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Sunday, October 21, 2012

From Homeschool to Online School to College (Guest Post)

I am off to a college visit with my daughter. Thought this was a good time to leave you with a pretty informative guest post I've been holding onto. Enjoy.

Notes From a Homeschooled Mom has before written about what it takes to prepare homeschooled students for college, and for getting the jobs they ultimately want. Estelle Shumann builds upon this conversation with the following blog post, which talks about how the technological advances in education (especially online education) help homeschooled students with college preparedness in a way never before thought possible. Estelle writes at, a website dedicated to online education.

From Homeschool to Online School to College: Technological Advances Prepare Students for the University
As technology has encroached into seemingly every facet of modern life in recent years, the nature of homeschooling has changed as well. In the past five years, online education programs have gone from a strange niche to a mainstream multi-billion dollar industry. As the technology facilitating online
learning improves, private online schools have had to compete with entire college courses offered virtually free of charge from some for the nation's top schools. For home schooled students, this wealth of resources is making college-preparedness easier to accomplish than ever before.

The number of students enrolled in online-only charter schools has risen rapidly in the past few years, from about 40,000 a decade ago to an estimated 250,000 today. Still, despite more than 2.4 million students around the country being listed as “home schooled” each year, a stigma still exists regarding online learning and homeschool learning in general. While adequate data on the overall effectiveness of online homeschooling programs is not yet available, recent studies from the National Home Education Research Institute and Home School Legal Defense Association have been encouraging, claiming that standardized test scores taken by home-educated children are as much as 30% higher than scores by public school students.

Carnegie Mellon University is one of the pioneers in online learning, having offered free online courses for over a decade as part of their Open Learning Initiative. 2011 marked a major milestone, though when a free online Stanford course drew 160,000 students. Since then, Harvard and MIT have formed a edX, a venture that offers free classes on multiple disciplines to any curious student with an internet connection. While very few of these resources yet offer official college credit, they provide a valuable resource for home schooled high school-aged students looking to prepare for college coursework.

As increasing sophistication in technology leads to marked growth in the popularity of online schooling, credited courses from established schools are also expected to increase in availability. Today, the schools that do offer college or high school credit require a fee, but it is frequently far more reasonable than the costs of live, traditional courses. At Olympus High School, which allows students to take all courses online, high school and college credits can be received from fully certified teachers with tuition costs similar to the costs of community college or private high school. The school also maintains resources such as an online reference center, writing tools and 24-hour technical support service for all students.

The increased presence of established universities in online education will likely lead to even greater confidence in homeschooling among families. At the same time, sites like Khan Academy, which offers thousands of short, high-quality tutorials on subjects like algebra, chemistry, history, economics empower parents with the confidence to guide their home school children effectively. As the costs of traditional education continue to rise and the quality of education is regularly questioned, technological advances are making homeschooling a viable option for college-bound students who would benefit from the challenges of learning at their own pace in a nurturing environment.  

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