Originally Sent: 5/7/2015
May 7, 2015
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Making the Most of Both Electives and Extracurricular Activities
A rose is a rose is a rose … unless it’s a cow! During the high school years, your teens will enjoy participating in a wide variety of activities while also enthusiastically completing elective courses. In certain instances, distinguishing between them can cause some confusion. We’d like to provide some tips to help you and your teen make the best use of both.
Extracurricular activities fall “outside” the academic realm. They are endeavors in which your teen wants to participate. They are not required. They are optional. Extracurricular activities provide an opportunity to learn new skills, gain leadership abilities, serve others, broaden knowledge, qualify for training, or just have fun! They fall under broad categories such as volunteering and community service, employment, hobbies, interests, training, travel, or ministries.
Colleges and future employers want to know how your teen has chosen to spend his free time. Listing extracurricular activities allow others to gain a better picture of your teen’s interests, motivations, and initiative. Your teen’s involvement in extracurricular activities should reflect his passions. Wholehearted participation in a few selected activities is preferred over stretching your teen’s participation in too many unrelated activities. (This is great news for your gasoline budget and chauffeuring duties!)
In some cases, extracurricular activities give your teen the opportunity to serve or work alongside a professional or expert in a particular field. These associations may afford your teen experiences to develop character, connect with a network of future references, and progress in employment and life skills.
Elective courses, on the other hand, are an integral part of your teen’s academic studies. These courses typically do not fall under one of the core academic areas: English, math, science, history, and foreign language.
Elective courses entail less work than a core academic course. Use elective courses as a motivator for your teen by suggesting that she propose elective courses that she might enjoy. Curriculum is available for many elective courses; however, each parent can readily design these courses.
Think about enlisting your teen in the development of the course material and objectives. Teens are more likely to be invested in courses in which they’ve had a hand in developing. Check out these examples for designing some elective courses: photography or career development). These will give you pointers for planning your own elective.
If you need inspiration, check out this list of 80 different elective course possibilities. You can see that we’ve only scratched the surface! Only your imagination limits the list! Cultivate your teen’s appetite for learning by offering him a broad range of elective courses, and then watch his enthusiasm for reading, experimenting, and writing grow as a result of zeroing in on subject areas that appeal to him.
Documenting Extracurricular Activities and Elective Courses
Because extracurricular activities are “outside” of academics, they should not appear on the high school transcript. Rather, have your teen create an extracurricular sheet that lists areas of involvement, provides details of each activity, and highlights your teen’s ventures.
Consider organizing information chronologically under categories. This sample will hopefully spark ideas to develop your own extracurricular sheet. Be sure to list any awards or honors your teen may have won while taking part in an activity.
Because elective courses are part of your teen’s academic studies, they do appear on the transcript. Decide on a title for each course (one that adequately describes the course content), log hours to determine credit for the course, and devise an evaluation method to award your teen a letter grade for the course.
When determining credit, 120 hours is the minimum necessary to earn one credit, while 60 hours would be adequate to earn ½ credit. (Be aware that in some states—California, Indiana, Idaho, and New Jersey—public schools use a different credit system. As a homeschooler in these states, you may choose to follow your public school’s credit system, or feel free to follow the credit system used in the majority of states.)
As backup to showing an elective course on your transcript, we encourage you to write a course description giving details of the course’s content. Generally, one to three elective courses each year of high school is reasonable. Refrain from filling up any one year of high school with too many electives because that could overshadow the core academic courses.
If your teen cannot complete the minimum 60 hours for a half credit elective within one school year, consider extending the elective into the next school year. This discipline will avoid cluttering the transcript with 0.25 credit electives. We recommend placing the course on the transcript under the school year in which your teen completes it.
Making the Fine Distinctions
Two homeschool teens may be involved in the same activity, but one parent may treat the activity as extracurricular while the other one will view it as an elective course. Each parent decides how to view the course/activity based on different factors. There’s no unqualified right or wrong answer here, but we encourage you to use good judgment.
Answering the questions below may help you discern if an activity is an elective course to show on a transcript or an extracurricular to list on an extracurricular sheet. (By the way, don’t double count an activity as both an elective and at the same time as an extracurricular. Remember the “extra” in extracurricular means “outside” of the academics.)
For workforce-bound students, the extracurricular sheet summarizes the information graduates need to construct an interview resume. For military enlistment, the extracurricular activity sheet might showcase teamwork activities, personal accomplishments, and physical conditioning. For college-bound students, the extracurricular sheet documents important events and activities, which students should use to answer college application questions.
Both elective courses and extracurricular activities are important elements of your teen’s high school years. They both add flair and interest that enhance your teen’s high school program. If you are a member of HSLDA, both of us are available to help you think through your options and to give you advice when considering elective courses and extracurricular activities.
Join us next month when we discuss the military’s homeschool policy and applying to the military academies.
Cheering you on from the sidelines,
Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
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