Online Schools, Blended Schools, and Homeschools – How Will I Ever Decide?
It is that time of year again. The Back to School sales have started creeping in among the inflatable pools and 4th of July clearance items. You can almost hear the woosh that the final sounds of summer are making. And that makes me as a homeschool mom feel a trickle of panic set in as I prep for another year, and this year I took into real consideration for the first time the use of online schools for my kids. As the advertisements on radio and TV beckon parents to try something new with their children’s education, and I receive countless postcards encouraging me to “Enroll now!”, I have to carefully weigh the options.
What Are the Differences Between Homeschools, Online Schools, and Blended Learning?
There are so many terms tossed around when it comes to education that it can be confusing to sort through the jumble and jargon. Just to clarify…
Homeschools are sometimes also called home schools (yep – the difference between a compound word and a space), and they are legal in all 50 of the United States. Legal guardians are the lead teachers, and each state has the ability to set its own regulations.
- Parents are responsible for costs associated with education – books, computers, etc.
- In many states, homeschool students can participate in public school sports and other extracurricular activities.
- School hours are more flexible (depending upon state regulations). In our state we can choose our own schedule.
Online schools are known by a slew of other terms, including cyber schools, online academies, cyber charter schools, online charter schools, and more. Growing in popularity, these can be public or private entities. When they are public, they operate under the same public school rules and guidelines.
- Public online schools are usually paid for by state taxes and free to students.
- The materials are provided free of charge, including textbooks and sometimes even computers and internet fees.
- They hold parent/teacher conferences (either virtually on in person), and some offer field trips and extracurricular activities on a regular basis.
Blended learning is the combination of traditional classroom activities with online courses. Probably most often seen in higher education in the past, this new form of education is gaining momentum for K-12. Sometimes called hybrid programs, blended learning takes advantage of the best of both worlds. In our city one local high school offered a pilot program last year to 9th grade students – come for ½ days in the school and attend the rest of your classes online. This was done in part to deal with overcrowded classrooms, but also to attempt to meet the demand for emerging changes in education.
The Advantages of Homeschooling
So yes, this will be a little jaded because I have homeschooled my kids for, um, too long to calculate right now. However, I also am a realist and believe that just like not every teacher in the public school system should be teaching, not every family should be homeschooling. Homeschooling, when done well, has many advantages.
- individualized lesson planning that allows for children of all abilities to flourish
- one-on-one attention from dedicated teachers (you – the parent!)
- ability of families to travel on their own schedules
- families can integrate faith and other values into their daily teachings
- time for siblings to grow together and form a stronger family bond
- opportunities for real-world socialization and exploration
The Advantages of Online Schools
- described as “as good or better” than their brick and mortar public school counterparts
- relieves pressure for parents to develop lesson plans
- holds students accountable to another adult
- free curriculum
- allows students to learn at home, which can be especially beneficial for those students struggling with classroom settings
- parents can add additional studies as they see needed
The Advantages of Blended Learning
Blending the best of both worlds, traditional classroom opportunities with passionate teachers and the benefits of utilizing new technology in learning, seems like a very promising option.
- students can be exposed to broader learning communities online
- parents are relieved about the social aspects when compared to the 100% online school choice
- allows for more flexibility with specialized courses than you might find in a brick and mortar school
- the additional courses are often free of charge and all supplies are covered when using a public school program
Choosing the Best Education for Your Child
So how do I choose when all of these options have great advantages? I have to weigh the disadvantages of all of them as well. To do this I’ve been researching, speaking with parents, and assessing my own children’s needs. Check out tomorrow’s article to see all of the reasons why I shouldn’t choose any of these options! (And which option I chose)