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High School High School for Teens Online Learning

Talking to Your Parents about Transferring to Online School

Start your online high school journey with our handy guide. It's packed with tips and insights to help you switch from traditional schooling to a dynamic online learning experience. Let's ace this together!
Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

If you're a high schooler who’s thinking about making the jump from your traditional school to an online program, you're not alone. Thousands of students make this decision every year, recognizing that their current educational setting isn't the best fit for them. We know that talking to your parents or guardians about this change can be scary–that's why we've made this guide to help you prepare and have the conversation. If you’re serious about finishing high school online, it’s going to take some research so get ready to take notes!

Step 1: Do your homework

The first–and probably most important–step in this process is doing thorough research about the online school you're interested in attending. Find out about the school's curriculum, teaching methods, and the role you and your parents will play in this new learning environment. By doing the research, it shows your parents that you're serious. It also gives you solid ground when talking about the benefits and addressing concerns.


Read more: A Parent's Guide to Online High School

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“The most magical thing that happens for our high school graduates, beyond the things they learn in class, is the confidence they achieve. They start out doubting themselves, but then they realize at some point they can do it. This confidence transforms the way they see themselves.”

Alex Thome

Vice President, High School

What do you need to know about online high school?

When looking at different online high school programs, it’s key to have an idea of what kind of school you want to attend. Start a list of the types of programs you’re looking for and begin your search with those criteria. As you begin searching, you’ll probably come across even more options than you realized were available. Beginning in early 2020 as a result of the Covid pandemic, online education has become more prevalent and accessible to more types of learners than ever before. Some things to consider when researching online schools include:


1. Online high school programs’ learning structures

Online schools aren't all the same; they can differ in terms of structure, teaching style, curriculum, and pace. Some offer more structure with set class times and deadlines, while others are self-paced. However, most schools mix and match learning methods and create something that best fits their students.


Here are some widely used methods you may come across in your research:

  • Asynchronous high school: This is a learner-centered method where students learn at their own pace, often through pre-recorded video lessons, presentations, or readings. Assignments and tests have flexible deadlines allowing students to manage their own time. If a program calls itself “asynchronous” that most likely means that it is entirely self-paced, allowing you to study and learn whenever you want.
  • Synchronous high school: This method involves live, real-time interactions between teachers and students, typically through video conferencing. It's like a traditional classroom setting, where students can ask questions, participate in discussions, and interact with their peers.
  • Interactive online discussions: Many online schools utilize online discussion boards where students can post and respond to comments about course material. This method encourages critical thinking, collaboration, and engagement between peers.
  • Multimedia: To make the learning experience more engaging, many online programs use multimedia content, such as videos, infographics, animations, and simulations. These resources can help students to better understand complex topics.
  • Personalized: Online learning allows for a higher degree of personalization than traditional classroom settings. Students can learn at their own pace, and teachers can modify teaching materials to cater to each student's learning style.
  • Project-based: Some online schools implement project-based learning, where students learn by doing hands-on projects or investigations. This teaching method can be highly effective in teaching problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • Gamified: Some online programs include gamified elements to make learning more fun and engaging. These can include quizzes, interactive games, and rewards for accomplishing tasks.
  • Collaborative: Online tools such as shared documents, virtual whiteboards, or group video chats can facilitate collaborative learning, allowing students to work together on projects or assignments.


Read more: 12 Biggest Myths About Online High School


2. Types of online high schools

Just like with brick-and-mortar schools, there are a lot of options for remote learning. What type of school do you think would best meet your needs? Also, if you struggled in a public-school setting in person, that doesn’t mean you would struggle doing the online version. Keep in mind that attending in-person school is very different that attending remotely! Types of online high schools include:

