Planning your high school requirements can be overwhelming for parents.
- Is there something the law says we must accomplish?
- What are colleges looking for?
- Are there areas in our high school preparation that need additional attention as we move into high school?
You might be asking yourself why you should bother with electives when just getting the required curriculum accomplished is stressful! What is an elective anyway?
What is an elective?
Simply, an elective is any class or coursework that is accomplished outside of the core curriculum for high school (English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Foreign Language, etc). These classes are generally chosen by the student himself. You’ll find electives in classes such as business, art, music, and marketing. The options are endless!
So, how do you choose an elective anyway?
There are several ways to go about choosing high school electives for homeschool. But, when a student can choose their own electives, they have the freedom to pursue interests that are important to them or ignite a passion. Y’all know how much we love pursuing interests and passions around here!
If your student isn’t sure what they want to do with the rest of their life, which is totally reasonable at the tender age of 17ish, electives can help provide direction. Electives are also a great way to make high school “fun” when you have a taxing schedule or college prep core.
One way to start your student’s electives adventure have him make a list of things he enjoys and then find a corresponding elective. Does your daughter love to spend time in the kitchen? She might enjoy Whole Foods Cooking or Homesteading. Does your son have a creative bent? He might be stoked about Filmmaking or Graphic Design. Get the idea? (I’ll have more suggestions, don’t worry!)
If you have a student who is already leaning toward a particular career or career category, I would suggest helping him choose electives that will serve him well along those lines.
I recently read an interesting quote:
If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose. (T.D. Jakes)
Ben has always loved the ocean. Every vacation has pretty much been spent seaside. Ben also has the heart of a servant. He is the first to offer assistance when there is a need, and he’s one of the most patriotic kids I know. All of this passion for the sea, his country, and for helping others, coupled with a strong sense of justice has brought about a dedication to the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps as one of his electives for high school.
He has been busy this summer attending trainings and completing correspondence coursework that will benefit him greatly on both a personal and professional level — all opportunities afforded him through the Sea Cadets. As I type this he is spending a week in Georgetown, SC with the U.S. Coast Guard. Should he decide to join the Navy or Coast Guard after high school or college (his current plan), this elective will also help him enter at a higher rank, a smart career elective choice for him. If he doesn’t enter the Navy or Coast Guard, he will still have received the benefits of discipline and leadership training provided by association with this program, plus possible career-enhancing training for jobs outside of military service.
Try to keep a balance that will bring a little joy and fun to your student’s high school work, while helping him to achieve his future goals. For example, another of Ben’s high school electives is musical theatre. He has no aspirations of becoming a musical theatre major or being on Broadway. But he loves music and being a part of his theatre group, so for the 3rd year, he will earn an elective credit in musical theatre (which is beneficial for public speaking). He has also taken voice and piano lessons. And even though they won’t likely directly affect his future college or career choices, they do provide benefits that will serve him well throughout his life, no matter what other choices he makes. Even one elective can make for an awesome burden-lightener in a tough high school career. Music and musical theatre does this for Ben.
Don’t be afraid to try an elective that is outside of your tried-and-true choices. If your daughter is naturally a photography buff, encourage her to take a leap and try something like Introduction to Architecture. If she has an eye for beauty, this should translate well!
Are colleges interested in electives choices? Yes!
Let’s face it- most homeschoolers go on to more learning and college is a reality. Colleges want to see electives on that transcript especially because it lets them know more about your student. Electives not only strengthen the transcript, they can be important admission criteria. If your student has already narrowed down his college choices and where they plan to apply, it’s probably a good idea to see what those specific colleges are looking for in elective choices. If you’re not sure, the College Board has some suggestions on electives.
I’m ready for electives. How do I get started?
First, have your student make two lists. One list could be things in life they gravitate towards. The second list should be things they’d love to try or will serve them well in a future career. If you need help figuring out what should be on those two lists, here’s a High School Electives for Homeschool of electives printable to get you started.
Secondly, make a choice of how you’ll make those electives happen. Are there opportunities locally? Does your community college have courses? Are there online opportunities for learning?
