Our family has had a wonderful experience with The Potter’s School (TPS). We began using on-line courses five years ago. Our oldest two daughters were in 11th grade when they started. It has turned out to be a great addition to our home-school, especially for Literature and English classes (primarily what we’ve taken with them). TPS has an excellent English department, which has made our girls confident writers. The English and Literature classes are demanding, but good habits are learned. We started our children with on-line classes when they began high school, and we have been doing one or two TPS classes in addition to our regular home-school curriculum. We did do some NorthStar Academy classes in the beginning as well, but we were so impressed with The Potter’s School that we now do only TPS.
The Real-Time Advantage
One advantage students have with TPS is that they have interaction with the teacher and the other students both during the class time and during forum discussions. Most of the teachers have been accessible and helpful. TPS courses also help students learn about “real” deadlines, since assignments are due at a particular time each week and late assignments are penalized. You also have to be in class at a particular time each week (for 1.5 hours), so that does make it less flexible than NorthStar; but, that also means you can’t fall behind, which is nice. My girls mentioned that this aspect of TPS makes it helpful for students who are not motivated enough to keep up with their work on their own. For those students NorthStar could be a problem if they are always falling behind and have to struggle at the end to finish it all. So, NorthStar really requires more parental involvement to make sure the students stay on top of their work. For TPS it is hard to get behind.
Course Load and Academics
The classes on TPS are challenging, however, and other friends who have tried taking four TPS at a time said it was too much. We’ve found two to be doable, and a helpful addition.
I think that there is a healthier forum life on TPS, because their forums all have moderators who keep tabs on what is going on, whereas NorthStar’s forums are un-moderated. The un-moderated forums can often dissolve into meaningless randomness, or worse. On-line schools provide an opportunity for extra-curricular activities, like writing for magazines, student government, etc., which is helpful for overseas’ students who do not have many opportunities for those sorts of things.
Another advantage of TPS (and possibly NorthStar) for high school students is that you have other teachers involved in your child’s education who can provide recommendations when they are needed for college applications. It also proves to the colleges that your student can manage in a classroom other than home-school, and I think it gives your child some confidence there also.
Discipline and Learning Style
At the high school level students need to be preparing themselves to function in a normal classroom style environment, since they will have to do that in college. They will have to be obedient, faithful in their work, and learn to deal with whatever the teaching style of the teacher is, in spite of their own preferred learning styles, temperament, etc. At that point they have to be learning to teach themselves and adapt. In high school, education becomes primarily self-motivated learning and helping them to be prepared for college.
I know my experience is unique. I had only girls, and four of them, so for much of their homeschooling life they had a built in “little school” feel. I also have motivated learners who enjoy their classes, so that wasn’t usually an issue. I was able to home-school and use on-line schools only as a supplement, and it worked very well for us. We are thankful.
Other Helpful Information
If you use Saxon Math, then you can buy accompanying DIVE CD’s which have a teacher actually teaching the lessons and going through example problems with them. They are very helpful and do not require on-line assistance. Apologia Science classes for High school have an on-line help area for asking questions on their web site, and the classes themselves are now taught on The Potter’s School. There is a new site where the classes are taught on-line via a new “school” http://www.redwagontutorials.com/. I have not used that, I just saw it when on their site. I know there are other video options for math available, as well. I know it is often a concern over teaching math and science at the high school level that keeps people from trying to home-school high school, so I wanted to pass along these helps that have been helpful to me. If your concern is writing skills and teaching literature, then I whole heartedly recommend The Potter’s School. Other required high school classes like US Government can easily be taken on NorthStar or TPS in a semester class also. Doing a combination of on-line classes and home-school allows for more freedom with extra-curricular classes, local sports or music lessons, and less time on the computer.