Homeschooling during the high school years requires going beyond the core academic courses (Math, English, Science, History and Foreign Language), to providing additional learning experiences through electives. Electives can be related to whatever your child’s interests are. They can be used to build skills in particular areas, like web development or computer languages; to gain experience in a future career, like marketing or journalism; or may be taken for enrichment or just for fun, such as choir or dance. The possibilities are numerous.
While there are a number of curriculum providers that offer full courses you can purchase, complete with lesson plans, textbooks, workbooks and CDs, there are other ways to satisfy elective requirements.
High school students, including homeschoolers, can take college courses, usually at local community colleges, and have the credits applied to both a high school diploma and toward a future college degree. My daughter, for example, has taken college business courses in marketing and management. We are applying the credits for high school business electives, and they will also apply to a future business degree. One great thing about getting credits this way: the courses are free to state residents; you pay only for textbooks, (which homeschoolers normally pay for anyway). Another good thing is that a one-semester college course is generally considered to be equivalent to a one-year high school course, so you can complete high school requirements more quickly, not to mention get a jump-start on college. And since many of the courses can be taken totally online, a student no longer has to wait until age 16, typically the minimum age required to take college courses. If your child is ready, he or she can start online college coursework in ninth grade.
Open Courseware: Available online through the websites of major universities, open courseware is free to the public and includes full lectures and other class material such as syllabi, reading lists, and lecture notes. You don’t have access to university faculty or any other support, but the material is still great for independent learning, a quality of many homeschoolers. Unlike the dual-enrollment option, the university does not grant credit for a course, but a homeschooler can still apply the credits toward a high school diploma.
MIT has a program specifically for high school students, called Highlights for High School,that offers classes in a variety of subjects, including exam prep. The Online Education Database has a list of the Top 100 courses available through open courseware.
Libraries: Local libraries are offering their patrons free online classes through UniversalClass,an accredited, online learning site. If you have a library card, you can sign up for up to five courses, with offerings ranging from accounting and bookkeeping to web development and writing poetry. Although the courses are non-credit, each one has an instructor that can be contacted via e-mail.
Co-op Classes: Of course, taking classes through a local homeschool co-op is a great way to fulfill elective requirements. Depending on how often you meet, and how comprehensive the course is, a co-op class can be enough to make a credit. If not, you can always use it as a supplement to what you’re learning at home. For example, combine the reading of a journalism textbook, or viewing of a journalism video series, or other material you find online with a journalism co-op class that creates a newsletter. Homeschool co-ops can get quite creative with the types of classes they offer.
Develop your own electives: A child who has an interest in something, such as a particular career, can research the topic, talk to professionals in the field, intern with someone, volunteer, and earn credits while getting real life experience. Evaluation could involve a term paper, essay, oral report, project involving a demonstration, or some other assessment you devise to determine what your child has learned.
With so many resources and materials now available on-line, elective options have increased, whether the classes are Web-based or face-to-face.