Frequently asked questions

General

Is Prisma a school, a homeschool, or something else?
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Prisma is the world's most engaging virtual school. Our program offers a comprehensive, full-time replacement for school for families who feel constrained or let down by traditional in-person education. Some of our families consider themselves 'homeschoolers,' and others do not.

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.

What is Prisma's mission?
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Our mission is to prepare learners to thrive in a rapidly changing world. We believe that to thrive means to be able to engage in fulfilling work, form and maintain positive relationships, and cultivate well-being, while being driven to create a positive impact.

What is Prisma's annual calendar?
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Our academic year is organized into 12-week sessions (Fall, Winter, and Spring). High schoolers do one theme every 12 weeks, and middle schoolers (grades 4-8) do one theme every 6 weeks. At the end of each 12-week session, parents, coaches, and learners meet for conferences to discuss learner progress and set goals.

Orientation typically begins the last week of August, andPrisma runs until early June. Learners get a 2-week Winter Break in December and a 1-week Spring Break in late March or early April each year, as well as no Prisma workshops on all US federally recognized holidays.

(Prisma Australasia annual calendar differs)

What grades and ages does Prisma serve?
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Prisma's middle school program serves grades 4-8, and our high school program serves grades 9-12. If you are not U.S. based, please consult this grade level equivalency chart. We admit new learners transferring into Prisma through grade 10.

What's the difference between your full program and the Parent-Coach program?
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We know that many homeschool families are looking for more support with sourcing curriculum and finding community, but don't want to fully stop being their child's teacher and guide. Parents of learners in grades 4-8 can apply to join our Parent-Coach Program ($4,800 annual tuition). This program is a good fit for families who are experienced homeschoolers or educators who are prepared to serve as their child's mentor coach, regularly meeting with them and giving them feedback on their academic work. Learners who are part of the Parent-Coach program still experience every other aspect of Prisma (project-based curriculum, daily live workshops, extracurricular opportunities, official transcripts, etc.); they simply do not have a mentor coach.

Tell me more about Prisma’s philosophy.
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We believe that: 

  • Learning should be ‘hard fun’. Kids will spend hours doing something challenging if they’re having fun. Prisma designs curriculum that encourages the enjoyment that comes from being deeply absorbed in an interesting challenge.
  • Learning happens through making & doing. Lectures aren’t only boring, they’re ineffective. Kids learn more by making their thinking tangible, instead of regurgitating information. You’ll find Prisma learners constructing models, building websites, designing museum exhibits, and user testing new inventions.
  • The deepest learning is driven by intrinsic motivation. When kids are motivated by wanting to improve because they care about what they're learning, they’re more willing to take risks. Prisma learners take pride in what they create, seeking feedback from peers & mentors until their work is their personal best.
  • Learning isn’t one size fits all. The Prisma curriculum is personalized in two ways. First, we personalize to learners’ interests, giving opportunities to tailor their learning to their passions and curiosities. Second, we personalize to learners’ abilities, supporting them in learning at the pace most appropriate for them.
  • Learning should have a purpose in the real world. Prisma learners never need to ask “Why do we need to know this?” We help kids draw connections between what they are learning today and how this knowledge is applied in real contexts by real people.
  • Learning happens in community. Sharing their learning helps kids clarify & refine their ideas and motivates them to produce their best work. We build intentionally small cohorts of learners that get to know each other well. We also build a global community, allowing kids to build relationships with kids all over the world.
  • Kids should learn how to think, not what to think. To develop the critical thinking skills they will need to thrive, Prisma learners analyze diverse viewpoints and perspectives. We encourage kids to ask questions, seek their input, and deeply value their freedom of expression.
What are the outcomes of a Prisma education?
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Studies show that 65% of today’s elementary school students will work in careers that are yet to be invented! The Prisma curriculum is designed with this reality in mind.

The outcomes of a Prisma education are the Prisma Powers (the skills to be a lifelong learner), Foundational Knowledge (concepts needed for future academic success and to understand the world), and an Impact Orientation (the desire to make a positive impact on the world).

The Prisma Powers

  • Applied Curiosity: Curious people who can ask & answer their own questions drive humanity forward. It’s our job to safeguard learners' natural curiosity through experiences that excite them. We also teach kids to apply their curiosity through research, close reading, scientific inquiry, and data analysis.
  • Innovator’s Mindset: Schools train kids to follow directions and do things “right” the first time, but future work will require creativity. Prisma learners tackle projects in design thinking, creativity, engineering, and entrepreneurship. We emphasize iteration by valuing failure & requiring multiple revisions of learner work.
  • Communication & Collaboration: In their future lives, kids will communicate with colleagues from all over the world. Learners build communication & collaboration skills in our Collaborative Problem Solving Workshops, Expo Day presentations, and daily opportunities to discuss and share with peers.
  • Initiative & Follow Through: Success takes more than ideas: to have an impact, you need to be able to execute, especially when nobody gives you a road map. Our program & coaches develop focus, time management, & organizational strategies that put kids in charge of their success.

