Let Them Choose! The Importance of Electives
February 21, 2018
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-gena 
Hey Mama,

Are you feeling the need to start planning ahead? Heading out of February into March, it’s so easy to start thinking about the next school year—curriculum, electives—they’re right around the corner! 

Lest you start to feel weary with the thought of “extras”—take heart. There is a purpose to these classes you throw in—art, music, speech, and drama. But why stop there? Ever consider Wood Shop or Graphic Design? What’s holding you back from letting your kiddos take the electives they find interesting? Focus on that—what interests them—and (as Mary Poppins would say) “Snap! The job’s a game.”

So, if you’re considering adding electives to your middle school or high school curriculum, get some ideas from The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine:




I'll also take this opportunity, if I could, to remind you that  SchoolhouseTeachers.com  has over one hundred courses such as electives, art, music, foreign language, drama and speech, and more that your kids can sign up for. If you're a member, you can take all the courses you want for your whole family. No books to buy. No per-child fees. No per-class fees, either. You get it all.

And remember, Mama. . .

Count the days. Right? You have Monday through the weekend with your kids, and then your week is over. Finito. Done. This particular week will be forever gone. Any opportunities we choose not to seize, any moments we decide not to give that hug and kiss, any choices we make to scowl instead of smile or, quit instead of pursue will be set in stone for this week's memories.

And . . . His mercies will be new each morning (and the following week). All is not lost.

But, for the rest of this week, Mama, start fresh; start new. Let’s decide right here and now: It’s going to be a good week so far as my own strength allows it. By His grace, we can do this. And He who is in me will be the One I lean on all week long. His grace is there, and I can emulate that. That grace is there for the kids, and it's there for me, too.

May the next seven days be beautiful for you, Mama. Daughter of the King, walk like the gracious and royal Heavenly princess you are. Because if you are in Christ, that is EXACTLY who you are. 

And may your children watch . . . and learn. They are doing that always; you are their biggest lesson.

One day they will be in their 40s, and it will be their turn to walk this walk with their own children and spouses. And they will always remember Mama . . . she loved them dearly. She never gave up on them. Her Savior was her strength; that is why. His hand is on them, too, just as it's on your head tonight. Mercies in the morning are yours. <3

love, -gena
Katie Furlong
Homeschooling allows families flexibility, choice, and control over their child’s curriculum. There are so many benefits to homeschooling—electives are just one aspect. Today, homeschooling families have access to almost endless possibilities when it comes to electives from community centre-based activities, online courses, homeschool co-op activities, sports teams, and private lessons. A nice perk of homeschool activities is that they generally run during the day, freeing up the family’s time at night.  

In my house, the only rule that I have about electives is that my children (especially when younger) play 1 team sport, take swimming lessons (a life-saving skill), and do some form of music of their choice. Allowing my children to choose their music and team sport gives them control over their learning. They are more likely to enjoy what they are doing instead of being forced into playing a musical instrument or sport that they have no interest in.   

My oldest daughter has taken voice lessons and has recently taught herself how to play guitar. She is also an amazing photographer (she really has a great eye for the camera). She has played on a variety of sports teams such as soccer, hockey, and softball. She has taken gymnastics for a few years including at the competitive level. She currently takes judo and works on a farm. 

My oldest son’s team sport of choice is hockey and also ball hockey. He has played since he was 6 years old. He lives, sleeps, and breathes hockey. He has also played baseball and taken competitive gymnastics. He has taught himself piano and has also taken drum lessons. He wants to own a restaurant and is a very talented chef, creating original recipes for us to enjoy.
Both of my children have participated in choir, French, and art classes at church for a few years. 

Another excellent aspect of homeschool electives is when the older children are attending an art class through a homeschool co-op (for example, the younger siblings get a chance to play together or unofficially sit in on the art class). Not only are the “big kids” learning, the little ones are learning through play and by watching their older peers. 

Letting children choose their electives allows them freedom and control over what they are learning. It also allows them to pursue their own interests and lets their natural talents shine. 

Katie Furlong is a busy homeschooling mother of 4 children. She is currently parenting at every stage: toddler, preschooler, tween, and teen. She has an Early Childhood Education diploma, is also a trained Montessori Teacher, and a certified Neurofeedback Practitioner. Katie and her 4 children live on a hobby farm where they keep bees, ducks, chickens, 2 lazy cats, and a big yellow dog. When she is not chasing children, she likes to fix up her 159-year-old farmhouse, write , and cook to create new allergy friendly recipes. Katie may also have an essential oil addiction and need an intervention.
Crystal McClean
Electives are one of the most wonderful things about homeschooling! Public schools each offer different options and students don't always have a wide choice of what they are able to take from the options available. Home educators have the freedom to tailor their lessons to fit the talents and interests of their children; the sky's the limit!

