Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online

Non-Traditional Schooling Offers Options Galore

By Tom Nixon

Author of
"Complete Guide to Online High Schools: Distance Learning Options for Teens Adults"

My friend, fellow author and former homeschooler
Tom Head offers the following:

"Homeschooling is to education
what anarchy is to government."

Earning a high school diploma nontraditionally can sometimes seem like you are fighting the current of a river. However, not only is it possible to earn a high school diploma nontraditionally, but, as homeschoolers know, it is often preferable.

Non-Traditional Schooling Offers Options Galore

Teaching homeschoolers how to teach their children is like trying to teach fish how to swim. No real training required. However, while traditional homeschooling has stood the test of time, there are other ways to get the job done, too. Some possibilities are online and correspondence high schools, the G.E.D. and other equivalency exams, university-based high schools, charter schools, alternative high schools, and more. Information is provided below on a few of those choices.

Online learning is growing at an amazing pace. This is particularly true with the high school version. With the first web-based high schools appearing in the mid-1990s, the number of such programs has increased steadily. Online high schools come in both secular and religious (primarily Christian) formats. Homeschoolers will want to look at each program carefully before deciding on which works best for them. Some programs give you a great deal of control, while others give you almost none.

Also, if your desire is that your child be moving toward more independence in his or her learning, but you wish to retain a "checks and balances" system (beyond your natural parental control system), this may be a good option because there will be an additional assessment system in place.

It is my prediction that within 10 years, most schools will have access to online courses and within 20 years all high schools will include these courses as part of their regular curriculum. While it may seem unusual to have your children taking classes online, your grandchildren will look at this as quite natural.

There are many good choices in schools. Two popular Christian programs are Northstar Academy and The Sycamore Academy. Two secular programs that seem to draw their share of students are Laurel Springs School and Keystone National High School. These are just a starting point. I recommend doing your due diligence and exploring what is out there. There are over a hundred listed in my latest book.

I should mention that one good choice for traditional-aged high school students are university-based programs that offer dual credit as an option. What this means for the student is that you can get high school credit and college credit for the same course and, conveniently, the same cost.

High school equivalency exams can provide that piece of paper that gets you past some of that traditional schooling and on into college. The most well-known, the California High School Proficiency Examination, is not surprisingly offered to California students. In contrast to the G.E.D. for which you must be eighteen in California, the CHSPE only requires you to be sixteen (or have finished your sophomore year or be in the second semester of your sophomore year).

You may be saying, "Well, this is all well and good, but I live in Oregon (or Arizona or Nevada, and so on). What good is it to me?" Here's the kicker: In order to qualify to take the test, you need to be in California. This does not mean that you have to live in California. According to a state testing official, students from surrounding states have been crossing the border for years to take the test. The same holds true for Wisconsin's and New York's versions of the exam.

So, go visit Disneyland, hang out at the beach, stay in a hotel, and show up for the test. Then go home. In Wisconsin, you only need to be in the state for 10 days. In New York, a one-month stay is required. Neither of these rules is insurmountable.

Will your state accept the CHSPE? While it has yet to be tried in courts, in conversation with legal folks, the "full faith and credit" clause in the U.S. Constitution (Art. IV, Sec. 1) seems to apply. You can't be a high school graduate in one state and then not have that accepted in another state. The CHSPE by California state law is the legal equivalent to a high school diploma. According to that same state testing official, this should be sufficient for college acceptance in other states, but it never hurts to check with your college(s) of choice. Remember, though, that other factors, such as age and test scores, can come into play.

It is important to note that there is already a decision by the U.S. Civil Service Commission that "...the Certificate of Proficiency shall be accepted in applications for federal civilian employment." It is also acceptable for admission to the prestigious University of California system.

Charter school attendance is on the rise and it seems like there is now one on every corner in the 40 states that allow them. However, all charter schools are not created equally. Some are quite good, while others still have much work to do. This is common with new schools.

However, I am a big fan of charter schools. They offer services that other public schools find difficult to beat (primarily due to the relaxation of certain public education regulations). While some charter schools are quite traditional in their approach, others offer online courses and correspondence study, and serve as homeschool resource programs.

Why is all that important? Because charter schools are public schools. Public schools are free (at least in the sense of additional fees beyond your many tax dollars!). The only catch is that you have to live in their service area. Most often that service area is a state, but it can be a few counties or a single county. For example, Choice 2000 Charter School is an online program in California. However, it is only free to residents of Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Imperial, and Orange counties. Residents of other counties may not enroll; however it is open to students from other states for a fee. Rules vary widely by state, so you will want to do your own research.

There are a number of possibilities from which I have chosen a few. I readily admit that what I have offered above is a jumping-off point and you will want to do your own due diligence. You can find these programs and others in my book, "Bears' Guide to Earning High School Diplomas Nontraditionally." However, if you looking solely at online programs, "Complete Guide to Online High Schools" contains much more recent information.

Thomas Nixon

About Thomas Nixon

Thomas Nixon is the author of Complete Guide to Online High Schools: Distance learning options for teens & adults (Degree Press, 2007) as well as other book and articles on distance learning. He is the manager of Best Online High Schools. For regular comments, check out his blog at Best Online High Schools Blog.


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