspiration for jobs your teen could take on which are outside the norm for highschool students. Homeschooled teens can often work at jobs that are not open to kids who are tied to a traditional school day schedule. I’ve known homeschooled teens who worked as EMT’s, museum tour guides, research assistants, and nurses aids, because they were able to complete the necessary training or certifications required for the job, and had schedule flexibility that allowed them to work when other teens would be in school.
If your homeschooled teen is able to take on a job that involves a significant amount of studying and hands on learning, you may be able to count that experience as a homeschool electives credit.
If your teen thinks they have an idea of what sort of career they may want to pursue after highschool, look for ways they can get a little experience in that field now. They’ll be able to test if the job is a good fit for them before making an expensive commitment to a college program. If they do find a career path they are interested in working in full-time, it will look great on their college application that they already have some real life experience.
While there are many homeschool electives your child can pursue in a real life hands on way, sometimes the best option is a traditional homeschool curriculum. Just like with younger children, if a subject is not one you can physically do in person, look for a program that allows you to learn about the subject instead.
I remember getting to college and taking an Art History course. The professor was passionate about her subject and did a good job of getting me interested in the topic. I remember thinking, why did I never learn this in highschool? I had taken many drawing and painting classes over the years and found them frustrating, because frankly, my art stunk. And I wasn’t very interested in putting in a lot of effort to make it better.
But history! I love history! I never considered studying art from the perspective of its history, or analyzing its purpose and inspiration. I thought art was supposed just supposed to be pretty. Suddenly I understood the importance of art, even if I still couldn’t draw a stick figure!
As a homeschool family, you and your student have a lot of room to be flexible and creative in pursuing homeschool electives. There is a wide variety of in-person experiences you can incorporate into an electives course, as well as creative curriculum options.