You have decided to pursue a home-based education. Congratulations! What are your options? Do you need an accredited online school program? Or can you just homeschool? What is the difference? Not sure? It’s ok to feel overwhelmed. In fact, it’s pretty normal. Let Anything Academic help you navigate this new experience.
Home-based learning is growing in popularity. The pandemic has only accelerated that growth. In fact, many parents have turned to home-based learning after becoming frustrated with how their schools were handling virtual learning during the pandemic.
Along with homeschooling, accredited online school programs have also become increasingly popular. Both homeschooling and online schools allow your child to study in the comfort of their own home without the distractions of a traditional school. However, there are some distinct differences between the two. This article will help you understand the differences and determine which path is best for you.
Let’s start with the basic definitions.
An online school is just that: an online, fully accredited school. Instead of getting up and driving to a brick and mortar school location each day, the student shows up in front of their computer instead. There are teachers, assigned work, and all the usual expectations of a traditional school. Expect the usual deadlines, work to be turned in, tasks to complete to move on to be given to the student. There are usually clubs, social activities, and other similar social opportunities that you find in a brick and mortar school. Occasionally, there are even regional dances, travel, and more. The school administration decides what the schedule will be when assignments are due and how grades will be determined. While the level of flexibility varies, in general, the student must adhere to the school’s rules and can not change anything beyond their chosen classes.
You may also be asking how this is different from your child’s virtual work for their own school this past year. Good question! The fundamental difference is that these schools have been doing this for a long time. It’s what they do. Their entire curriculum and way of teaching are expertly geared to teaching in this modality. It was not cobbled together in the last year but instead perfected, studied, and fine-tuned over the years.
A homeschool, on the other hand, is run entirely by the parent and student. The parent is the principal, teacher, and sole decision-maker. Schedules, curriculum, learning style, and more are not only determined by the parent but can be changed as often needed without any need for oversight (so long as the state-mandated laws are followed.) If something is not working for the student, it can be changed quickly and easily. Adjustments are smooth and simple with little hassle other than buying a new book or signing up for a new class. Social needs are met through organizations such as local clubs, sports teams, and co-ops. Classes can be taught in an online (single) class, in a co-op, or by other hired teachers or tutors. While very freeing, this path puts more responsibility for management and decision making on the parent. A homeschool is never accredited. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have grades or a transcript, but it is handled very differently. To determine what accreditation means and whether it matters to you, keep reading.
What, then, exactly is accreditation?
For a school to be accredited in the United States, an outside agency must review the school based on a given set of standards and certify that it meets or exceeds those standards. There are periodic review and renewal of this accreditation to maintain this seal of approval. The accreditation process was created to help high schools across the country, standardize some courses and graduation requirements for college preparedness. Over time, this voluntary process became desirable since it helps schools build and maintain a credible reputation. This process is used for online and brick and mortar schools.
Accreditation and homeschooling
When it comes to homeschooling, accreditation is not required. No state requires that a homeschool program, curriculum, or diploma be accredited. In fact, a homeschool curriculum can’t be accredited. Most colleges and universities do not require that a student’s high school education be accredited, although there may be exceptions by individual institutions or programs. However, schools may change their requirements at any time, so be sure to check the latest guidelines from any college you are particularly interested in. Anything Academic has a State Law Library dedicated to the rules and requirements for each state as well. You’ll find this very handy if you are considering homeschooling. It will guide you step-by-step through the process and requirements of your state.
Reasons for choosing a fully accredited online school program
Accredited online programs have several benefits, such as:
- Clear Standards: Accreditation assures that there are oversight and adherence to standards. You can feel confident that your child is learning material appropriate for his or her grade level.
- Ease of Transfer: Your child can easily transition into a public school or a private school. If there is a likelihood that your child will return to public high school, then the transfer of recognized course credit becomes an important matter.
- Access to Records: You will receive a transcript and grades, which will record your child’s achievements and serve as a record for future scholarships.
- Diploma: Your child will receive a homeschool diploma, stating that she met standardized requirements for graduation.
- Full Curriculum: Your child will have a full curriculum and develop time management skills to complete assignments and stay on track.
- Less Parental Involvement: Teachers, not you teach your child. This is a full school, and like many others, your role as a parent supports, not direct education.
Reasons for choosing to homeschool
Homeschooling your child has its own unique benefits, such as:
● Parental Involvement: You have a more direct role in your child’s daily learning.
● Curriculum Choice: Homeschooling allows you to choose the curriculum for your child. An accredited school teaches lessons deemed appropriate by the accrediting firm; the lessons may not be in line with your beliefs or what you think is important.
● Character Formation: You have the satisfaction that your children are learning, developing skills, and maturing in a way that aligns with your goals and values. Character lessons may not be foremost in the curriculum of the accredited school programs.
● Flexibility: Homeschooling allows greater flexibility of the schedule. You can manage your child’s education according to your needs.
● Practical Skill: Real-life skill-building is often integrated into home-based learning.
● Personalized Learning: Homeschooling allows your child to pursue his/her interests. Your child can have more personalized learning by matching lessons to his/her learning styles.
● Confidence and Motivation: Homeschool students often show a greater pride in their own achievements, as they are self-motivated. Also, homeschoolers tend to perform better on standardized tests.
Similarities between homeschooling and accredited online school programs
Despite their differences, there are also many similarities between virtual programs and homeschooling. Both types of education allow for direct communication between students and their teachers. Students may feel the freedom to ask for longer explanations, speed through assignments at their own pace when excelling in a subject, or speak up when they have questions. Both types of education options also promote independence and an enthusiasm for taking charge of one’s own education. With greater freedom to build their own schedules, teachers and parents can structure each child’s daily schoolwork around the student’s passions and learning preferences.
When talking about the need (or not) for accreditation, it is important to factor in the student’s grade level. Does a kindergartner need an accredited school? Maybe not. In fact, before high school and the subsequent concerns for college, there are strong arguments not to focus on “accreditation truly.” While accreditation makes the transfer process easier if you plan to move your child back to a brick and mortar school, schools will eventually just test your student or evaluate their prior work for placement.
Make no mistake, homeschool students head off to college, often excellent colleges, all the time. However, the way they create their high school education is a bit different. Families and students should consider their path through high school to college when making these decisions. In some cases, they may find an accredited online school easier to utilize. Learn more about how to homeschool high school students here.
With such a range of lifestyles and approaches to teaching and learning today, online schools and homeschooling provide options for tailoring education to each individual’s mind. The choice between online learning and homeschooling comes down to where your child excels and feels most comfortable. It would help if you chose the option that works best for you and your child.