Home school versus virtual school: what’s the difference between online school and homeschooling — a parents beginners guide to homeschooling and understanding online school (distance education) and homeschool. We’ll also answer is homeschool better than virtual school and the difference between learning at home and learning at school.
Understanding Home School versus Virtual School
Online School vs Virtual School vs Homeschool
Homeschooling vs Online School: What’s the Difference?
- Who provides the classes / schooling
- Schedules / flexibility
- Regulation and monitoring
- Role of the parents
- Curriculum choices
- Tailoring courses to kids’ needs
- Social opportunities
- Assessments, grading, and testing
What is online learning?
Online learning, also called e- learning or distance learning, is education that takes place outside of a traditional classroom. An online learning program is performed through an online platform, where it connects a students to a teacher during a live class, or a student logs on to software to complete course work with videos, games, or other learning tools.
What Does Virtual School Mean?
Virtual school is an educational program that is completed online, usually from home, without attending a physical location. Many virtual school programs are associated with public schools (like tuition-free K12). However, there is a difference between homeschooling and virtual school.
Virtual School vs Public School
While we’re at it, let’s clear up what is a virtual school program versus online school.
What is the difference between online school and regular school?
Online school can be regular school, or public school programs that are completed from home, online. However, online school, or online programs, can also be independent and not associated with public schools. Some online courses are provided through independent educational institutes for homeschoolers or other independent learners.
ALSO CHECK OUT: Is K12 Really Homeschooling?
What is cyber school?
Cyber school is another word for online school, distance learning, distance education, or e-school. Cyber school simply means that a student learning with an online platform, outside of a classroom.
Is virtual school really school?
Virtual school is really school and is a valid way to learn for many successful students. Virtual school can be part of a public school, a private virtual school, or educational companies who offer homeschool online programs.
Is online school considered homeschool?
What is the difference between homeschooling and virtual school? Home school vs virtual school (or online public school vs. homeschooling / homeschool vs distance learning) can be very different things. Online school, even if performed at home, is only considered true homeschooling if it is not affiliated with a public school or a private school.
ALSO CHECK OUT: Homeschooling vs Schooling At Home
Is online school easier than regular school?
Online school is not necessarily easier than regular school or attending classes at public school or private school. Some students find online school a good fit for them and their learning styles, while other students may find online school and the commitment and discipline needed for online learning to be more difficult than offline school (or brick-and-mortar schools).
YOU MAY ALSO FIND THIS HELPFUL:
Homeschooling or Virtual School Online?
Difference Between Homeschooling and Virtual School
So, you’re online and you see things like:
Tuition-Free Online & Virtual Public School Programs
Free Online High School
Virtual High School
Online Middle School
Virtual School, Online Programs, Curriculum
And, in your quest of knowledge for What is the best online school? you click over to that tuition-free virtual public school that “offers parents flexibility and the involvement of homeschooling” because, “YES! THIS! THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR!”
Just wait a minute.
Let’s back up a bit BEFORE YOU MAKE A BIG MISTAKE FOR YOUR FAMILY . . .
What is the difference between homeschooling and online school?
Homeschooling may be done online or offline, using boxed curriculum or alternative learning methods. Online school is made up of online courses, generally completed from home. Online school may be affiliated with public or private schools, or may be independent educational institutes that offer online homeschool programs.
CHECK THIS OUT NEXT: Hybrid Schooling: Can You Homeschool and Go To Public School?
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The Reality of Virtual Schools
When looking for the best virtual homeschool programs it can get confusing.
I think the many different names for “virtual school” is partly what people find so confusing, so you’re unclear what you are signing up for and it leads misinformation or inaccurate perceptions.
What is virtual school?
Virtual school is also called:
- Virtual school
- Online school
- Virtual online school
- Virtual public school
- Tuition-free online school
- Free online schools (including free online high school and free online middle school)
- Free online homeschool
- Cyber schooling
- Online education
- Virtual education
- Online learning
- Virtual learning
- Online K12 curriculum
- Virtual learning academy
- Virtual program
- K12 online school
- Online programs
- Learning courses
- Schooling at home (or at-home schooling)
- e Learning
…and probably a lot of other terms that I can’t even think of right now.
So, if you’re new to homeschooling (or even researching school alternatives for your kids), you can see why it gets so confusing!
There are easily a dozen or more names for “virtual school” that:
- Can mean the exact same thing, or
- Can mean something similar, or
- Can mean exact opposites.
What’s confusing about that, right?
Maybe this will help break it down…
What Is Virtual School? A Virtual School Definition
Virtual school means that learning takes place in an online environment and doesn’t require a student to attend a traditional “brick-and-mortar” institution. Courses, classes, and other services are all offered and completed via the internet and generally completed online from home. Most virtual school is offered through traditional schools (like public schools), while some other virtual online learning (or e learning) is offered through private educational organizations. Virtual schools are often seen as alternative to brick-and-mortar education.
