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.

Backpacking with Teens: The benefits exceed physical fitness

The digitalization of today’s modern world has had a massive impact on teens. Children today spend an increasing amount of time on social media and online games, thus ignoring the outdoor aspect which is so important for their physical and emotional development.

My children have been active in Scouting for three years now and we enjoy many outdoor adventures. Today, I am pleased to welcome this guest post sharing the benefits of backpacking with teens.  ~ Eva

The best gift modern parents can gift to their teens is exposing them to a variety of outdoor adventures. Top of the list of these adventures is camping and its extension, backpacking. Backpacking is one of the most creative yet productive ways to prepare a teen for upcoming challenges of adulthood. Backpacking is not just a preparation for adventure but a groundwork for life. When done collaboratively with your teens, backpacking also becomes a time to be cherished.

Parents are the first tutors to their kids. Teen morale gets a boost when they get active. Engaging in activities along side their parents ensures support and encouragement from one another.  Thus, planning and preparing for a backpacking outing is an invaluable way to strengthen the bond between the two.

image of family backpacking in the snow with text Backpacking with Teens @EvaVarga.netBackpacking Builds a Bond

Proper planning is critical for a successful overnight backpacking trip. Involving teens with the preparation provides an opportunity to develop a groundwork for communication and trust. Parents and teens should work together to research the necessary equipment, learn the skills for navigating and tackling unforeseen accidents (first aid, wildlife encounters, etc.), as well as develop a training plan to meet the physical demands. Listed below are aspects which outline how planning and executing a backpacking trip can help develop a stronger relationship with your teen:

Communication: The teenage years are stressful and life-changing. Often, teens tend to tune out or ignore their parents, choosing instead to listen only to their peers. Planning a backpacking outing with your teens can help initiate better communication between parent and adolescent and thereby the development of a stronger bond.

Trust: When preparing for backpacking, there are certain circumstances that will demand both parents and teens work together. Such situations will, in turn, create a sense of responsibility within a teen and positive energy will be released while working together. Planning for the trip is the best time for both parents and teens to build trust with each other.

Perspective: Preparing for an overnight backpacking trip will initiate an understanding between parents and teens. The parents will acquire the ability to identify their teen’s perspective and a blend of creative ideas lead to better preparation.

Concentration: While planning and preparing for backpacking, teens will offer their views and ideas which parents will take into consideration. Such activity enforces relaxation within teens, in turn, relieving stress and spawning better concentration.

Bonds: Often, teenagers do not open up easily and sometimes keep their true feelings hidden away from parents. Through shared backpacking experiences, parents begin to see the strengths of their children and teens see their parents as mentors. This softens the walls they may have built up and encourages teens to be less guarded towards parents and present their views openly.

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Authors Bio

Yogi and Suchna believe in taking the road less travelled and stumbling upon some hidden gems along the way. For over a decade, they’ve mapped their way across various continents, sniffed out unusual routes, discovered new flavours and stayed at quirky hostels. TheBackpackerCo is their expression of soul travel. You can catch up with them at TheBackpackerCo – The Backpack Paris Trip Experts.