  • Public online high schools (free): These are typically state-run and offer free education to students within that state. They follow the same curriculum and regulations as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. These schools might offer full-time and part-time learning options.
  • Private online high schools ($): Private online high schools (like Penn Foster’s online high school) aren't funded by the state and hence, they charge tuition. However, they often offer greater flexibility in terms of curriculum and scheduling compared to public online high schools. They may also offer specialized courses or curriculums catered towards certain career paths.
  • Charter online high schools (free): Like traditional charter schools, online charter schools are publicly funded but operate independently of the public school system. They typically offer greater flexibility and innovative educational approaches.
  • College/university-based online high schools ($): Some colleges and universities offer online high school programs. These programs can be a great way for students to earn college credit while still in high school, or to experience college-level coursework.
  • International online high schools (free - $): These schools offer international curriculum (like International Baccalaureate) and are aimed at students planning to study abroad for higher education. They often have students from around the world.
  • Online high schools for adult education ($): These programs cater specifically to adults who wish to complete their high school education. They offer flexible scheduling options to accommodate work and family commitments.
  • Online schools for homeschooling (free - $): These are designed to provide homeschooling families with a structured curriculum, academic support, and the flexibility to learn from home. They might offer a mix of online and offline learning resources.


Read more: How to Choose an Online High School


3. Courses and curriculum overview

Get to know the curriculum of the online schools you are interested in. How does it compare with your current school? Is it more challenging or flexible? Does it offer a wider range of subjects or electives? For example, if you want to take advanced art classes or coding, you’d want to look for a school that offers those specific courses.


Regardless of your interests and electives, you are required to complete a specific number of credit hours in order to graduate and receive your diploma. Every state has different requirements. If you choose to attend a national or international online school, you will need to make sure you are getting the credits required to graduate.


Read more: How Does Online High School Work?


4. Accreditation (is the school legit?)

Make sure the online school you're interested in is accredited. Accreditation is crucial—it’s a sign of the school's quality and legitimacy. An accredited school's credits are more likely to be accepted by other schools, colleges, and employers. Before transferring to an online high school, you’ll want to verify that the college you’d like to eventually attend accepts the program’s high school diploma and AP credits.


You may not need to go into detail about the accreditation process or the agencies, but here are some of the agencies that verify a school’s legitimacy. Send the list to your parents or guardians if they want to learn more about how accreditation works:


Read more: Are Online High School Diplomas Legitimate?


5. Available support services

An online support system is built into remote learning programs. Teachers, counselors, administrators, tutors, tech support, and mental health services are generally all accessible online and reachable via DM (direct message). Some teachers may have ‘office hours’ to make themselves available during the day. Your teachers will let you know the fastest way they can be reached before classes even begin.


Read more: Get to Know the Penn Foster Community


6. Student testimonials and success stories

Look for positive reviews from current and former students. They can provide a unique point of view on what it's like to attend the school and may offer insights that aren't available from official sources. Similarly, the school's success stories—such as college acceptance rates and career outcomes for graduates—can help illustrate the effectiveness of the program. If you can’t find very many positive reviews or mentions of the school you’re looking at, it could be a newer program that isn’t as established as other online schools. However, you should consider it a red flag if there are so many bad reviews and negative articles about the school that you are struggling to find good ones. If your parents are big on user reviews and ‘the comment section,’ don’t try to sell them on a school that has a negative public image.


Read more: Online High School Gave Kylee the Tools to Graduate Early


7. Parental involvement

Understand the role parents or guardians are expected to play in your online education. Some programs require a substantial time commitment from parents, while others do not. Knowing this can help set your parents' expectations. It’s also fair to compare it to their current involvement. If your parents are already fairly active in your education, they will want to have access to your online teachers just as much as they do with your in-person teachers. If what you need is more parental involvement, making everything online might be easier for your parents since they can access your teachers and administrators through a unified messaging platform.


Currently, most in-person schools do not have a single communication platform, so each teacher is using something different. This can be difficult for parents or guardians when it comes to finding out about their kids and getting involved.


