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Don't let their brains melt

Avoid summer school (and summer brain drain) with a little e-learning.

By Hank Pellissier

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K12 Web site

K12: Online schooling's standard-bearer

K12 provides an abundance of high school classes. All the basics are available (algebra, biology, history, American literature, etc.), plus several electives for tech-savvy students like graphic and web design. The four-week courses cost $425, which includes an online tutor. K12 only offers world languages to elementary and middle school pupils this summer, but the price is right: $119 for a four-week course (no teacher included).

With its course overviews, the website is easy to navigate and its curriculum far more challenging than many brick-and-mortar schools'. Every K12 class is fully accredited, which explains the higher price tag. The best bargain K12 offers is the "Elementary School World Language Sampler" — only $69 to practice a smattering of French, Spanish, and German (ideal if your family is tripping to Europe).

Bottom line: K12 is fantastic for high schoolers who want to earn credit, especially those seeking Web-savvy skills.

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer whose fiction and essays have been been widely published and anthologized. A former columnist for Salon and SF Gate, he is a regular contributor to h+ Magazine.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

06/4/2012:
"Previously mentioned are the websites PBSKids & Starfall. My 5 year old has had great sucess with learning to read with Starfall & PBSKids is great for very young students. I also want to mention Khanacademy.org which I just LOVE. My 5th grader & I used it over the summer & he really had a leg up in the fall. I love that it starts at the very basic level & works up to above where I understand. It's completely FREE. Not as fun for younger students, no fun games or graphics but effective for the older students. You watch videos to learn the math concept then do a series of equations & earn badges. Parents can track students progress. Cant say enough about this website! "
09/29/2011:
"Since the time this article was published, a new online learning website for kindergarten to grade 5 has launched, called K5 Learning at www.k5learning.com. Includes free reading and math assessments and a 14 day free trial. "
01/24/2011:
"My 6 year old has used www.PBSkids.com and also www.StarFall.com for the past 2 years and has learned so much! Both are free. And her 1st grade teacher turned us onto www.SpellingCity.com and it's great! I can enter her spelling words and they are used in the games! Also free. Hope these links help - I never saw any listed in the article above just the ones mentioned in the comments. "
11/15/2010:
"The main idea of this topic is a very good one. However, as I read on the links were not there and it seemed as if the project crashed before it took off. Today there are many single parents that have sometimes two jobs to support their families which leave them no choice but to rely on the school systems to teach their children what they need to survive. With the economy in the shape its in its a wonder we even still have public school systems. And its a wonder we even have teachers still willing to teach at all. All this is bad, however we (the parents) can come together and create a site that will be free and still prepare our children for the upcoming years in school. I may be sticking myself out on the chopping block on this but someone has to do it: Here we go...in order for this to work we will need for us (The Parent) to seek out these resources; send me the links to the sites that are providing these demo learning sites and we can go from there. It may take some time because I too commute to and from work (1.5 hours to; avg 3 hours from) however, we have another half of the year to prepare so pass the word on this....because Facebook wont have nothin on us (the determined parents)! We'll keep them safe in study WHILE they text their buddy.... Parents, When I get your feedback on this I'll let you in on the secret."
11/2/2010:
"I read the comment about the opinion of the Californian teachers, and immediately thought about my child. I spent an incredible amount of time teaching my child. Why? Teaching staff tend to be thought as the only source parents rely on to educate their children. Have you been inside a classroom for the day? How much teaching time is spent dealing with behavioral issues of students? How is one person supposed to provide education for children, with different learning styles and abilities? Can you volunteer some time to help in the classroom? Have you thought about helping students who cannot learn like the others, perhaps because their family/or home situation does not foster the tools needed to educate their children. It takes a village to raise a child...stand back and wait until others do it, or be the person who steps in to help because it is the right thing to do. Be the change you wish to see in the world (Gandhi)."
07/19/2010:
"My 7th grade daughter tried the demo on the Time4Learning website to see if it was worth spending $20 per month. One of the questions about what is covering the earth's crust was: What is brown and hold plants? a) soil or b) chocolate. Seriously? I think we'll save our money."
07/19/2010:
"This is EXACTLY the article I was hoping to find without having to swift through hundreds of Google/Bing pages (with spam and ads). Thank you for taking the time to share this valuable information with fellow parents. "
07/19/2010:
"We started using Time4learning off and on since my son was in 1st grade. He will be in 4th grade. He has always enjoyed it (once he got going for his 45min.)I credit alot of time of learning for great skills in reading. This summer we are using it for the fourth grade learning. He does 45 min of learning and 25 mins of playground. I do find the parent controlls are more confusing then it use to be but I think it is about taking the time to learn it myself."
07/19/2010:
"My middle school girls love Smart Tutor. Both are low in reading and math. They started using smart tutor a few months ago to get caught up and prepare for sixth grade. They have never been so happy to study! Love it :D"
07/19/2010:
"California teachers are not teachable to teach our children because they are not learning like they're suppose to. Summer school does not help them either. We need to replace all the staff members of the Los Angles Unified School District and elect other intellectuals from out of state. California has the poorest academic score in our nation and I must say it is ridiculous! What are these teachers doing? Are they sleeping in the classrooms instead of drawing and scribbiling on the chalkboard? Our children in the state of California are failing because of these people we put in charge of our children are failing them."
07/19/2010:
"What help might there be for families who cannot afford fees? AND the children of these families are often the ones who need the extra help the most. Did you happen upon any free sites or for example use one for the two week free trial and then move on to another with a two week free trial etc. or develop your own? However in the day and age where both parents work long hours and then have household chores after that is quite a task too. Any suggestions."
07/19/2010:
"All these things seem great if you can afford it. What about the ones who can't afford any of these educational boosters? For example, if I go to the DOE and tell them that I want them to pay for these courses, they will probably tell me that they are electives and not covered. What is out there that is either free for low income parents?"
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