The ABCs of High School Electives: Translating Passions on Transcripts

As the academic year comes to a close, you may be thinking of nothing more than your summer bucket list. Many students however, like my daughter, have their eyes set on pursuing opportunities that can better prepare them for their career choice or expand their extracurricular experiences.

image of teen girl giving an oral presentation or speech

This past summer my daughter attended a week-long engineering camp at the university. This opportunity not only provided her with insight into her field of interest but also connected her to key personnel in the department. She emerged with a greater understanding of the skills she will need to succeed in her field. She also collaborated with another teen on an engineering project and gave a presentation at the conclusion of the course.

Summer camps like the one I described and short courses in art or sailing provide youth with hours that can be used for elective credits. Unlike required courses, electives are classes the student chooses based on her interests. It is the perfect way to customize a child’s education.

ABCs of High School Electives

While most high schools offer electives that cover a wide variety of topics, homeschoolers have the opportunity to craft a transcript that is unique and the most reflective of a student’s interests and future career goals.

This past year for example, my daughter has been actively involved in the Debate Club at the local community college. While it is an informal group (they haven’t competed against other schools), they are engaged in forensic experiences. The hours she attends and the research she invests in preparing her speeches can be applied to her transcript.

The possibilities are endless. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

A – Art & Graphic Design, Aeronautics, or Architecture

B – Birding (Ornithology) 

C – Culinary Arts

D – Drama, Drones (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems)

E – Electronics 

F – Forensic Science

G – Game Design (Coding)

H – Homemaking

I – Interior Design

J – Journalism

K – Kinesiology (Sports Science)

L – Languages

M – Music (Performance & Theory)

N – Naturopathy, Nursing, or Nature Studies

O – Oceanography (Marine Science)

P – Psychology

Q – Quilting (Fiber Arts)

R – Robotics

S – Sociology

T – Toastmasters (Public Speaking and/or Debate)

U – Urban Studies

V – Venturing (Scouting)

W – Web Design 

X – Xeriscaping 

Y – Yearbook 

Z – Zoology

It would be impossible for any single school – public or private – to offer every elective on this list; there are simply too many. Schools are forced to choose which electives to offer based on a number of factors including location, student population, resources available, teacher expertise, and student interest. Homeschools, on the other hand, are not restricted by these factors.

Translating Elective Hours on the Transcript

Translating the hours a child has invested in a particular area can be done with ease. Simply keep an activity log as documentation of the hours invested. Click on the image below to download a FREE copy for yourself.image of an activity log used to track hours of instruction

In Oregon, 1 high school trimester is equal to 1 high school credit hour. This translates to approximately 55 hours of seat time/instruction. Thus, the 61 hours my daughter volunteered at the art museum last summer earned her 1 trimester credit.

These hours can be accumulated by watching instructional videos, TED talks, attending local seminars, reading informative texts, taking a specialized course (either in person or online), or any myriad of things related to the field of interest.

Use the course descriptions provided by local schools as a guide as you write your own. Keep in mind that electives can have different names depending on the school offering them, even if they cover essentially the same topic (for example, a culinary arts class could also be called cooking, foods, or something similar).

On a related note, forensics has long meant the art of speechmaking and oral presentation. Debate clubs, on the other hand, involve students in researching a pre-selected topic and then trying to convince people of their position. It’s a cousin of forensics but not the same thing.

To add to the confusion, Forensics Clubs and courses in Forensic Science are popping up in many modern schools, inspired by popular television shows. Using an optional course description can help to alleviate any confusion.

Like the Blues? Make Your Own Diddley Bow

The diddley bow is a single-stringed American instrument which influenced the development of the blues sound. It was traditionally considered a starter or children’s instrument in the Deep South, especially in the African American community. Other nicknames for this instrument include “jitterbug” or “one-string”.diddleybows

A local teacher has received significant acclaim for a folk instrument unit study he has implemented in his classroom. As a result, he has also coordinated with the local art museum to share his knowledge and skill with the local community. We were recently able to take part in his diddley bow workshop and what a treat!