Read more: Here’s Why One Parent Chose Penn Foster High School


8. How much is it going to cost?

Be clear about the costs involved—no one, especially parents, likes to be surprised by hidden (or omitted) fees. While some online schools are publicly funded and free for students, others charge tuition. You’ll need a strong internet connection and a tablet or laptop to access your classes and assignments. Most of your textbooks will be available online for free through your school. If there are electives or extra-curricular activities that you’re a part of (like painting, jewelry making, or Dungeons & Dragons), you may have supplies you’ll be expected to have before the start of class.


Read more: 6 Advantages to Having Your High School Diploma


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“Online learning is often just as rigorous as in-person learning; however, the flexibility to study when you are ready to focus, the ability to re-watch video content as many times as you need in order to master the learning, and on-demand support can make a big difference.”

Dr. Andy Shean

Chief Learning Officer

Step 2: Identify your 'why'

This is a big change that will affect your whole family, so be ready to explain to your parents or guardians why you want to make the transition to online school. Here are some common reasons why you might want to switch to online high school:


One of the primary benefits of online high schools is the flexibility they offer. Students can often set their own pace of learning, which is particularly beneficial for those who may find the traditional school schedule too rigid. This flexibility also allows students to pursue other interests or commitments alongside their education, such as sports, arts, part-time work, or family responsibilities.


Read more: How High School Prepares You for Success

Tailored learning environment

In an online high school, students can create a learning environment that suits their needs and preferences. For students who may struggle with distractions or social pressures in a traditional classroom setting, online schooling can provide a more focused and comfortable learning space.

Expanded course offerings

Online high schools often provide a wide variety of courses that might not be available in traditional schools. For students with specific academic interests or career aspirations, these expanded offerings can provide a more tailored and fulfilling educational experience.

Health reasons

Some students might have health conditions that make regular attendance at traditional schools difficult or impossible. For these students, online high schools can provide the opportunity to continue their education without compromising their health.

Accelerated learning

Online high schools often offer the ability to progress through courses at an accelerated pace. For high-achieving students, this can provide an opportunity to graduate early or take advanced-level courses sooner.

Safe and inclusive environment

Online high schools can provide a safer environment for students who may have had negative experiences in traditional schools, such as bullying. Similarly, students who might feel marginalized or excluded in traditional settings due to their race, religion, sexual orientation, or other aspects of their identity may find online schools to be a more inclusive option.

Geographic flexibility

For students who move frequently due to their parents' jobs or other reasons, the continuity of online schooling can be a major benefit. They can continue their education without interruption, regardless of their physical location.

Preparation for the future

As higher education and the job market continue to move towards virtual environments, gaining experience with online learning in high school can serve as valuable preparation for future academic and career success.


Read more: Making Moves On and Off the Court


Step 3: Plan your conversation

Next, find a quiet, relaxed time to have this discussion with your parents. This conversation should be distraction-free, allowing you and your parents to thoroughly understand each other's points of view. Be patient, listen to their concerns, and answer their questions to the best of your ability.


Shifting from a traditional school setup to an online high school could bring about a significant change in your everyday routine. In your discussions with your family, it's important to demonstrate how this change can be smoothly integrated into your family life.


7 Tips for Succeeding at Online School

1. Establish a consistent schedule

Show your parents that you can maintain a structured routine. An online high school schedule, while different, should incorporate regular breaks for meals and physical activity, which can enhance your focus and attention span. This consistency also offers the benefit of predictability, so your family knows when you'll be occupied with schoolwork and when you'll be available for family time. Here is a sample daily schedule.


2. Sync with the family schedule

To minimize disruptions, propose a plan to align your study schedule with the rhythm of your household. If your parents know when they can expect you to need help or have breaks, they can adjust their work-from-home schedules, leading to a harmonious daily routine for everyone.


Read more: A Day in the Life of a Online High School Student


3. Navigating online learning is a family affair

Adapting to online learning doesn't have to be a lonely journey. Here are some ideas to involve your family and help them understand how they can support your new learning environment:


4. Create a designated learning space

Explain the importance of a quiet, organized study space equipped with all the necessary supplies. This can illustrate to your parents how you will create a focused, classroom-like environment within your home.


