Q&A: Explaining the Difference: Online Schooling v. Homeschooling
Question: When I am researching online high schools for my daughter, I often see that the schools offer online learning and a home-school program. I feel like these two would be the same thing. Are there differences between exclusive online learning programs and online learning that is part of a home-school plan? What are these differences?
Answer: Online education, virtual high schools and homeschooling have joined together to allow parents to be an integral part of their child's education. With online homeschooling, for example, parents have the answer keys and are responsible for grading their child's assignments/tests and submitting their scores. Parents are accountable for the number of hours their child spends on each subject and have to report this to the online school.
Online schools or virtual high schools have "virtual" educators. Parents are not required to participate in the education process. School work and communication are seen as the student's responsibility.
Perhaps most importantly, many online schools are accredited (you want to check for accredited schools and where their accreditation is from; research both). If your child is working towards college, you want to make sure the college or university is going to accept his/her online transcripts. Due to online accreditation, online homeschooled students earn high school diplomas and parents don't have to deal with the frustration of finding a curriculum.
The option of homeschooling has increased over the years for many reasons. Homeschooling allows parents to be in control of their child's curriculum, time management and academic activities. For some families, homeschooling may be the only option due to medical, physical and/or mental health issues. For others, homeschooling is seen as safe and academically focused, instead of being focused on peers and socializing. Many parents choose homeschooling to minimize both teacher-to-student ratios and the potential for peer bullying. With homeschooling, the parent (or another qualified adult) is the educator.
When homeschooling began, parents had to seek out curriculum at schools, libraries and educational retail stores. Homeschooling "groups" were created; meaning the families in a particular group shared the same focus, goals and curriculum. For example, some groups focus on arts, literature or music. The groups usually participate in academic activities and field trips together. However, it can difficult for homeschooling programs to become accredited; meaning recognition by their States' department of education. Many homeschooling students don't earn a high school diploma. They earn a G.E.D. (general education diploma).
Online education first began at the college level. Over the last few years, online high schools have become more popular. Many public school districts offer online classes in lieu of sitting in the classroom. This is a great option for students whose class schedule is too busy to fit additional courses, or for students who need to retake a class. Not too long ago, virtual high schools were introduced. Virtual high schools allow students to complete a class, a semester or their entire high school diploma, online. This is an alternative option for students with poor attendance; students who must work for various reasons; teen parents; students with medical/physical/mental health concerns; or behavioral issues.
Homeschooling and virtual education have merged to provide the "best of both sides", homeschooling and online education. Parents have the option of playing the educator role or placing accountability on their child.