Can you help a confused CA parent re: online schools vs homeschool and a-g?

Hi CC,
My rising 10th grader is interested in trying another option outside her brick and mortar local public hs, mostly due to her dancing schedule. Her goal is a bit more flexibility with time without losing academic rigor. Right now she has a 4.0uw, and if she stayed at her present hs she’d likely have between 7-9 APs at graduation. We’re considering a public charter school, an online school that is accredited by the Middle States Atlantic Commission but is not a-g accredited, sticking it out in her school x 4 years, or staying for one more year and then doing Middle College (like a Running Start, etc.).


  1. The online school couldn’t tell me if California would treat them as a private online school or if my child would be considered a homeschooler. (They allow students to come full time and receive a diploma from them, or part-time and receive a diploma from the parents; I am not interested in the latter.) I don’t know how to figure this out and would appreciate any leads on where to look for this information.

  2. The online school says they are not a-g accredited. I understand the a-g requirements, as her present school talks about them a lot, but am unclear how important the online school being a-g unaccredited is. What does the accreditation mean, practically? Is it about the gpa boost for approved courses? If she takes enough AP classes to achieve the 10 semester max for capped UC gpa, does it matter? Or is it something else entirely? Will UCs look askance at my kid if she lives in CA but is taking classes that are not a-g accredited? @Gumbymom , I’m hoping you’d be willing to chime in here

  3. I hear that colleges prefer AP vs Middle College with regard to rigor. The college counselor at the high school punted when I directly asked this. Is this the word on the street, or have AOs actually stated this?

  4. I have been very, very reticent to consider homeschooling, partially because I feel like homeschoolers get put in a different pile with different expectations than kids who attend a traditional school. Am I viewing this incorrectly? I’d love words of wisdom, especially from parents who have experienced both public schools and homeschooling. @Creekland ?

Thank you all in advance for any thoughts or advice you have!

We did regular public school for the dancer in our family, but with one or two online classes approved by the school. When she had a performance with rehearsal schedule (she danced professionally) the school gave her a package of work so she could keep up. I have to admit, she skipped senior year entirely (but got a diploma from a school that gives them out when you meet their checklist). She did fine with admissions.

For online we used VHS VHS Learning | Home. We were so happy with it that we helped fundraise so that our school could join as a school member, and as a result 25 students per semester could take one of their courses for free.

VHS has a weekly schedule with assignments due weekly. For more flexibility (work has to be done but on your own schedule) we also used Aventa Learning.

But there are so many choices out there.

I can’t help at all with CA public colleges because I’ve no experience there.

With other colleges, I directly asked a few when I was the “guidance counselor” for my guys as I didn’t want to mess up their college futures. What I was told, more than once, was that most love homeschoolers (diversity), but need to see that they have the foundation to succeed at the college. This comes in two forms - outside grades, SAT/ACT, or significant letters of recommendation showing an academic foundation that can succeed and outside activities showing they can get along with others.

To me, your student’s AP or CC classes (I’m assuming this is akin to what you’re calling “Middle College”) will do the first and her dance will do the latter. CC classes would only be a red flag if she’s interested in med school, and then, only if it’s the prereqs. Other courses are fine - though she’ll want to be getting As in them as the GPA will count. If not interested in med school, most colleges won’t care. She might not get credit for the courses at a 4 year school, but it shouldn’t hurt admissions at most. Princeton used to be an exception, but I think they changed some years ago (perhaps not, someone else can chime in if they know).

At private schools and most public schools (don’t know about CA), I don’t think you’ll have any problem at all and could get a boost from the diversity aspect.

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A-G accreditation only means that the school’s courses will articulate with the UC/CSU a-g course requirements for these schools. A student will not be penalized for taking non accredited a-g courses but it is up to you and your student to determine if they will meet/articulate to the UC a-g course requirements.

UCOP website lists A-G course criteria and also UC approved on-line school providers so I would consider using one of the many listed which would make course articulation easier for you and your student.

On the link select Institutions then filter by school type and on-line

On-line UC approved providers will list their courses which get the extra weighting with a Gold star. AP courses will be weighted but there several HS Honors classes that can be weighted if they are UC approved.

Colleges like to see HS rigor either with AP/IB courses or community college courses. One is not preferred over the other by the UC’s or CSU’s however, not all CC courses are UC/CSU transferable and doing well in these CC courses is important since they become part of a students permanent college record.

UC’s consider 3 UC GPA’s: Unweighted, Capped weighted (limited to 8 semesters of UC approved weighted classes) and Fully Weighted (unlimited # of semester of weighted classes) so yes having more than 8 semesters of weighted classes can be important.