Foundational Knowledge

  • Self: To thrive in an uncertain future will require confidence, resilience, and an ability to reflect in pursuit of self-improvement. We get to know each learner and support them in getting to know themselves.
  • Systems: To solve the world's most complex problems, we need people armed with knowledge of mathematics, science, and technology. Prisma learners go beyond finding solutions on Google or in a textbook, building real-world connections through interdisciplinary STEM projects & collaborative workshops.
  • Society: Solving future problems should involve more than just technology, but ethics, and a deep understanding of humanity. By exploring human narratives across literature, philosophy, history, civics, world cultures, and art, Prisma learners build context and develop their own perspectives.
How is Prisma different from other online schools?
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Many online schools simply transfer textbook material and testing to a digital format, provide virtual teacher-centered lectures, and then expect students to successfully learn. Prisma’s approach is entirely different and also offers so much more. 

  • Whole-person development - We equip kids with life-skills that prepare them for the real world, foster wellbeing, and contribute to lifelong happiness.
  • Relevancy - At Prisma, learning occurs within real-world contexts. Kids know why what they’re learning is important and how it impacts them.
  • Project-based curriculum - Our world-class curriculum team has designed a comprehensive, interdisciplinary set of themes that cover all required subjects (and many more real-world topics) in a hands-on, interactive way.
  • Small, supportive cohorts - We group our learners into small cohorts that meet daily and that are led by the same coach, who can stay with their cohort for multiple years. Our vision is that Prisma learners get the best of both worlds: the intimacy and support of a “one-room schoolhouse” (the cohort) and the breadth and diversity of a large virtual learning community.
  • Informed by the end-user (i.e. kids themselves) - We are committed to continually improving according to the feedback of kids and their families. 
  • Social interaction - In addition to our curriculum, which provides multiple opportunities for kids to form friendships (via daily coach-facilitated ‘stand-ups', synchronous workshops, group projects and team challenges), we facilitate dynamic cohort bonding through social clubs, our virtual learner forum, an annual ‘kickoff’ week, our service learning cycle and other experiential learning opportunities.

Program

How flexible is Prisma with regard to scheduling?
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Aside from our live workshops (which take up 90 minutes on Monday-Thursday), families are free to schedule their days however they wish. Flexibility is one of the great benefits of our program. If families wish to travel during the typical school year, that's no problem. We have many kids who tune into Prisma while traveling with their family (or simply take some time off during the school year). If families wish to fit in extracurriculars during the day or get-togethers with friends, that's also no problem. Having said this, we do provide a suggested schedule for those families that want a clear structure for their child's day and many of our learners do follow this.

What does a typical day look like?
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There are as many different schedules as there are kids at Prisma! Learners live in different time zones, have a wide range of interests, and engage in varying outside commitments. Prisma allows for substantial flexibility while also prioritizing collaboration and community. You'll get to build your child's schedule collaboratively with your learner's mentor coach when you enroll.

If you are wondering whether Prisma could work with your family's schedule, the answer is likely YES! But if you want to have a sense of how you could build your learner's day, read on.

Sample Schedule: 

  • Standup (30 min): Daily cohort bonding, announcements, and a meaningful day-starting activity like learning to organize your workspace, taking a group picture for the Yearbook, or writing thank you notes to an expert guest visitor from last week
  • Optional Support Squads (30 min): Time to check in with your learning coach, work with peers on a group project, or sign off to begin independent work!
  • Independent Work Time: Learners have gaps in their days to complete independent tasks in math, reading, writing, and their theme projects. Tasks are managed through a custom Prisma start page, task lists, and chat platform with learning coaches. This time is flexible, and learners are encouraged to build the schedule that works for them and allows them to get outside, participate in extracurricular activities, and pursue their passions!
  • Workshop (60 min): Depending on the day of the week, this might be Project Workshop, Literacy Lab, or Collaborative Problem Solving. Coaches facilitate engaging, interactive workshops that connect to the current curriculum theme and build academic & real-world skills.
  • Math Lab (3x/weekly at time of day based on math grouping and preferences, 45 min): Math schedules & workshop lengths differ by your learner's math level. Our math workshops are fun—yes, really!—and ask kids to solve interesting, real-world problems in groups, while also making sure they understand the math missions they are working through independently.
  • Independent Work Time, Coach-Led Enrichments, or Free Time (Depending on how learners choose to organize their time, and if they choose to sign up for coach-led Enrichments such as Songwriting or Cooking or Foreign Language Classes, they may choose to add more afternoon workshops)

Chat with us 1-on-1 to look at how your child's current weekly schedule could line up with a well-matched Prisma cohort.

How does Prisma support learners with special needs?
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We have learners with a wide range of special needs thriving at Prisma, though we certainly don't claim to be the right fit for all learners with special needs. Our curriculum allows learners to go at their own pace, make choices about how to demonstrate their learning, and connect learning to their interests. Some learners with special needs need fewer supports at Prisma than in a traditional environment due to this flexibility.