What is a Diddley Bow?

The lineage of the diddley bow goes back thousands of years. The first prototype diddley bow (in the style also known as a Musical Bow) was painted on cave walls in France upwards of 15,000 years ago!

Here’s a video of American blues musician, Seasick Steve, doing what he does best on a diddley bow:

Traditionally, diddley bows were made using a plank with two nails/posts with a tightened string stretched between them. When that string is plucked or struck with a stick, and a smooth hard object is used as a slide and moved up and down on the string, different pitches result and melodies can be played.

How Does it Work?

The parts of the guitar change vibrations from the string into sound. The string diameter, length, and tension determine the note that is played.

Guitar strings come in various diameters. Thick strings produce low notes, thin strings produce high notes.

String tension is adjusted with the tuning peg. String length is measured from the nut to the bridge.

On a conventional guitar, the string length is changed by pushing the string against a fret. On a diddley bow, a slide is used to change the string length while playing.diddleybow3

Make Your Own

A Diddley Bow is traditionally made of spare parts and a wide variety of parts can be used. We started by choosing an old fence board as our base. We used a cookie or candy tin for the resonator. The instructor shared a few he had made that utilized a glass bottle and as Steve demonstrated in the video, even an old tin can will work.

We used a bulldog clip for the spacer, other workshop participants used a bottle cap and a screw. We also used guitar strings that were donated by a local music store but I’ve read that traditionally, the wire from an old straw broom were preferred.  Lastly, a corner bracket, an eye-screw, and an old fence board were all we needed to attach the string. Two 16-penny nails will also do the job.

diddleybow2Procedure:

  1.  Screw a small corner bracket onto one end of a recycled fence board, a couple of inches from the end. Screw an eye-screw onto the opposite end.
  2. Center the cookie tin atop the board just a few inches away from the corner bracket.
  3. Thread the guitar string through the center hole of the corner bracket and lay the string across the cookie tin.
  4. Thread the string though the eye-screw at the opposite side of the board and continue to twist the screw until the string is tight across the length of the board. The cookie tin will be held in place by this tension.
  5. Place a bulldog clip atop the cookie tin to lift up the string a bit. It is okay if the string touches the tin on the side closest to the corner bracket (the bottom side of the board). You don’t want it to touch, however, on the upper side. The bulldog clip is a spacer designed to lift the string up off the tin.
  6. Use a permanent marker to make marks on the board to indicated the different notes. This is done by ear. As you pluck the strings and slide a metal object (a small metal cylinder, for example) along the string, you can hear the pitch change as the string vibrates.
  7. Make a mark with a permanent marker to record the position of the bulldog clip. If it gets bumped and moved, it will change the position of the notes.

You can gather scrap materials yourself as we did or purchase a ready-to-assemble kit. There are several to choose from online, here are a couple to get you started:

Complete Cigar Diddley Bow Kit – This is a complete, ready-to-assemble cigar box diddley bow kit designed in the C. B. Gitty workshops to allow just about anyone to build a fun, easy-to-play instrument.  $24.99

Complete Cigar Box Guitar Kit – This kit contains all of the parts you need to complete your cigar box guitar – the box, neck, hardware and strings. Everything is pre-drilled and pre-marked, so that all you have to do is put in the screws, tap in the string ferrules, string it up and start playing. $79.99
Handmade Music Factory – Intrigued? Learn how to make eight of the most creative, unique-sounding, handmade instruments you’ll find anywhere with this fully illustrated guide. $17.57

The Montgolfier Brothers: Despite their initial failures, never gave up

Each month, I like to share a post celebrating the accomplishments of a scientist whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives. To honor the work of these amazing people, I provide a little peak into their life and share an unschool-style learning guides or unit study to guide you and your children on a path of discovery.

This month, I chose to honor the Montgolfier brothers who, born in Annonay, France, were the inventors of the first practical balloon.  Modifications and improvements of the basic Montgolfier design were incorporated in the construction of larger balloons that, in later years, opened the way to exploration of the upper atmosphere.

