Experience with distance learning high schools?

Discussion in 'High School Education via Distance Learning' started by GME, Jul 3, 2005.

  1. GME

    GME New Member

    Hi all,

    My sister is considering home schooling her daughter (just entering 9th grade).

    Anybody had experience with this?

    A quick google search reveals a handfull of high school distance learning programs that claim to be 'accredited'. At first blush, it would seem to be preferable to emerge from home schooling with a diploma from a recognized school (as opposed to ... a GED I guess?).

    From the sites I visited, Keystone National High School appears to have the most compelling website (if that's any way to judge a program!), with attractive course offerings. Keystone claims accreditation via DETC and some other organization and lists scores of colleges and universities that have accepted their graduates.

    Any comments? Experiences? Guidance?

  2. qvatlanta

    qvatlanta New Member

    I don't know much about online high schools, I'd just like to say that there is nothing wrong with graduating through the GED. I did it when I was 16 and never noticed any disadvantage.

    If a young person with a GED is worried about college admissions, the best route to follow would be: 1) pass the GED 2) take some lower level college courses at an easy-entry college and excel in them 3) apply as a transfer student to a more prestigious and selective university.
  3. qvatlanta

    qvatlanta New Member

    And to qualify that, I certainly don't know what the best course in your sister's situation would be... it totally depends on her daughter's maturity level, social needs, intellectual needs, etc. Taking the GED worked for me. When you're that age, I don't think high school prestige (or lack thereof) is really an important consideration. College admissions look at many other factors, such as SAT scores. The most important thing is that her daughter is prepared for college success both intellectually and socially.
  4. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Have you checked out Bears' Guide to Earning High School Diplomas Non-Traditionally?
  5. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Yes... but not from personal experience. Instead, I watched, closely, as a relative did it. It was, at times, the most rewarding thing she ever tackled; and at other times the most frustrating, depressing, disappointing thing she ever tried. Having finished it, her one comment that I notice she makes more than any other, is her fear that the subjects in which she, the mother/teacher was particularly weak, she notices her two home-schooled kids are, today, also weak. Her second lament is that they did not get the socialization via home schooling that she wishes the had gotten. On the upside, they never experimented with drugs; never got into trouble; went on to college... all the good stuff. And they have an excellent relationship with their mother. So there's good and bad. The biggest thing your sister needs to know is that it's just a huge, huge job and commitment. Rewarding, sure... but huge. She needs to be realistic about that.

    Don't be misled by other posters here: A diploma is infinitely better than a GED. Think of GED as a last resort sort of thing -- the type of thing you'd consider only if the kid was already too old to begin at the 9th grade level.

    Another thing: There's a difference between "home schooling," and a distance learning high school program done at home.

    If your sister wants to do traditional home schooling, then she will be the teacher, curriculum developer, guidance counselor, lunch matron, principal, and chief cook and bottle washer, etc., etc. She'll need to hook-up with one of the national home schooling guidance and advocacy agencies out there (many of which tend to be very, very fundamentalist religious, she should know); and she'll need to obtain books and curriculum and training, etc.; as well as guidence from them with regard to complying with state laws.

    A distance learning high school program, on the other hand is a completely self-contained package where your sister would not actually be the teacher. Rather, she'd just be a helper or tutor or cheerleader.

    Personally, I'd prefer the latter... and I can help you/her with that...

    ...but I first want to caution your sister about something very important: Every state has a law that says, in effect, that all children of a certain age group must go to school... it's compulsory. Some states have always allowed home schooling, while some others have fought it (and ultimately lost in the courts so they now allow it... but only grudgingly). In some states, the home schooling has bygod gotta' be bona fide "home schooling" (not to be confused with a distance learning high school program done at home). Some states see them as equivalent, so there's no big deal. But others say, in effect, that unless you're actually home schooling your children (as opposed to just sort of overseeing them in a distance learning high school program), then they must go to a regular school. In other words, some states are willing to recognize and accommodate parents who fully buy-in to the whole home schooling thing, along with whatever benefits of doing so that home schooling advocates profess, and that's fine. But if the parent, on the other hand, is just wanting to keep the kids at home so they can do a distance learning program that wouldn't, therefore, necessarily have all those home schooling benefits, then the state may say, in effect, "Close, but no cigar. Send your kid to a real school or be arrested." Now, some parents argue back to the state that even though their kids are in a distance learning high school program, that's just a curriculum choice; and it's still home schooling in the classic sense because the parent is still "teaching" the coursework just as if it were traditional home schooling curricula; answering questions; monitoring tests, etc., etc. Most states will just shut up and let it go at that point, but some won't. So your sister needs to find out what the law is in her state to make sure she's not gonna' hit a snag. Just a friendly piece of advice.

