Homeschooling high school is about a lot more than academics. While extracurricular involvement for homeschoolers doesn’t always look the same as it does for traditional high school students, extracurricular matter a great deal. Activities help students develop their talents and find community. Some parents worry that extracurricular activities will add to the cost of homeschooling high school. While it is possible to spend a great deal of money to support a student’s athletic or arts training, parents should also know there are a number of excellent free and low cost extracurricular options.
Extracurricular Activities Matter
While math, English, foreign language, social science and science are the foundation of core academics during the high school years, extracurriculars are for many the more important part of growing up. Extracurriculars help teens feel capable about themselves and provide a positive path to adult independence. College admissions and scholarships committees hope to see applicants who are doing more than spending time at home on screens. They respect students who have stretched themselves and developed connections with other people in their communities. Students don’t need to have a huge, well-rounded list of activities. It is fine to specialize and develop depth in an area of special interest. The key is that this interest be one where the student develops important character traits such as being able to work cooperatively with other people, stick with a task even when the going gets tough, and develop compassion toward others.
Great Activities for Homeschool High School Students
While 4-H may have traditionally been just for rural or farm kids, in many areas the programs offered by 4-H have expanded greatly. Traditional agriculture activities can include livestock raising and handling and plant science and food preservation. Teen activities may also include environmental conservation, dog showing, public speaking, shooting sports, leadership development, and community service. 4-H offerings vary widely by location so check what is available in your area.
Students are advised to look beyond activities that are for teens only. Many communities have organizations where like-minded people of all ages come together to develop their interests and learn new skills. Some examples include chess clubs, community theater, birdwatching, folk dancing, and skywatching/astronomy clubs. These organizations may be a wonderful way to get to know adults who are positive role models.
Civil Air Patrol
The auxiliary of the United States Air Force offers teens ages 12-19 the opportunity to participate in aviation related activities. Teens commit to participate as cadets spending a couple of hours a week and additional time during the summer participating in leadership development, fitness, and career exploration. Civil Air Patrol is a popular activity for homeschool students and can be a great option for a low cost extracurricular activity.
It is hard to come up with a better activity for teens than volunteering. Volunteering helps students grow a greater sense of compassion and self esteem. Volunteering can help students develop lifeskills and explore potential career interests. Community service can also be a effective way to build contacts in the community and to be better prepared for college admissions and scholarships.
Entrepreneurial homeschool teens may find high school the ideal time to start a small business. Popular options include petsitting, babysitting, lawn mowing, jewelry making, tutoring or music lessons, website design, and computer repair. Running a business helps teens learn responsibility, basic bookkeeping, marketing, and social skills.
Working with Mentors
Mentoring allows students to work one on one with community volunteers who help them develop a special interests. Mentorships can be helpful for career exploration and mentors may serve as a source of college recommendations.
Certifications and Awards
Teens work best when they have very specific goals. One option is to identify certificates or awards students could strive to achieve. There are a wide variety of options for students with specialized interests. Here are a few examples:
Master Gardener: Offered through county extension or university offices, Master Gardeners participate in training to develop a strong knowledge base about growing vegetables and flowers. They then volunteer to lead programs in the community to educate others. This is a great example of how your teen can take a personal interest they develop at home and use it to build connections in their community.
Lifeguard: Experienced swimmers may wish to contact the Red Cross to be trained as a lifeguard. In some areas this can be a helpful skill for finding a summer job.
Computer Training: There are a wide variety of certifications available for students with abilities in the area of information technology. Certifications are available for Microsoft users, iPhone app developers, web designers, etc. Some training and exams can be expensive but others allow students to self-study.
Congressional Medal: The Congressional Medal Award encourages teens set personal goals in four areas – volunteer public service, personal development, physical fitness, expedition and exploration. There are several levels of awards for students depending on their goals and their level of time commitment. Students who really enjoy having a concrete goal with clear steps to get there may be motivated by participating in this process. This can be listed as an award on college applications and is open to homeschool students.