Discover how Alfred Wegener later pioneered the use of balloons in meteorology (weather patterns).

Science Milestones: The Montgolfier Brothers @EvaVarga.netWhile watching a fire in his fireplace, Joseph became interested in the “force” that caused the sparks and smoke to rise. He made a small bag out of silk and lit a fire under the opening at the bottom causing it to rise. The brothers thought the burning created a gas which they called “Montgolfier gas”. They didn’t realize that their balloons rose because the heated air inside was lighter than the surrounding air.

The brothers were inspired by the clouds and dreamed of floating amongst them. Joseph first experimented with filling a paper bag with steam. Etienne attempted to make a paper bag float with hydrogen gas obtained from sulphuric acid and iron filings. Though both were unsuccessful with these initial attempts, they did not give in.

Biography

Science Milestones: The Montgolfier Brothers @EvaVarga.netJoseph-Michel Montgolfier (26 August 1740 – 26 June 1810) and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (6 January 1745 – 2 August 1799) were two of the sixteen children of Pierre Montgolfier, whose prosperous paper factories in the small town of Vidalon, near Annonay in southern France, ensured the financial support of their balloon experiments. While carrying on their father’s paper business, they maintained their interest in scientific experimentation.

In 1782 they discovered that heated air, when collected inside a lightweight paper or fabric bag, caused the bag to rise into the air. The Montgolfiers made the first public demonstration of this discovery on June 4, 1783, at the marketplace in Annonay. They filled their balloon with heated air by burning straw and wool under the opening at the bottom of the bag. The balloon rose into the air about 3,000 feet (1,000 metres), remained there some 10 minutes, and then settled to the ground more than a mile and a half from where it rose.

The Montgolfiers traveled to Paris and then to Versailles, where they repeated the experiment with a larger globe aérostatique on Sept. 19, 1783, sending a sheep, a rooster, and a duck aloft as passengers. The balloon floated for about 8 minutes and landed safely about 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) from the launch site. Continuing on the brothers later succeeded in launching the first piloted ascent, carrying Étienne into the sky.

The first free (non tethered) human flight took place in a Montgolfier designed balloon on November 21, 1783, with science teacher Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent, Marquis d’Arlandes as passengers. The flight began from the grounds of the Château de la Muette in the western outskirts of Paris. They flew aloft about 3,000 feet (910 m) above Paris for a distance of about 5.6 miles (9 km). After 25 minutes, the balloon landed outside the city ramparts on the Butte-aux-Cailles.

In December 1783, in recognition of their achievement, their father Pierre was elevated to the nobility and the hereditary appellation of de Montgolfier by King Louis XVI of France. The two brothers were honored by the French Académie des Sciences. They published books on aeronautics and continued their scientific careers. Joseph invented a calorimeter and the hydraulic ram, and Étienne developed a process for manufacturing vellum.

Later, in December 1783, in recognition of their achievement, their father Pierre was elevated to the nobility and the hereditary appellation of de Montgolfier by King Louis XVI of France.

Science Milestones: The Montgolfier Brothers @EvaVarga.net
Montgolfier Brothers Art Print by PrintLand (Etsy)

Bring it Home 

Watch a short documentary, Hot Air Balloon: Montgolfier Brothers on YouTube

Math with Montgolfier pdf from the National Museum of the US Air Force

Sonic Junior Balloonist lesson plan pdf

Color your own paper model of a Montgolfier balloon with this printable from the Balloon Explorium

Learn How Hot Air Balloons Work and have students create a timeline not of hot air ballooning (which in itself is fascinating) but of the inventions that contributed to the introduction of the activity—in other words they are looking at the history of the science of hot air ballooning.   

Discover how Alfred Wegener later pioneered the use of balloons in meteorology (weather patterns).

For the artist, consider creating a unique upscaled art print featuring the Montgolfier brothers (example shown above)

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in January to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books

From fly tying and whips to architecture and Lego, passion projects don’t just provide educational value, they fuel students to take control of their education.

