Every year, more and more families make the decision to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons, ranging from lack of access to quality public schools to a desire to take a more active role in their children’s education. If you are among these growing numbers, you may be considering online homeschooling. Many companies offer online homeschool programs to guide the learning process, streamline curricula, provide individual feedback and allow students to learn at their own pace.
These programs give you freedom and control over your child’s education while relieving some of the work associated with lesson planning, interfacing with the public school district, keeping records and more. It is important to carefully consider all of your online homeschooling options and choose one that fits best with your educational philosophy and the student’s needs.
Top 10 Best Rated Online Homeschools
Founded in 1991, Laurel Springs is a fully accredited, online private school for grades K-12. Laurel Springs assists students to enter their top choice for college and has a current college acceptance rate of 91 percent.
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Founded in 1999, K12 is the largest for-profit online education company, with 58 schools including free public and tuition-based private schools and supplemental curriculum providers. K12’s available schools vary by state.
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The Keystone School offers customized educational programs online. Students can enroll in a comprehensive program or take individual courses not available at their brick-and-mortar schools to supplement their education.
Connections Academy is a tuition-free virtual academy. It offers courses in select areas for students from kindergarten through high school. Users can input their zip codes to find out what services are offered in their area.
Western Christian Academy is a tuition-based Christian online school for students from kindergarten through high school. It offers more than 50,000 multimedia options in its online academic and religious courses.
Florida Virtual School is an online school that offers coursework for K-12 students in the United States. Homeschooled students and those in public and private schools can take courses.
K12 International Academy is an online private school operated by K12, America’s leading for-profit online school company. K12 International Academy is tuition-based and offers a U.S. diploma to students throughout the world.
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ABCMouse.com is an online, subscription-based curriculum provider for children ages two to eight. It offers play-based learning in math, language arts, science, social studies, art and more in a ten-level structure.
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Time4Learning is an online curriculum provider for students in grades Pre-K through 12. It offers month-to-month subscriptions, automatic grading, regularly updated progress reports and more.
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Liberty University Online Academy is an extension of evangelical Liberty University. It is an online, tuition-based private school accredited through AdvancED. The school offers K-12 Bible-based curriculum.
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What online homeschool features matter most?
Is the school accredited, and does it matter?
Some online private and public schools are accredited, which means they are recognized by your state’s Department of Education and have a school number to use for college entrance exams and federal financial aid (such as the FAFSA). Students who attend an accredited online school can often transfer credits if they switch to a brick-and-mortar school. Those who graduate from an accredited online school receive a diploma and can apply directly to college. Students who graduate from an unaccredited school generally need to take the General Education Development (GED) exam before applying to college.
- Homeschooling laws: Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and no states currently require a homeschool to be accredited. However, states set their own laws to establish what type of homeschooling curricula is sufficient. In many states, students must take standardized tests or homeschooling parents must submit a lesson plan or a portfolio to document their child’s progress.
- Online public schools: Some online homeschool programs are considered charter schools of a public school system. These schools are accredited and equivalent to a public school education.
- Online private schools: Online private schools may or may not be accredited. Because online private schools have generally high tuition rates, it is best to choose one that is accredited.
- Curriculum providers: Homeschool curriculum providers are not the same as online schools and cannot be accredited. You can use these types of companies to supplement your child’s homeschooling curriculum or for education services like tutoring or summer school.
What is the format of the classes?
Online schools vary in format. Some are completely conducted on the computer, while others utilize workbooks, textbooks or other supplemental materials and/or require the parent or caregiver to present some or all of the lessons themselves.
- Video lessons: Many online schools offer lessons from real teachers delivered in a video format, usually followed by lessons that are submitted online and often graded immediately.
- Text-based lessons: Many schools offer lessons that involve reading a selection of text online prior to completing assignments. This can be a useful way for students to learn but can be difficult for others who struggle with reading comprehension or speed.
- Mixed format lessons: Many parents and educators think a mix of formats is best for optimal learning because it prevents students from becoming bored and allows for different types of information to be presented in optimal ways.
- Offline instruction with online supplementation: If your child is young, you may not have the option for video or text-based lessons. Most online schools do not offer these options for children prior to grade three because young children can’t read and don’t have the manual dexterity to use a mouse to navigate the computer. Most schools offer lessons that can be printed or presented in a video format with follow-up activities on paper.
