Great Hearts Online: Classical Education in a Full-Time Online School

Great Hearts Online girl with parents

Great Hearts Online is a full-time, online school that offers a classical education model to students all across Texas—not just in communities that have a bricks-and-mortar Great Hearts campus. Great Hearts Online will begin accepting applications for enrollment for the 2023–24 school year on November 7, 2022. The deadline to apply during open enrollment is December 9, 2022, and families will start receiving enrollment offers on January 18, 2023. We have put together a guide to help you learn more about Great Hearts Online in Texas and take steps to enroll your child for the next school year.

About Great Hearts Online Texas

Great Hearts Online Texas began serving students in a full-time online school in January 2021. The idea of launching Great Hearts Online had been on the drawing board for a while; the Covid-19 pandemic showed that it was urgent and necessary. Great Hearts Online will continue into the future because it meets the needs of families who want to educate their children at home with the support of Great Hearts curriculum and teachers.

Great Hearts Academies was founded in Arizona in 2003, and Great Hearts Texas opened its first campus in 2014. Opening an online school was a departure for Great Hearts, which is known for traditional teaching strategies that rely on face-to-face interaction, like Socratic seminars. The challenge for Great Hearts Online is to stay true to the core purpose of Great Hearts—to cultivate the hearts and minds of students through the pursuit of “Truth, Goodness, and Beauty”—while using technology to deliver instruction remotely.

Great Hearts Online has stayed true to the original Great Hearts vision, using different tools but still offering a rigorous, classical liberal arts curriculum including advanced math and science, and robust arts and foreign language classes. The school helps to meet the growing demand for virtual school options, and adds a classical education model to the range of choices. Families like the Hornoks, who live in Texas communities that do not currently have a Great Hearts campus, as well as families like the Branyons, who have medically complex children and prefer to educate at home, can access Great Hearts curriculum and teachers through the online school.

To read more about Great Hearts Online in the news, we recommend that you click on the articles linked at the bottom of this post. Also, we invite you to join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook and ask questions; the group includes current Great Hearts Online families who can comment with answers based on their own experiences.

Great Hearts Online Texas teacher music

Great Hearts Online Texas School Models

In the 2022–23 school year, Great Hearts Online Texas is available to students in grades K–8 who are Texas residents and meet a set of eligibility requirements. (To understand more about the origin of the eligibility requirements, see the section below about parent advocacy.) There are plans to expand Great Hearts Online Texas to high school, starting with grade 9 for the 2023–24 school year. More details are coming soon; follow developments by signing up here

Great Hearts Texas earned an A on their district report card, while Great Hearts Online earned a C on their school report card. The 2022–23 calendar shows that Great Hearts Online follows a traditional school year schedule, with the first day of school on August 10, 2022 and the last day of school on May 26, 2023.

Great Hearts Online Texas offers two educational models: a teacher-led live instruction model and a flexible week model. The teacher-led model is optimal for families who are looking for a more traditional classroom experience virtually. Students are learning in community together; they experience interactive instructional time, live discussions, and classroom engagement. Looking at sample schedules gives a sense of when students of different grade levels will experience live, synchronous learning. The flexible week model is a good choice for families who value flexibility and are able to make a substantial time commitment to supporting their children’s education.

For students to succeed in virtual school, they also need access to high speed internet, an adult at home to support them, and a computer with a camera—a laptop or a desktop, with either a built-in or external camera. For families who qualify based on income, the school will provide a laptop. The FAQ offers more information about topics such as special education, class sizes, school uniforms (polos only), and moving from a bricks-and-mortar Great Hearts campus to Great Hearts online and vice versa. The family resources page includes links to the family handbook, the reading list, and more.

To find more information about virtual education in Texas, look at our guide to full-time online schools. To learn about bricks-and-mortar Great Hearts Texas campuses in the San Antonio area, check out the enrollment guide blog post. For more tools to help with your school search, download the free San Antonio Charter Schools app and visit our page Guide to Charter Schools in San Antonio.

Great Hearts Online girl presenting to class

Enroll at Great Hearts Online Texas

Families can apply online to enroll their children at Great Hearts Online Texas. Open enrollment for 2023–24 will begin on November 7, 2022 and will continue through December 9, 2022. On January 18, 2023, Great Hearts Online Texas will begin sending enrollment offers to families. For students who receive an enrollment offer, their families can begin the registration process; for the remaining students, they will be placed on waiting lists, and will be notified if a spot becomes available. Find more information in the Great Hearts Academies enrollment FAQ and the policies and procedures.

Virtual information sessions are a good opportunity for families to learn more about Great Hearts Online Texas. Parents and caregivers can sign up for email updates by joining the interest list—just scroll down on the homepage.

We also recommend following these Great Hearts social media accounts:

In addition, please join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook to post questions and search previous discussions about Great Hearts Online Texas.

Great Hearts Online girl with teepee

Parent Advocacy for Great Hearts Online

Because of parents advocating for education options, Great Hearts Online has progressed from a temporary waiver to an established full-time online school. During the 2020–21 school year, Great Hearts Online operated under a temporary waiver from the TEA. That year, Great Hearts Online served approximately 500 students in grades K–6, located in the San Antonio area (47 percent), North Texas (Irving, Dallas, Fort Worth, etc.—39 percent), and other areas of Texas (14 percent).