Our learning coaches are experienced educators trained in supporting learners of all abilities. They will work with your family to understand what kinds of accommodations have worked and not worked for your learner in the past, any challenges they may face interacting with our curriculum, and what lights them up as a learner. They will collaborate with you to customize the Prisma experience to best suit your learner's needs. We also have a counselor available to work with learners who may need additional support.

Many families of learners with special needs report the Prisma peer community to be the most accepting of any learning environment they've tried. Prisma parents of learners with special needs also connect with each other to share resources, connect, or attend Prisma guest speaker events in topics like executive functioning.

What countries does Prisma operate in?
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A key part of Prisma’s mission is to create a global network of young people who learn and grow together in mutually enriching community. As such, we are expanding the time zones in which we operate as quickly as possible. For now, Prisma learners need to be fluent in English, and our program is available in all geographies aside from UTC+4 to UTC+8 (i.e. We are not yet able to offer our program in countries with time zones like India, Russia or China). 

Want Prisma in your time zone? Join our waitlist by filling out this form.

How much screen time is required?
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We believe that there are very valuable ways for kids to use screens (e.g. for research, learning about topics of interest and collaborating with kids from other places) and less valuable ways for kids to use screens. We (and a body of academic research) disagree with the idea that screen time is inherently bad.

Prisma learners use screens to participate in engaging live workshops with their cohort (an average of 1.5 hours per day), and they use screens for some aspects of their projects (e.g. to write responses and read materials, an average of 2 hours per day). We do believe there is great value to off-screen, hands-on learning, and we thus include as many off-screen options into our curriculum as possible. For example, this year's themes included projects where learners could visit a historical landmark in their area, conduct a hands-on science experiment, and choreograph & film a dance performance.

How will my child know what to do each day?
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At the beginning of each theme, families & learners are given a detailed guide to all of the academic work for the cycle. Tasks are managed through a custom Prisma start page, task lists, and chat platform with learning coaches. When your learner signs on for the day, they will see their upcoming due dates and be able to access all of their work from their start page. When your child finishes a task, they check it off their task list and submit it to their mentor coach for feedback. Support and reminders for upcoming tasks are given during live workshops, and coaches also send parents regular updates on their learner's progress.

It is our goal that all Prisma learners develop the Initiative & Follow Through to manage this process independently. However, especially when new to Prisma, some learners need more parent support in getting started on tasks each day and planning work time to comfortably meet deadlines. Our mentor coaches are experts in gradually building task management skills and will partner with you in this process! 

Is Prisma an accredited school?
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Prisma is accredited by Cognia, a nonprofit organization that provides quality assurance for schools, school districts, and education service providers around the world.

Cognia, formerly AdvancED, recognizes schools that meet rigorous standards focused on productive learning environments, equitable resource allocation that meets the needs of learners, and effective leadership. Earning accreditation from the Cognia Global Accreditation Commission means that Prisma is accredited, and that Prisma is recognized internationally and in every U.S. state as a school that meets Cognia Standards of Quality, and maintains a commitment to continuous improvement. 

Dr. Mark A. Elgart, president and CEO of Cognia, stated, “Cognia Accreditation is a rigorous process that focuses the entire school and its community on the primary goal of preparing lifelong learners in engaging environments where all students can flourish.  Prisma is to be commended for demonstrating that it has met high standards, and is making progress on key indicators that impact student learning.” 

Cognia is the parent organization of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).

Does Prisma prepare kids for success at traditional high schools and colleges?
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Kids who attend Prisma will be prepared with all the prerequisite skills to be successful in any rigorous academic program. They will also graduate with a unique portfolio of projects in all subjects, service learning experiences, and authentic writing assignments. Portfolios & projects are becoming increasingly recognized as essential in developing a standout college application.

Learners who have graduated from Prisma Middle School have been accepted to competitive private high schools and accelerated programs such as Cooke Young Scholars. In the words of one parent whose child was accepted to a competitive program after Prisma: "I firmly believe that her time at Prisma made that possible. The application questions were big open-ended things that she knew just how to digest, research, and respond to, and that gave her a real leg up. Plus all the cool hands-on, photo-worthy projects she had completed made her application stand out from the crowd!"

Prisma High School will graduate its first class of learners in Spring 2025. All high schoolers graduate with an official diploma and transcript that meets entrance requirements at major universities. Our innovative LaunchPad program prepares learners for the next stage of their lives through a rigorous college & career exploration process, preparation for tests like the SAT & ACT, and individualized college application support. Mentor coaches provide personalized letters of recommendation and advice. We also support learners in designing a Capstone project, completing an outside internship, and writing a dynamite college essay.