Home education has the benefit of being flexible and can quickly change with the times if a student changes his direction about what he would like to be in the future. Classes and timetables can be adjusted to accommodate an extra class here or there so that student doesn't have to feel the stress and constraints that he would in public school where the introduction of new courses and curriculum can take several years, by which time things have again changed. Not to mention that elective courses are often the first classes to be cut from the timetable when funding is tight.

Some students are wholly focused on a particular area that they want to pursue; whereas, others don't yet have an end goal and may need to try out several items from the buffet before they decide what their favorite is. For both situations, you can let your children choose electives in an area they are interested in—even if it is "just for fun" and doesn't have a part in their ultimate goal. Having a wide range of interests and a rounded curriculum is what both universities and employers look for.

Elective classes are perfect for the fun stuff—the hands-on projects that make learning memorable and interesting! A few options might be making a movie, going on an archaeological dig, learning how to fix the family car, learning to play an instrument, taking a class in martial arts, aviation history, cake decorating, or, delving deep into a culture. 

Electives can be done at home, online, through a co-op, through road-schooling or field trips, as well as in other ways. Often these classes can seem expensive; but if you're creative, there are usually ways to work around the costs. 

Let children discover new interests while you support their dreams. Electives can fulfil both requirements and interests in unique ways. Give them a try and discover how motivated your student is when learning something outside of the box.

Crystal McClean is a Canadian prairie expat raising her family by the sea in Northern Ireland. She loves teaching her children about world cultures, nature, crafts, and how to live on a shoestring budget. When she isn't home with her family, she'll be at the library writing letters, at her local camera club, or counting wildlife along the lake shore with friends. 
Advertisement
The Importance of Electives
by Sharon Jeffus

Why are electives important?

They are very important to a well-rounded education. Electives generally fall outside of the main core subjects of academic study which are English, math, history, science, and foreign language. Electives give students an opportunity to expand their horizons and step out of their own academic box. Discovery of a gift or talent unknown can be the result. It is my belief that electives are also an opportunity for students to explore all of their gifts and callings. Romans 11:29 says that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.

Not all students learn in the same way. Taking electives allows students to experiment with different learning styles and enables them to be knowledgeable about a subject that they might not have had any previous interest in. In some cases, it also gives them an opportunity to realize their passion. 

Some students are gifted and talented in one or more of the arts. In Exodus 35:1-5 we read about Bazalel being called by God to beautify the temple. If high school students can take an art history course or business course that is AP level, they can get an elective credit that is part of their college level elective requirements while they’re still in high school. 

Electives can generate the love of a lifelong hobby. Visual Manna and Visual Manna Creating Spaces allows students to be in an online mentoring program with optional AP credit where they learn to use their art by creating interesting and uplifting spaces in business and ministry and developing a professional portfolio and being mentored by Sharon Jeffus. 

Contact visualmanna@gmail.com or call 573-453-6364 for more information or go to visualmanna.com
One of the most common questions we get when we talk about homeschooling high school is, “What courses do they need?” There are general guidelines online, like state requirements for a public school diploma or admissions requirements at nearby colleges. But actually, there’s a lot more latitude than you might imagine! 

That’s one of the huge benefits of homeschooling! We have the freedom to change things up to match the needs and interests of each of our children—and we ought to. Let’s talk about what that may look like.

—One of our sons was Mr. Entrepreneurship. From the time he was a toddler, he bubbled over with business ideas, and by the time he was 13, he and two brothers were running a business they bought from a local homeschool family. His high school electives focused on business marketing, leadership, and management. He read the latest books; he did projects—he followed his interests! Now he’s in college, majoring in Business Entrepreneurship, and he’s started two new businesses with the help of his college’s Venture Lab.

—Another of our sons wanted to work with a relative in China. He took Mandarin Chinese (even though neither of us speak it) and studied Chinese history. Between his junior and senior years, he spent the summer living on his own and working in a major Chinese city. It was an amazing opportunity he couldn’t have done if we’d stuck to the languages we were comfortable with.

The possibilities are endless! A young friend of ours worked one day and then two days a week in a local software craftsmanship firm. By the time he graduated from high school, he’d gained the skills and experience to step right into a career-track position with that company. Others we know used their elective time to study deeper in art and music because that’s where their gifts lie. 

It can be a little scary to do things differently. Sometimes we just want someone to tell us what to do and how to do it. As homeschoolers, though, our kids have the time and freedom to chase their dreams; and we have the opportunity to shape their high school experience to support them!

Can’t find a curriculum for your child’s particular interest? Then create your own! Look online for a similar course and borrow their syllabus—you can copy a high school class directly or adapt a one-semester college course to make it a full-year class for high school. Once you get an idea what’s a reasonable expectation, pick a name to put on the transcript, and run with it! 

This is a really fun, amazing part of homeschooling high school—don’t miss out on it! 

