How to Evaluate the Online Curriculum

Online Curriculum

Most parents are not curriculum experts unless they are in the education field so knowing whether it is the right foundation for the student can be a challenge. When partnering with an online homeschool platform, the curriculum is already selected and established for each grade for continuity across all students.  However, parents still have a responsibility to review and evaluate whether this is achieving the expected results or not and to make a change if necessary.

The first step is to talk with the admissions counselor attached to the platform and ask to review the online homeschool curriculum. The top websites should include this information at a high level with the name of the textbook, who makes it and a brief description. This allows parents to perform an external Internet search about the curriculum to see what reviews it has received, comments from other parents that have used it and a deeper understanding of its foundation. For example, if parents are looking for Christian-based textbooks then they want to ensure that specific tenets are worked into the core subject matter to reinforce what they are teaching.  

Is the same curriculum used for all grades is another question to ask? This is important because every publisher has their own unique perspective on the subject matter so if a student has to switch to a different curriculum there could be overlap or a gap in the information. The ability to follow the same curriculum from beginning to end provides stability and consistency in how the information is conveyed and taught by the teacher to the students. However, along this path, the textbooks should provide flexibility so the instructor can use various approaches or methods to help students understand the concept as kids learn differently.

While the above point is to have consistency in curriculum, sometimes a school may feel that one publisher does a better job of representing a subject such as math or English than the main publisher they choose to use. In this case, there will be textbook variation between courses which is something parents should notice and ask about to ensure they are clear on the reasons why and how the online platform deals with this for each grade. The purpose of the excellent curriculum is to prepare the student with the tools and information they need to complete their current grade and move smoothly into the next grade.

One of the most significant ‘tests’ on whether the online home school curriculum is successful or not is based on how the student is doing in grades and comprehension. Homeschooling through an online platform means that the instructor is working with the student long-distance which can be a challenging situation for some students but with a solid curriculum in place, any problems can be greatly reduced.  Students should be able to understand the material they are reading, have checked through questions and tests to confirm their knowledge and steady progress of concepts building on one another in a logical manner. This is especially true of subjects like Math and English which rely on information previously learned to introduce a new concept or technique.

If the student is not doing well then parents need to evaluate whether the problem is the material, the instructor or the overall homeschooling approach. This alternative education is growing in popularity and works for a variety of families in different situations but that does not mean it is for everyone or works for the same student in all grades. A child might do well in elementary but need to transition to a public school for the higher grades or vice versa depending on their needs and learning abilities.

The online school should offer options for Honors or AP classes so qualified students can challenge themselves and take higher courses sooner to prepare for dual enrollment and college after graduation.  The curriculum used for these is typically the next grade above the student’s current placement or maybe slightly different if the school found a better publisher for this established level of learning. Parents should keep up with their child’s progress through the online portal to ensure they are succeeding with good grades and being prepared for tests such as the SAT and ACT in high school.

You don’t have to become the guru of an online homeschool curriculum but a little time and research can help you avoid the hassle of having to change platforms mid-year or between grades because of poor curriculum results. The admissions counselor can help answer questions, provide demos of the online portal with textbook examples and give background on why the school chose to use that particular publisher. Listen to your child as they talk about their studies and see how they are doing as this will be a good evaluation of its success or lack of improvement in their educational journey.