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Homeschooling or Online School: Which Is the Better Choice?

All parents know how essential education is for their child and invest a lot of time and effort to find the best possible option. There are several alternatives when it comes to schooling. Parents can opt for private school, public school, online school, or homeschooling. Most people are familiar with public and private schools but are puzzled when they need to distinguish homeschooling from online schools.

And that’s completely understandable if you’re one of those parents (especially after the pandemic, when many parents turned to less traditional options for education). But don’t worry—that’s why this article is here. If you’re contemplating online schooling vs. homeschooling, we are going to provide you with some informative and useful facts today.

Homeschooling or Online School: Which Is the Better Choice? Photo of mother helping her daughter at a laptop by August de Richelieu via Pexels.

What’s the Difference between Homeschooling & Online Schools?

1. Who is teaching the child?

One of the main differences between homeschooling and online schooling is who is doing the actual teaching. In an online school, your child will have a teacher (or multiple teachers) offering lessons online via various platforms, such as Zoom or Google classroom. With homeschooling, you (the parent) are your child’s teacher. This means you will be the one choosing curriculum, planning lessons, teaching those lessons as necessary, marking completed work, etc.

If you are homeschooling here in BC (and in some other provinces and states), you can enroll your child with a local school to have the option of a teacher supervising and advising you as you teach your child. This teacher will liaise between you and the government to ensure that you are meeting the government requirements for your child’s education. At the end of the day, though, you are still the one doing the hands-on teaching.

Online teachers generally have expertise in the topic they are teaching (for example, math or science). This can be an advantage, especially if your child is struggling in a particular area and you aren’t sure how to help explain the topic or concept to them. However, online teachers are also dealing with a variety of kids and may not have the time to get to know your child or help them with their particular struggles.

Some online classes meet in a virtual classroom, so your student has the chance to interact with the teacher and the classroom in real-time. Students can possibly make friends via their online classes and do some group work together, which is harder to do when you are teaching one student at home.

Online teachers will grade students’ assignments, assess comprehension and offer students ongoing feedback by either email or phone. They are available to both students and parents whenever they have any questions or express any concerns. What’s interesting is the fact that according to interesting online education statistics, more than a third of online students would rather choose online schools over homeschooling. This just goes to show how effective this method can be.

If you want to teach your own child, then homeschooling is the better option. If you feel more confident with a teacher teaching your child (or think your child would respond better to a teacher), then online schooling should be your choice.

2. How much time is required?

In general, online schooling requires a larger time commitment than homeschooling. When doing online school, students may have stricter deadlines and be required to be online at certain times for classes. Homeschoolers, on the other hand, have more flexibility around deadlines and the time they put into learning.

For example, I know online students who have a school day comparable to being in public or private school, whereas my daughter in Grade 7 last year was still able to get most of her work done before noon and have the rest of the day free to pursue other interests.

If your child does better with a less structured routine and more flexible deadlines, then homeschooling may be preferable. If your child prefers a more scheduled day and tougher deadlines, then online school could suit her.

3. What about devices and screen time?

Online school happens online, of course, meaning that your child is required to have a laptop to connect with their teacher (and classmates) and complete their work. Some children find it difficult to be sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time, while other children love technology and being able to connect online.

Homeschooling offers parents the flexibility to use books, videos, and other resources to teach the same materials. Children are not required to sit still in order to learn and don’t have to be glued to their device. Homeschoolers also aren’t required to have one device for every child learning, and may share a computer or laptop among the entire family.

If you have multiple devices and your child enjoys reading and interacting online, then online schools could be a good fit. If your child doesn’t like long hours spent online, or you don’t have the budget to buy another laptop, then homeschooling is likely better.

4. Do you like flexibility?

If your schedule is pretty hectic, which is one of the reasons why you need something that’s more flexible, then you should most definitely opt for homeschooling. One of the main reasons why parents choose to homeschool because they are the ones who organize and plan everything based on their obligations and tasks for that day. Some parents choose to homeschool because they can fit schooling around their own work schedules; other parents choose to homeschool because it allows their child to pursue a particular interest, such as sports or dance, which requires a lot of time both to practice and compete.