How are students evaluated?
In a brick-and-mortar school, students must pass exams and evaluations in order to advance from grade to grade and to ultimately graduate from high school. Some online schools follow the same procedure, while others use other ways of evaluating students or do not evaluate students at all.
- Standardized testing: Many online schools, including online public schools and some online private schools, require the same standardized testing as brick-and-mortar schools. Often this is mandated by state law; other times, it is a way for an online school to meet accreditation requirements.
- Ongoing evaluations: Many online schools allow students to work at their own pace, completing coursework as they can and taking an assessment exam at the end of each module. This running evaluation allows for the most up-to-date tracking of your child’s progress.
- Transfer credits and testing out of courses: Many online schools allow students to transfer credits from other online schools or from brick-and-mortar schools, particularly in high school. Some programs also allow students the option to test out of required courses and still receive course credit.
What is the cost and how do you pay?
Many online schools are free, but private online schools can range in price. Consider your budget and whether financial aid is available.
- Annual or semester-based tuition: The majority of schools require an upfront payment of the semester or year’s tuition in full. Some schools will let you pay these in installments throughout the year or term, but nearly all require a zero balance on your bill before your student can begin the next term. Tuition prices range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars a year.
- Per-course tuition: Several online schools and curriculum providers allow families to purchase courses, either for a term or for an entire year. This can be a good way to supplement another curriculum or to try out a school before committing to a full year’s tuition.
- Financial aid options: Some schools offer financial aid in the form of grants or tuition waivers for students who demonstrate economic hardship. Discounts for families of military personnel, first responders, missionaries or pastors may be available, as well as discounts for families with more than one student enrolled at the school.
Are there options for enrichment?
Some online programs consist exclusively of online modules, which might be a great structure for some learners. Other students need hands-on enrichment activities during and after school hours.
- Activities: Many programs include ideas for enrichment, like science projects or community service activities, to help students round out their education and spend time away from the computer. Since many students are hands-on learners, activities can make an abstract lesson more concrete.
- Field trips: Several online schools require or recommend field trips as a part of the curriculum, so students will receive credit for completing these tasks. These trips may be specific areas like national monuments or historic sites for a history lesson, to various ecosystems in your region for a lesson in science or to a local civic center or courthouse for a lesson in social studies.
- Independent regional communities: There may not be a community of families in your area who use the same online program, but as long as there is a vibrant and active homeschooling community that is open to people from different programs, you might still be able to find a place for socialization and fellowship.
What support is available?
Most dedicated online homeschool programs provide a variety of support services to students and their caregivers, ensuring the best chance for academic success.
- Academic counseling services: Many online schools assign every student to a dedicated academic counselor, who can help choose the right courses and plan the student’s academic trajectory. Counselors also help troubleshoot academic difficulties and give guidance about college and career readiness.
- Teachers on staff: Most online schools employ certified teachers to design their curriculum and present video-lessons. Some schools also allow parents and students to talk with teachers via video conference or phone call, to help troubleshoot difficult material or talk through projects.
- Homeschooling communities: If you choose a large online school, you can likely find a regional support group or meet-up community with others in your city who are homeschooling through the same program. Smaller programs may not have regional groups but may have online forums to help you make friends and find social support for yourself and your student.
What types of online homeschools are there?
Online private schools
Online private schools charge tuition to provide access to curricula, lesson plans, assessments and school administration. They may or may not be accredited.
Online public schools
Online public schools are considered charters schools and legally distinguished from homeschooling because they are taxpayer-funded and students are held to the same state and federal testing requirements. However, online public schools are a great way to use online programs for in-home education.
Some companies create lesson plan modules or other learning material but do not offer the structure, assessment or record keeping of a comprehensive school. Online curriculum providers can be used to supplement other homeschooling programs or brick-and-mortar schools.
Online religious schools
Many people choose online homeschooling as a way to provide a religious education for their children. Online religious schools may or may not be accredited.
Who would be interested in online homeschooling?
Parents who prefer to educate children themselves
Many parents and caregivers prefer to provide their children’s education themselves, so they can monitor their child’s progress, provide a nontraditional education, oversee the curricular content or be together as a family.
Parents of those who need an individualized education
There are many reasons why a student might do best with a flexible, personalized education, including special needs, giftedness, behavioral concerns or other reasons.