For more help, get our free Homeschooling High School Resource Pack

Your friends, 
Hal & Melanie
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Sherri Seligson
There is often a struggle with planning our teens’ high school course plans—meeting the required courses while tailoring them to meet the unique needs of each student. We want to cover our bases, but we need to best prepare them for what God has for them in the future.

One of the best ways to do this is with elective courses. In fact, here are five reasons elective courses are beneficial to your teen.

1. Electives allow students to further pursue a subject they love. Students who enjoy music, for example, will benefit from a study in the history of music, the science behind music, a study of instruments, or a music theory course.

2. Students can explore a possible career field in an elective course. Homeschooled students have flexible schedules that allow them to do an internship in a potential career field. By documenting hours and reading and writing about what they are learning, they gain experience and credit while learning more about the day-to-day activities of an occupation.

3. Electives build important, necessary skills. Electives such as computer skills, statistics, or nutrition expand students’ skill sets and help to better prepare them for the future.

4. Electives can help to make students more well-rounded. Often exposure to creative writing, music, or the performing arts are overlooked when planning a student’s course load, but these subjects help them see God’s beauty in Creation and give them a full-orbed exposure to the creative world.

5. Students can use elective courses to explore a dream. We love to allow our students to ponder and dream about God’s plans for them. Electives can help them further explore a curiosity about a specific subject. Have them do a writing course by creating a blog. Allow them to explore film by writing and producing their own movie. Let them dream about what they want to do and watch them really engage and own their education!

You see, electives are opportunities that let your students explore more about the world. They will help provide the necessary tools to better prepare students for the next chapter in life.

We are responsible to help each child prepare for his or her specific role in the future. And it is our job…our privilege…to help build those traits so they are ready to launch!

Sherri Seligson and her husband David homeschooled their four children for 21 years. Before being promoted to motherhood, Sherri worked as a degreed marine biologist at Walt Disney World’s Living Seas, publishing shark behavior research. She has authored Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Marine Biology and Internships for High School Credit, instructional DVD courses for Apologia’s science curricula, and companion curricula for feature films including Dolphin Tale and War Horse. Sherri is an international conference and retreat speaker. Using transparency, truth, and humor, she encourages moms on their homeschool journey and teaches families the importance of studying God’s creation. www.sherriseligson.com 
$29/includes shipping
Stacy Farrell
We experience true satisfaction when we fulfill the purpose for which we were created. Electives give our children an opportunity to live out this purpose as they develop skills and talents beyond their basic academic courses.

BE CREATIVE

You can find a list of conventional elective options compiled by HSLDA here, but don’t get trapped by institutional thinking. Don’t be afraid to “think outside of the box.” 

Be creative! Consider faith-building activities such as the following:
  • serving consistently at a nursing home or homeless shelter.
  • leading a neighborhood Bible study.
  • playing an instrument with the worship team at church. 

If you track your student’s time invested and skills developed, you may be able to count these activities as electives. 

BE PROACTIVE

Strong communication skills are a distinct advantage in the marketplace. Adding an elective speech or writing course can help your student land a job. 

If you struggle with a reluctant writer, I have good news. 

Even children who resist formal writing instruction often blossom when given informal writing assignments such as journaling or creative writing exercises

I discovered this to be true when I taught writing in a group setting. If you’d like some tips on how to bring joy and excitement to your child’s writing, join me for a “Creative Freewriting Adventure Workshop” at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions

BE STRATEGIC

We homeschooled our two sons K-12. I believe the Lord called me to raise them to be men who understand the times and know what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). In keeping with that objective, we chose our electives strategically. 

Speech and debate competitions were a major focus throughout high school. To prepare for tournaments, our sons studied more than one hundred apologetic speech topics. 

From a life-skills perspective, this also helped them prepare to answer faith-related questions with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). 

Another strategic focus for us was philosophy.

BE PREPARED

As homeschool parents, we long to protect our children from destructive influences. When they’re little, we can shelter them. But as they grow older, we must prepare them to make wise choices in the midst of challenges and temptations. 

Studying philosophy changed the way our family views the world. Suddenly, we began to understand the origins of the crazy culture wars raging all around us. 

If you’re looking for an elective that will equip your children to combat the lies and confusion that will inevitably bombard them, study philosophy from a biblical worldview

There are many resources available today, but — if you’d like to teach your students to write skillfully, think critically, and speak articulately as they explore the world of ideas — I invite you take a look at Philosophy Adventure.

Blessings on your studies . . .

With joy (Phil. 1:4),
Stacy 

P.S. - If you’re attending any of the Great Homeschool Conventions, I’d love to meet you. I’ll be speaking on philosophy, writing, and time management. Stop by my workshops or Home School Adventure Co.’s booth and say, “Hi!” 

If you’re on Facebook, stop by to “like” and “follow” our page for inspiration, news, and encouragement!
 