What social & extracurricular opportunities are there?
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When we surveyed new learners this year, 86% said that they had made friends at Prisma after just 6 weeks. Our program provides considerable opportunities for kids to form friendships, from our standups where kids meet daily with their coach to share their thoughts and have fun, to team challenges, small-group exercises and group projects.

We also have many popular learner-led Clubs and coach-led Enrichments, from Prisma Press to Dungeons & Dragons to Art to Cooking, as well as a highly engaged online learner forum. We also try to incorporate lots of one-off celebrations & extra events, from the annual Talent Show to the Prisma 100th Day Party to monthly Family Game Nights.

Many Prisma families also choose to organize in-person regional meetups, mini microschool-style learning hubs, and even trips. We love this and are happy to support and help publicize!

Does Prisma provide a transcript?
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Yes! Prisma middle schoolers get an updated transcript every twelve weeks when they meet for conferences with their parents and coach. Their transcript contains all the academic badges they've earned, which are understandable by other schools as a list of skills & topics they've covered and their mastery of each. It also contains coach narrative assessments for each cycle, which are an amazing way to look back on your learner's progress and development as an individual.

Prisma high schoolers get a more traditional-looking transcript palatable to college admissions officers with their GPA, grades for each theme, and list of electives and extracurriculars they've completed. You'll be able to see your learner's updated transcript at the end of each theme.

What equipment and materials do kids need to enroll?
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In order to participate in Prisma, learners need a strong internet connection and consistent access to a computer with a camera and a microphone—which can be built-in, like on a laptop. We also strongly recommend that learners have access to a quiet and private learning space that’s free from distraction. 

What computer and technology skills are needed to successfully learn at Prisma?
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Learners should be able to independently navigate online resources such as live video, learning websites, Google Suite, etc. While we provide each new learner with the tools to navigate the platforms that everyone at Prisma uses, if your child does not yet know how to type or independently navigate online resources, we may ask your child to complete personalized digital literacy training before starting Prisma.

Coaches

Who are your Learning coaches?
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Prisma Learning coaches are caring, inspiring individuals who love kids and are deeply motivated to facilitate their growth. All Prisma coaches have extensive teaching experience, and many have been honored with prestigious teaching awards, such as the Golden Apple, Teacher of the Year, and New Teacher of the Year. Learning coaches go through a rigorous selection process that includes multiple interviews, a written assignment, extensive reference checking, and a thorough background check. We even ask prospective coaches to facilitate a "trial workshop" for Prisma kids, and we survey the learners on what they think of the candidate. All told, we hire less than 1% of coach applicants.

Check out our testimonials page to see how much Prisma parents rave about our coaches! 

What is the role of a Prisma Learning coach?
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  • Provide detailed written & verbal feedback on learner work
  • Meet with each learner one-on-one regularly to check-in, discuss progress toward goals, and give feedback 
  • Facilitate daily live workshops, during which learners discuss, debate, and create 
  • Plan and supervise social meetings of the cohort, including virtual parties & spirit days
  • Conference with learners and families regularly to discuss progress toward goals, strengths, and growth areas
What training and ongoing mentorship do Learning coaches receive?
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Prisma Learning coaches engage in a robust on-boarding process that provides comprehensive training for implementing our model and facilitating high-quality, effective, and joy-filled experiences for learners.

Learning coaches are supported by our Head of School, who has experience mentoring teachers. Our leadership team observes workshops & reviews feedback given to learners to ensure coaches meet our standard of excellence. Parents are surveyed four times per year (and can reach out any time with feedback!) and this parent data is used to evaluate coach performance. We work to ensure that each coach feels connected and supported with a wide network of resources from which to draw. Additionally, all of our coaches are in part selected for their individual love of learning and growth mindset, so you’ll find they’re incredibly motivated to continually refine and enhance their craft!

How do parents and coaches communicate?
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Our coaches view connecting with parents as a chance to collaborate in supporting each learner. You’ll have direct contact information for your child’s coach and are invited to reach out at any time.

When you join Prisma, you will meet with your child's coach to get to know each other and set goals for your child's growth. After that, you'll conference at least every 12 weeks to reflect on your child's progress. Some coaches & parents meet more regularly than this, and you are welcome to set up time to meet as the need arises.

Coaches send updates after each 1:1 meeting with your learner so you're kept in the loop. There are also multiple checkpoints each cycle where you'll receive emails with your learner's progress through their projects, and guidance for how you can support.

If my child needs additional support or challenges arise, what can I expect from their coach?
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A wealth of encouragement, guidance, and well-matched challenges to grow them, of course! One of our coaches’ primary roles is to provide proactive, caring mentorship, accountability, motivation, and support to your child and other learners in their cohort. Whether connecting your child with a different learning resource to better match how they learn best, unpacking roadblocks in moments of strain when they feel mentally stuck, empowering them to shoot for a wild goal that is achievable with diligent effort, or just supporting them during a hard day, your child’s coach is here for learning and more and is eager to lend a hand where beneficial!

