Best Online Private Middle Schools

The best online school for your family is a question of priorities: More support or lower tuition costs? Traditional or project-based academics? Asynchronous or lots of interaction? We break it down in this post.

Emily Veno
October 4, 2023

“Online school” has a bad reputation due to the emergency rollout of virtual learning during the COVID pandemic. However, for some families, the pandemic provided a window into the possibilities of learning from home.

Edutopia wrote an article called “Why Are Some Kids Thriving During Remote Learning?” where teachers describe how virtual learning helped students avoid distractions, customize learning to their interests, and reduce anxiety levels. English teacher Ashlee Tripp said kids do well in this environment because “they enjoy the freedom to work at their own pace and decide how they want their day to look.”

So now, three years after the onset of the pandemic, where are those kids who discovered they thrive in online learning? Getting a quality education from home has gotten easier since then with a boom of online curriculum, programs, and schools.

Maybe you’re considering pulling your child out of school for the first time. If so, we recommend checking out our guide to the difference between homeschooling and online school to help you decide which approach to at-home learning makes sense for your family.

Or, maybe your child is currently enrolled in an online school and the experience isn’t engaging and motivating them. If so, read on!

Of course, we at Prisma believe we’ve created the world’s most engaging online school—and we have the data to back it up. When we survey our hundreds of parents, 98% say their child is happier at Prisma than their last school, 100% say they are happy with their child’s teacher, and 96% say they are confident our curriculum is preparing their child for the future. Or, in the words of one of our five-star Niche reviews:

“Our son has thrived at Prisma in a way he never has at other schools. Beyond academics he is developing leadership skills, time management, independent thinking and collaborative problem solving. Since starting Prisma our son has come to the dinner table excited to share what he is working on. The staff care about the kids and get to know them. We have been impressed with how attentive they have been to the learners.”

Why choose a private online school?

Searching for an online school is similar to searching for an in-person school in some respects. Of course, your most obvious enrollment option is the free public school down the street, and for many families, this option is the best one.

But like the in-person public school in your school district isn’t the best fit for everyone, free online public schools aren’t either. Just like families may seek out in-person private schools for offerings public schools don’t provide (cutting-edge curriculum, advanced academics, increased support, or extracurriculars), families who enroll in virtual private schools are looking for something different.

Some people assume since virtual schools don’t pay for facilities, tuition will be cheaper than brick and mortar schools. However, the most expensive component of any school model by far is staff! In general, the higher a program’s cost, the more educator support you should expect your child to receive. It’s important to ask any private school for their teacher:student ratio (ours is 1:14) and how often teachers support students individually (at Prisma, learners regularly meet 1:1 with their learning coach, and receive daily feedback & live instruction).

Online public or charter schools are funded by the government, so they theoretically should offer the same level of teacher support as in-person public school. In reality, most online public schools have a teacher:student ratio more than double than in-person school. Many ask parents to take on the “learning coach” role—which, for little or no tuition cost, is a fair option.

And if an online learning provider has a very low cost, you are likely paying for self-paced courses with little, if any, staff interaction with your child. This approach can work for families who need a flexible schedule or who only want to do online classes temporarily or part-time.

How do families pay for online private school?

Like in-person private schools, actual tuition costs don’t always match the sticker price. Many online private schools, like Prisma, offer need-based scholarships. In America, we’re currently experiencing a boom in school choice legislation allowing families to spend government funds on education costs, usually in the form of ESAs or vouchers. You can read more about options in your state here.

Best Virtual Middle Schools

Here’s a starting list of the best online private middle schools. These schools vary in their approach, structure, and costs, but all are reputable. Which school is right for your family depends on your budget and your learner’s unique needs!


Prisma is the world's most engaging online middle school. Our program offers a comprehensive, full-time, accredited alternative for families who feel constrained or let down by traditional in-person education. What sets Prisma apart is our personalized, project based curriculum; all-star learning coaches (we receive 500 applicants for any one coach we hire); and uncommonly friendly learner social community.

  1. Grade Levels Served: 4-8th graders in our Middle School program; 9-12th graders in our High School program
  2. Approach: We believe learning should be “hard fun,” hands-on, real-world, personalized, and driven by intrinsic motivation. At Prisma, all academic subjects are covered through rigorous interdisciplinary themes kids love like Food Lab, Unsolved Mysteries, and Wild Inventions. We use a mastery-based system where kids earn badges on their accredited transcript for demonstrating their skills in everything from Essay Writing to Entrepreneurship to Chemistry.
  3. Support: Each learner is matched with a cohort of peers and a learning coach who meets with them regularly, provides feedback on their work, and facilitates daily interactive lessons. We also offer our Parent-Coach program for experienced homeschool parents or educators who want to continue taking a leading role in their child's education, for a lower cost than our regular tuition.
  4. Tuition: $9,750 (Middle School); $10,750 (High School); and $4,800 (Parent-coach).  

Avenues Online

Avenues Online is the virtual campus of Avenues: The World School, one of the most prestigious international private schools in the world. In their Upper Division program, “Avenues students from around the world explore complex topics connected to global issues and practice skills to become changemakers for the future.”