Stacy Farrell is the author of more than ten books on a variety of topics, including time management, motherhood, manhood, philosophy ( Philosophy Adventure), and writing. This year, she is a featured speaker at the Great Homeschool Conventions. Although she loves to write, speak, and teach, Stacy considers her role as wife to Roger and mother to two precious sons to be her greatest work and privilege. Learn more about her resources at HomeschoolAdventure.com
We live in British Columbia in a small town on the Arrow Lakes. We are with the distance learning school SelfDesign. You can enroll and have a learning consultant to help you with your child’s learning path; you can also enroll and not have to report to anyone (but we are registered). Also, day one, we had a wonderful and helpful learning consultant.
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No limits.

Have you ever tried something you never pictured yourself doing and found you really enjoyed it? Have you ever done something far outside your comfort zone and discovered a previously unknown talent for it? Your kids can have those moments, too, and one way to encourage them is by exposing them to a wide range of electives. 

One membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com provides your family with access to more than twenty elective courses, from accounting to filmmaking and graphic design to starting a micro business. 

If you haven’t yet joined SchoolhouseTeachers.com, come give us a try. You can try the entire site for 30 days for $5! If you or someone you know would be interested in teaching or writing for us, let us know. You can email me at bhudson@TheOldSchoolhouse.com. We look forward to serving you and your family! 


in the latest issue of
The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Contest Corner  
For the month of February

Morty the Meerkat Has Autism

I will admit I had never heard of autism before until I watched a character on a popular show act the same exact way my little kiddo was acting at the time. We had been struggling in silence for nearly four years, thinking it was just us. I remember thinking in my head as I sat out in the pediatrician’s waiting room that I must be crazy to make an appointment based off a tv show. But, I did, and I was right, my boy had a diagnosis and my eyes were opened to a whole new world--a crowded, yet lonely world. autism is so prevalent, yet the average person knows nothing about it, not to mention young children who may encounter a child on the spectrum at school or the park, only to be scared or confused by their behavior. I will admit my son can be found on a playground making "bark angels" and never look or speak to a soul out at the park, if I can even get him out to the park. 

You know I often wish that I could educate everyone we meet but given the circumstance that’s not always possible. Also, how do you break autism down to a level that even a young child could get some sense of what it’s all about? Luckily, several weeks ago I was able to review a children’s book written by J.L. Avis, called Morty the Meerkat has Autism . I was surprised, hopeful, and could not wait to read it with my 10-year-old son. 

After reading this book a handful of times, I have to say the overall thoughts are all positive. The story begins kind of like most ASD discoveries. Morty’s parents noticed some differences in him compared to his siblings. Differences like he didn’t want to be hugged, touched, or wouldn’t look at others when they talked to him. Morty’s siblings and friends noticed his behavior and had questions regarding the reason behind his actions. You can easily see how frustrating it can be when you are trying to communicate with an autistic person who does not know how to communicate back to you. ( . . .

I thought this was a terrific way to put some positive light on autism, and share what it’s like to be on the spectrum. To show others, especially children, that it’s ok to be different; if you have autism hold your head up and be proud of your strengths and instead of focusing on your weaknesses. ( Read the rest of the review.

Elle the Little Lost Wombat

I am always looking for ways to really make the kids “visit” places we are studying in geography. Recently, we had the opportunity to review the book Elle the Little Lost Wombat , by Sharon Bracken. It opened up a whole new discussion between the girls and me about international adoption and the feelings of children that are being adopted.

Elle is a little Wombat who loses her parents very suddenly. She is forced to leave her home and move into an orphanage. Of course, this is a very frightening experience for Elle. She not only is very sad because of losing her parents, but now she must live in a strange place that is not as nice as the home she was living in. Life in the orphanage is very different. She has to live in a large room with other wombats, and no privacy. Her clothes do not fit, and she has no toys to play with. Her sadness turns to anger as she goes through the grieving process. It’s very stressful for Elle.

Elle saw so many other wombats be adopted, but she remains at the orphanage. Would she ever find a new home? Did she want to find a new home? Finally, one day, Elle meets a family that has traveled to take her home. But they do not speak the same language. Elle becomes scared again. While they are at the orphanage, there is someone to translate. She loves the visits of this new family. But after Elle travels to her new country and home to live, there are new challenges to face. ( . . . )

Life is different in her new home. But she finally has her own room and new clothes that fit! She has plenty to eat. Elle is very scared though. But she soon realizes that her new family is scared also. They just want her to be happy because they love her. ( . . . )

Elle the Little Lost Wombat is a great addition for families that are going through the process of international adoption or even if you just want to help your child to understand how adopted children can feel. ( Read the rest of the review. )

YOU can WIN these two books for your homeschool! 

TO ENTER: Click on over to our entry page and follow the instructions! Contest ends at midnight, the last day of the month.
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