What happens when my child’s Learning coach takes time off or is sick?
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We have experienced educators on staff who are eager to lead a cohort when needed! Our Head of School builds a coverage schedule with the coaching & school leadership teams that ensures multiple substitutes are available for any given cohort.

How do Prisma coaches ensure positive, safe experiences when learners are interacting online?
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A positive, safe, mutually respectful learning environment is baked into the culture of Prisma. We intentionally build a strong base of trust within each cohort and across our entire learner community so that every learner feels a sense of safety, belonging and freedom to be themselves. Bullying is not tolerated at Prisma. Because we heavily emphasize the creation of shared group norms early in the year, learners are able to enjoy a great deal of freedom to collaborate together on projects, form interest-based clubs, etc. via online break-out groups. Any time learners are in a peer-only online environment, the cohort’s coach and members of our leadership team may check the tenor of the conversation to make sure that it’s both uplifting and, when relevant, productive. While Prisma doesn’t monitor external interactions (such as via social media) that learners chose to engage in outside of official Prisma channels, we hope that the learner agreements and culture that is intentionally cultivated encourages positive interactions beyond Prisma as well.

Admissions

Who is Prisma a good fit for?
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Many kinds of families choose Prisma! Some Prisma families are experienced homeschoolers who are looking for a bit more community, or support teaching higher level academic subjects. Some Prisma families were previously enrolled in public or private schools that just weren't meeting the needs of their children: due to rigid, dry curriculum; ineffective teaching; lack of inclusion for kids who learn differently; a toxic peer culture; or some combination. Some Prisma families want to take advantage of the increased flexibility offered by learning online to travel the world, spend more time together, or pursue passions (some Prisma kids are professional actors or athletes). And some Prisma families simply realized that the old way of educating kids wasn't making sense for the 21st century and decided to join the revolution!

How do families apply to Prisma?
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Our Admissions page has all the details regarding the application process and what to expect!

I have more than one child. Can I enroll all my children?
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Yes! We have many siblings at Prisma. (We recommend that your children each have access to a computer rather than sharing one).

Does my local school district need to know that I’m attending Prisma?
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Prisma is an online private school, so you are not technically homeschooling in most areas when you enroll in Prisma. Because K-12 education is regulated at the state (and even local school district) level, we aren’t able to provide a singular response for what notification you may be required to provide or what steps you may need to take where you live. We’ve found that the majority of US states simply require a family to formally withdraw their child from public school—typically by filling out a form that can be obtained either online and/or at your local public school where you state the reason for not attending public school as attending private school instead. 

A minority of US states classify students who attend an online private school not specifically based in the student’s state of residence as homeschooled. To our present knowledge, CA, LA, MA, MD, NY, PA, and WI operate this way. If you live in one of those US states, you can reach out to your local district to learn how to homeschool in your local area.

You can also read about homeschooling in your state here or in your country (if located outside of the US) here.

Tuition

What is Prisma's tuition?
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Annual tuition is based on the USD currency and is $9,750 for our middle school (Grades 4-8) or $10,750 for our high school (Grades 9-12). Families choose whether to pay annually (with a discount), by session (3 times per year), or monthly, and tuition is pro-rated for mid-year entrants.

Families who receive need-based scholarships can attend Prisma for as little as $6,000 per year. Learn more about tuition and Prisma Scholarships here.

Over half of your child's tuition goes toward employing their expert Learning Coach, who leads their small, tight-knit cohort and mentors each learner 1-on-1! Parents of learners in grades 4-8 who'd be excited to take on the role of Mentor Coach can apply to join our Parent-Coach Program ($4,800 annual tuition). This program is ideal for parents who are experienced homeschoolers or educators who are equipped to serve as their child's mentor coach, regularly meeting with your child and giving them feedback on their academic work. Learners who are part of the Parent-Coach program still experience every other aspect of Prisma (project-based curriculum, daily live workshops, extracurricular opportunities, official transcripts, etc.). The only difference is the 1:1 mentorship, feedback, and support comes from you as a Parent-Coach instead of from a Prisma educator.

Where does my child's tuition go?
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Other virtual programs range from free (with limited peer and teacher interaction and often dry, repetitive curriculum) to traditional private schools (costing upwards of $30,000/year), Prisma's tuition is as low as it can be while sustaining our program. There's no added fluff!

Your child's tuition goes to support the educators who power Prisma:  Our Team

  • Approximately half of your child's tuition goes directly to their mentor coach. Prisma coaches are expert educators (we receive at least 100 applicants for every coach we hire), and we show we value them with competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits.
  • Prisma's interdisciplinary project-based curriculum is designed from scratch by our world-class Curriculum team, most of whom have PhDs or Masters in specialty areas of education. They create themes around topics kids love that equip them with the skills to thrive in the future.
  • A portion of each learner's tuition also goes to fund Prisma Scholarships, which enable kids to join Prisma who couldn't otherwise.

Check out our Grades 4-8 or High School program for more details about what's included in your child's Prisma tuition.