Once your student has chosen the electives he wants to take, all that’s left is to make it happen!
As I’ve already mentioned, a good way to select electives is according to the possible future career interest of your student. Your student doesn’t need to know exactly what job he would like to pursue, but having a general idea of what career cluster his interests lie is helpful.
Career Clusters are broad groups of careers as put forth by the U.S. Department of Education. There are basically 16 career clusters and each cluster has several career pathways. Taking into account his spiritual gifts, personality, and passions, it shouldn’t be hard to narrow down the career cluster your student is most likely to enter into at some point. Choosing electives in that cluster may benefit him in the future.
Career Clusters and Recommended Electives
I mentioned that there are basically sixteen career clusters. Let’s dig a little deeper into those, because, let’s be real here, we love our babies, but don’t we want to make sure they are able and willing to support themselves one day? (and whether we want to think about it, that day is coming very quickly!)
This list of sixteen career clusters and possible jobs that match up with each one is a great place to start when determining homeschool high school electives. The jobs listed vary from entry-level jobs to high-income professions. To further help your student narrow this down, there is a list of possible current interests your teen may have that match up with each category.
If your student is age 16 or older and has absolutely zero idea of what he wants to do after high school, then hopefully narrowing things down to these career clusters will help him focus in on a broad category so that selection of electives is easier. The narrower job or career can come later when he needs one and has more time to explore his interests and passions.
I would suggest beginning with this Career Exploration elective taught by my friend, Carol Topp for all students, but especially those who are unsure of where they are headed in the future.
Let’s chat for a minute about what’s available online because online electives learning is accessible. Sharing my mom-heart here, where Ben takes his electives courses is as important to me as what he chooses. The teenage years are times of making big choices and I want to be part of the decision-making.
That’s why we’re going to primarily utilize a couple of my favorite online learning resources: SchoolhouseTeachers.com and 7Sisters Homeschool. Where possible below, I will link to electives that I have found online utilizing these two resources (and on occasion a couple of others), because I trust their content. Ben has taken courses from any resource I link to below.
A membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com is required to take their courses, but right now, you can join for just $139 for a 2-year membership (reg. $179 per year). There are nearly 400 courses available in all subjects (core and electives) and the cost is for your entire family for what is there now and what is added in the future (they add new classes all the time). There are no extra fees and no books to buy. You could completely homeschool all of your kids, Pre-K to high school with this resources.
The courses from 7Sisters Homeschool can be purchased individually and while the offerings are more limited, they are excellent quality as well.
Other electives can likely be found locally through apprenticeships, adult education classes, trade or vocational schools, community colleges, or by asking a friend to help teach/train your student. We have also used our free membership to Lynda.com available through our local library. This membership provides thousands of professional courses in the areas of business, marketing, graphic design, finance, and more. It targets adult learners, but bright, motivated teens can benefit as well. Be sure to check your library to see if it is available to you for free. If not, you can purchase a membership for about $30/month or $300/year.
Category 1: Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
Focused on the production, processing, marketing, distribution, financing, and development of agricultural products and resources including food, fiber, wood products, natural resources, farm and animal products.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy working outdoors and being physically active. Other interests may include: nature, taking care of pets, identifying environmental hazards, and a passion for caring for the environment
- Agriculture Science Teacher
- Forest Firefighter
- Biochemist or Biophysicist
- Food Inspector and Scientist
- Game Warden
- Animal Breeder
- Nursery or Greenhouse Worker
Category 2: Architecture and Construction
Careers in designing, planning, managing, building and maintaining the construction industry.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy working with their hands, using tools, have an aptitude for math and science, like solving or analyzing problems or enjoy helping building homes or other structures.
- Brickmason or Cement Mason
- Structural Steel Worker
- Construction Inspector
- Elevator Installer/Repairer
- Carpentry Apprentice
- Machinist Technician Apprentice
- Electrical Technician Apprentice
Category 3: Arts, A/V Technology, and Communications
Focused on designing, producing, exhibiting, performing, writing, and publishing multimedia content, including visual performing art and journalism and entertainment services.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy drawing pictures or cartoons, performing music, drama or dance, creating original video or film, sketching, painting, photography, making jewelry, sculpture, or ceramics, or designing a newspaper or magazine layout.