Perhaps you can follow @compmom ’s example and have her attend her CA HS for a few classes and supplement the rest with some on-line classes.

Is her dance achievement trajectory such that you see her delaying college for a professional dance career? In that case, when she does wind up eventually going to college, possibly after a few years of pro dancing, she will be viewed as an alternative student and it won’t have mattered so much that she did online or homeschooling while training for dance at a pro level.

Is her dance trajectory such that at application time, it will be a very nice EC, but her level of achievement doesn’t look as if it would be such that it warranted her having gone to alternative schooling? In that case, her choice of alternative schooling will make a big difference.

There will be a chorus of naysayers booing me, but the reality is that AP classes at a good high school (public or private) will be at a much, much higher level than community college classes. Yes, there are bright, high-achieving people who go to community college for all sorts of reasons, but the reality is that community colleges are filled with people who for whatever reasons do not have a solid high school education. The classes are at a lower, slower level than at a 4 yr college, which are at a lower level than at a flagship state U or a highly selective private college. So yes, AP classes, especially with scores of 4 or 5 on the AP exam, will be seen as more rigorous.

It sounds to me as if you and she plan a traditional path to college. In that case, is it really worth it to pull her out of her regular school? By “rising 10th grader” (in February), do you mean that she is in 9th grade now? Or do you mean that she is in 10th grade now? If she is in 10th grade, I’d assume that means that she is 16 yrs old. Unless she is entering a pro training program that requires relocation, I’d do your best to keep her in her school, for so many reasons, like maintaining social connections, high standard academics taught in a peer group setting, just some normality to life. Talk to her school and see if they can give her gym credit for dance. She can drop other ECs. She can take the minimum number of electives.

If she is in 9th grade, and it’s looking as if she is on her way to a pro dance career, then I think that you need to speak with her teachers about what other young women at this stage of training have done. There are plenty of child actors, dancers, music prodigies who wind up stopping regular school because it interferes with their careers. Some of them wind up moving to NYC or LA for training, which usually is paired with an academic program near the training program.

I would not pull her out of her regular public high, where she is doing so well, unless it appears that her level of dance warrants it. I have known many girls who took even nine hours of dance classes after school and on weekends, but stayed in regular school. They loved dance, they did tons of it in middle and high school, they even went on to be dance majors in college, but it was clear that they were not going to be pro dancers. The ones who were heading towards pro dance left school for residential pro dance schools in NYC when they were in middle school, and received education at a program there designed to mesh with the pro training program.


A big key to consider is what she wants to do. My two who homeschooled high school wanted it and enjoyed it. My third who went back to school for his high school years wanted that and enjoyed it.

Let her have a say. It’s her life.

@compmom, I thought it was you that had used VHS, but I didn’t want to tag you until I was sure! I’ve looked at them in the past, but will check them out again. Our school has a limit of four online or concurrent enrollment classes over the course of four years, with only two of them as “required” classes. The plan is to do PE over the summer, since the school won’t allow her dance to count as PE, so that leaves one “solid” and two electives for the next three years. That might work if we’re careful to spread them out to keep things balanced.

@creekland, Thank you for the reassurance re: homeschool if we decide to go that route. At this point she’s not interested in med school, but she is potentially interested in grad school (PT? Counseling? Something else? She’s really unsure.) so will need to at least consider what taking CC classes would do. Honestly, that route isn’t my ideal for her, but it may be the “easiest” in terms of how much it would deviate from a traditional route. (Ironically, she’s legacy at Princeton, so I’ll at least look to see if they have a stance on homeschoolers now. Heaven only knows if she’ll want to apply there, but data is data.)

@Gumbymom, I knew you would have a good answer for me! I’ll go look at UCOP. I’ve looked at it for her hs, but didn’t realize they had online schools on there. You’re right, choosing a school that has articulation agreements would make life a lot easier. And I hadn’t considered the fully weighted UC gpa when considering our options.

Thanks, all!

