Tuesday, May 29, 2012

High School Electives

Many parents often ask about high school electives for homeschoolers.  What is as an elective?  How do you log elective hours?  Should I used a box curricula for electives?  I remember asking some of these same things myself.  After much research an experimentation, I'm hoping to answer some of these questions by sharing some thoughts on our homeschool high school electives.

Electives can really consist of anything over and above the core subjects of Language Arts, History, Math, and Science.  Some common elective areas may be Art, Music, Physical Education, Ag Science, Tech Ed, Computer Science, Foreign Language, Business, Logic, Philosophy, Home Economics/Life Skills, etc. Some consider Bible or Theology an elective.  Though in our homeschool, it's a required core.  

Typically, each state has certain requirements for high school graduation.  For example, in Wisconsin, DPI requires that the educational program must provide a sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in six subject areas (reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and health)".  You can view the WI requirements here.  You'll want to be sure to check with your State Department of Education to see what those requirements are.  You will also want to check with potential colleges so see what their elective requirements are.  

There are various ways to log elective hours.  If you choose a box curricula, the requirements are set for you.  The publisher will usually give you grading rubrics as well as schedules to follow and advice on how to assign credit.   Many people find this a safe and effective route to take.  

Others like to specialize or customize their students education to various passions and interests of the student.  For example, if your student loves photography, cooking, welding, or writing computer software, use these interests/passions for elective hours.  Or maybe you own a family construction company and your son works several hours a week with you building houses.  As a farm family, Angel has had many experiences relating to agriculture.  I've given specific examples below that illustrate how we've drawn from these experiences and gave non-traditional credit in ag sciences.

Animal Science 

Sheared sheep
Assist in vaccinating various animals – identify pests and diseases of the animal science industry and their prevention, control, and treatment
Assist in dehorning cattle
Assist in castrating pig, cattle, and sheep
Assist in milking cow
Assist in building a rabbit hutch
Feed animals (cattle, sheep, horse, pig, rabbits, cats) – demonstrate proper knowledge of animal nutrition
Research various animal breeds and characteristics
Understand domestic animal practices, including nutrition, reproduction, health maintenance, and housing
Research and identify animal anatomy
Read, studied, & researched from:
-       Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs by Kelly Klober
-       Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep by Paula Simmons
-       The Cattle Health Handbook by Heather Smith Thomas
-       The Kingfisher Illustrated Horse & Pony Encyclopedia by Sandy Ransford
-       Cloud’s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns by Ginger Kathrensh
Field trip Minnesota Zoo
Field trip to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

Agricultural Processing 

Examine what the food industry involves
Help plant and maintain garden
Harvest food
Assist in making maple syrup
Read, studied & researched from:
-       Processed People - video
-       Food Matters - video
-       Food Inc. – video
-       Fresh - video
-       The Omnivore’s Dilema: The Secrets Behind what you Eat by Michael Pollan
-       Food: How Safe? – article from National Geographic May 2002 written by Jennifer Ackermann
-       Agri-View - newspaper
-       Country Today - newspaper
Drive tractor (tractor & equipment safety)
Rake hay
Recognize the world’s need for agriculture and agricultural occupations
Field trip to Castle Rock Organic Farms in Osseo, WI
Field trip to Scenic Orchard in Augusta, WI
Field trip to Boettcher’s Sugar Bush – maple syrup production
Field trip to Corn Palace in South Dakota
Field trip to animal sale barns
Interviewed a local turkey grower
Attended Farm Family presentation on Agriculture in China

Attended Farm Family presentation on Agriculture in Italy

If you are using a non-traditional elective, keep track of time spent.  A typical high school course consists of approx. 120-180 hours, with the average for electives being 120 hours per credit.  It's not necessary to account for every minute, a general guideline is 40-50 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 36 weeks, for one credit.  We could have easily given Angel multiple credits for her ag experiences, however, it is not necessary, nor effective, to overdue it.  Also, I feel it's important to show our students as well rounded with a variety of experiences.  There will be time to specialize and narrow that focus later in life.  

We use a mix of box curricula and specialized interests for electives.  Here's a variety of electives Angel has and will complete throughout her high school experience.

Typing for Christian Service - Rod & Staff boxed set

Animal Science - specialized non-traditional

Ag Processing - specialized non-traditional

Natural History & Outdoor Recreation - specialized non-traditional

Choir & Music Appreciation - specialized non-traditional

Art History - Short Lessons in Art History boxed set

Logic - misc. books including The Thinking Toolbox and The Fallacy Detectives

Health - Total Health boxed set

Introduction to World Cultures - specialized non-traditional

Life Skills - specialized non-traditional

A great resource for planning your homeschool high school experience is Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La by Barbara Edtl Shelton.  Mrs. Shelton homeschooled her three children through high school and gives a wealth of information and practical advice on how to do so.   

Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+u+la, Updated   -     
        By: Barbara Edtl Shelton

You can homeschool through high school!  Feel free to comment or let me know if you have specific questions regarding high school electives. 


  1. I really like what you have planned especially the idea of non-traditional type classes.