Passion Projects, or how we have come to refer to the independent study projects that my children have pursued over the years, are an excellent opportunity for middle and high school students to invest in themselves.

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books @EvaVarga.net Many thanks to DK Publishing for providing these books to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.

Passion Projects build a sense of ownership, improve communication skills, help develop research skills, and encourage entrepreneurship. It is not unusual for children to also have a variety of interests.

My son, for example, is passionate about Lego, Minecraft, aeronautics (as well as container ships and trains), and music. Some weeks he will devote his leisure time solely to music theory and composition. The following week, he’ll move on to Lego and spend hours building models and redesigning his Lego city.

This summer, I wanted to find a book for each of my children that not only complemented their interests but also really inspired them to take their passion projects to the next level. DK Books provides a wonderful selection of books providing inspiration to middle and high school students.

Lego Architecture: The Visual Guide

For my son, I selected LEGO Architecture: the Visual Guide by Philip Wilkinson. The book comes in an extremely durable slipcover with glossy matte finish and Lego artwork.

Each of the twenty-two offerings in the Lego Architecture line get their own section. Each also includes interesting information about the design and  many photographs of the complete piece, each from different angles. Footnotes provide additional tidbits about the design process.

You also get photos of the real architectural structure the Lego set was patterned after. There is a side by side comparison of the real thing with the Lego version, and also a history of the building and its chief designer(s).

My son has poured over this book for hours on multiple occasions. He shared, “Mom, this book is really cool. It helps me get an idea for how I want to design my Lego city buildings.”

Sketch Book for the Artist

For my daughter, I selected Sketch Book for the Artist by Sarah Simblet. My daughter has always been interested in art and in recent months has devoted considerable time to improving her drawing skills. She has watched video tutorials on YouTube, taken online illustration classes, and worked diligently in her own sketch books.

She has been delighted with Sketch Book for the Artist. The book shows many of the author’s works and is also beautifully illustrated with inspirational and exemplary works by significant artists from the Reniassance to the current era.

A variety of mediums including pencil (graphite), pen and ink, chalk, etc. are well represented. The reproductions are great and help create new ideas and directions. The author also gives tips as well as suggested exercises for improving your own skills.

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books @EvaVarga.netGetting Started

Passion Projects work well in a public or private school classroom as well. Here, students are asked to complete a mini-research project on the topic of their choice and are given an hour each school day to work on their projects. This hour is sometimes referred to as the Genius Hour. Because the topics are selected by the students, they truly enjoy the research process and presenting their findings.

Getting started is easy. Ask your children or students about the passions they already have:

  • What do you want to know more about or learn how to do?
  • How does that passion inspire you when things are tough?
  • In what ways can your passion inspire others? Who do you want to help?
  • Can you be inspired to learn more about another’s passion?

Encouraging Student Passions with DK Books

Whatever topic your child chooses to pursue, you’ll surely find resources and books from DK Publishing. Whether their interests are related to art, cooking, or super heroes, you’ll surely find something for everyone.

Jumping into National History Day

I love history! My favorite books are all historical fiction. Had I not pursued a degree in science – I likely would have considered a career in history.

History, as a school subject, is often overlooked in the elementary years (with the exception of a few isolated unit studies). As a homeschool mom, I am blessed to be able to immerse my children in a comprehensive and chronological study of history.

When we first started homeschooling, we had the opportunity to volunteer at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon as living history interpreters. It was an amazing experience living and homeschooling in 1880.

In addition to reading about history, initially in the four volume series by Susan Wise Bauer, Story of the World and now in her series for older readers, The History of the Ancient World, we enjoy a variety of research projects, timelines, hands-on activities, and field trips around the world. One of our favorite annual experiences is a living wax museum.

Create a Living History Day @EvaVarga.net

I have written previously about our experiences in Bringing History to Life and the Collision of Art & Literary History. We have had a lot of fun over the years and have learned a great deal not just about the historical characters we have researched, but also about public speaking, goal setting, and historical re-enactments.

