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Part of this post is an excerpt from It’s Homeschooling, Not Solitary Confinement: Busting the Myths, Misconceptions, and Misinformation About Homeschooling.
So you’re at a crossroads? Maybe you’re just starting out on a homeschool journey, or maybe your kids have been in a public school system and now, for whatever reason, you’ve decided to start schooling them at home.
Before you take one more step to transition to homeschooling, you need to know the difference between homeschooling and schooling at home.
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Homeschooling or Virtual Online School?
Homeschooling is learning at home, where the parent takes control of the child’s education. Homeschooling is parent-directed and parent-led, and generally learning is done at the child’s pace. Depending on the state where you live, homeschooling may include using a state specified curriculum, but many states allow parents to choose the curriculum for their children.
Schooling at home is often also (mistakenly) called homeschooling; however, it is very different. Schooling at home–also called virtual public school, virtual school, free online school, or tuition-free school–is following a public school or an educational institute’s state-required curriculum at home. These programs are usually offered through public schools or through state-approved programs and often require students to participate in the state’s standardized testing and meet other state school requirements. A student works at the predetermined pace set by the school, generally through an online program, and submits work and examinations. The student is basically participating in public school, but just doing the work from home.
Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that all online programs are public school programs. Just because a program or course is performed online doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a state controlled program. There are many independent homeschooling programs and courses that are offered online and have nothing to do with state mandated curricula. These are valid choices for parents who want to homeschool and still maintain control over their child’s education without state interference.
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While homeschooling and schooling at home (virtual public school) are both great options, do not be confused if you are new to this subject. Homeschooling gives you control over your child’s learning, while schooling at home follows a state program just like public school, often including oversight and state testing. If you want total control over your homeschooling and your child’s learning, signing up for a virtual school at home (that is funded by, or affiliated with, public schools) will not offer that, so be sure you understand the program before committing.