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.

A Whole Lotta Shakespeare Goin’ On: A Passport to His Entire Canon

Summer is fast approaching and with it, productions of Shakespeare are popping up all over the country, many of which are staged in local parks. I love Shakespeare!  While I never got to study it in school, I have delighted in discovering his wit and charm alongside my children.

shakespeare canon passportSoon after we first started homeschooling, I made it a goal to see at least one play each year.  The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, widely recognized as one of the best theater festivals in the world, has always been only a couple of hours from where we live. Thus far, we have not been far off that goal.

2006 A Winter’s Tale *

2007 Romeo & Juliet *

2008 Othello *

2009 MacBeth *

2010 Twelfth Night

A Midsummer Nights Dream 2011 (Drake Park, Bend, Oregon)

 2012 Romeo & Juliet

2015 Much Ado About Nothing

2016 Shakespeare in the Park (select scenes from four plays at Shore Acres State Park, Oregon)

* The kids didn’t start attending until 2010 when our youngest was six years old, the minimum age required for admittance.

 

shakespeare canon passportShakespeare Canon Passport

With each production I have seen, I am more devoted to eventually seeing Shakespeare’s entire canon. To commemorate this feat, I have created a passport in which I can document a little anecdote from each play I’ve attended.

I printed the title page onto colored cardstock and the remaining pages on standard paper. I just love how it all came together and I know you will too. There is room to note when / where you saw the production as well as for a favorite quote from the play. It is available for purchase in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

If you are interested in learning how to incorporate Shakespeare into your curriculum, consider an earlier post, Much Ado About Shakespeare, where I outline a step-by-step plan to teaching Shakespeare to middle school students.

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 Collision of Art & Literary History

My children and I love historical reenactments and living history. Not only does it literally bring history to life – it captures our emotions and connects us to the stories of individuals who have made a difference in the lives of others.

In my post last week, Traveling Through Time, I shared with you a little snippet of our experience at a recent Civil War reenactment. Living history volunteers worked together to recreate aspects of a Civil War, sharing with us tales of battles, living conditions, and hardships they faced. We loved singing songs from the era and learning about their pastimes.

Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time.

livinghistory

Pictured here are my children dressed as Snowshoe Thompson and Marie Curie and their friends dressed as Anne Sullivan and Ole Kirk Christiansen in 2013.

Each year, I coordinate a living history day for our local homeschool community.  The event is always a highlight of our homeschool year and we look forward to “talking with the historical people we meet”.

Living history is an art form whereby performers connect art and literary history.

In my post, Bringing History to Life, I share a video of the presentations my children did as Irena Sendler and Arnold Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller earlier this year. Sadly, the video I captured of their presentations the preceding year was very poor so I am unable to share that presentation with you.

My kids have just begun to think about the characters they wish to research for their presentation in 2015. I won’t reveal just yet who they have selected, but I will give you a hint. 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the man who rediscovered the lost art of the guara, a kind of aboriginal center-board used by the indians of Peru and Ecuador for navigation.

I encourage you to consider hosting a living history event of your own. In my post, Bringing History to Life, I share guidelines and tips for success.

If you have taken part in living history performances or have enjoyed local reenactments, I would love to hear about it. Share your story in the comments! 🙂

 

 

The Magic of Willy Wonka Jr

My son has always been very animated. He loves play-acting his favorite scenes from movies – particularly live action, adventure films like Indiana Jones. Upon watching Broon perform at a local Renaissance Faire last year, he found Broon’s show on YouTube and proceeded to watch it over and over again until he had memorized his lines and could recreate the show himself – with whip props and all.

He also loves to play the piano whenever he has an audience and after each recital, will play additional songs from his repertoire as the other students and guests visit with one another.  Seeing his enthusiasm, I knew I had to find a performing arts class or drama production.

In the winter, I read about auditions for a local production of Willy Wonka Jr.  I knew that a creative outlet like this would be the perfect experience for both kids. I signed them up and let anticipation build.