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Thank you for such a thoughtful response. Let me clarify a couple of things:
*She’s in 9th grade.
*Her plan/hope is to apply to colleges in 12th grade with the intent of taking a gap year to try to dance professionally. Her teachers have said that she won’t dance at the acme companies (ABT, etc), but that she could likely dance in a smaller, regional company. This suits her fine. She’s dancing ~17 hours/week now and will likely increase over the next couple of years, which is why she’s concerned about managing the school workload.
*Unfortunately, her district is adamant that you will either take two years of PE in school, or take one year in school and then complete a sport x 3 years for the school. She could do the dance team to meet this, but this would decrease her studio time, and there’s a fair amount of “twerking” in the routines, which she doesn’t want to do. (I was going to push this option, “Be involved in your school! Get rid of the PE requirement! Meet other dancers/make new friends!” until she said that the choreography made her uncomfortable. How can I tell my teenager to do sexualized moves that make her feel uncomfortable?!? So that topic has been dropped.)
*Honestly, I think I agree with you re: AP, which is why I’ve kind of dragged my feet about looking into options outside a traditional school. But I also want my grounded kid to feel like she has some minimal amount of breathing space. She only has one AP this year and the workload has been fine, but we all agree things will be more challenging in the years to come. And I’ve learned to hold trajectories loosely. Will she change her mind in two years? (It seems unlikely given her passion, but I’ve seen others like her burn out or get injured. Life happens.) I think I’m more nervous about changing this direction than she is, and my homeschooling friends have tried to impress upon me that she can go back to the local hs if it isn’t a good fit. I mostly believe them. :slight_smile:

@Creekland Trust me, if she hadn’t asked me most of this year if she could homeschool (whatever that looks like–she doesn’t care if it’s an online school or something else), we would not be considering this. She’s not unhappy at her school, she’s performing well, she has friends. I have some quibbles, but nothing that would make me pull her from the school. I’m just trying to figure out options that will have us both sleeping well at night.

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This will vary by state and community college. In California (where the OP presumably is), many community colleges have many striver students who are trying hard to earn their way to transfer to a UC. These strivers will mostly be taking more advanced courses with each other, not remedial (high school) level courses for those who finished high school with 1.5 GPAs. Many of the strivers are non-traditional students, often with much greater motivation than fresh-out-of-high-school students (including themselves when they were fresh out of high school). Some fresh-out-of-high-school students are there because affordability or family problems (rather than academic problems) precluded going immediately to a four year college.

Of course, what you say may be much more true in some other states, where the community college and then transfer pathway to the four year colleges is not well developed or encouraged.

My D17 was a competitive dancer. Our school didn’t limit the number of classes she could take off campus. By senior year she was in varsity dance team, plus 3 academic classes at her high school and everything else through college now at a junior college. One of the big benefits of the approved college now classes is the way they count for high school coursework. Example, two foreign language classes at the community college counted as 3 years of high school language on her transcript. There was no differentiation between online and in person college classes either. It sounds like your high school wouldn’t allow this type of schedule, but are there options nearby? Charter/college programs? I wouldn’t fully homeschool either, but if you can do some type of hybrid where she has an actual high school transcript, this could work.

we are midwest. SO i can not speak in any way for CA rules.
However, fall of 2020 i had a plan in place that i worked out thoroughly. Would your school do something like this? It was all so my D could remain on her beloved HS school dance team (she loved performing at all the football and basketball games and doing competitions locally and nationally).

she was going to officially be homeschooled. As a homeschooler, she could opt into our high school to take non-core classes and still be part of the team. They’ve done that a few times over the years; let kids participate in sports/music/Jr.ROTC while not being a full time student.

because i can not teach her what she needs, her core classes would then come from an accredited online high school; that offers several AP classes as well; some of the AP classes are dual–credit through our local state university. Those classes would transfer back to her high school transcript if she wanted to go back full time as they are state-accredited.

it really was a good plan. she would have had french and a few other non-core classes from the HS as well as APs and a few other non-APs on her homeschool transcript. she’d miss out on HS graduation at the school; but . . wth! so did our S20. he made it through without a ceremony.

have you looked into a combo like this? again, not sure what CA’s rules are. It would work really well here though.

editing to add: our HS will not take home school classes from a home school transcript for graduation. that’s why i made sure if she wanted to go back full time to high school, the classes were certified/approved/transferable - at least the ones the high school needed for a diploma.

Is your daughter focused on ballet? Mine did ballet , but mostly with adults, as a “foundaton” but not a focus, and her performance area was what I would call balletic modern (not quite contemporary ballet). She never did any work en pointe for instance. The ballet life is different in its intensity.

For a lot of teenage dancers, their social life IS dance and peers at school don’t understand. In fact, sports is a big social thing at many schools, and dancers generally don’t have time to participate in that or theater, clubs and so on. If this is not painful for the kid, it is fine.

If your daughter is in the ballet world and wants to continue, she has many options. She can mix school and online classes, or do full homeschooling. Laurel Springs might help with that and there are others. She could go to a school like Walnut Hill, for ballet (they do have financial aid), where the whole program is geared to ballet.