Student athletes or performers
Student athletes, musicians, actors and other performers often practice or work for many hours every day and can’t attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school. Online homeschooling allows them to pursue their dreams and complete school work when it is more convenient.
Those without access to an adequate school
Families may live in an area where they do not have access to a quality public or private school. As long as there is a reliable Internet connection, an online school may be a great option.
Military and other itinerant families
Families who move frequently often choose to homeschool their children to provide consistency and avoid the hassle of continually transferring educational records from one institution to another.
Many families opt to homeschool for religious reasons, so they can oversee their child’s education and ensure it conforms to their religious perspectives. There are many online homeschool programs that incorporate religious and cultural education in the curriculum through scripture memorization, language learning or other approaches.
Medically fragile children
Many children with chronic illnesses or other problems do best in a homeschool environment for various reasons. This might be because they need frequent medical monitoring, they cannot be around the germs in a traditional school setting, they need behavioral monitoring to keep themselves and others safe or other reasons.
Those who want a supplement for a brick-and-mortar school
Students who need additional academic support or stimulation may benefit from curricula designed for homeschooling.
Online homeschool company reviews
K12 International Academy is a fully accredited, tuition-based online private school serving kindergarten through 12th grade. It is owned by K12 Inc. and unlike many online schools, is open to enrollment from students around the world and grants a U.S. diploma to all students who complete the program.
- Manageable daily commitment: Parents or caregivers, called “learning coaches” by K12, are integral in the homeschooling process and play a key role in planning and executing lessons. K12 International Academy provides all the materials needed for success and estimates that learning coaches should plan for a daily commitment of about 1-6 hours a day depending on their child’s grade.
- Individualized education: K12 International Academy customizes every student’s learning plan and is great for students at any learning level from advanced and gifted to those who need more time or need a different learning structure to succeed. Every student receives an Individualized Learning Plan developed collaboratively by the student, parents, teacher, academic coach and counselor.
- Full- and part-time options: Students can enroll full-time at a tuition of about $5,000-$7,000 per year or $3,500 per semester depending on grade level. If you want to simply supplement another homeschool or brick-and-mortar school curriculum, you can also purchase full-year courses for $850 to $950 each, or one-semester courses for $425-475. Sibling discounts are available.
- U.S. diploma: Although K12 International Academy accepts students around the world, it issues an American diploma which is accepted by colleges, universities and employers throughout the United States.
- Socialization options: Students can meet one another through online clubs, regional field trips and other activities designed to support their social needs.
- Best for international families, itinerant families and anyone who wants to homeschool.
ABCMouse.com is an online, subscription-based curriculum provider for children ages two to eight. It offers play-based learning in the form of puzzles, stories, art projects and visual math to help preschoolers and early grade school students grasp basic concepts in reading, math, science and more. ABCMouse.com can be used as a supplement to other homeschool programs, as a fun learning activity or to supplement brick-and-mortar schooling.
- Month-to-month subscription: There is no commitment with ABCMouse.com. Because it is a curriculum provider and not an online school, you pay on a month-to-month basis and you can stop payments at any time if you decide you no longer want to use the service. As of January 2017, the price for a month’s access is $7.95.
- Learning levels: ABCMouse.com recognizes that students ages two to eight represent many abilities and learning levels. It offers 10 levels with over 800 lessons and over 8,500 individual learning activities.
- Many subjects: The lessons and activities on ABCMouse.com include reading and language arts, math, science, social studies, art and colors, games, books, songs, puzzles and more.
- Track progress: By logging into your personal account on ABCMouse.com, you can see what modules your child has completed, what topics they have mastered and what areas they need more support. Children can also see their own progress through the Tickets and Rewards System, which offers a visual cue when your child has completed a module or level.
- Compatible with multiple devices: You can access ABCMouse.com on a personal computer, tablet or smartphone. All you need is an Internet connection to use the online resources. The company also offers a free app with access to many of its resources.
- Best for parents of preschoolers and lower grade students who want to supplement another schooling program.
Founded in 2003, Time4Learning is an online curriculum provider for students in grades Pre-K through 12th. Time4Learning began as a family business and now offers services for students throughout the United States. Its curriculum is intended for use in homeschooling, after-school tutoring and summer school.
