In the last few years, especially after the pandemic, homeschooling has become a popular option for many families. Before deciding to homeschool, one thing parents should do is research the laws of homeschooling. The laws differ from state to state.
Online school is not always considered homeschooling, though some homeschool options are done online. Both types of schools have some similarities, but they are entirely different.
Sometimes, “online school” and “homeschool” are used interchangeably. The confusion is more than understandable. Now that we got that out of the way let’s learn some of the more subtle differences between online school and homeschooling.
What’s the Difference Between Online School and Homeschooling?
The most significant difference is that in homeschooling, the parents are the full-time teachers for their children, while online schools have certified online teachers. Homeschooling doesn’t necessarily follow any curriculum (but it can), while online schools do.
As we can see, the differences between online school and homeschooling are remarkable. It’s easy to get confused, especially when both allow children to learn and explore from home. Let’s dive into the subject and learn the crucial differences between online school and homeschooling.
The role of the instructor
Homeschooling means that the parents are teachers and build the curriculum for their child. This is one of the main reasons why some families choose homeschooling. It gives them freedom and the flexibility to structure the curriculum and the school year to their child’s interests and needs.
On the other hand, online schools offer private or public school curricula with teachers who guide the child through their education in the same at-home environment. Parents are involved in a child’s education but only as support.
The main difference is typically faith-based learning. Online public schools don’t follow any faith-based curriculum, as they are subject to local, state, and federal laws regarding schooling curriculums. Homeschooling has the option to be faith-based, secular, or a customized mix.
Homeschooling parents research the curriculum, buy the learning material, school supplies, etc., while online schools provide the whole material and create the curriculum.
In homeschooling, we can design the curriculum for the child depending on the family’s beliefs.
Also, the curriculum can respond to any linguistic, cultural, or other needs and interests.
Developing social skills through homeschooling or online schooling was always criticized. But, there is a way to overcome this. Both homeschooling and online school have different approaches to this matter.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, parents usually choose homeschooling or online school for this reason. That way, a child has the freedom for social growth at their own pace.
When homeschooling, parents incorporate opportunities for social interaction into the child’s day. They usually do this through sports, volunteering, co-ops or homeschool groups, or other similar activity.
Online schools offer social interaction through virtual sessions such as online activities and clubs. Also, online schools organize field trips, school events, and celebrations.
Here is the million-dollar question: how do homeschooling and online schools evaluate children? Again, check out the state laws for this one.
Generally, when homeschoolers pursue higher education, they may be asked for some tests or exams. Homeschooled children don’t receive a diploma. Don’t panic; children can take the required tests (like the GED) to solve the problem.
On the contrary, online schools provide online diplomas for students, which is an advantage if you want a diploma or a printout of student grades (a transcript).
Can Homeschool Be Done Online?
Homeschooled children can work online using the resources available for learning. There are many free and paid options available online. However, this type of homeschooling differs from teachers educating students in an online school.
For many families, an online homeschool is the best option for their child, especially if the parent doesn’t feel confident teaching some subjects. This is when online homeschooling comes in handy.
Many free and paid options are available online, from basic worksheets to full curriculums.
Is online homeschooling a good idea?
Online homeschooling is never a one-size-fits-all-families, but it can be great for some families, provided their children can do and enjoy online work.
Online homeschooling is a clever idea for a family because of:
- Freedom and flexibility in all aspects of homeschooling.
- Opportunity to homeschool wherever and whenever parents want if there is an internet connection.
- Digital lessons and tasks are customizable.
- Many tools are accessible for scheduling and record keeping.
- Ability to create an online homeschooling curriculum.
The best way to know if homeschooling will work for your children is to try it. I’d start with something easy, like some Khan Academy math (as it’s free), and see how that goes. If things go well, you can always expand into other subjects and areas or try some other online curriculums.
However, if it doesn’t work, you aren’t out much money – and you can try other options.
What is online homeschooling like?
Online homeschooling looks different for every child, depending on the child, the curriculum, and how and when they do their online schooling.