- Graphic Artist
- Art, Theatre, or Music Teacher
- Newspaper Reporter
- Author, Writer, or Director
- Digital Art for Small Business
- Music Theory
- Graphic Design
- Web Game Design
- Public Speaking
- Advanced Public Speaking
- Image Editing and Creation
Category 4: Business Management and Administration
Planning, organizing, directing, and evaluating business functions essential to efficient productive business operations. These opportunities are available in every sector of the economy.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy in running his own business, entrepreneurship, developing web pages, preparing reports, analyzing data, organizing events or fundraisers, organizing clubs, or managing tasks for a group.
- Accountant or CPA
- Financial Manager
- Company Executive
- Office Manager
- Public Relations Specialist
- Management Analyst
- Billing Clerk
- Starting a Microbusiness for Teens
- Internet Entrepreneurship for Teens
- Career Exploration
- Business Plan Creation
- Financial Literacy
- Public Speaking
Category 5: Education and Training
Planning, managing, and providing education and training services and related learning support services.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy babysitting or tutoring children, creating lesson plans, attending summer camps, creating crafts or art, playing math, spelling or reading games, or coaching sports.
- School Counselor or Psychologist
- Teacher or Teacher’s Aide
- College Advisor
- Day Care Center Director
- Principal or Vice Principal
Category 6: Finance
Planning, service for financial and investment planning, banking, insurance and business financial management.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy investing money, developing a budget, using spreadsheets and financial computer programs, balancing a checkbook, being treasurer or a club, organizing a fundraiser, planning a mock stock market game, studying investments and the stock market.
- Financial Institution Manager (Banker)
- Loan Officer
- Securities Trader
- Tax Preparer or Auditor
- Claim Examiner or Adjuster
Category 7: Government and Public Administration
Executing governmental functions to include governance, national security, foreign service, planning, revenue and taxation, regulation, management and administration at the local, state, and federal levels.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy participating in speech and debate, researching and writing grants, learning and speaking a foreign language, making speeches, running for club office, volunteering as a legislative aide, campaigning for political candidates.
- Government Investigator (FBI, CIA, ATF)
- Public Works Director
- City or Town Manager
- Congressional Aide
- Legislative Assistance
- State Department Official
- Political Campaign Manager
Category 8: Health Sciences
Planning, managing, and providing therapeutic services, diagnostic services, health informatics, support services, and biotechnology research and development.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy learning First Aid or CPR, volunteering at a retirement home, learning how the body and mind work, watching medical shows on TV, volunteering on a rescue squad.
- Athletic Trainer
- Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner
- Radiologic Tech or Ultrasonographer
- Music or Art Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
- Speech Therapist
- Physical Therapist
- Dental Lab Technician
- Dental Hygienist or Dental Assistant
- Human Development
- Music Theory
- Medical Terminology
- Medical Investigation (Teacher’s Guide and Interactive Assignments)
- Whole Foods Cooking
Category 9: Hospitality and Tourism
Focused on the management, marketing, and operations of restaurants and other food services, lodging, attractions, recreation events, and travel related services.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy traveling, planning vacations, cooking and baking, participating in sports, exercising, planning and participating in recreational activities, lifeguarding, reading about other countries and cultures.
- Recreational Program Director
- Camp Counselor
- Travel Agent
- Hospitality Manager
- Hotel Manager
- Tour Director
- Cruise Ship Director
- National or State Park Ranger
Category 10: Human Services
Preparing individuals for employment in career pathways that relate to families and human needs.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy listening to and helping friends with problems, working with the elderly, shopping and comparing prices, volunteering, delivering food and clothing to people in need, serving at a homeless shelter, making family menus.