How do I request financial aid?
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You can request financial aid within your child’s application.

How large of a scholarship can I expect?
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Within your child’s application you will be asked to state your pre-tax household income along with what you can pay for Prisma. Given this information and any other factors you wish to share, we’ll evaluate your request for a Prisma Scholarship. We have limited spots available at various tuition levels within our cohorts, so we recommend that you both state the maximum you can pay and apply as soon as possible to increase the likelihood of a scholarship being available. Scholarships typically range from 10-40% off the annual tuition for our full program (i.e. Your child may be able to join Prisma's full program for as little as $6,000 per year).

We also have a Parent-Coach program for learners in grades 4-8 with annual tuition of $4,800.

Parents

How involved do parents need to be?
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Your level of involvement will vary depending on the needs of your child. Some children will be able to navigate Prisma fully independently. Others will need more support. We expect parents—together with their child’s coach—to periodically evaluate how much independence is right for their child. This is an evolving process with learners progressing toward greater self-direction as they move through their Prisma journey. Having said this, we surveyed our families regarding how much time they spend each day supporting their Prisma learner(s) and the vast majority said they spend under two hours each day, with about half saying they spend less than one hour.

How is child safety prioritized at Prisma?
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Child safety is our utmost priority. We address safety in the following ways: 

Technology: All of the platforms that power Prisma are password protected to ensure only learners, coaches, and parents can access them. 

Content: We endeavor for our content to be objective and age-appropriate. Needless to say, discrimination, hate speech, and violence are strictly prohibited.

Peer interactions: A key focus at Prisma is developing a culture within our cohorts that is supportive, respectful, inclusive, and kind. Each cohort develops its own code of conduct, to which they must hold themselves accountable. Continued membership in the group will depend on learners meeting the requirements of the code of conduct.

Learning coach: Our Learning coaches go through a rigorous selection process that includes multiple interviews, a written assignment, a demo workshop, extensive reference checking, and a thorough background check. Synchronous sessions between the learning coach and their cohort are recorded and are monitored for quality and training. 

At home: Parents are responsible for ensuring that all learners are supervised by a trusted adult while they are working on Prisma at home to ensure their safety.

If we aren’t happy with Prisma's services, how do you make sure that my child can transfer to another school or learning program?
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Our hope is that Prisma works exceptionally well for all learners, and we will continue to refine the design of Prisma so that it serves a continually broader and more diverse group of learners as we grow. If families choose to withdraw from Prisma, we will provide them with a learner portfolio and transcript that captures all the demonstrated learning outcomes your child has mastered at Prisma. This serves to translate their work at Prisma to a conventional school’s equivalent requirements and would be yours to edit and add to as you see fit. 

How does Prisma solicit and respond to parent feedback?
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"Prisma gets a 5 out of 5 from me on taking the time to reach out and ask kids and parents how things are going! I wish more schools would ask parents and kids about what they think!” - Gabrielle G., Prisma Parent

"We were amazed that we gave feedback and saw it implemented the very next cycle." -Chapin S., Prisma Parent

We teach our learners that you can't build anything great without being open to feedback. What kind of school would we be if we didn't practice what we preach? We survey parents (and learners!) regularly to ask them what they think of our program, curriculum, and coaches. We reflect on the data & written comments as a whole team every 6 weeks and set goals for continuous improvement. Our CEO, Head of School, and the rest of our leadership team regularly meet 1:1 with parents to gather ideas and devise solutions. We believe any excellent school is a collaboration between parents & educators! 

Curriculum

How does the curriculum work?
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The Prisma curriculum is organized into interdisciplinary themes such as Cities of the FutureBuild a BusinessHidden Histories, and World of Wonder. "Interdisciplinary" means that each theme incorporates multiple subjects. All themes incorporate reading & writing. The only subject covered separately from our themes is math.

We design themes to cover all topics kids need to be successful in their future academic careers, and to be exciting, interesting, and relevant. We survey kids about potential themes and don't run them unless kids love them.

Themes last 6 weeks at the middle school level and 12 weeks at the high school level. Each theme has two phases. In the Exploration Phase, kids dive into the topic through exploring a library of resources like articles, short stories, videos, and podcasts. They begin researching, building knowledge, and completing mini projects that give them a foundation. Next, in the Project Phase, kids tackle a project chosen from a menu of options: from pitching an invention to building a history exhibit to writing a sci-fi story. Project choices depend on the key skills we want kids to gain from the cycle. At the end of the theme, kids present their projects to peers, parents, and guests at Expo Day.