  1. Grade Levels Served: 6-12 in the Upper Division program (lower grades also offered)
  2. Approach: Avenues is an elite private school preparing learners for admission to selective high schools and colleges. Their curriculum aims to cover the Avenues Elements (including topics from Classic Works to Algorithms) and learners experience the interdisciplinary course called Great Works — team-taught by two faculty members, one specializing in the sciences and the other in the humanities.
  3. Support: In addition to daily live lessons, each Avenues learner is assigned a mentor called a “Dean” who supports them individually and assists with college admissions in the high school years. They also meet with a “crew” of peers regularly to build social connections.
  4. Tuition: Avenues offers income-based tuition rates ranging from $7,500-$37,400 annually.
  5. Good Fit For: Families who travel for work frequently and would like access to Avenues’ in-person campuses; those who can afford elite private school tuition

Pearson Online

Pearson, of textbook industry fame, has an accredited online school! This program has existed longer than other options springing up in the wave of innovative online schools during the pandemic, which makes it trustworthy in the eyes of many.

  1. Grade Levels Served: Pearson Online serves Grades K-12.
  2. Approach: A standard curriculum, with coursework separated out by subject and a similar learning design to what you’d find in traditional school. Think multiple choice modules, online video lessons, and digital textbooks, natch. There is some customization to the schedule available, and the program is large enough to offer electives and extracurriculars.
  3. Support: Although learners have specialized teachers for each subject and a “homeroom” teacher who handles logistics, parents are expected to take on the role of “learning coach” and support their learner for roughly 5 hours per day.
  4. Tuition: $6,600 for the Middle School program
  5. Good Fit For: Families who want an accredited, standards-driven learning experience like traditional school, but online; Parents who have the time and interest to support their child daily as a learning coach

Laurel Springs School

Laurel Springs, one of the largest and most popular online schools, prioritizes online education’s ability to offer a more flexible experience than traditional schooling. In their middle school program, they focus on “building personal scholarship and self-esteem during this transformative time.”

  1. Grade Levels Served: K-12
  2. Approach: Flexibility is king at Laurel Springs, and families build their own schedule, combining core courses and extracurriculars. Curriculum is asynchronous and self-paced, which may be worth it if your child needs a flexible schedule and gets interaction and collaboration elsewhere. The curriculum is “focused on knowledge acquisition” and will cover state standards through independent courses learners select.
  3. Support: Laurel Springs has counselors, teachers, and tutors available on staff, even if they aren’t leading daily live classes or meeting individually with learners regularly. Like Pearson Online, parents must be available to keep their learner on track each day.
  4. Tuition: $7,300 for the middle-school program
  5. Good Fit For: Athletes, performers, or other learners who have a schedule making traditional in-person school a challenge; Families who want a good amount of control of their child’s daily learning experience

Stanford Online

One reason many families seek out online learning is because their gifted child wants to learn at an accelerated pace. Where better than on a virtual campus associated with one of the best universities in the world? Stanford Online High School is well-known in the gifted education space, and their middle school program is smaller, but equally rigorous.

  1. Grade Levels Served: 6-8
  2. Approach: A rigorous, accelerated experience focused on higher-level thinking. From Stanford Online’s website: “Students enrolled in the middle school hone the skills and habits assumed at the high-school level in the context of challenging material in each subject, while also pursuing high-school courses in areas of special talent or acceleration.”
  3. Support: High school level courses are led by live teachers, and specialized middle school Advisors and Counselors ensure younger students are thriving in the advanced learning environment.
  4. Tuition: Full-time tuition is $29,850, part-time tuition is $17,910, and single courses are $5.970.
  5. Good Fit For: Gifted learners who are hungry for a major challenge (and maybe have Stanford-bound aspirations!) and have the maturity to hang with high schoolers

Kubrio XP

Some families looking for an online school are searching for more community and curriculum support, but don’t necessarily want to give up the choice and creativity of interest-driven homeschooling or unschooling. Kubrio isn’t a “school” as you would traditionally conceptualize. Instead, they offer micro-courses and clubs in fun topics like Artificial Intelligence and Music Production.

  1. Grade Levels Served: K-12
  2. Approach: Hands-on, interactive, and unapologetically nontraditional; Kubrio is more focused on helping kids find their passion than by covering a long list of state standards. Some families use Kubrio as a supplement to more comprehensive homeschooling, and others combine Kubrio experiences to create a full-time curriculum.
  3. Support: Kubrio “pods” are led by virtual educators, and some pod leaders provide individual mentorship to help learners set goals. However, if a parent is using Kubrio as a replacement for school, they’ll need to stay on top of work completion and scheduling.
  4. Tuition: $99/month subscription.
  5. Good Fit For: Families who want to take an unconventional approach to education; Homeschoolers who want to incorporate specialized online courses into their learning plan

Of course, we’ve barely scratched the surface of all the private online schools available. What’s the best online school for your family is a question of priorities: Would you rather have lots of individualized support from teachers, or lower tuition costs? Do you want a traditional approach to academics, or something a little more innovative? What’s most important for your child: schedule flexibility or lots of interactive experiences with peers and teachers? You know your family best!

Join our community of families all over the world doing school differently.

Want to learn more about how Prisma can empower your child to thrive?

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