Because of parents advocating for education options, Great Hearts Online progressed from a temporary waiver to an established full-time online school. During the 2020–21 school year, Great Hearts Online operated under a temporary waiver from the TEA. That year, Great Hearts Online served approximately 500 students in grades K–6, located in the San Antonio area (47 percent), North Texas (Irving, Dallas, Fort Worth, etc.—39 percent), and other areas of Texas (14 percent).

In the spring of 2021, during the Texas Legislature’s regular session, HB 1468, a bill to provide continued public funding for distance learning, failed to pass. In the summer, during the first special session, virtual learning was not on the agenda, and the session ended without a quorum. Parent advocates, including the Hornok and Branyon families, shared their stories in guest posts and traveled to Austin to testify as hearings. Many more families wrote emails and made phone calls to legislators to advocate for funding for virtual learning. However, without public funding in Texas, Great Hearts Online began the 2021–22 school year as a private school with approximately 100 students.

After the 2021–22 school year began, the second special session passed a bill, SB 15, that funded distance learning and allowed Great Hearts Online to re-launch on November 1, 2021 as a free, public charter school and finished the school year with over 500 students. The new law providing for online schools includes some limitations on eligibility; families are encouraged to apply for enrollment and work with Great Hearts Online staff to determine eligibility.

Facts About Great Hearts Online Texas

The teachers at Great Hearts Online are working hard to help students and families feel like they are part of a community. In an interview, teachers Bridget Saltmarsh and Emilie Sullivan discussed how they build relationships with their students. For example, fifth graders are asked to fill out a sheet about their interests so the teachers can get to know them better. Different homeroom sessions have themes, like sharing riddles. Students are eager to share, whether it’s playing piano or violin, or showing off their artwork. Bridget uses songs and movement—like a phonics scavenger hunt—to bring students together and keep young learners engaged. On Fridays, when there are no synchronous classes, students are invited to log in for Lunch Bunch; Bridget plans events like Flapjack Friday to celebrate tall tales and Paul Bunyan.

Preliminary data show that Great Hearts Online students are performing well. Families are also sharing testimonials about their experiences. On a survey, a parent wrote:

Thank you so much for this opportunity! We enjoy having our scholar learn from home. By doing so we have grown closer as a family, and we have all avoided poorly spent time which gives us more time to actually learn and grow together. My scholar also now has time to peruse many of his extra passions which is much broader than what he would be able to take on in a traditional school setting. The quality of instruction and responsiveness of the Great Hearts Online teachers continues to astound me. We recommend it to anyone looking for a school from home approach. We are very grateful!

Another family reported:

Our daughter is enjoying school again! The distance learning program she had before was lacking. She is excited every morning to see her teacher and strives for excellence while completing her live assignments. She is also much more eager to complete her independent assignments through GH Online than through her distance learning. She is sharing stories about class and what she learned like she used to when she was at Brick-and-Mortar for Kindergarten. Distance learning in the fall and the lack of interaction with her teacher left her just feeling like she had to complete tedious work. There was no joy of learning in the fall. This new semester with GH Online has renewed her joy of learning!

Great Hearts Microschools are available for Great Hearts Online students who want to be part of an in-person learning community.

Great Hearts Online is also operating in Arizona.

Great Hearts Online Texas is a partner of Choose to Succeed, a nonprofit organization working to attract the nation’s best public charter schools to San Antonio.

If you like what you have learned so far about Great Hearts Online Texas, we recommend that you apply for enrollment. You are also welcome to join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group to learn more and interact with current Great Hearts Online families.

Charter Moms Chats

Watch Brian Daigle, Headmaster of Great Hearts Online—Texas, and Andrew Shahan, Director of Microschools at Great Hearts Nova, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on October 6, 2022 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

Brian Daigle is the Headmaster of Great Hearts Online—Texas. After completing his Bachelor’s in Industrial Design at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a Masters of Humanities from The University of Dallas, Brian was a founding board member and Headmaster of Sequitur Classical Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Brian has extensive experience with school consulting and school start-ups, a proven record of classroom instruction from elementary to college level, and a passion and talent for teacher development in classical education. Brian has completed select doctoral coursework in Comparative Literature from Louisiana State University and select doctoral coursework in healthcare administration from The Medical University of South Carolina. He has published, edited, or contributed to over twenty books on classical education, philosophy, and literature.

Andrew Shahan Great Hearts Microschools
Andrew Shahan

Andrew Shahan serves as the Director of Microschools at Great Hearts Nova. Mr. Shahan works with families to build small school communities around Great Hearts Online students. Mr. Shahan has been working with microschools for the past four years as the Director at Atlanta Micro Schools. This project grew out of a desire to create a unique opportunity for his own children’s learning. Before getting into microschools, Mr. Shahan was the Founder and CEO of ARISE Schools in New Orleans, Louisiana. Before founding ARISE Schools, Mr. Shahan was the Founder and Principal of ARISE Academy in New Orleans. Under Mr. Shahan’s leadership, ARISE Academy was named “A Top Gains School” by the Department of Education for the increases in learning by its students.

Mr. Shahan is most excited to serve families and communities by working together to create unique learning communities—microschools—built on the Great Hearts classical tradition. These learning communities can be tailored to meet specific needs of families, take advantage of local resources for learning, and be rooted in the Great Hearts philosophy of truth, goodness, and beauty.

Andrew is married to Isa Shahan. They have three kids, four cats, and one dog. When he is not taking kids to soccer games, Mr. Shahan really enjoys sneaking out for a run or playing tennis.

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