Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
For high school students and their families who want the flexibility of learning from home without the full-scale responsibility of traditional homeschooling, online education is an increasingly popular choice.
Most of the country had the experience of remote learning during the pandemic, but formal online school works very differently than the spontaneous online classrooms created in March 2020.
Today, there are multiple virtual high school options available, including online public, charter, and private schools, plus online homeschool programs.
Open only to students residing in that school district, these tuition-free options offer traditional high school courses. If you enroll in a public cyber school, you’ll likely have access to the same academic high school program as your in-person peers (including advanced placement courses). Some offer credit recovery options — the ability to repeat a required course so that the student can finish high school. You’ll want to check and see if online students are able to participate in extracurriculars and athletics at the local brick and mortar school.
Open to students across a given state, charter schools have more flexibility in terms of curriculum. They may offer a wider variety of advanced level courses than public online programs. However, since these schools are generally not tied to a physical campus, pay careful attention to whether there are extracurriculars, as well as opportunities for socializing or athletics.
The category of online private high school is incredibly broad. These range from large-scale, corporate academies in which students take traditional subjects in asynchronous online courses with little face-to-face interaction, to individualized programs with innovative coursework — like Prisma. While these schools are tuition-based, the cost is often significantly lower than an in-person private school. When investigating these options, check to see that they are accredited (or in the accreditation process), and ask about opportunities for socializing, field trips and extracurriculars..
The online high school experience doesn’t have to be full time. Homeschooling families who need support or enrichment in a certain area can look for à la carte online classes. Since you don’t receive a high school diploma from any one institution, your parent will need to make you a transcript — but you’ll have a seemingly infinite supply of classes from which to choose, from core subjects to electives, many of which are free. Just carefully read online reviews about the learning experience (and consult the refund policy!) to ensure you’re getting a high-quality offering that lives up to its promises.
Here are common reasons students and families want to take advantage of online high school:
To go into an online high school experience with open eyes, ask these questions before signing up.
When people take their first steps towards online education, they’re often concerned about pragmatics. That can leave big question marks where the learning is concerned.
First, think about what gets your learner excited and what leaves them “blah.” What kinds of approaches to learning do they appreciate? Are they hands-on? Are they eager to work with others? Are they self-directed?
With your child’s profile in mind, make sure to find out:
At Prisma, all of the core courses are custom and taught in a project-based, interdisciplinary way. Our electives, such as foreign language, are taught through online partner providers. We also allow learners to receive credit for in-person courses they find locally.
When choosing an online high school, a make-or-break issue is access to the teacher. Without the physical proximity of in-person schooling, you want to make sure you’re going to get individualized feedback on your work — and that you know the person giving it to you. Check to see:
Since Prisma coaches follow a small cohort of 20, leading daily workshops and offering regular one-on-one feedback sessions, they get to know their learners and challenge them in the most effective way possible.
Once you step away from the conventions of in-person high school, you need to find out what kind of social environment you are walking into. In addition to asking technical details like class size and student-to-teacher ratio, request the chance to talk with current enrolled families and learn about their experience first-hand. We also recommend you look for things like clubs or other social opportunities, where community building happens.
Prisma learners go through the program with small, close-knit cohorts who meet in daily live workshops, frequently collaborate on projects, and have the chance to participate in Prisma-sponsored clubs. Our end-of-cycle Expo days provide the opportunity for learners to showcase their projects to the larger Prisma community, which allows them to build connections with other learners, coaches and families.
A strong indicator of a school’s philosophy is the way they conduct assessments, assign grades/credits and provide a transcript. While this might be straightforward at an online public school, charter and private schools have more leeway.
Prisma high school awards credits and provides a traditional transcript, although we don't approach it a traditional way: We use a feedback-rich, self-assessment process where kids propose their own grades for each theme, and the coach either approves or revises it. While the ongoing feedback process is qualitative, learners get a traditional numerical transcript that they can use to apply to college.
The one million dollar question. Check how many face-to-face classes are offered, versus the expectation of independent, asynchronous work. For total flexibility, you might want more offline work but will likely have little-to-no sense of community; for meaningful peer and teacher interaction, look for more live high school classes being offered.
Prisma’s schedule provides a balance between live and independent work, with ninety minutes of daily workshops and math classes during which learners and coaches collaborate, combined with self-paced study.
The bottom line of high school education: how well does it prepare learners for the world beyond graduation (both in terms of its curricular and extracurricular offerings)? In addition to college prep courses, find out:
Prisma high school offers a weekly life skills class, where students master adulting and get ready for college applications. This real-world focus is the lens through which all our courses are designed: as part of our project-based approach, students are taught to engage in real problems, using actual tools.
We’re fans of online learning, but it depends how it’s done. Here’s some pros and cons of different kinds of online homeschooling resources to consider, plus links to a variety of options.
Unit studies blend multiple subjects together to create real-world, interest-driven learning experiences. Steal the approach our curriculum experts use to create themes with a free downloadable unit study planner.
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“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
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