A Review of NorthStar Academy

Stacey B’s Notes on NorthStar Academy
(As presented at the SHARE Education Conference 2008)

With NEW updates from Stacey in 2010!

[Admin note: This post is now based on information that is 5 years old. NorthStar has undergone many great changes through the years. Keep in mind that that there will be some differences today from families that used NorthStar 5 years ago.]

***Keys to success with NorthStar are the kids’ desire and parental involvement***

The NorthStar Academy v. The NorthStar Home school Program

NorthStar Academy is an accredited online school. Teachers, transcripts, and some books are provided.

NorthStar Homeschool is everything the academy is, minus the teacher interaction. It is less expensive, and you provide books, you are downloading the lessons, and you are teaching.

Price may seem high (for the Academy) but it is all inclusive (tuition, registration, books, fees, teachers).

Flexibility:

Since it is not web-based, you can get lessons ahead of time, there are extensions, etc. so it will help with flexibility. School is served by a client server. It is hosted by software specially made for this environment. The work is kept track by week #, not by date. VERY FLEXIBLE (i.e. due dates and how much you can do at once).

2010 Addition: Floating deadlines are a two-edged sword.  We have needed them for times of illness, visa runs or when our unreliable internet has become completely out of order for days on end.  However, it is extremely stressful for a student to feel behind for months of a given school year should they need that flexibility.  Morale about school gets pretty low around here when they are not on the current week.  Also, if you happen to have a perfectionist in the house, that student can fall behind simply because they have the option to overstudy for a test, even if their grade in the class is 100% going into it.  I’ve had to tell my student, “You ARE taking that test today!

Technology/Classes/Grades:

You can work offline. Standard software is Microsoft Office, but other software is used for specific subjects.

Parents also have accounts.

NSA offers a lot of standardization in the format of how classes are shown. This year (2008) is the last year of using grade sheets in excel. Next year there will be grade management software that will be automatically emailed to the kids and parents (which already began this year with several of the teachers).

2010 Addition: Now NorthStar uses PowerSchool where parents get online anytime they want to see grades that teachers have posted.

In terms of subjects:

Science – very conceptual, very hard to teach in two dimensions. ChemLab simulation software, plus dvd’s of labs, plus hands-on labs (Apologia textbooks). Classes will have lists to let you know in advance the items that are needed for the labs.

Math – also very conceptual, uses great software, some teachers in addition to the DIVE cd’s are making their own videos, etc.

AP classes
Offering biology, chemistry, calculus, computer science, world history, literature, psychology, Latin (honors, not AP but most kids can take the AP exam after the Latin 3 course).

Co-ops and Credits:
Both Academy & Homeschool side will work with doing it with others, for example:
Get together to study, etc. With NS HS you can use things for the co-op, and then present it. IF credits are an issue you can take a challenge exam (cumulative final exam) at the end of the class to prove you have learned it and you get academy credit for doing the homeschool class. This provides accredited transcripts for high schools or colleges.
A group of families in Long Island (6 families) did the academy together for girls’ senior year.

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2010 Addition: NSA will also accept credits from some Potter’s School classes (ones they do not offer) and possibly from other online schools.

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You can receive credit for coursework not done in online class, if you are doing it through the homeschool side of NorthStar.

You can receive credit for language learning if you send in a letter from your teacher (and translation) saying that the student has reached such and such a level (an OPI or another type of test would be fine). Do not send in the number of hours the student is studying per week, how many years, etc. as you will not probably get as much credit as you would for just having reached a particular level. (People living in a foreign country will learn language more quickly than those sitting in a class in the States.)

If you enroll your kids in school (private, public) for a semester, you can stay on as homeschool students for that semester so that you won’t have to re-enroll.

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2010 Addition: We had our kids tested via OPI and were granted foreign language credit for Northstar.  I had to fight some for that.  They’ve had a lot of turnover in their leadership this past year and so unfortunately what Brett Bowers had told me a few years ago didn’t have much bearing on the current decision-making process.  I thought it was crazy that after studying Russian for four years (and going to Russian school) my kids were possibly going to have to take Spanish or French.  In the end, I think things are more negotiable than they may seem, so don’t give up if you get a “no” answer at first.
I’ve never had my kids take more than five classes.  I have advised new families to start taking classes for credit in junior high so that their high schoolers will be able to have a balanced life with sports and friends, and not just hours in front of a computer every day for four years! Beware: I have heard that this is a great plan, as long as the student will graduate from NorthStar. Some families have experienced problems when transferring to private and boarding schools, as not all schools will accept high school credits that were taken by a 7th or 8th grader.

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The entry page for both NorthStar Academy and the Home School parent-led program can be found here: http://www.northstar-academy.org/

For frequently asked questions go here: http://www.northstar-academy.org/academy/FAQ.aspx

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Also see: Online Schooling: Who is Cut out for it?

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2 thoughts on “A Review of NorthStar Academy

  1. Pingback: Five Basic Types of Curriculum « The Education Cafe

  2. Pingback: Types of Curriculum: Technological Learning « The Education Cafe

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