Days before the audition, my little man began to doubt himself. He was nervous and he stated that he didn’t want to audition.  He didn’t want to participate. I held strong to my conviction that he would enjoy the experience.  “Just give it a try.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do another one.  I think you will really like it though, Sweatheart. Don’t give up before you even start.”

willywonka

On the day of auditions, the kids came prepared to read lines and sing a song.  Upon arrival, we learned there were fewer kids than there were parts so they were not requiring lines to be read.  The only requirement was a song, to give the directors a little peak into their personalities.

My daughter chose to sing The Star Spangled Banner and my son sang 新年好 (XīnNiánHǎoHappy New Year).  She was her usual demure, quiet young lady.  He the giggly, boisterous boy. I wasn’t surprised when she was cast at Mrs. Beauregard (Violet’s mother) and he, as Mike Teavee.

On the first day of rehearsals (we began twice weekly rehearsals in early January with the performances slated for the first weekend in April), the directors talked briefly about all that they could expect during the next few months.  She even listed off all the life skills they would develop as a result of their experience in theater.

The Benefits of Theater Experiences

  • Creativity
  • Confidence
  • Problem Solving
  • Perseverance
  • Focus
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Dedication
  • Accountability
  • Receiving Constructive Criticism

They made friends with the other cast members, developed professional relationships with the directors, and discovered a passion for theater. They are already asking about the next stage opportunity.  As we are not connected to a charter school, this is a little harder than it seems.

Due to the contract agreement, I am unable to share a video of their performance.  It was an incredible experience, however, and the kids continue to share their humorous tales of backstage antics.  I know we will be singing Willy Wonka Jr songs for many months, if not years, to come.

Bringing History to Life: Living History Presentations

I have always been fascinated by history and have enjoyed interacting with volunteers at reenactments across the country – in Boston, Williamsburg, and closer to home at the Lewis & Clark National Historic Park in Astoria.  When we first started homeschooling, we even volunteered at the High Desert Museum as living history interpreters. I was delighted to have the opportunity to volunteer with my children in historical costume.

Living Museum

Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time.  A year ago, I initiated a Living History / Wax Museum day for our local homeschool community.  Coordinating the event is easy – I simply posted a notice (with the guidelines described below) and reserved a room at the library for the day of the presentations.

Guidelines for Coordinating a Living History Museum

  • Participants in the Living Wax Museum were instructed to choose a famous historical person to research, prepare a research poster display, and develop a 2-3 minute speech (in first-person) that summarizes the life of the famous historical person.
  • The selected historical person must be someone who has done something significant in history, or has made a positive contribution to society.  The famous person can be someone who is still alive.
  • Participants create a costume, dress as the chosen person, and then assume the identity of the historical figure.
  • Participants dress in costume to portray their subject.  This costume should accurately convey information about the subject and the time period in which they lived.
  • Participants should create a display or backdrop of at least 22” x 28”.  The famous person’s name must be prominently displayed in large letters.  A minimum of 4 photographs should be included.  A timeline, map, and notable quotes are also highly suggested.  
  • Participants need NOT memorize their speech but are encouraged to do so.  The use of note cards is permitted.

The number of students who have taken part varies each year and many come only to observe the presentations.  Either way, it is a wonderful afternoon – providing the participants with experiences in research, writing, public speaking, and costume design.  Audience members are introduced to historical persons and time periods in a fun and innovative way.

In 2013, my daughter selected Marie Curie, a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity.  This year, she chose Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse/social worker who served in the Polish Underground during World War II, and as head of children’s section of Żegota, an underground resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw.

Last year, my son brought Snowshoe Thompson to life, the Norwegian-American immigrant and early resident of the Sierra Nevada region. He is considered the father of California skiing. This year, he introduced us to Arnold Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the late Danish shipping magnate.


If you interested in learning more about our living history experiences, I encourage you to check out Homeschooling in 1880