Welcome to the month-long series “Homeschool HIGH SCHOOL Made Easy,” a follow-up to the popular “Homeschool Made Easy” series (now published on kindle). I’m sharing tips from my experience as a homeschool graduate and homeschool mother, showing YOU how easy and enjoyable these high school years can be for you and your teen. Be sure to sign up for the entire series so you don’t miss a thing!
Today ends our week-long look at courses your homeschool high school student will take before graduating. We started with a discussion on how to choose your foundational subject, your priority emphasis that guides the rest of your student’s academic pursuits. We then looked at how typical homeschool teens will fulfill requirements in Bible, history, English, math, and science. These subjects make up the bulk of your student’s transcript and prepare your student for college entrance exams and applications.
But that’s not enough. Four or five classes do not a year of high school make, and your state’s graduation requirements likely include a few more courses. Never fear, intrepid homeschool mom. If you can brave those core subjects, if you can ensure all the ground is covered and the classes completed in those key areas, the rest is easy. I promise.
Not convinced? I’ll prove it. By now you should have googled your state’s graduation requirements. And if your teen has a favorite college or two, you may have even looked up admissions requirements (don’t panic if you haven’t; it’s not a must . . . yet). Take a look now at what additional classes you need. Your list may include the following:
- foreign language
- physical education
- fine arts
- other electives to complete required number of credits to graduate
How can we make sure our teens complete these requirements while remaining true to our homeschool why and keeping things as simple as possible? I’ll tell you how: give your teen choices.
Homeschool High School Electives Made Easy
I mentioned earlier that the first year or two, students would do well to concentrate on their main subjects and requirements for high school. As much as possible, we save electives until the senior year. This is for three important reasons:
- Students usually take their college entrance exams (ACT or SAT) during their junior year of high school. These tests cover the basic material high school students learn in English, math, and science for all four years. The best test preparation is a solid education.
- Your student may begin contacting colleges as early as his junior year. When discussing admissions requirements and scholarship opportunities, he will be grateful his shows that he has already completed most of the university’s requirements for admissions (surprisingly, college admissions requirements may be considerably lower than his state’s graduation requirements).
- After the push toward college and career his junior year, both student and mom may be academically exhausted and less than motivated for that final year. It will be a welcome relief to enjoy fun classes with less strenuous requirements in the end, if not a significantly lighter workload.
For all of those reasons, I highly recommend homeschool high school students take over their minimum credits each year. And that for the first three years, they should take every required subject. Not sure what I mean by that? It’s a math problem:
- Find the minimum number of credits required to graduate in your state (in Texas, that’s 22).
- Divide that number by 4 and round up. This is the minimum number of classes your student needs for the first couple years of high school (in Texas, that means at least 6 credits).
- Look at specific subjects your state requires for more than one year (in Texas, that’s English, Math, Science, Social Studies/History, and Foreign Language). Require your student to take those classes every year until the requirements are met.
- Fill in that year’s remaining credits with single-year credits required (in Texas, that’s one credit of Fine Arts, one credit of PE, and 5 credits other electives).
When you do this exercise, you will likely find that your student has no choices for freshman and sophomore years; the plan is pretty clear. But it’s also quite hopeful — when chemistry gets tough or foreign language becomes boring, the student can count down the days until that’s done and never have to do it again. Hooray!
For the first two years of high school, our students take 7-8 credits. That means they meet the minimum graduation requirements in our state by the end of the junior year, at which point they technically could graduate (but they don’t because they aren’t ready in other ways). The senior year is when they work to bring up their GPA for scholarships and relax into easier classes while working and saving up for college.
So in our homeschool, a typical high school program for the freshman or sophomore year looks like this:
- Math (the required Algebra 1 or Geometry)
- Science (from the required biology or chemistry with labs)
- Social Studies/History
- Foreign Language (Spanish because of our family background)
- Bible (considered an elective in our state)
- Fine Arts (private music lessons and either choir or orchestra along with music history and art appreciation)
- PE (competitive soccer and/or referee certification)
In the junior and senior years, students can drop subjects when requirements have been met. But I will require our most important foundational subject all four years since that is the heart of our homeschooling. So in our homeschool, teens take Bible and world history all four years whether they like it or not. And fine arts is a required course until age 18 because my husband said so, and he’s the boss. ha!
By his senior year, my oldest did not have empty elective requirements he had to fulfill. Because he had studied Bible and fine arts every year and PE three years, he had way more credits than he needed. My daughter will likely find herself in the same situation.
In the likely event your student is not using up all his credits with PE and music like we do, here are some more ideas for extra elective credits:
- Take 4 years of subjects only required for 3 years (extra science, math, or history).
- Double up on a favorite subject in the senior year (take physics AND anatomy).
- Take more foreign language (our students take 4 years instead of the required 2).
- Add worldview, church history, computers, or other interests.
How do I help my student study independently? Just as in the core courses, these electives need to be documented and objectively graded. Help your student find a curriculum or program that will enable him to study on his own using his own learning strengths, yet enables him to prove his knowledge in an objective way with tests, computer print-outs, projects, or certifications.
How do I hold the student accountable? Find the objective measurement for success according to the curriculum or program the student chose. It may be a grade average on the computer software course, a certification in a skill, or completion of a project or test. And give deadlines. Hold the student accountable for completing each course (or half of a course) by the end of each semester. This is important preparation for future college work and life in general.
How about you? How did your student complete his elective requirements?
This article contains affiliate links to help support this site, but all recommendations are products I actually use and love. I am not a legal expert on graduation requirements in any state; please do your own research and plan accordingly.