- Ad-free learning: Many online homeschooling programs display advertisements on the page while a student learns a lesson or completes an assignment. Time4Learning keeps its website ad-free so your student can focus on the lesson.
- Access a year’s curriculum: Instead of only allowing access to the current lesson or module, Time4Learning allows parents to see the entire school year’s curriculum at once. This helps them prepare for upcoming lessons and allows them to see how each lesson fits together in the overall academic plan.
- Simple grading and reporting: Lessons are graded automatically as they are submitted through the website, and the automated system tracks grades and progress in an online portfolio. Parents can view a report on their student’s progress at any time, and the report can be sorted by subject or date.
- Parental tools: Time4Learning provides parents and caregivers several resources to help them homeschool their children, including printable lesson plans, reports, teaching tools and suggestions, activity schedules and more.
- Month-to-month payments: Time4Learning allows subscribers to pay for its services on a monthly basis. The Pre-K through eighth-grade curriculum is $19.99 per student per month, while eighth-grade through 12th-grade curriculum is $30 per student per month. You never have to sign a contract and you can cancel anytime.
- Best for homeschooling families or those who want to supplement brick-and-mortar schoolwork with additional curricula.
Liberty University Online Academy is an online private school owned and operated by Liberty University, the world’s largest evangelical university. Liberty University Online Academy is accredited by AdvancED. It is tuition-based and costs $1,647 per year for kindergarten through first grade, $2,745 per year for second through eighth grade and $3,568.50 for ninth through 12th grade.
- Structured program: Liberty University Online Academy provides an initial assessment and personalized education plan for every student. All instructional materials and resources are provided, including grades and record-keeping services.
- Flexible curriculum: Students take a mixture of required courses in English, math, science, Bible and history as well as electives including art, foreign language, musical instruments and more.
- Dual enrollment option: Advanced high school junior and senior students have the option to enroll in college courses while still in high school. Students can enroll in The Edge program, which is a partnership with Liberty University Online and earn a half high school credit and three college credits for every course they complete.
- Discounts available: Liberty University Online Academy offers a 20 percent tuition discount to military servicepeople, missionaries, pastors, emergency response personnel and first responders (EMT, firefighters and others). It also offers a 20 percent discount on the third and any additional students in any one household.
- Evangelical philosophy: Liberty University Online Academy integrates its evangelical perspective into many courses, including science, history and ethics. It also requires all teachers and administrative staff to sign a statement of faith and adhere to evangelical principles.
- Best for evangelical families who homeschool and those who want a dual enrollment option in high school.
Acellus Academy is an online school serving children in grades K-12. In 2001, the International Academy of Science began Acellus, a science-based curriculum provider for school districts. In 2013, that program expanded into Acellus Academy, a full online school which now serves students in every state in the United States as well as over 40 international countries.
- Online school or homeschool options: You may choose to enroll in the Acellus Academy Program, which is a K-12 school with teacher supported courses and a high school diploma upon completion. Acellus also provides its materials at a reduced rate for families who choose to homeschool and teach the materials themselves.
- Affordable tuition: Acellus Academy is operated by the International Academy of Science, a not-for-profit organization that receives grants and other sources of funding. Tuition is subsidized and families only pay between $30 and $79 a month or between $299 and $750 a year, a fraction of the cost of other online private schools.
- Standards-based: Acellus Academy’s curriculum is based on educational standards set by the U.S. Department of Education, so students will be prepared to transfer to other schools or enter college on par with their peers.
- Course features: Students will benefit from a variety of teaching approaches including video-based lessons, interactive practice problems, reviews, memorization drills, help videos for especially difficult topics, digital books and more.
- Self-pacing: Students may take as long as they need to finish a course and will receive credit for it when they have passed the required exams. This means students may graduate as early as age 16 or may take more time to complete courses or to graduate if needed.
- Best for homeschooling families who want a complete curriculum or those who want to supplement another homeschool program.
NFC Academy is an online, tuition-based Christian school for grades K-12. NFC Academy is the online counterpart to North Florida Christian School, a brick-and-mortar school in Tallahassee, Florida founded in the 1960s by the North Florida Baptist Church, a member of the Southern Baptist convention. NFC Academy offers both an accredited online school and a program for homeschooling families who want to teach their children themselves.
