17 Best Online Elementary School Options

Prisma is only one part of a growing online learning ecosystem. In this post, we’ll dive into the options for your K-5th grade learner.

Emily Veno
April 19, 2024

Until recently, online school was seen as a poor substitute for in-person learning. Ten years ago, most families would never choose an online elementary school experience.

Times have changed.

Today, many families want an escape from the lifestyle mandated by the traditional school system. No more over-scheduled days capped off by nights of homework stress. Homeschooling or online learning offers more flexible schedules, for world travel or simply quality time.

Other families are rejecting the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the traditional system. At-home learning is completely personalized, putting parents in the driver's seat. And there are more curriculum and program options available than ever.

We built Prisma because of this fact: 60% of today’s elementary students will grow up to do jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Our online school prepares kids to thrive in a rapidly changing future, while getting them to love learning.

And we’re only one part of a growing online learning ecosystem. In this post, we’ll dive into the options for your K-5th grade learner.

Types of Online Learning Options

If you’re new to researching online options, the terminology can be confusing at first. What’s the difference between homeschool and online school? Are all online schools accredited? Does being an online school mean there are teachers?

Homeschool vs. Online School

Homeschooling is when the parent takes on the responsibility of educating their child. Online schooling, on the other hand, is like enrollment in an in-person school, only virtual.

The reality isn’t always so black and white. Many families use online programs or schools to supplement homeschooling. At Prisma, we offer a Parent-Coach program as a kind of mix between online school and homeschool.

Most online learning options fall into one of the four categories below:

  1. Online curriculum: Interactive digital lessons, like printed homeschool curriculum, but online. These options aren't accredited, because only schools can be accredited. (Yes, there’s no such thing as accredited curriculum!) Examples: IXL, BrainPop, Khan Academy
  2. Online classes: Live, online courses taught by a teacher kids enroll in on a case by case basis. Often used for subjects homeschool parents would rather not teach themselves, or as electives. Examples: Outschool, CocoCoders
  3. Self-paced online school: Online curriculum, packaged together into an accredited full-time school experience. Students complete assignments by working through digital modules at their own pace. Examples: Laurel Springs, Acellus
  4. Online school with live teaching: The most complete option. Like in-person school, with a mix of independent work and live classes. Public, private, and charter options. Examples: Prisma, K12


Questions to Consider When Selecting an Online Elementary School Program

  1. Where do you most need support in online learning? Are you brand new to at-home learning and looking for a full solution? Or a pro homeschooler seeking help on a few subjects or peer and teacher interaction for your child?
  2. What is your budget? Need a tuition-free option or can you spring for a high-quality private program?
  3. How flexible should the schedule be? Elementary students need structure in their days. Some families want an online program to provide this structure. Others want something more self-paced so they can build the weekly schedule themselves.
  4. What are your child’s current academic abilities? Can they read, write, and do math on grade level? Unsure? Consider looking for an online assessment, and use the data to help you evaluate programs.
  5. Accreditation or not? Accreditation is important to some parents, but is ultimately a personal choice. Many homeschoolers who don't attend accredited programs still receive a high-quality education!

What Makes Online Learning for Primary School Kids High-Quality?

It’s tempting to select the easiest, most affordable online curriculum and call it a day. But elementary students have particular learning needs to consider.

Be smart about screen time, especially for K-1st grade.

“Screen time” is often demonized, but not all screen time is created equal. There are countless benefits to high-quality online learning. But young children shouldn’t be plopped down in front of a computer for hours on end. Elementary kids also don’t need to do more than a few hours of academic coursework per day. They should learn through play, hands-on projects, and moving their bodies. Look for a program with off-screen activities, or enough flexibility to allow for your own.

Supplement self-paced learning with support and interaction.

Self-paced programs can be convenient and affordable. But beware: little minds will tire of repetitive online lessons. Kids also should practice applying knowledge to tasks beyond multiple choice questions. Consider only using self-paced curriculum for some subjects, and supplement with hands-on projects. Or, sit beside your child. Discussing the content can deepen engagement in their self-paced lessons.

Incorporate social-emotional learning.

Social-emotional skills are a major component of the traditional elementary school experience. Covering math and science is just one part of the equation. Don't omit skills like making friends, managing emotions, and speaking to a group. If the program you choose doesn’t include this, it’s your job to provide it at home.

