As my older son, Vincent, wound his way up the grades of Japanese elementary school, my wife and I faced a conundrum.

On the one hand, junior high school's military-style uniforms, the harshness of sports coaches and other restrictive practices did not agree with Vincent's personality, which seemed better suited to an American school environment. On the other hand, he wasn't suffering from any serious problems, such as bullying, and was performing reasonably well. Since we didn't live close to any private schools, the local junior high seemed like our only option.

Then I stumbled upon Oak Meadow, a virtual school for grades kindergarten through 12. Students can either utilize its home-schooling program independently or submit schoolwork and eventually graduate. We chose the latter program, which means Vincent shares his work with a teacher via Google Docs and receives feedback. Parents are encouraged not to check assignments beforehand so the teacher can see the child's original work. Despite its hippie roots, Oak Meadow is an accredited school. Its "progressive, compassionate and child-centered" curriculum, was exactly the approach we'd been seeking.