Should I let my child go to an online high school?

He will still get his diploma, but I am hesitant. What are the advantages and disadvantages of online high school?

Written Oct 7, 2016

Why online high school?

Does your child have a particular reason for wanting to go to online high school? Is it because of academic reasons, or bullying, or introversion, etc?

If your child is very motivated to study; has the capability to work on or ahead of schedule; has an interest in a particular area out side of the normal curriculum …

then online school MAY be an appropriate choice.

Observations

There are different types of online school.

For example, our state and local school district each offer online high school. These programs essentially mirror the curricula available in the brick-and-mortar school. They both have teachers who monitor, assess, grade, and are available for advice. They both are accredited and offer high school diplomas. They are both FREE to residents.

There are also online schools available which offer all of the above. However, they charge for tuition.

There are several other online options (such as Khan Academy or Coursera) which can provide an excellent education. Many of these are available free, or for a nominal fee. They are not accredited, and do not offer a high school diploma.

Advantages

These have mostly been mentioned by other authors, and include schedule flexibility, and possibly greater curricular choice. Additionally, consider:

  • better sleep schedule. It is well documented that learning is facilitated when the student is well-rested. Additionally, there is research that teenagers sleep cycles really are optimized for sleeping later.
  • flexibility in scheduling vacations. This depends on the specific schedule of the online school.
  • the ability to do things during the week, when everybody else is locked up in school.
  • ability to pursue unusual hobbies or passions. For example, music, art, sports, etc. Online study can allow your student to practice for hours, or attend performances or competitions, etc.
  • ability to study a particular area in depth.
  • ability to participate in extracurricular activities, such as band, sports, etc. As an online (or even homeschooled) student, you can generally participate in these activities (check with your school for details).

Disadvantages

  • the online high school packages offered by the school district tend to be just as rigorous and time-consuming as regular school. I know some folks who have experienced this. Check to find out if there are others in your area who have done this, and ask them about it.
  • the teachers may not be very responsive. Again, this is what I have heard from others who have done it. Same as above, check with others in your area.
  • if your student is not able to complete the work on time, then this could be a disastrous approach. Think carefully about this one. If you decide to try the online route, have a bailout strategy. You can always send your child back to regular school, ANYTIME. (This may also be a good threat to hang over their head, to keep them on track).
  • To do this effectively may require you to spend time monitoring and assisting to make sure things go well – especially in the beginning.

My opinion

If you select the online option offered by your local school, you are essentially just duplicating the school’s curriculum in your home. I am not convinced that the standard curriculum, and the way it is taught in our schools, is effective. Therefore, I do not see the advantage of duplicating the school in my home.

If your goal is to get into college, be aware that a high school diploma is not necessarily a prerequisite. Check on the admissions criteria of the colleges you are interested in, and tailor your child’s curricula to achieve your goals. If you pay attention to what the colleges are looking for, you may be surprised – and come to the conclusion that there may be better options than the prepackaged online high school curricula.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision is yours. Only you know your child’s personality and learning habits. Carefully research the options, and determine the best method to meet the goals of you and your child.

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