Homeschooling is one of those nebulous terms with many meanings. For some it simply means that children do their schoolwork at home. Others define it as teaching their children from a set curriculum of their choosing. Still others choose to homeschool by allowing their children to direct their own learning. With such a diverse definitions, how do you know what homeschooling is? This series will address each of the above and let you, the reader, decide what homeschooling means.
Virtual schooling has grown tremendously over the last few years. Virtual schools take the brick and mortar experience into cyberspace. Students log on and learn from state certified teachers. All books and other supplies are sent to the student’s home. Students are required to log on daily and complete assignments on a schedule. They interact with the teacher as needed and parents are considered “learning coaches” to facilitate the experience.
In Ohio, there are two major players in the online public schools: K12 Academy (operating as Ohio Virtual Academy) and Connections Academy. Both are tuition free public schools and offer full time classes taught by state accredited teachers. All workbooks, textbooks and other materials needed to complete the required class work are sent to the students’ home. Students simply need a computer with the appropriate internet connection (preferably high speed) to log in and attend classes.
There are several benefits to online public schools. First, students can learn in the privacy of their own home without the distractions of other students. Students can ask questions without fear of being ridiculed by others and teachers have the opportunity to provide more one-on-one instruction. If a student needs services provided by the school district, such as speech therapy or tutoring, they can still receive services from the district since they are enrolled in public school. Both Connections and Ohio Virtual Academy offer field trips, activities and clubs so students get the “whole” school experience.
The downside of online public education is that it is public, meaning that students are required to take the same classes as they would in a brick and mortar building. They are required to put in the same number of hours and must log on daily. If a student finds a topic that excites them, they must still pursue it on their own time, not during school hours. They are also required to take all state mandated testing to meet the “No Child Left Behind” requirements.
For students needing the comfort of home to learn, virtual schools can be a real asset. For parents wanting more control over the content of their child’s education, other homeschooling options might be a better choice.