Homeschooling also lets you be flexible with your child’s needs and learning pace. Some children learn faster and others slower. I’ve seen this in my own five children; two of my five kids are working ahead of grade level, while one child was behind in her reading for a short period. Thanks to homeschooling, I’ve been able to let those two kids work at their own pace (even if that’s ahead of their peers) and to be flexible with our curriculum to help the child who was struggling.

In the vast majority of online schools, classes are taught live (at a particular time) from Monday through Friday. In these instances, students must meet all the deadlines when it comes to assignments and homework and are obligated to follow their class schedule. A child who is above average or talented in a particular subject area may feel bored (just as they would in public / private school), which a child who is confused or struggling in a certain area may fall behind.

In this way, it can be concluded that online schools are pretty similar to traditional ones in terms of attendance and schedules.

If your work or your child’s passions require a great deal of flexibility, then homeschooling may be a better fit for your lifestyle. If you prefer that schooling happens on a regular Monday to Friday schedule, then online school may be preferable.

5. What does your child want to learn?

When choosing where your child should attend school, it’s worth considering what they want to learn or what subjects they are passionate about. One reason to choose online schools is the increased variety of education alternatives. Some subjects are harder to learn / teach in a homeschool environment.

For example, I do not speak any second languages. As children are required to learn a second language here in BC in grade 4 and above, I’ve had to look for language tutors online to meet this need. The advantage to this is that they are learning a second language from native speakers and thus getting a better knowledge of the language than I could provide.

Many online schools allow children a variety of course options, particular in junior high and above. Through these courses, they can pursue particular interests or start learning about topics that will lead to their desired career. For young adults looking at a university education, online schools can let them pursue their degrees while living at home and thereby save money. Students may also be able to take courses at a variety of schools to get the precise education they want.

If your child wants to learn topics that you don’t feel qualified to teach, then online school may be helpful.

6. What about curriculum?

Parents who opt for homeschooling often have to spend a lot of time finding or creating their own curriculum. This process can be time-consuming and pricey because they need to spend a substantial amount of money on materials and texts for each subject.

If you create your own curriculum (to allow your child to follow particular interests or passions), you’ll likely spend hours researching and designing curriculum. If you follow a set curriculum, you’ll still need to invest time in getting to know the curriculum, teaching it, marking it, etc.

In an online school (as in a private or public school), the curriculum is chosen by the teacher (who has likely taught it many times over) and provided to the parents and students. The teacher may have access to more resources or newer ideas about how to teach particular subjects.

If you don’t have the time to create curriculum or the money to buy pre-prepared curriculum, then online school may be a better fit. If you enjoy putting together lessons and finding resources that will spark your child’s interests, then you’re likely to succeed at homeschooling.

7. What will it cost?

The most common expenses when it comes to homeschooling that parents may take into account include the following:

  • school supplies (pencils, notebooks, and many other things)
  • curriculum (textbooks and workbooks)
  • extracurricular activities (art lessons, sport, etc.)
  • field trips
  • Testing fees, if state homeschooling guidelines demand regular testing

There are options for free curriculum. Creating your own curriculum may be cheaper than buying boxed curriculum. If you know many other homeschoolers in your area, you can likely get curriculum secondhand for reduced prices (or even free). When looking at different curriculum options, it’s often worth comparing the price as well as other factors.

The cost of online schools is significantly different. If you are doing online school through your local state school, then it may be free (including curriculum and other materials). If you are opting for a private online school, then you’ll likely just have one fee to pay for tuition which will include everything kids need for the year.

The cost of homeschooling will vary by your location as well. For example, here in Canada, many curriculum options are more expensive because the exchange rate between Canada and the US and the shipping costs to Canada. On the other hand, several provinces (including BC) offer homeschool funding to parents to cover the cost of curriculum.

Homeschooling or Online School: Which Is the Better Choice? Photo of person doing an online course by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.

As you can see, both of these alternatives come with negative and positive sides. In the end, you are the only one who can choose what is best for your child and your family this year. I take our schooling decisions year-by-year and assess what’s working (and what’s not) and what needs to change (or not) each year. You can also do a mix of each rather than full-time homeschooling or full-time online schooling.

For example, while we’ve never done full-time online school, we have supplemented our homeschool lessons with online Spanish lessons, coding classes, math curriculum, science classes, and more.

I hope this helps you decide whether homeschooling or online schooling is better for your child!

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