    It's not.

    If you'll permit me to be so bold (and arrogant), I'd like to tell you the two programs between which your sister should choose; and encourage you to look no further.

    First of all, let's talk about accreditation: If you've been around here awhile, you've read the ongoing arguments about accreditation from national accreditors (like DETC), versus accreditation from any of the six regional accreditors; and you've probably read that regional accreditation has greater utility and acceptability to colleges/universities. While there are few who are greater fans of national accreditation than I, it's a fact that regional accreditation will open more doors and will, just generally, have wider acceptability at the college level.

    But this is even more true at the high school level. Do not let your sister saddle her kid with a nationally-accredited high school diploma. Make sure it's regionally accredited. Period. With a nationally-accredited high school diploma, the child may have trouble just getting into her local, regionally-accredited community college later on. It's just not worth it. While national accreditation is a viable option for college degrees, this 9th grader is still a child who needs her mom to make the best decision on her behalf right now. The child, once she graduates from high school and isn't so much a child anymore, will be free to make her own decision about whether she wants to get a nationally- or regionally-accredited college degree. But don't limit her collegiate options later by getting anything less than a regionally-accredited high school diploma now!

    The other thing to think about is statewide standards and exit testing, later on. It's important that whatever high school program you choose conforms with whatever are your state's exit testing requirements. In California, for example, those standards are getting tougher and tougher (though nowhere near tough enough, by my way of thinking); with certain minimum numbers of required credits in certain subject areas. You'll want to find out what, if any, such standards your state has and make sure that whatever distance learning program you select either complies specifically, or is sufficiently equivalent but just calls it something else.

    Finally, some distance learning high school programs have "college bound" and "non-college bound" tracks (though they may call it something else). It's up to your sister and/or her daughter, of course, but I say that even if her kid not only has no plans to go to to college, but threatens to kill herself if anyone tries to make her, do not slam shut the door of later opportunity by letting her pursue the non-college bound track! In fact, don't even tell the kid there's a non-college bound track! The child will end-up a better, smarter graduate even if she doesn't go on to college; and she'll be better prepared for college if she does. Plus, the college-bound track will probably come much closer to meeting special state requirements (if any).

    My hands-down favorite accredited distance learning high school program is PCDI's James Madison High School (JMHS). It's accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) -- one of the most conservative, and least distance-learning-friendly of the six regional accreditors. So, in order for JMHS to have earned SACS accreditation, it has to be good. It offers both a college-bound (which it calls its its "Academic Diploma") and non-college-bound (which it calls its "General Diploma") track. Moreover, as with its parent company's college courses, JMHS's fees include textbooks, study guides, supplemental workbooks or tapes, and exam sheets. It's a turnkey operation... and costs only about $1,300 for all four years (9th thru 12th grade) (or only $36/mo for three years) -- about one fourth the cost of Keystone. JMHS's site map is probably a good place to begin.

    The second program I recommend is also my decidely second choice: The Education Direct High School Diploma Program. It is accredited by national accreditor DETC which, if that were its only accreditor, might be problematic. But it's also accredited by the Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools -- one of the six regional accreditors. Its tuition is less (around $900), and a payment plan is available. Though I like the program, I'm just not as impressed with its curriculum as I am JMHS's.

    Plus, think about it: From which institution would the kid rather say, down the road, she graduated: The corporate-sounding "Thompson Education Direct," or the more traditional-sounding "James Madison High School"?

    Hope that helps!
  6. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Re: Re: Experience with distance learning high schools?

    Actually, Ted, that's an excellent point. The 15th Edition of Bears Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning devotes about six pages (beginning on page 236) to this subject... and covers it as well as it could possibly ever be covered. It would probably be a worthwhile investment for the thread-starter's sister.
  7. Lawhopes

    Lawhopes New Member


    Oh, fascinating topic. I rarely post here as I have very little knowledge of what everyone is talking about; but in this instance, I can share some personal insights. I was homeschooled myself all the way from third grade through highschool; just graduated two years ago.

    Let me reinforce right off the bat that this is NOT going to be easy for your sister. It takes a LOT of committment, dedication, and perseverance by everyone involved. There will be times when she will feel like throwing herself from the top of her house; yet at other times, she will feel great satisfaction in the amount of material her child is learning, things that she would never be able to learn in a public school.