What kinds of projects do kids do?
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Here are just a few examples of the kinds of projects our curriculum team designs for Prisma learners:

  • Write a 'hard science fiction' story inspired by real research about environments & adaptations.
  • 'Upcycle' an existing material into a new invention.
  • Code a video game for the annual Games for Change competition.
  • Design and conduct a scientific experiment involving food.
  • Conduct market research, write a business plan, make a website and launch your business to customers.
  • Build a real museum exhibit to showcase a lesser-known story from history.
  • Biomimicry: Use the engineering design process to design a product inspired by an organism's structure or function.
  • Write an alternate history story that tells readers how a historical event could have gone differently.
  • Record a podcast series about a real-world unsolved mystery.
  • Design and model a building that can withstand a natural disaster.
  • Write and record an original song with lyrics inspired by a culture you belong to.
What do kids do in live workshops?
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Our curriculum team designs engaging, collaborative, and purposeful workshops. Your child will never sign on to a boring lecture or wonder "Why are we doing this?" at Prisma. We use a variety of workshop formats throughout the weekly schedule, and also vary workshops based on the theme.

Here are a few examples of common workshop activities: 

  • Real-world simulations, where kids collaboratively solve problems like rehoming an endangered species, solving a historical mystery, or figuring out how to power a city. These workshops feel like a fun story or escape room, but incorporate academic content!
  • Group discussions and debates, where kids review information on multiple sides of an issue and practice sharing their opinions using evidence
  • Project studio time, where kids work on their independent projects with support from their coach & peers
  • Small group instruction in tricky skills in math, writing, and other subjects that apply to the projects
  • Hands-on experiments and STEM design challenges
  • Writing prompts & live writing feedback
  • Peer feedback on projects and writing
  • Presentation practice in the lead up to when kids present their projects on Expo Day
  • Expert guest visits from adults with cool professions (we've had everyone from archaeologists to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to a famous anime voiceover artist!)
How will I know what my child is learning?
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At the beginning of each year, parents are provided with a theme map that outlines the subjects, skills, and topics that will be covered. Before each new theme starts, you'll receive a theme guide with even more detailed information, including ways you can support and enrich the learning at home. We also host an optional parent event going over the theme.

During each theme, you'll have full access to your learner's work, tasks, and feedback. You'll receive regular updates from their mentor coach with their progress toward earning badges in each skill or concept we are focusing on in the theme, including written feedback on what they need to improve to earn any badges they aren't on track to earn.

At the end of the theme, you'll receive an assessment from your child's coach that includes which badges they've earned and a narrative explaining their strong and weak points during the cycle. This information will go onto their transcript.

How are reading and writing taught?
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We believe that reading & writing are essential skills not only for future academic success, but for success in any field of interest. To show learners the real-world importance of literacy, we take an interdisciplinary approach, and weave reading & writing skills through our themes.

Reading: In addition to fiction & nonfiction texts that are incorporated into projects and workshops, each learner reads a book of their choice and writes about what they read in a reading journal each cycle. We provide a list of challenging options that connect to the theme (for example, mystery novels during Unsolved Mysteries and nonfiction books about animals during Wild Inventions), and also encourage learners to deviate from our suggestions if they find something else that excites them!

Writing: Prisma learners focus on authentic writing, learning how writing serves a purpose in the real world, rather than simply writing essays for a teacher to read. For example, past writing projects have included investigative journalism articles, business pitches, artist statements, video game reviews, and advocacy letters to local governments. Learners are also prepared with all the academic writing skills they'll need for high school and college, learning how to research & cite sources to produce argumentative & informational essays.

How is math taught?
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Our math curriculum aims to build more than just surface-level understanding of formulas and operations. Our program equips learners with deep conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas, the ability to apply these concepts to abstract & real-world problems, and a strong math mindset that helps them see the value in persisting because they believe math is useful.

Learners are placed into a small math group based on their needs. Each group works through a series of math missions throughout the year. To learn the concepts covered in the mission, learners complete daily practice using adaptive math technology, which has been proven in research to be more effective than traditional instruction alone. Three times each week, they participate in dynamic, interactive workshops where they can ask questions, share insights, and solve complex problems together, making learning both enjoyable and engaging.

At the end of each mission, learners tackle a mission checkpoint that asks them to apply the concepts they've learned to a real-world math problem. Math coaches give individualized feedback to determine if learners have earned a badge.

Stuck or struggling? Our math coaches offer extra small-group support in workshops and office hours. And learners can switch math groups at any time if they find the content too challenging, or not challenging enough, for their needs.

What about science and social studies?
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Science and social studies are woven into our interdisciplinary themes. Our curriculum team has developed a proprietary learning framework of all essential content knowledge & skills across these subjects, which we use to map out our scope of themes.

Past science-heavy themes have included Wild Inventions (where kids learned about organism structure & function to inspire biomimicry inventions), Food Lab (where kids learned food chemistry & designed their own experiments), and Uncharted Territories (where kids studied the deep ocean, outer space, and how creatures might adapt to live in such environments).

Past social studies-heavy themes have included What If? (where kids researched a historical event and imagined an alternate history story), United Nations (where kids researched a country & represented their viewpoints in an international debate), and Hidden Histories (where kids made museum exhibits, monuments, and plays inspired by lesser-known stories from famous historical eras).