Many colleges have ballet programs, both BFA and BA. Check out Goucher, Skidmore or Barnard for examples. Down the line she will have choices for those years too: amateur or professional dance, a BFA or BA or BS in dance, a BA in something else with dance on the side.

When we visited Juilliard the person leading the tour commented that most students there get rid of their pointe shoes quickly. One of the attendees who had done intense ballet training kind of gaped in surprise. Is there any chance your daughter will move in a different direction in dance? More modern/contemporary, or choreography for instance?

I have to head to bed, but wanted to at least do a quick response to those of you who have kindly responded since my last post:
@ucbalumnus --The gist of your post is why I think I am torn about CC vs AP. I feel like online people are clear that rigor is better with AP and colleges know this; locally I feel like there’s more wiggle room in the discussion. This gray area is not helping my decision process. I do wish our HS college counselor would have been transparent in his response instead of telling me to ask the CC, who in a presentation had said, “Well, it depends…”

@socalmom007 , I’d be happy to look into more local options if I can find any. After your post I googled more charter schools in my county and didn’t find any that would let her do a schedule similar to yours. But I’ll reach out to friends and see if they know something I don’t.

@bgbg4us , I would love if CA was similar to wherever you are in the midwest. From what I can gather, our district would not let her do anything like that. I think the school only gets $ from the state for full-time enrolled students, so perhaps that’s why they won’t let one do this?

@compmom , yes focused on classical ballet. It’s both foundation and focus. She has to take one class outside her genre, so she dabbles in contemporary, but her heart is in the pointe shoes. Ironically, I’ve asked her if she wants to do a BFA, and she’s said that if she has already had the opportunity to dance professionally that she’s not sure she sees the point (no pun intended) of majoring in dance unless she’s planning on teaching dance. Again, she’s 15, so she has time and room to change her mind. I can’t imagine she’ll leave dance entirely, but perhaps it won’t be center stage (pun intended) at that point. We liked Laurel Springs when we first started looking at online schooling, and then I got scared of entirely asynchronous classes, so put it off to the side. But it could easily move back into contention.
She would agree that her social life is dance and that her closest/most supportive friends are mostly from dance. And you’re right, she never made it to a football game, because she had lessons until 8 or 8:30p every Friday night this fall. But I don’t see her shedding tears about that. She does wish she could do drama outside of school, and has had to let that go. (If she ever does give up dance, I strongly suspect that would become her new EC of choice.)
I’ve never heard of Walnut Hill; I’ll have to at least peek to see what it is.
Could she move away from classical ballet? Again, this is her life, and I’ve learned to never say never. But at this point, she loves the discipline of classical ballet, so we’ll see.

Must sleep!

I am PM’ing you!

Try PMing @Calliemomofgirls .

One of her Ds in your state had similar decisions. She may also have insights into Walnut Hill. St Pauls also has a very serious dance program and very rigorous academics but Walnut Hill sounds more like what you are looking for.

I have known a handful of kids in NYC who have been able to pursue professional dance training by attending Professional Children’s School (which has lots of flexibility around class times, etc to accommodate kids who are working around shows and rehearsals.) This option also works for athletes. It’s not 100% online. Do you have a similar option?

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Well, it does depend. California publics and probably many California privates are familiar with California community colleges*. But colleges elsewhere may look down on them (particularly where their home state community colleges are less suitable for transfer preparation).

*See for transferability to UC and CSU.

D18 is just finishing a ballet BFA and danced intensively in HS (25 hours per week). We had the same issues with our CA high school, and dance team conflicted with ballet class, so she had to do the second year of PE. She did a regular course load in high school (1 AP sophomore year, 4 in junior year and 4 in senior year which is typical for top students and got 8 5s plus a 35 ACT) and had considerable success in applications, since high stats dancers are rare (ended up with a full ride). Her dance commitments also looked good when she applied for non-dance majors as a backup (eg UCB/UCLA).

Taking a year off before college would have been difficult, especially as UCs don’t allow deferrals. You should consider how that might constrain your options, I could imagine that it will be easier if you intend to apply to mostly private schools.

I do agree that the strongest dancers who are set on a professional career will likely opt out of school much earlier. A friend moved to Boston to become a trainee there early in high school. But D always wanted college and to have a double major as a backup. She’s likely to do a traineeship next year and then see what’s next. Perhaps 30% of her class are planning the same, most will do other things after college.

