One of the first questions new homeschoolers ask is what homeschooling method to use. What curriculum should they use? Where do they find teaching resources? How expensive will it be?
These and other questions swirl like a brain-ripping tornado in the early days of homeschooling. Which of the four major homeschooling methods you choose impacts the answers to those questions.
4 Methods of Homeschooling
- online, public school platforms (also called virtual public school and online charter school)
- online free platforms (non-public school)
- online paid platforms (non-public school)
- offline resources/traditional homeschool options
Who Uses Online Platforms & Why?
The number of families choosing to homeschool is increasing rapidly. During my 2 years of employment with a large homeschool group in South Carolina, enrollment increased by 100%.
In the following year, enrollment increased by another 50%. Other states are seeing the same rapid increase in homeschooling numbers.
As homeschooling becomes mainstream, more families choose online platforms. These include:
- brand new homeschoolers
- families with high school students
- parents with less education
- working parents and single parents
- large families schooling multiple grade levels
- families in crisis
- those dealing with chronic illnesses
- families whose children prefer using technology to learn
For these families, online homeschooling helps to insure:
- all academic bases are covered systematically and completely
- academic courses will adequately prep a student for life after high school
- a parent’s limited education does not hamper a child’s learning
- a student’s education does not suffer because of a parent’s busy schedule
- a family’s schedule is flexible and allows for dealing with a crisis or illness
- a student who prefers technology over books will enjoy school
- a large family parent-teacher can oversee the needs of all students in the family
Virtual Public School & Beyond
Many families who begin homeschooling via virtual public school platforms eventually move on to other homeschooling modalities. Sometimes, they discover online schooling through the public schools is not a good fit for them.
Other times, they become more comfortable with homeschooling and want to be more creative in choosing available options.Do not be surprised if you fall into this category.
Once you have your student settled into that routine, it is a good idea to begin to explore other available homeschool options just in case. (A good way to do so is to follow the rest of this 4-part series!)
Online Public School Resources
Each state now offers students online educational resources. These options allow students to study at home. It is important to note that these families remain under the jurisdiction and oversight of the state’s educational system.
A participating student is still subject to:
- requirements governing attendance/absenteeism
- being marked tardy
- requirements re timely completion of academic work
- standardized testing within that online platform.
Some online public school platforms provide computer equipment and books needed at no charge. Others charge a feee. Most often, these resources must be returned when a student withdraws from the program or completes the grade.
Finding an Online/Virtual Public School
It is easy to discover which online public school resources are available in your area. Your school guidance counselor can point you in the right direction as can your school district office.
You can also Google ‘online public schooling in (name of your state)’.
Talk with other homeschoolers in your area about their experiences with virtual public school options.
If you don’t know any homeschoolers, search Facebook for homeschool groups in your area.
Once you find one, message the administrator and ask to be added to the group.
Include a short note that you are considering online public school and would like advice from others. You will find a robust group of folks ready to share the pros and cons of the ones available.
As you evaluate your options, remember to factor in how the attendance policy will impact your family. If you live in an area with sketchy or slow internet, you may have issues. If your family needs flexibility for therapy or ongoing medical issues, you may need to choose a less time-restrictive option.
If you think an online/virtual public school might be right for your family, download my free Virtual School Assessment Sheet. It will help you uncover all the information about the options available to you and gives you a place to record that information.
Before you make a final decision, be sure and read the other 3 parts to this 4-part series. Once you know all available online and offline options, you’ll be able to make a well-rounded decision for you and your family.