If you love personalizing learning opportunities, you and your teen may enjoy developing some elective courses yourselves. Here are four steps to help you organize your thoughts and efforts, along with sample course ideas to ignite your creativity!

1. Brainstorm possible courses with your teen.

Electives can be used to investigate interests, introduce or hone skills, or clarify career goals. So a key first step is to carve out some brainstorming time with your teen and ask: “What are you interested in learning?”

As part of this first step, you might also brainstorm who will design and teach each elective. Maybe you’ll find that you have the skills to develop and teach a particular elective your teen would love—but if not, you can reach out to friends, neighbors, family, co-op, associates, and referrals to help identify people with the skills, time, and willingness to contribute to your teen’s education in this way. (Lots of people welcome the opportunity to pass their expertise along!)

When designing an elective, it’s helpful to distinguish the course’s skill level. For example, will your teen learn beginning, intermediate, or advanced skills? This will give both instructor and student reasonable expectations for what will be learned—resulting in patience with gradually developing skills and more satisfaction by the end of the course.

2. Research materials and resources to build into the elective.

You can find elective course study materials and supplies through a variety of sources, including some pretty unconventional ones. For example, you might try the public library, the internet, craft stores, building suppliers, training videos, community centers, hospitals, fire departments, local businesses, tradesmen, co-ops, extension courses . . . Ok, your turn—what are your go-to . . . or unconventional sources?!

3. Determine how much high school credit the elective should earn.

Typically, the best way to determine credit for a self-created elective is by logging the number of hours your teen spends on the course. You can simplify the process by giving your teen a log (digital or paper) for tracking the date, details, and time duration whenever they do a course activity. At the end of the course, totaling up the hours recorded in the log can give you a good idea of how much credit to assign. (For great tips on how to assign credit to an elective or any course, click here.)

PRO TIP: Electives aren’t limited to the regular academic year—feel free to slot them during summer vacation and other school breaks!

4. Determine a grading method for the course.

For your student’s sake, make sure they understand at the beginning of the course exactly how their work will be evaluated. Want a quick run through how to determine your grading method and actually grade your teen’s work? Click here.

PRO TIP: Does your teen participate in a homeschool co-op? This can be an ideal setting for electives that require special equipment (such as industrial arts, carpentry, construction, sewing, quilting, tailoring, and fashion design) or special skills (such as orchestra, dance, web design, and computer programming). One or two parents can teach a co-op elective, thus sharing the teaching load and allowing many families to benefit. Other elective courses that can work well in a co-op include yearbook, journalism, speech, financial management, and car maintenance.

Now that you know the steps to create an elective, here are some examples of a few to get you started.

Sample Electives

See if any of these sample courses spark your and your teen’s imagination in creating a customized elective!

Career development

Take career aptitude testing to identify possible career paths. Next, research education or training requirements, workplace environments, geographical demand, and other factors for those careers. Then determine whether each career requires a college degree, an apprenticeship program, or trade/tech school. Consider pursuing summertime job shadowing opportunities—these offer a close-up view of specific careers and can help clarify whether a particular career path is a good fit.

Art appreciation

Read several books about the work of prominent artists or an interesting period of art; watch videos explaining great works of art; visit an art museum (local field trip or virtual tour online); and present an oral report, project, or paper on an individual artist.


Work with someone remodeling a room to learn framing, dry-walling, mudding, molding, adding trim, and painting. Remodel a kitchen or bathroom to also learn basic tiling and plumbing skills.


Watch and record one or two episodes of a favorite chef or baker’s cooking show; select some recipes to try. Write a shopping list, purchase groceries, and determine the calorie content of each recipe. Rewatch pertinent sections of the episodes and pause so that the various steps of the recipes can be completed. Gather the family to taste and evaluate the results!

Are you thinking that you might want to take some electives of your own now?

Even if you don’t have time as a homeschool parent for your own electives in this season of life . . . you can collect ideas for all the things you’ll do once your student is graduated!

And we hope that you are feeling equipped to have fun creating new electives that stretch and grow your teen in new ways—and make their heart sing!