Thanks for the page @gardenstategal !
@illneversaynever I have a (California resident) daughter who has done pre-pro ballet training throughout high school, and has done public charter (plus dual enrollment – community college classes) in order to accommodate that schedule (and the fact that she studies ballet out of state now.) She is graduating in May and is pursuing a BFA next year (in the midst of audition/college application season right now).
Feel free to ask me questions if I can be helpful. I scanned the long thread but am not quite sure where you stand now and what outstanding questions you have at this point. I do think that once you get north of 25+ hours/week, it starts to be hard to keep up a regular school schedule and it may be worth pivoting to another model. However, if the goal is “normal” college, then probably staying in normal school makes a lot of sense. Lots of folks have 20 hours of activity weekly and while it keeps one busy, it really is quite doable. (Mom of 4 high school girls – only one is a dancer, and only one took this less typical path.)
Walnut Hill and SPS – very different. Walnut hill – it’s the pre-pro of Boston Ballet. SPS – very strong ballet offered at a very intense academic boarding school. I would NOT suggest SPS as an option for someone like my dancer daughter whose primary (and only?) love is ballet over academics. (We considered SPS for a hot second when she was in 8th grade and visited. Very quickly we understood that the academics were absolutely 100% the priority, and she would be dancing fewer hours than her heart desired, and she would have lots and lots of homework.). (Side note: another daughter ended up at Andover, and I can confirm from seeing that path from the inside that dancer-daughter would have hated such an intense academic experience.). (also side note: so did my other daughter, despite being super academically inclined, but that’s a story for another day…).
One thing I’ll add about boarding school, however, is that if she is a freshman now, you would be most likely in the cycle next year for her junior year, since most deadlines were January 15. (Walnut hill I believe has some flexibility on that as I believe they save some spots for their summer intensive attendees.)
Anyway, feel free to ask me questions or drop me a DM.

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@illneversaynever I offer my advice with the caveat that we approached homeschooling with a different purpose (solely covid-driven) and are located in New England… but the best money we spent and our North Star throughout this process was a homeschool advisor / college counselor. There are so many different options and different opinions out there-- this person was able to help us clarify not only our thinking, but to help in our perspective of how my daughter presented her experience to the schools to which she applied (and in the actual application process!). Please feel free to send me a message if you have any questions about our experience.

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Wow, you all have given me a lot to consider and look at. Thank you so much!

@gardenstategal and @Calliemomofgirls , I just pulled up the websites for Walnut Hill and St. Paul’s; I’ll poke through them tonight. Before engaging with either of those schools I would want to have another heart to heart with my daughter’s ballet teachers. Our family has never considered boarding schools for a variety of reasons, so there would need to be something compelling to have us move in that direction. If her teachers said, “Absolutely! Best thing in the world for her!” I would gulp and explore more. But I love having her at home and wouldn’t want to sacrifice our remaining years together unless I felt like it was the best or only way for her to achieve her goals. Unlike compmom’s daughter, my kid isn’t dancing professionally now. Will she go pro? I don’t know. Will it just be a very in depth EC? Quite possibly. I’m not sure she would “qualify” for a Professional Children’s School at this point. I think I should probably re-explore other hybrid-ish school options.

@ucbalumnus I know it depends, but that doesn’t help me when I’m having to choose. (Sigh.) And while I am confident that she will apply to CA publics and privates, I suspect that she will look around the country as well, so I want to make sure that I’m not making applications outside the state look weaker than they might otherwise be.

@Twoin18 , I’m going to read my daughter your daughter’s story. I think she just keeps hearing from older dancing friends that she’ll need to “back off” her academic load junior and senior year in order to be sane. Her English teacher just said, “You shouldn’t plan to take so many APs. I only took four, went to UCSB, and have a job I love.” Grr. But I digress. That’s a really good point we hadn’t considered about gap years and UCs. We’ll have to have that conversation as she applies and see how things shake out.

I don’t think my daughter is one of the “strongest dancers”. Is she good? Yes. But one of the girls from her old studio did independent study her sophomore year in HS and then moved to Switzerland at sixteen to dance in their company. That’s not my kid. Even if my kid could dance professionally, she will say to anyone, “Dancing is not a long-term career.” and she wants a college degree that will allow her to do other things in the long run. Her top few majors when she talked to my MIL tonight? Psych, English, Religious Studies, maybe with a dance double major, and maybe she’ll consider becoming a physical therapist. In other words, she had no idea, and that’s ok in my book.

@JenniferF12 , thank you for that recommendation! Should we go the homeschool route I wonder how tricky it would be to find a homeschool advisor/college counselor that would feel comfortable with the performing arts supplement. (That’s the part I’m most concerned about, as it feels entirely foreign to me.)

@compmom and @Calliemomofgirls , I will be DM’ing both of you.

Thank you again, all.