    Many of the things Des Elms has to say are excellent. Listen to them. Though I would have to disagree with a few points. He makes it sound like you either do everything yourself, or do absolutely nothing at all. This is not true. While both extremes do sadly exist; there IS a happy medium. My mother chose a video course that allowed me real lectures, real textbooks, and even access to a real teacher should I ever have a question. While she did not teach the material (and most parents should not teach their children in the sense of traditional school lectures), she did the organizing and the grading. We were able to pick and choose the courses we wanted to take. Each subject was complete in and of itself. FYI, we used the ABeka curriculum, inherently religious, but their 8th grade science textbook passed me through the General Sciences CLEP in the 89 percentile. That's flat good. There is a slew of options out there. Many homeschoolers I know like the Bob Jones math course, the Switched-On Schoolhouse English course, etc. It is whatever works for you; that's the beauty of homeschooling.

    Also, I would have to disagree about accreditation. My "diploma" is totally home-issued, yet I have NEVER had a problem. True, it really does depend on how your state works, what state does your sister live in? Here in California, a home-school works one of two ways- you either send in an application and become a private school yourself, or you enroll as a student in a private school's distance-learning option. We did both. Most states, however, do not work this way. MAKE SURE YOUR SISTER UNDERSTANDS THE LAWS OF THE STATE...whether she has to have "evaluations" by the local school board, what grades have required testing and whether that testing extends to home-educated students or not. An excellent resource for material, and a group I would strongly encourage your sister to join, is the Home School Legal Defense Association, www.hslda.org. Even if she does not join, there is a lengthy section for each state's rules and regs; make sure she reads them thoroughly. There is nothing a local school board likes better than roughing-up and intimidating home-schoolers.

    That said, if your sister goes through with it, both she and her child will be enormously rewarded upon graduation. The daughter will come out knowing so much more about the subjects that interest her than she will ever learn in public school. Please relay my congratulations on your sister for her leap into the unknown and feared realm of the constitutional right to direct the education of her child. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions about my experiences.

  8. suelaine

    suelaine Member


    I homeschooled my son through 10th and 11th grade in one year last year! We also used mostly the A Beka DVDs! I learned a lot about homeschooling and even Stanford has accepted homeschooled students WITHOUT an accredited diploma. In fact, of the elite schools, Stanford has taken a bit of a stand on being supportive of accepting well-qualified homeschooled students.

    Yes, in some states, parents can print out the diploma and it is legal in that State and some colleges accept it. PA has stricter laws. My friend in New York State is homeschooling her triplet sons. The laws are different there, but PA has its own fully accredited homeschool diploma plan. (You have to have your curriculum approved and you have a certified evaluator look over samples of what the child has done and interview the child at the end of each school year). Colleges have different criteria for acceptance and there are some that would probably insist on a GED to go along with an unaccredited diploma, but this should not be a problem to get if the person actually did get a decent education at home. Many colleges will accept students with no diploma at all for a course or two. If you do well in them, you will mostly likely get accepted on a full time basis. Once you get into college, nobody cares that you had a GED or other type of high school diploma. My oldest daughter's husband was homeschooled in the South. He may have also gotten a GED; I'm not sure. Anyway, he went on to college, majored in math and computer science and he is going to graduate with a Master's degree in Computer science from Virginia Tech in December. You can also get in the military with an unaccredited homeschool diploma. My step-daughter's husband did just that. I have been in contact with homeschool groups and participated in homeschool boards across the country. The accreditation issue can not be compared to college accreditation. If a student has been homeschooled, many colleges will all but ignore the GPA since they know this could be quite biased so they will look more at SAT scores and possibly other entrance tests.

    If you are doing a distance learning high school, it is to your benefit to find one that is accredited, not because it is needed for college entrance, but for your own assurrance that it is a good program.

    In PA, everyone is allowed to attend a cyber charter school free of charge instead of attending their local public school. Of course this is accredited and the students have teachers that are not parents. I know many people who are doing that as well. We "networked" with many homeschoolers over the past year and my son had a MUCH better social life than he had in school. My son is a classic gifted under-achiever. I was so frustrated with his performance in 9th grade along with the fact he was bullied at school and even punched in the face the last week of 9th grade, that is what led to our decision to homeschool. When asked why, the kid who punched him said, "Because I have been wanting to do that for a long time!" They didn't even know each other's names, but the other kid knew my son was a bully target and I guess that was enough for him! Anyway, I am busy myself so I picked a program where my intelligent but unnmotivated son could figure out what he was supposed to do himself, and all I had to to was oversee it a bit, do some grading, and make sure he stayed on track. We are sending him to a boarding school where he will have small classes (12-15) for his senior year only because he wants to go there. I am willing to homeschool again if he wants to. Many many colleges will not care whether the K-12 schooling was accredited, but they will check to make sure the student has a chance for success by asking for entrance exams, SAT scores, application essay, things like that.
  9. tcnixon

    tcnixon Active Member

    Re: Re: Re: Experience with distance learning high schools?