In all the years we have been engaged in these long-term history projects, I have had a little whisper in my ear to take it to the next level through participation in National History Day. National History Day began in April 1974 – an idea of history professor David Van Tassel, who was worried about the decline of the humanities in general and history in particular in America’s schools.

Van Tassel was particularly distressed by the boring rote memorization he saw in most history classrooms.  He wanted to reinvigorate the teaching and learning of history.

Today, National History Day contests are taking place in every state. Providing a learning adventure that teaches critical thinking, writing and research skills and boosts performance across all subjects – not just history.

Meet Historical Figures at a Living History Event @EvaVarga.net

Can you identify the important historical figures portrayed here? (Answers revealed at the end of the post)

Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.

The theme provides an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates. It encourages students to use critical thinking skills to dive into historical content and thereby develop perspective and understanding.

We will be participating for in the National History Day contest for the first time this academic year. I’ll be coordinating the contest for the Southern Oregon coast and sharing our progress along the way.

I want to encourage you to join us. The NHD website provides an incredible array of lesson materials and curriculum to help you get started.

 

1. Gudrid Thorbjarnardotter (mother to first Viking child born in the Americas), 2. Ansel Adams, 3. Chief Joseph 4. Irena Sendler 5. Amelia Earhart 5. Mærsk McKinney Møller

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Your Ancestral Heritage

Growing up, I loved listening to my dad tell stories of when he was a child or those of his father and uncles. My favorite stories were those of Uncle Sam. I didn’t get a chance to meet Uncle Sam, but through my father’s words and stories of my ancestors, I was able to connect with him.

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Your Ancestral Heritage @EvaVarga.netUncle Sam was born in 1875 in Norway, the youngest child of Jens Andersen and Aase Gunderson.  According to a family folktale passed down through the years, he so small when he was born that he could apparently fit inside a cigar box.  His family was surprised that he survived.

He came to the United States as a young man of approximately 19 years of age.  He spent a couple years in the Navy before his arrival. Sometime after he retired, he came to live with his nephew (my grandfather) and helped looked after the three boys (my dad and his two older brothers) during their adolescence.

It’s one thing to discover the riches of one’s heritage and culture, and quite another to experience it first-hand through recipes you can make at home, travel adventures with friends and family, language lessons, and more. You’ve found the perfect place to start because here I share a variety of avenues or paths those interested in exploring their own cultural heritage may follow.

BarnesklubbTaste Your Heritage Through Food

My maternal grandparents also shared stories of the homeland. My great grandfather had emigrated from Norway with his parents at the age of four. What I remember most fondly from my maternal grandparents, however, was watching my grandmother in the kitchen as she made:

Mmmm .. I can smell each of these traditional recipes now and my mouth waters.

What traditional foods and dishes is your culture known for? Do some research and find recipes online to try.  Do you have memories of a grandmother or aunt who always made a traditional dish for a holiday gathering? Consider putting together a collection of family recipes handed down through the generations. If you can, include photographs of your loved ones as well as the dishes.

Immerse Yourself in Your Heritage Through Literature

Ethnic literature is the body of written works by people from a distinctive culture, language, or religion. Like historical fiction, it provides us with a glimpse of life in other cultures. It helps to give the reader an idea of the life experiences of others.

Visit your local public library or a university library in your vicinity to research their selection of ethnic literature. What ethnic groups are represented at this library? What materials are available? Look up “Norway” and “Norwegian authors” (for example) in the online directory to see what you find. Talk to your librarian about what areas are expanding in the ethnic literature category.

Other ideas for exploring ethnic literature:

  • Participate in or establish a book club and read books by writers from your ancestral culture or an ethnic group of interest.
  • Keep a reading log of the books you’ve read.
  • Record an oral history (perhaps of an immigrant’s experiences).
  • Watch a film.
  • Read and attend a play.