How does a virtual school work?
Virtual school is school work that is just done at home (online) instead of at a physical school building.
Here’s how virtual school works:
- Virtual schools work by connecting a student to a teacher (or instructor) through an online program to complete courses and school work.
- A student uses their virtual school login to connect to their secured account and access their work, which often includes online textbooks, worksheets, homework and other information.
- The student completes the assigned work online and submits it via the internet to the online program.
- The teacher then oversees and manages the student learning for each course or class.
With some virtual schools, a portion of the class or course may be live webinar classes where the students can see the teacher on their screen and interact with them in real time via chat texting software or microphones.
However, most of the time, virtual schoolwork is done independently and submitted online to the teacher or instructor.
What are virtual charter schools?
You may also hear about virtual charter schools. A virtual charter school is an online school that was created by community groups, teachers, or even parents. Charter schools are publicly funded through tax dollars, but may also receive private funding. They are still considered public schools and are tuition free and open to anyone to attend. Virtual charter schools are like other public virtual schools in that the students perform part or all of their schooling in an online class learning instead of going to a brick-and-mortar school building.
Is virtual school free?
So, how much does virtual school cost? Many of the virtual schools that you see come up in an online search are free because they are affiliated with the public school system. Those are the tuition-free online and virtual public school programs that receive tax dollars (just like brick-and-mortar schools) and are open to any student and you don’t have to pay a fee to attend.
A virtual public school is free because your child is attending public school, except on a computer from home.
(This is NOT the same as homeschooling. We’ll get to more about homeschooling versus schooling at home in a bit.)
There are some private learning programs that can be completed from home, but most of these have a fee associated with it (for purchasing the class or paying tuition).
There are also free online homeschool programs and also online homeschool curriculum and homeschool programs that you pay for.
These are sometimes called “virtual school” also.
(UGH. I know.)
We’ll also get into that more, so READ ON…
Is virtual school better than public school?
Many virtual schools are public schools. A student is generally just completing public school work from home. So, some of the same disadvantages (or benefits) that you experience with public schools can also carry over with virtual school.
And, there are pros and cons of virtual schools, just like there are advantages and disadvantages of other types of learning.
Pros of Virtual Schools
- Affordable (often free)
- Flexible time commitments
- Can sometimes work at own pace (spending more time on tough topics or speeding up with easier topics)
- Work is often completed in a more timely manner
- Teachers act more like mentors, which makes some students more comfortable
- Promotes independence
- Provides a safer emotional and physical environment for students experiencing issues at a brick-and-mortar school
Why Virtual School is Bad
- Student must manage an independent schedule (which some students may struggle with)
- Easy to get behind in school work
- Some find it isolating
- Increases screen time
- Parents may not oversee student’s work
- Creates issues when you have multiple kids (all need a computer or screen time must be managed)
- Often still part of a public school requirements, including a specific curriculum and standardized testing
- Not TRUE homeschooling (if you’re looking for homeschooling)
So, it’s hard to answer the question “Is virtual school better than public school?” because I would need to know your motivation, what your family is looking for in an online program, and if you’re really looking for a true homeschooling program (but just referring to it as “virtual school”–and that’s OK because most people don’t know the difference).
Which brings us to…
What is the difference between homeschooling and virtual school?
So . . .
What’s the difference between online school and homeschool?
And . . .
Is virtual school homeschool?
To answer these common homeschooling and virtual schooling questions, let’s take a closer look by breaking down each one:
What Is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling is learning at home, where the parent takes control of the child’s education.Homeschooling is parent-directed and parent-led or child-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 and requirements, but many states allow parents to choose the curriculum for their children.
Homeschooling—in the truest sense—is control over what your child learns, from a home environment.
READ THIS NEXT TO LEARN MORE: Home Schooling Requirements That You MUST Know Before Starting
What Is Schooling At Home?
Schooling at home is often also (mistakenly) called homeschooling; however, it is VERY different. Schooling at home is the one that means: virtual public school, virtual school, free online school, or tuition-free school (or any of the other synonyms that we discussed earlier). Schooling at home follows a public school or an educational institute’s state-required curriculum. But, the student is just completing the work from at home.
Schooling at home, virtual school, and homeschool are often used interchangeably, even though they mean different things.
Like we’ve been discussing, 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.
Now, here’s where things are going to get REALLY confusing, so you may want to do some jumping jacks or something to get your blood flowing and make sure you’re awake.
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 (through private organizations) and have nothing to do with state mandated curricula.
These online homeschool programs are valid choices for parents who want to homeschool and still maintain control over their child’s education with little-to-no state interference or oversight.
Is homeschool better than virtual school?
While homeschooling and schooling at home (virtual public school) are both options for your family (at least in the U.S.), 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.
Virtual school is an important AND CONFUSING topic, so I want you to understand it completely before making a decision that you may (or may not) regret later.