- Childcare worker
- Recreational worker
- Rehabilitation or Substance Abuse Counselor
- Interpreter for the Deaf
- Nutrition Counselor
- Funeral Director
- Mental Health Technician
- Social Worker
- Family Counselor
- Early Childhood Education
- Human Development
- So You Want to Be a Pastor
- Hebrew for Homeschoolers
- Social Justice
Category 11: IT Information Technology
Focused on the design, development, support, and management of hardware, software, multimedia and systems integration services.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy playing video games, assembling computer parts, writing software programs, developing webpages, surfing the internet, analyzing data or information, documenting and recording information, learning or installing software programs.
- Computer System Engineer, Analyst or Architect
- Database Administrator
- Network Systems Analyst
- Web Administrator
- Business Intelligence Analyst
- Computer Security Specialist
Category 12: Public Safety, Corrections, and Security
Planning, managing, and providing legal, public safety, protective services, and homeland security, including professional and technical support.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy reading mystery novels or watching mystery movies, following court cases in the news, listening to police scanners, volunteering to search for missing pets or children, participating in search/rescue training, volunteering for the local fire department, participating in military organizations.
- Corrections Officer
- Court Reporter or Clerk
- Police Officer or Detective
- Polygraph Examiner
- Fire Fighter or Inspector
- Forensic Artist
- Probation or Parole Officer
- Social Justice
- Mock Trial
- Constitution and Bill of Rights
- Human Development
- Military Organizations (ie: Naval Sea Cadets, Young Marines, Civil Air Patrol)
Category 13: Manufacturing
Planning, managing, and performing the procession of materials into intermediate or final products and related professional and technical support activities as production planning and the control, maintenance, and engineering of products.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy sewing, weaving, knitting, or other projects, building things such as wood projects, repairing machinery, installing and repairing home appliances and equipment, working with leather goods, operating tools and machinery.
- Machine Operator
- Cabinetmaker or Furniture maker
- Textile Inspector
- Health and Safety Specialist
- Industrial Psychologist
- Operations Research Analyst
Category 14: Marketing, Sales, and Service
Planning, managing, and performing marketing activities to reach organizational objectives.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy giving advice on products they buy, sell products for fundraisers, take tours of houses for sale, design and model clothes, decorate homes or rearrange furniture, working with numbers, shopping, setting up a fashion show.
- Real Estate Agent or Manager
- Real Estate Appraiser
- Fashion or Floral Designer
- Retail Store Manager or Clerk
- Customer Service Representative
- Sales Manager
- Fashion Model
Category 15: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
Planning, managing, and providing scientific research and professional and technical service including laboratory and testing services and research and development services (ie: physical science, social science, engineering).
A teen interested in this field might enjoy collecting rocks and fossils, identifying plants and animals, conducting science experiments, watching the weather, inventing new products, stargazing.
- Environmental Scientist
- Engineer (nuclear, industrial, chemical, mechanical, civil)
- Aerospace Engineer
- Computer Hardware Engineer
- Military Organizations (ie: Naval Sea Cadets, Young Marines, Civil Air Patrol)
- Marine Biology
Category 16: Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics
Planning, management, and movement of people, materials, and goods by road, pipeline, rail, air, and water and related services such as transportation, infrastructure planning and management, logistics services, mobile equipment and facility management.
A teen interested in this field might enjoy playing with automobiles or trains, flying, boating, and is interested in knowing how machines work, fixing all types of machines, and the distribution of goods.
- Commerical Pilot
- Traffic Technician
- Transportation Specialist
- Aerospace Technician
- Air Cargo Handler
- Bus and Auto Mechanic
- Motorboat Mechanic
- Electrical Equipment Installer
General Elective Suggestions
In addition to these career-specific electives, there are a few general electives I would suggest for all high school students. These electives will help direct your student as they make adult and career choices both now and in the future.
This list of careers is certainly not exhaustive, but it covers most of the major jobs that will be available to your student upon graduation from high school or college. It will benefit him greatly to help steer his elective choices toward those that align with future goals, both for those who do not plan to attend college and those who will be selecting a college major. It is not uncommon for college students to change majors multiple times or end up in a career not associated with their college degree. Exposing your student to career development in the area of electives will hopefully prevent wasting both time money in the future while giving him an advantage in the job market.
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