What about other subjects like art, technology, and foreign language?
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Art & technology are subjects regularly incorporated into our themes. Sometimes, they are the focus of a whole theme (for example, when learners coded digital games for the Games for Change theme), and more frequently, learners can choose an art or technology project as one of the options within a theme. For example, learners who chose the Podcasting project in our Unsolved Mysteries theme learned how to use audio editing technology. In our 8 Billion Stories theme, learners had the choice to complete a filmmaking, dance, music, or theatre project.

Learners can also choose to join learner-led clubs or coach-led enrichments in topics like Coding, Art, Theatre, and Songwriting.

Foreign Language: All high school learners take Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, or American Sign Language through our partnership with Berlitz. Middle school learners are also welcome to join these classes at an additional cost.

Are there grades?
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Yes and no. Grading as practiced in traditional schools is broken. The purpose of assessment should be to track development of essential skills, but in many schools it becomes a) the only way to motivate kids to complete work and b) more about checking boxes than measuring knowledge.

Our assessment looks more like feedback does in the real world, combined with a transcript system using mastery-based grading. Before earning badges or credits, learners get ample feedback and revise their work until it's truly their best, rather than turning it in once and forgetting about it.

Middle School learners earn badges for mastering skills. Each project is broken into multiple badges based on the academic standards covered (for example, they might earn a Physics: Forces & Motion Badge, Design Thinking Badge, and Model Engineering Badge for a toy design project). Learners can earn all, none, or some of the badges based on the quality of their efforts and the assessment of their coach. They also have the opportunity to earn badges with distinction (meaning they went above and beyond in their mastery).

High school learners do receive traditional grades, and earn traditional credits, because these are more understandable in the college admissions process. However, our process is more akin to a review process in a job than traditional high school grading. Learners collect evidence from their explorations and projects proving their work meets the standard required to earn each credit, and at the end of the theme, they argue which letter grade their work deserves. Academic coaches may agree or disagree, and have ultimate say over the final grade. Sometimes, they'll suggest revisions learners can make to earn the grade they proposed.

Here's a great article from Harvard Graduate School of Education on why competency-based badges are better than seat-time-based grades.

Does Prisma do any kind of testing?
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We believe that learners are more than a test score and that many skills essential for future success cannot be reliably assessed via traditional assessments. We use our badge system at the middle school level and credit system at the high school level to measure learner progress in all competencies, from academic skills like Reading, Math, and Writing, to key life skills like Goal Setting, Oral Presentation, and Media Literacy. We believe that measuring what learners can do when applied to a real-world project is much more meaningful than selecting the correct answer from a list of multiple choices.

That said, Prisma learners take the internationally-recognized NWEA MAP test three times per year to help us understand where each learner is in certain academic skills and to ensure that we are meeting the goals of our families.

We also assist Prisma high school learners in preparing for the SAT and/or ACT, though as a virtual school, we cannot proctor those exams ourselves.

Company

Why 'Prisma?'
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If you hit a prism with light at exactly the right angle, it makes a rainbow. We believe that, like a prism, every child is multidimensional and has the ability to shine. But just as it takes the right environment for a prism to create a rainbow, it takes the right learning environment for a child to show their true abilities. This is why we named our company Prisma (aside from the fact that we think it sounds cool).

Who founded Prisma?
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Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard founded Prisma in 2020. Victoria & Alain are serial entrepreneurs who’ve spent most of their careers in technology. Like so many parents, their worldview changed upon the birth of their three children. Suddenly the world’s challenges and the rapidly changing future felt urgent and personal. This was the beginning of their quest to completely reimagine school.

They assembled a dynamic founding curriculum and coaching team (you can read more about them here) with deep experience in education, from former school founders & principals to Harvard education researchers to Teacher of the Year award winners. It is their vision that is responsible for our program structure, curriculum, and coaching philosophy. One of those founding team members, Kristen Shroff, is now in place as Prisma's CEO.

Prisma was built for Victoria and Alain's children and, hopefully, for yours too.

I want to work at Prisma!
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We are looking for gutsy, humble, can-do, driven team players to join us. Have a look at our hiring needs.

Who creates the Prisma curriculum?
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Unlike most schools, Prisma does not expect its teachers to also serve as curriculum developers. Our learning coaches focus on building bonds with kids, giving them feedback on their work, and building community.

Our project-based curriculum is built by a team of innovative, experienced designers. They've brought to Prisma a range of experiences creating cutting-edge curriculum for organizations like the George Lucas Foundation, Sesame Workshop, Scratch, and the Woodland Park Zoo. Our team has expertise in all subjects from literacy to math to coding to art, and they're laser-focused on designing projects, workshops, and missions that are "hard fun." 

Each piece of curriculum your learner experiences goes through multiple rounds of edits, and aligns to our own learning framework that includes our own competencies as well as key standards from Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, and more. We also ask kids what they think about the curriculum, and use their ideas to improve our work!

Still have unanswered questions?
Contact us