The Homeschool Minute ~ What Electives are Essential?

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What Electives are Essential?
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Gena SuarezHey, Mama,


What are the best electives? It depends. When our family chooses electives for our kids, we look at their gifts and interests. What will they need to know for a planned career? Do they have hobbies or interests they would like to pursue? Do they want to go to a foreign country and need to know a foreign language?


Here’s some advice from one of our magazine writers:

Choosing the Best Electives” – Jan Burt


And Mama, here’s something to remember if you’re struggling with electives, homeschooling, or just life …
How come you keep muttering under your breath again? What’s “Epic Mama Fail” you have been whispering? Perish the thought. Get rid of it.

Yeah, we all blow it. There are days we act really dumb, and times we wish we could rewind the clock backwards (20 years?). Kicking ourselves when we’re already down isn’t the answer, though.

Do you kick your two-year-old when he falls down? Do you hammer down your eight-year-old when she makes a mistake? Do you hate your teen when he blows it?

How come you treat your own failures worse than you would a dog?

Daughter of the King: Stop forgetting who you are in Christ. No, you are not perfect. No, you don’t cross every T or meticulously dot every I. But you are His. And He has called you to this great task of loving and caring for your beautiful family. So take joy in that, Mama.

Your kids are watching, btw. Surely you want them to carry on happily when they mess up as grown ups, right? Or should we teach them by example that really they should kick themselves at every small failure? They should tear themselves up and mutter, “Epic Mama fail” every day.

No. We would never hope for such a thing. We would hope they could go a little easier on themselves than that.

You too, Beautiful Mama. You have value, too.


~ gena

Psychology is one of the first classes students take in college. Prepare them before they go. Homeschool Psych: Preparing Christian Homeschool Students for Psychology 101, by Dr. Tim Rice, helps students apply a biblical Christian worldview to the study of God’s grandest creation – the human mind. Online classes available.

Relational Homeschooling    
Diana Waring

Dear Friends,


To talk about electives, considering what is and what isn’t essential, I’d like to start with a story.


My husband is a most accommodating eater. He has eaten nearly everything I’ve set before him for the past thirty-five years, good and bad, perfectly cooked to nearly burned.  He has eaten these things without complaint and with some level of gratitude … EXCEPT for one of the most nutritional vegetables on the planet–broccoli. That is the exception that proves the rule. Whenever I have put broccoli on the plate, whether as a creamy cheese soup, a succulent stir-fry, or a gorgeously steamed green, he has been as obstinate as a mule in his refusal to eat it. I’ve always thought it was a bit petty to not eat a vegetable that was SO good for you … until I read an article which said that genetics cause some people to have a much stronger reaction to bitter tastes than the average person. And that is why some people hate broccoli. It’s not a matter of preference or pettiness, it’s how much “bitter taste receptor” their genes produce in the taste buds.


Oh. I wish I had known that.


The same thing is true of learning. What one student finds absolutely riveting, another student may find boring. When one person loves mountain bike maintenance, another may delight in oil painting, while yet another loves to craft historic costumes–all in the same family!  So which of these is “essential”?  Obviously, the answer depends on the individual.

When my kids were little, we decided that they each needed to have piano lessons. My husband had been a music teacher, I was a folk singer/songwriter, and music was an integral part of our everyday life. So, what could be more natural, more valuable, than piano lessons? And, for two of my children, it was a match made in heaven. For the third, however, it was a time of increasing frustration and struggle. This extremely kinesthetic kid was not enjoying either lessons or practice, regardless of how much I tried to make it palatable. So, we finally asked him what instrument he would like to play (which would have been a good idea in the first place!). His answer? Bass guitar.

Oh. I wish I had known that.

Now, if I were to open the lens of the camera a bit wider, you would notice something interesting. This bass guitar playing kid, who had not thrived with piano lessons, turned out to be an extraordinary ballet dancer (!), an incredible oil painter, and a blow-your-socks-off chef. He held his own in four-part harmony a cappella singing, loved to play basketball, and had a blistering recall of obscure geographical locations.

So, when we consider which electives to set before our kids, I would suggest that you pay attention to their unique giftings and interests. As parents, it’s our job to open doors and, at the same time, not force our kids through them. For more on this concept, here’s my article, Of Cormorants, Cats and Kids.


Remember, stay relational!




P.S. Check out my new Teaching Tips series: Teaching Tip #1: You are ALL Smart! and Teaching Tip #2: The Introduction.


The Familyman 
My wife is a subscriber to HGTV magazine. Off the record, and just between you and me, I like reading it. I like bold ideas by bold people. Maybe that’s why I like some of the extreme cooking shows when out-of-the-box chefs get to show off their abilities and creations.

In the HGTV magazine there are several reoccurring columns. One of them that really gets under my skin (and I can barely bring myself to read) is called, “How Bad Is It?” They pose three or four questions like, “How bad is it to feed your pet table scraps,” “How bad is it to let your kids eat food that’s fallen on the floor,” or “How bad is it to put your dry clean only clothes in the washing machine?” Then they provide the answer and label it as either not bad at all, sort of bad, or REALLY bad!
I sometimes say under my breath “Are you kidding me?” I want to write them and say, “What you’ve chosen as super bad hardly even matters. Cancer is super duper bad, dads who are driven workaholics are really bad, but letting your child eat a chip that’s been sitting on the floor for a week? Who cares?”
My point is this as it relates to what electives are essential. YOU determine what is essential. And if it’s essential, then it shouldn’t be an elective (something you choose that is not required).
So, if you think it’s essential to teach your children good manners, how to pay bills and balance a checkbook, or how to be a good parent, then make those electives a priority.
And if you think some of the essentials like sentence diagramming, cursive handwriting, or advanced calculus are non-essential, then don’t teach them and don’t feel guilty.
The thing is, my very busy, homeschooling mom friend, you can’t do everything, so focus on the ESSENTIALS. The essentials that YOU have deemed essential.
Be real,

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Gena Suarez


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