Now that you’ve decided to online homeschool your child, one of the first decisions you face is what kind of program and format will work best for both your family and your child. There are many options available to those who choose to homeschool their children. For some families, an unstructured home education works, but other parents need a little more support in helping their children achieve age-appropriate goals. Online homeschooling may be the answer for your family.
This guide is intended to help you learn what you need to know to make informed decisions about online homeschooling.
What exactly is online homeschooling? Who can homeschool their child through an online program? What are the benefits and challenges of home education through an online program? How do I learn more about online homeschool programs?
There are lots of options available to those who choose to homeschool their children. There are many ways to educate your child without attending a brick-and-mortar school every day, and the number of options is growing as technology advances. One option is online homeschooling.
What exactly is online homeschooling? The most straightforward answer is that it’s just like attending a brick-and-mortar school, except your child does it all from the comfort of their own home. Online homeschool programs are similar to regular schools in many ways—they have students, teachers, and courses. But online homeschooling is also different from attending a regular school in many ways.
Benefits of an Online Homeschool
There are several advantages to choosing an online school for your child. One significant advantage is that you have complete control over your child’s education at all times. No one can tell you how—or if—your child should be educated while you’re homeschooling.
Another advantage is that online programs are usually flexible and offer more scheduling options than brick-and-mortar schools do. You can typically decide on the number of hours per week your child will spend learning, which days of the week they’ll attend class, how long each day they’ll devote to their studies, and more.
Some online homeschool programs even offer an hourly schedule you can customize.
Another benefit of online homeschooling is that it allows students to learn at their own pace without worrying about falling behind because they’re taking a course with kids who are older or younger than they are. Many online programs allow parents and students to “test out” of prerequisite courses. For example, if your child has already mastered Algebra 1, they can take a high school-level Algebra 2 course without completing the prerequisite course first.
What Are Online Homeschool Program Courses Like?
An online homeschool program is usually very similar to any other academic institution. Your child will attend classes (usually in the form of classes or lessons), do homework, take tests and quizzes, turn in assignments, read textbooks or other reference materials, work with classmates on group projects, meet with teachers regularly to discuss progress—the usual.
To be considered an online homeschool program, however, these courses must also have specific characteristics. For instance:
Students must be able to communicate with their teacher when necessary.
The time when students can access the program’s resources is usually flexible. Your child might choose to spend school hours around your schedule, around their siblings’ schedules, after dinner, in the morning before anyone else gets out of bed, or any other time.
There may also be specific requirements for student work—for example, every assignment might have to include a certain number of research sites or cited sources, or it might need to meet a certain word count. There might be expectations that students will learn about particular historical events, important people from a certain period, or a foreign language. It’s up to the student and their parents to determine how many of these expectations they can meet in any given school year, but there are usually guidelines (at least suggestions) your child should follow if they want to succeed.
Helpful Tips for Online Homeschooling
When you’re online homeschooling, it’s up to you to hold your child accountable for what they learn and how well they do in their classes. If you don’t, no one will. You should be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to teach your child, including coming up with plans for each day and lessons for every subject.
This does not mean you have to do everything yourself, though—you can enlist the help of tutors, teachers, instructional aides, coaches, and other experts to guide your child’s education so you can save time and energy.
Make a Schedule
An online homeschool program will be flexible, but it’s still a good idea to make a schedule you can follow every week. This will help keep track of your child’s progress, and it’ll also let you plan for new classes, vacations, and other breaks from schoolwork.
Keep a Calendar
An online homeschool program lets students learn at their own pace without worrying about falling behind. However, you should still make sure they regularly turn in their homework on time. Not only because it’s the responsible thing to do but because it will give them a chance to meet any deadlines they might face if they were taking regular classes with other kids their age.
This is the best tip of all: homeschooling should be about learning and growing, not about following a bunch of rules. Work hard and take your education seriously, but make sure you have fun along the way!
Homeschooling is a complicated, unique, and personal journey that requires you to be flexible in your thinking. It’s okay to embrace this new lifestyle, but it’s also okay to recognize that your journey may end sooner than you anticipated or wanted it to. You must consider all of the aspects of your life and decide what is best for your family.
Many online homeschool programs can offer your child an excellent education even if you never set foot inside a brick-and-mortar school. If you choose to homeschool your kids, make sure you cover all the bases and do it right—which means you should learn as much as you can about these programs before making any decisions.
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