- Age-conscious structure: NFC Academy provides print curriculum and a lesson planner for students in kindergarten through second grade, since an online-only education may not be best for this age range. The online program is available starting in third grade.
- Affordable tuition: NFC charges $718 per year for kindergarten, $1,065 per year for first and second grade, $1,238 per year for third through seventh grade and $2,164 per year for the remaining grades, plus various fees.
- College preparatory program: Students in grades ninth though 12th participate in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. Courses are designed to prepare students to enter the college or university of their choice upon graduation from NFC Academy. Courses are approved by the NCAA, which is necessary for student-athletes planning to compete in college.
- Discounted tuition: Tuition discounts are available for military and missionary families as well as those with more than one child enrolled at NFC Academy.
- Format options: You may choose between the Homeschool Advantage program, which matches your child with NFC teachers, or the option for the parent or caregiver to be the child’s teacher while utilizing NFC lesson plans and resources.
- Best for student athletes and those who want Christian curriculum for homeschooling or a complete online school program.
Calvert Education is an online school for children in grades Pre-K through 12th. It is the online counterpart to Calvert School, an independent elementary and middle school founded in 1897 in Baltimore, Maryland. Calvert Education serves students in all 50 states and over 90 countries worldwide.
- Inquiry-based learning: Calvert’s educational philosophy centers around the individual student’s interests, letting the student guide their education and collaborate with other students. Students learn through hands-on activities that supplement the online modules and share their learning with one another in online forums.
- Verticy program for struggling students: Calvert Education offers a Verticy Learning Program for students who may be struggling with reading, writing, math or other areas of learning due to learning disabilities like dyslexia or dysgraphia. The Verticy Learning Program is available in individual classes or as a complete curriculum.
- Financial aid: A limited number of qualified families in Pre-K through 8th grade will receive financial aid packages toward their tuition. You must complete an online application for financial aid, including proof of financial hardship. Calvert also offers military discounts and discounts for families with more than one student enrolled in the program.
- Homeschooling tools: Your tuition entitles you to an online management tool to plan your student’s schedule, track progress, plan lessons and obtain support from teachers and other parents. You can also join the online Calvert community, enjoy online resources and find links to state-specific homeschooling laws and support groups.
- Accreditation: Calvert Education is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSACS) and its curriculum is approved by the Maryland State Department of Education. Calvert also offers a selection of courses that are NCAA-approved for student athletes.
- Best for homeschooling families, student performers and athletes.
WiloStar3D is a unique online homeschooling program for students in grades sixth through 12th grade. It uses a 3D, computer-generated virtual world to simulate a campus environment.
- Fully interactive: WiloStar3D’s Wiloworlds program simulates a school campus. Students attend live class meetings through a virtual avatar, so they can see and interact with their teachers and peers. Assignments, reminders and feedback from instructors come in the form of virtual “telegrams” or through digital books. Lessons are also immersive; for instance, students learn about the zones of the ocean by exploring a virtual underwater environment.
- Accredited: WiloStar3D is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), a division of AdvancED.
- Tuition: WiloStar3D charges $2,700 per year for 6th through eighth grade and $2,999 per year for ninth through 12th grades. Families with two or more students enrolled receive a 10 percent discount on tuition.
- Learning accommodations: WiloStar3D offers an accelerated program for gifted students as well as individualized learning plans for students with ADD, dyslexia or other learning disabilities.
- Course selection: Students must take required courses in English, math, social studies and science, but also have the option to take courses in foreign languages, fine and performing arts, computer literacy and more.
- Best for tech-savvy homeschooling families.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
11 – 14 Best Rated Online Homeschools
Acellus Academy is an online school offered by the not-for-profit International Academy of Science. It is tuition-based but because it receives grants and other funding sources it is a fraction of the cost of other schools.
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NFC Academy is a private, Baptist-affiliated online school for children in grades K-12. It offers an accredited school program as well as a separate home schooling program for families who want to teach their children themselves.
|Read Expert Review|
Calvert Education is a private, tuition-based online school for students in grades Pre-K through 12. It is an offshoot of the well-known Calvert School, a private elementary and middle school in Maryland founded in 1897.
|Read Expert Review|
WiloStar3D is an online, tuition-based private school for students in 6th through 12th grade. Its immersive Wiloworlds format presents a virtual environment where students’ avatars can interact with one another and with teachers.
|Read Expert Review|