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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

Teaching Ideas/Methods
Electives For Homeschoolers In High School Tags: electives for homeschoolers high school electives how to homeschool online homeschool curriculum homeschool diploma homeschool for high school

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.  


Using Technology To Teach Tags: computer technology and education technology and education in the future homeschooling curriculum

Technology has always been a fascination of mine. Not so much the nuts and bolts of it, or how it works. What’s more interesting to me is how we use it. How we apply it to our everyday lives. How it can give us new and better ways of doing things. A single invention can change the course of history, sometimes yielding positive results – other times not. We often don’t know where that new invention is going to take us. We can’t always see into the future and accurately predict how a particular technology will ultimately affect our society.

Technology has certainly been affecting the way we teach. As a homeschooler, I’ve been integrating it more and more into my family’s day to day studies because it provides convenient access to tons of free or low-cost resources right in my home.

Sometimes I wonder what I ever did before the Internet. I think about how I learned in elementary school (in the 1970s), when we considered it a real treat when the teacher showed us a film strip (remember the “beeps” signaling to turn to the next frame?); or when , on rare occasions, the teacher would roll into the classroom an industrial looking TV on a clunky stand so we could watch something on channel 13 (my local PBS station).

Today, I can pull up information on anything my four children are studying or happen to be interested in that day: my five-year old is drawing a picture of a hot air balloon and wants to know how they fly, and in particular, “How do you steer it?” My eight-year old is reading about the Erie Canal and wants to know how the locks work. There are any number of things we’re looking up on any given day. We still love to go to the library, but we can’t always get there, so it’s great to be able to pull up the information right now, when I need it.

Video Streaming; DVDs and CDs

Viewing documentaries and educational videos has been made easier because of instant streaming services like those available through Netflix or the Annenberg Video Site. And there are plenty of other sites that can be pulled up with a quick search.

Full courses on DVD and CD help me to teach subjects that are more difficult, such as high school math, or foreign language.

Digital Textbooks

To present information to my children, I’ve also been making some use of online digital textbooks.  My kids like the combination of text, visuals, audio and “interactive” features, like clickable maps and diagrams, or pop-up windows showing definitions of words. They tell me they’d like them even more if the textbooks were available to download to a Kindle or Nook, but we haven’t gotten one of those yet. (I suppose digital textbooks could work especially well for families on the road). Some of the digital textbooks have study aids incorporated into them, like chapter summaries, and games and flashcards to help remember things. An online text my daughter was using for western civilization had quizzes she could take that were graded by the site and then sent to me via e-mail.


Some people use online programs as their main curriculum. Time4Learning, for instance, is a multimedia web-based homeschool curriculum that uses interactive lessons in math, language arts, science, and social studies that are aligned with state and national standards. I, personally, have not gone this route because I prefer a more blended approach , but hey, to each his own.

Virtual Field Trips

All kinds of sites have popped up to help incorporate virtual field trips  into one’s studies. How cool would it be if they could take the technology even further so that we could step into some sort of holographic environment and take a tour of the pyramids of Egypt? (Oops. I’m showing too much of my “Trekkie” side).

Distance Learning

My daughter took an on-line marketing class through the community college. She wasn’t old enough to physically attend, so she did it through distance learning. Nice option. I know people love to say it’s an inferior way to learn because of the lack of classroom interaction. But her professor did  incorporate a communications component by requiring students to discuss questions and comment on each other’s work in an online forum.  

Demonstrate Learning and Collaborate                                                                           

Which leads to another way in which technology is being used to engage students. They are using it to demonstrate what they’ve learned, and to work collaboratively, including from a distance. For example, I live with a couple of opinionated young teens that like to spout off on all manner of things. So I let them do this in blog  posts. (Who’s to say the post can’t be a five-paragraph comparison/contrast essay, or a critical book review, or some other type of composition or article I assign). In the process, they’re learning the writing craft and, at the same time, maybe something about web design. Squidoo’s a fun platform for this. Sites like LetterPop  allow you to work with a number of students to create something online together, like a newsletter or work of fiction. For more of a digital storytelling approach, Glogster  lets students show what they know using multimedia elements, like video, audio, sound and animation. This could be a great help to kids who are more visual learners. It sure is a long way from the old shoebox dioramas some of us parents made in school.

Is all of this technology really helping our children to learn more efficiently and effectively? I can’t answer that, but I do know that, like it or not, technology is transforming the way we teach and will impact the future of education.




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