5. Open lines of communication with teachers

Discuss with your parents the benefits of staying connected with your teachers for insights into your assignments and progress. This proactive approach can give your parents confidence in your ability to manage your academic responsibilities. And your parents will be more comfortable knowing that they can easily reach out to your teachers.


6. Advocate for screen-free time

Assure your family that you understand the need for balance. Propose regular screen-free intervals where you can recharge, engage in hobbies, socialize, or spend time outdoors. This can demonstrate to your parents that you have considered your overall well-being in this decision.


7. Discuss your learning style

Open a dialogue with your parents about your personal learning preferences. Demonstrating an understanding of your own learning style, and how it can be catered to in an online environment, can underscore the benefits of online high school for you personally.


Overall, having a well-researched, thought-out plan that addresses these points can give your parents the reassurance they need to consider online high school as a viable option for your education.


Read more: Online High School Diploma Helps Graduate Thrive


Step 4: Address your parents’ concerns and respond calmly to objections

Your parents or guardians may have several objections to the idea of online high school. Often, these concerns are due to a technology-aided generation gap and lack of understanding of how it all works. Being prepared with well-researched responses can help you address their concerns effectively.


Here are some common objections and corresponding talking points you can use:

Lack of social interaction

You can address this concern by explaining the various opportunities for social engagement available through online schools: virtual clubs, local meetups, and extracurricular activities.

Quality of education

Some parents worry that the quality of education in an online setting might not be as good as a traditional school. Be sure to present evidence of accredited online schools that adhere to the same curriculum standards as traditional schools. Highlight the success stories of students who graduated from online high schools and went on to attend prestigious universities or obtain gainful employment.

Lack of discipline and structure

Online learning requires self-discipline and good time management skills, which some parents might be skeptical their child possesses. You can address this by showing a detailed plan of how you intend to manage your time and stay disciplined. Use concrete examples, like setting a strict daily schedule and using productivity tools to stay organized.

Limited extracurricular opportunities

Some parents may worry that online education may not offer the same breadth of extracurricular activities as a brick-and-mortar school. Remind your parents that many extracurricular activities, like music, art, dance, or sports, can be pursued independently in your local community. Also, some online schools also offer a range of clubs and activities for students.

Impact on college admissions

Are your parents worried that you won’t be able to get into college with an online HS diploma? Address this by researching and explaining how many colleges and universities now recognize and accept diplomas from accredited online schools. You can also point out that online school might allow for more time to participate in volunteer work, internships, or other activities that can enhance a college application.


Remember, when discussing these points with your parents, it's crucial to remain calm, respectful, and open-minded. They have your best interests at heart, and providing them with concrete, research-based evidence will help them understand your perspective better.


Read more: How to Prepare for College in High School (A Checklist for Online Students)


Step 5: Highlight the benefits

In addition to addressing concerns, don't forget to emphasize the benefits of online schooling, which we’ve touched on throughout the guide: more control over your learning environment, less worry about transportation to and from school, and the opportunity for your parents to better understand your learning process. Finding peace of mind when it comes to your education path is a big benefit to both you and your family.


Step 6: Show empathy and understanding

Remember that your parents' primary goal is to ensure your health, happiness, and success. Switching from a traditional school to an online program is a significant decision, and it's natural for them to have reservations. Be patient, empathetic, and open to their thoughts and concerns.


If your research convinces you that online schooling is the best choice for you, taking these steps will help you have a productive and respectful conversation with your parents about making this transition.


Earn your high school diploma online

Becoming an online student is a rewarding journey! If you and your parents are ready to take the next step, you can enroll in Penn Foster’s online high school program whenever you're ready. Or, if you have questions or need help getting started, your parent or guardian can reach out to our expert Admissions Specialists at 1-800-523-0577. We're here to support you every step of the way!



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