Unleash Hidden Talents Through Folk Art & Handicrafts

Handicrafts include a wide variety of types of work where useful and decorative objects are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. Folk art refers to art produced from an indigenous culture or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Both often have cultural and/or religious significance.

rosemalingFor example, one of the handicrafts that we have begun to explore is Rosemaling. Rosemaling (meaning “rose painting”) is the name of a form of decorative painting that developed in Norway around the 1700s. The first rosemalers were inspired by artists from continental Europe, but over time developed their own unique styles. Most painters were poor, traveling artisans that would go from farm to farm painting rooms and furniture for comparatively wealthy landowners. Over time, different regions of the country developed their own distinctive styles.

Recreate Through Folk Dance & Music

Defining traditional folk music is a little ambiguous. One meaning often given is that of old songs, with no known composers; another is music that has been transmitted and evolved orally or performed by custom over a long period of time.Traditional folk music also includes most indigenous music. Evolving alongside music, of course, is folk dance.

My kids and I have had a blast learning about Norsk Folk Dance. We learned a few dances on our own – with the help of video tutorials and print resources. When they attended heritage camp this past summer, they learned a few more dances. We make a lot of mistakes but we certainly have A LOT of fun!

folkedans gruppeConnect with Your Ancestors Through Language

Language is often referred to as the soul of a culture. Whether one totally agrees with this or not, it is a fact that the language becomes very important to the preservation of a culture. Norwegian is spoken by a relatively small number of people – a little over 4 million people. When Norwegian immigrants arrived in the United States, the practicality of emphasizing English as the first language began to push Norwegian to the background. Most families thereby lost the ability to speak their ancestral language.

While it may not be possible to become fluent in your ancestral language, learning even a few phrases and perhaps a song or two is a great gift. You can find so many tutorials and videos on YouTube today. Other ideas for exploring your ancestral language:

  • Make contact with a person who is fluent and visit together once a week. Gradually increase your use of your ancestral language.
  • Make a chart of your relatives, going back at least as far as your grandparents. Write a paragraph in your ancestral language describing each person.
  • Interview a native speaker – perhaps a relative or fellow church member.
  • Choose 12 words or expressions also used in English and learn about their background. Write a short essay on each.

grotnesBest of All, If Resources Permit, Travel

Surrounded my Norwegian ancestors, hearing the stories of our ancestral homeland, and enjoying many foods and traditions of Norway, I had dreamed of traveling to Norway ever since I was a child. In May of 2011,  my wish came true.  Even more memorable was that we were able to travel as a family and I was thus able to share my passion with my children.  In an earlier blog series, Discovering Scandinavia, I share some of our experiences connecting with our family in Norway.

Where Can I Find More Resources?

The world is an amazing place. There are more than 6.5 billion people in the world today. Just how many different societies, cultures, and ethnic groups make up the world’s population is not certain. It is thereby not possible for me to cover all of the world’s cultures to direct you to specific resources for your ancestral heritage.

My goal is lead by example and to encourage you to begin a quest of your own. Perhaps one of these Top Pinterest Boards to Explore Cultural Heritage may help you get started.

I also teach a course through the Heritage Institute titled, Discover Your Heritage. This is the perfect opportunity for you to explore your ancestral stories while also earning university credit for your hard work.

This course will help elementary educators to develop an integrated heritage unit for your classroom. The purpose of this course is to promote and to preserve the heritage and culture of one’s ancestry and to celebrate our relationship with other countries.

If you are interested in learning more about Norway, I compiled the posts I have written here, Our Scandinavian Heritage. I have also shared a little of our heritage learning experiences here, Lessons in Heritage and Culture.

genealogy with kidsWhat About Genealogy?

Exploring the family genealogy is a great way for young people to learn about their history and understand the world. Kids love to hear about their own family history. Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history.

Genealogists use a variety of records to obtain information about a family including oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and more. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives like the story of Uncle Sam I shared previously.

ultimateguides2015Hop over to the iHomeschool Network for more Ultimate Guides.