Some children simply don’t get on in the standard public school system. They may have unique educational needs, have had a negative experience with traditional school in the past, or may simply live too far away to enrol in a local school!
In these instances — and many more — both homeschool or online school can be great alternatives.
But these terms are often used interchangeably and, as such, it’s pretty easy to get lost between which is which, how they differ, and why you might choose one over the other.
If you’re weighing up your options between homeschool vs online public (or other formal) school, this guide is designed to bring a little clarity to the decision-making process.
Firstly, let’s define the two…
Homeschooling is when a parent or guardian chooses to educate their child from home. In this scenario, the parent takes control of their child’s teaching and decides what, where, how, and when they’re taught.
Homeschooling parents have to follow state law and are often required to teach core subjects like English, math, and science. Aside from this, there is usually a great degree of freedom and flexibility for a family to decide exactly how their child is educated.
Online schooling — or public online schooling — is different, in that parents don’t have the same control or agency in building their child’s curriculum. Instead, online school students are taught according to the guidelines set by the online school provider, who will usually implement a traditional state school curriculum.
In online schools, children are still educated from home but are taught by remote teachers who run digital sessions with other students around the country. These sessions can be pre-recorded or live streamed, depending on the school and teacher.
Homework is also set by teachers, as are formal assessments that are carried out each term. These are then marked by the online school and feedback to the student is provided digitally.
Overall, online schooling and homeschooling are similar in that they are both forms of home-based education but differ based on who is actually delivering that education.
Homeschool vs online school — a closer look at the main differences between the two
There are notable differences between homeschool and online school, and you should have the full picture before deciding which is right for your child. The biggest differences fall under the following categories:
As we’ve already touched on, online schools will educate your child according to their own traditional curriculums. This means that you cannot tailor your child’s education unless you homeschool them independently.
That said, both forms of remote schooling require parental support, especially for younger children.
Traditional online schools do not allow religion to drive their curriculums. You can choose to homeschool your child according to your religious beliefs, but this is only permitted if you lead their education independently.
If you homeschool your child, most states will allow you to choose whether or not they are formally assessed. This is not the case with online schools, where children are formally examined as frequently as they would be at a physical state school.
Homeschooling your child is “free”, in the sense that there are no direct fees to pay. Most states offer free online schools, too, but there are paid-for alternatives if you’re looking for a more premium experience.
This difference is important, as it means that there’s more choice and competition when it comes to how your child is educated online, which could influence your decision either way.
Online schools offer far more opportunities for structured socialization than homeschooling. They include interactive digital sessions where children communicate with each other, and often host physical events like scholar clubs and field trips.
If you homeschool your child, there will be no formal structure in place for socialization. Instead, arranging social opportunities is your responsibility.
Regulation and monitoring
There is a far higher degree of regulation and monitoring required with online schooling than homeschooling. In addition to formal assessments, online school students have their attendance monitored and also have to follow a strict schedule.
So, which form of remote schooling is right for your family — homeschool or online school?
Ultimately, of course, this decision is up to you. Many factors need to be considered here and it’s important to seriously weigh the differences before deciding one way or another.
Overall, the biggest consideration should be your ability and enthusiasm to lead your child’s education.
Homeschooling is a serious responsibility and it requires specific skill sets. You’ve got to be able to take control of your child’s education and ensure that they’re qualified enough for both further study and future employment.
As such, not every parent is cut out for homeschooling — and there’s no shame in that. We can’t all be teachers after all, and it’s important and sensible to acknowledge that fact.
What’s more, homeschooling requires a serious shift in family life. You’ll likely need to stop or pull back from your career, if you’re currently employed, which can mean a big change to home dynamics and income. For more pros and cons of homeschooling, check out this guide.
Of course, you’ve also got to consider which style of teaching best suits your child. Do they require a particularly customized curriculum (i.e. homeschool)? Or will they benefit from a traditional, more structured approach (i.e. online school)?
Take as long as you need before jumping to any conclusions. Balance the answers to questions like these with your own bandwidth and availability, and you’ll be able to settle on a decision that works both for yourself and your child — and that’s the key to making the right call.
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