The takeaway? Don't expect any online program to deliver a comprehensive, whole-child elementary education. So much of learning at this age is about play, socialization, and exploration. So prepare to supplement, especially if you choose a more basic program.

Even with Live Teachers, Be Ready to Support Your Child

Some 4th or 5th grade students may be able to work independently. Most elementary students need significant support managing time and staying focused.

In a traditional in-person learning environment, the teacher supervises all work. Online programs won’t provide this level of oversight. The benefits of personalized learning can be worth it! But be ready to support independent work, and ensure your child participates in classes. At Prisma, we find elementary school parents spend the most time sitting with their child. By middle school, many kids are flying solo.

Best Virtual Schools For Grades K-5 By Type

Online Schools with Live Teaching

Want your learner to enroll in a full online program with live classes? Like in-person schools, tuition-free public and private online schools are available. Online private schools tend to offer more live teacher support and engaging curriculum. Your choice depends on your budget and needs.


If your elementary school student is in 4th or 5th grade, check out Prisma!

Prisma is a Cognia-accredited online private school for kids in grades 4-12. We use hands-on, project-based curriculum to build love of learning and academic skills.

Each small cohort of Prisma learners is led by a learning coach. Coaches are certified teachers who support learners 1:1. They also lead daily, live workshops, in topics from Literacy to Collaborative Problem Solving.

Prisma’s fun, active community helps kids make lasting friendships. Kids bond with an intentionally-matched peer cohort in daily standups. They also join extracurriculars, from Art to Prisma News to Songwriting.

Other Live Online School Options

  1. Explore online public school for your state through K12 or Connections Academy. Not every online public school has live teaching. The amount of interaction and program quality varies widely by district.
  2. ASU Prep Digital: Online program for K-5 with traditional curriculum
  3. Brilliant Microschools: Online K-12 microschools with emphasis on special education. (I recently did a podcast with their founder!)
  4. You may have online charter schools in your state, which vary in approach and can be found by Googling.

Self-Paced Online Schools

Self-paced programs without live teaching can be less engaging, especially for elementary schoolers. But these options remain popular due to their flexibility and lower price tags.

  1. Acellus Academy: Accredited video-based programs for grades K-5
  2. Forest Trail Academy: No-frills, accredited K-5 modules with assessments included
  3. IVLA (International Virtual Learning Academy): Mostly self-paced K-5 program. Does include twice-monthly “homeroom” with classmates, and some opportunities for live teacher support.
  4. Laurel Springs: Like the option above, Laurel Springs mostly uses self-paced curriculum. Teachers do grade work and are available in "help rooms."

Online Classes

Looking for live teaching but don’t need a full online school experience? One-off online courses can support with advanced subjects, or serve as electives in your child’s interest areas.

  1. Outschool: Massive online class marketplace. Options from Reading to Art to Entrepreneurship for kids of all ages. Quality varies by teacher, so check reviews!
  2. Kubrio: Innovative platform of teacher-led “quests” for kids ages 8-18. Topics include Public Speaking, 3D Printing, and Filmmaking.
  3. Bridgeway Academy: A range of custom K-12 options, including self-paced and live courses.
  4. Dozens of companies offer online classes in specialized subjects. For instance, Prisma partners with CocoCoders to offer coding for kids ages 6-12.

Online Curriculum

Prefer to homeschool rather than enrolling in a full-time online school? You can incorporate online curriculum in your homeschool planning.

  1. ABCMouse: Solid choice for littlest learners. Intended for kids ages 2-8, and best for the younger end of that range.
  2. IXL: Not the most engaging, but covers many standards. Also includes excellent assessment tools. Great as a supplement to your main curriculum.
  3. Time4Learning: Popular option with mix of online and printable activities. Mixed reviews on engagement.
  4. Miacademy: Gamified, video-driven platform for grades K-8 with some interactive elements. Better reviews for younger ages than older.

Remember, elementary students should do a mix of online and hands-on, play-based learning. Most online programs work best as one part of a well-rounded at-home education. Or, try a program like Prisma, for a whole-child approach to virtual learning.

More Online Education Resources

8 Most Popular Online Homeschool Programs

Homeschool vs. Online School

Best Online Middle Schools

Best Online High Schools

Project-Based Online School: How It Works

Online School for Gifted Students

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