The quality of a student’s education is based on a few things including the curriculum and teachers providing the instruction. Some parents are looking for a specific type of curriculum that aligns with their world view perspective such as a Christian online homeschool program. Others are more interested in looking for a program that offers a college prep track, Honors and even possibly dual enrollment with an established university or college. When researching the various websites, look at the curriculum options and their purpose statement that outlines their approach to education and student learning.
Another important consideration is whether the program is an accredited home school program. Accreditation is a critical feature for the upper grades where credits and transcripts are used to apply to college. If the school is not accredited, then the transcript can be challenged because there is nothing to measure the standards of the classes the student took. Most programs display their accreditation on the website and may possibly have several through different organizations depending on their location and affiliation. If this information is not visibly displayed, then you can check with the Admissions staff to ask the question but without accreditation it is best to remove that program from the list of options even if it checks the other boxes.
Homeschooling from about 3rd grade and up is primarily accomplished through a student online portal that is connected to the online programs learning management system and used to do assignments, review study material, check grades and a variety of other tasks. The student’s user experience with this portal can affect the success or failure of their education because it is difficult to learn and focus on the information if it repeatedly shuts down, is very slow, difficult to navigate or the screen display is too busy, etc. After narrowing down the platform options, ask to go through a demo that represents the grade or classification (i.e. middle or high school) your student is in. This should contain a lesson in a core subject so that both the student and parent can see how simple it is to walk-through the material, answer questions, monitor progress and check the daily planner to see what needs to be done. Let the student do it on their own since they will be responsible for the day-to-day interaction and see what comments and questions they come up with. Training and brief instruction should be able to resolve the issues otherwise, move on to a different demo because the issues you see in a brief lesson will only expound with an entire load of classes. Frustrated students are less likely to be motivated to sign in to do the work and this puts them behind and undercuts the goal of homeschool education.
The program that meets all the above expectations is most likely what the parent will choose but there are still other factors to weigh such as cost of tuition, financial aid options and teacher support. The best accredited home school system should also have connections to other tools and resources to help students with research, online tutoring sessions and practice aids that support the information they are learning.
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