As budgets tighten and the public education climate continues to change, many parents feel that their child’s education is out of their hands. Some even feel helpless to improve their student’s situation—whether they’re struggling, not challenged enough, have special needs or suffer from bullying.

Each year, more parents seek out alternative education options. In fact, the number of students who are homeschooled continues to increase. Many might think that alternative options are limited to homeschooling and private school; one demanding more time and expertise than some parents have and the other more money.

Public, tuition-free online schooling at home has become the answer for many families, and the number of students taking classes online will continue to grow over time.

Some use the terms homeschooling and online schooling interchangeably. But there are key differences. Homeschooling means that the parent is the teacher and in charge of finding curriculum. An online public school is provided by school districts, charter schools, and state education agencies that are part of our public education system and supplies the teachers and curriculum, while parents oversee their child’s education at home.

The choice between homeschooling or online school involves careful consideration of unique needs and circumstances. However, there are some clear benefits to attending an online school for parents who may have thought keeping their children home wasn’t an option for them. Here they are:

Teachers. Homeschooling parents are in charge of teaching all material to their kids. This can be difficult when a parent isn’t particularly well-versed in certain subjects. In an online school, state-certified teachers provide instruction as well as guidance and support. Teachers are available via online class sessions, phone, email, one-on-one tutoring, and face-to-face meetings. K12 teachers will work directly with parents to ensure each student’s unique learning needs are met.

Curriculum. Parents who homeschool must research and find their own curriculum and make up their own schedule and lesson plans. They must also make sure they meet national and state standards. An online school comes with its own curriculum, which is approved by the state. Lesson plans are provided, which provides structure to students’ learning and daily schedule. In addition, many online schools will provide free hands-on materials that allow students to experience offline activities in addition to their online work.

Testing. Parents who homeschool are responsible for researching state and national testing standards to ensure their child complies. Online public schools require students to take the same state assessments as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Online schools often provide locations where students can take these exams.

Academic and attendance policies. Homeschooling requires parents to research local attendance and academic policies and are responsible for their reporting requirements. In online school, the educational accountability is already in place, including attendance and academic policies. Attendance, grades, testing, and other requirements are accounted for within the online learning platform from day one.

Socialization. While homeschool parents can take it upon themselves to make sure their children interact with their peers, online schools provide structured socialization opportunities. For example, K12 schools have a number of clubs that students can join as well as established field trips and outings.

Not all families are cut out for online education, so it’s important to research both homeschooling and online schools before making a decision. Parents can receive free information about K12‘s online public school options. For families with children in kindergarten through grade 8 who believe homeschooling is the best option for them, they might consider purchasing all or part of the K12’s K-8 curriculum to use as they wish. Longtime homeschooler Lori Beverage chose that option for her four children.

“I bought K12 curriculum and used it the way I wanted, without a teacher,” she said. “It depends on what parents are looking for.”


Image credit: CollegeDegrees360 / CC BY 2.0

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About The Author

Lauren Martin

Lauren Martin is a Writer for Learning Liftoff. Previously, she has written for nonprofits as well as marketing agencies. She's covered environmental issues, women's rights, world poverty, and animal rights. With a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from Ithaca College, Lauren enjoys interviewing families about their experiences with online education.