    Since that is the one and only chapter I wrote in that book, I thank you.

    I should mention that I am the author of Bears' Guide to Earning High School Diplomas Nontraditionally (Ten Speed Press, 2003) that goes into great depth on this and other related topics.

    Tom Nixon
  10. tcnixon

    tcnixon Active Member

    Re: Re: Experience with distance learning high schools?

    Just to clarify, Keystone National High School has both DETC and regional accreditation.

    Tom Nixon
  11. Casey

    Casey New Member

    Re: Re: Experience with distance learning high schools?

    Actually, Education Direct graduates get their high school diplomas from Thomson High School, formerly known as Newport Pacific High School.

    In my view, Education Direct programs are better than PCDI programs. Education Direct is a better bargain, and they do more to increase diploma/degree utility for their graduates.

    Both high schools are regionally and nationally accredited, but only Education Direct's college level courses have been ACE reviewed. Likewise, to the best of my knowledge, only Education Direct's entire college program (Center for Degree Studies) is a candidate for regional accreditation. This says something about the parent companies.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 6, 2005
  12. GME

    GME New Member

    Thanks to all of you for your very helpful responses.

  13. silvertoday

    silvertoday New Member

    Just my two cents. My step-son enrolled in University of Missouri High School for a few classes. Considering the abysmal level of the US educational system at the high school level, and the inexpensive level of many community colleges, this seemed a good way for him to take classes in subjects not offered at his high school, and perhaps graduate early. We have been satisfied with the classes. In fact he is in a private school and we are considering him taking advanced placement classes the upcoming year, graduate early and knock out some college credits early.
    I agree with the posters forget a GED, it is always looked down upon in my experience- though frankly if one gets a bachelor degree who on earth puts their high school diploma on a resume if they have a bachelor's degree, so on that basis maybe ok.
    Of couse there is the "minor" issue of what the student actually learns. Since US high schools rank last I looked at lower than 25th place worldwide , my advice is get the piece of paper, but also have student supplement with lots of selected reading and advancement in different subjects on whatever AP classes they can take as well.
  14. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    Actually, a lot prestigious schools don't take transfer students so I would never recommend this approach if other avenues are available.
  15. Sauron

    Sauron New Member

    Some community colleges such as the Northern Virginia Community College system (NVCC) have articulating agreements with schools such as University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and George Washington University which allows you to do just this. Its definitely an avenue to explore.

    Guaranteed Admissions :: Northern Virginia Community College
  16. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    I doubt the OP is still around (2005?) but the laws in MOST states have changed for the better since then. In most states, a homeschool is a legal private school. So, earning a GED is still earning a GED, there is no advantage. In addition, most states cap required attendance at age 17, so a child of that age can simply be issued a homeschool diploma by the parents. (note that many states have requirements that are in place to prevent drop outs from just getting a "homeschool diploma" so check your state's laws). If the student graduates from homeschool, they DO have a legit diploma. Nothing else is required to be a high school graduate. That's not to say that colleges can not require additional steps toward meeting entrance requirements, that's still legal in most states, but that's not really the question.

    You can check your state's laws at HSLDA. HSLDA | Home Schooling
  17. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    As we begin to approach the beginning of the new school year I've notice a series of commercials on TV for this organization

    K12 | Online Public School, Online High School, Online Private School, Homeschooling, and Online Courses options

    I know nothing about them or the quality of their product but I thought I'd throw it out there for your information and possible discussion.
  18. Jonathan Whatley

    Jonathan Whatley Well-Known Member

    Oh! They came up in the thread about the possibility of becoming an entirely-online K-1 teacher. NMTTD's daughter is doing well with homeschooling, plus online classes administered by K12 Inc. On the other hand, I came across some prominent criticisms of the company.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2013
  19. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Thanks Jonathan. I'm a little surprised that we don't get more inquiries about DL High School.
  20. msganti

    msganti Active Member

    When I was in Seattle, I went with Tom Nixon's advice and chose Tuition-Free Online High School | Insight School of Washington for my daughter. It's simply a superb school. It's not only tuition-free - they even provided her with a laptop!!! Their quality of teaching was excellent, and the student support was amazing.

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