Online homeschooling is an effective option if parents have realistic expectations. Because they have the role of the teacher, it is important to support each child during the learning process, such as making sure the child is focused, doing the work, and staying safe while online.
So, what does online homeschooling look like?
Parents who homeschool have a great responsibility to create an online curriculum suitable for their children. This can feel intimidating. For that reason, they may choose to create a customized homeschool online program.
These programs come with options for pre-recorded lectures, live instruction, online graded work, and more. Some children prefer online live instruction and self-paced online programs. That’s why it’s important to find what works for your family.
This way, the child has the necessary materials that correspond with the interests they wish to explore and learn. Many parents choose online homeschooling because it allows them to create an individual and rewarding learning style.
Which Is Better, Homeschool or Online School?
The best option will depend on personal circumstances and preferences. Homeschool and online school are both great options. However, depending on a child’s needs, interests, personality, and learning style, parents should choose the best option for the child.
Both options promote a child’s individuality and independence. They allow the child to learn from the comfort of their home and provide flexibility. The similarity between these two options is the same location – home.
Parents’ choices mostly depend on each child’s personality and learning style. Of course, the decision will also depend on the parent’s available free time.
For example, my children quickly discovered that they loathe most online school options. They are fine with no more than 1-2 classes online at a time, but they do best with in-person instruction and homeschooling.
My children also discovered they liked online classes best when they were involved in games like Minecraft.
When should you homeschool vs. online school?
Parents should homeschool children when it’s the best option for their family, and parents should enroll children in online schools when it’s the best option. Parents should weigh all the factors when making these educational choices.
Although homeschooling and online school seem almost the same, they are not. Parents should homeschool their children if they are ready to take the role of the teacher and create the curriculum according to the child’s interests.
The parent doesn’t control the child while learning. Instead, they guide the child through the process of learning.
If parents prefer their child to learn at home with an online teacher and provided curriculum, then online school is the better choice.
Need to read more about virtual school options? Read our article on Cyber School vs. Homeschool – What’s the Difference?
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
Remember, there is no right or wrong answer here. Parents know their child the best; follow your intuition and the child’s needs and interests, and you will make the right choice easily. Also, sometimes it’s a good idea to ask the child what they prefer.
Then, try things out.
- Worst case scenario, you find something that doesn’t work. That’s great! You’ve found something that doesn’t work, which will help you find what DOES work!
- Then, you can try something else. Rinse and repeat as you eliminate what doesn’t work on your path to finding what does work.
In our experience, online school and remote school were both total busts. Homeschool, however, has been a largely positive experience. We’ve been able to learn together, and my children have loved learning as homeschoolers. They have enjoyed learning in groups, co-ops, at home, field trips, and even while traveling.
It’s been a learning and growing experience for all of us, as we learn what does (and doesn’t) work together.
We all have different learning styles and personality types. We can always try both of these options. After seeing how the child responds to them, we can decide the best education method for the whole family.
If you are a parent who has already been homeschooling the kids, have you ever wondered how your children can skip a grade? Click here to find out in our free-to-read article.
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homeschoolers.
- “Homeschool Vs. Online School Differences.” Homeschool.com, www.homeschool.com/articles/whats-the-difference-between-homeschool-and-online-school.
- Homeschool Vs. Distance Learning – Education Corner. www.educationcorner.com/homeschool-vs-distance-learning.html. Accessed 13 Sept. 2022.
- “Homeschool Vs. Online Public School: What’s the Difference?” Connections Academy, 15 Aug. 2022, www.connectionsacademy.com/support/resources/article/5-differences-between-homeschool-and-online-school.
- Jenna. “Online Homeschooling: How to Help Kids Learn Online.” BJU Press Blog, 15 Apr. 2022, blog.bjupress.com/blog/2022/04/19/online-homeschooling-how-to-help-kids-learn-online.
- Online School Vs. Homeschool. www.iconschool.org/blog/is-online-school-better-than-homeschool. Accessed 13 Sept. 2022.