It is difficult to notice the difference between the two since they are similar in the aspect that both involve the schooling of your child from within the boundaries of home. However, we can make it easier for you to understand these differences to decide which form of schooling is most suitable for your child. The different levels of involvement we will be drawing can also help you decide which option is more suitable for you.
Let’s start by noting the differences between online schooling and homeschooling:
1. Curriculum The first and most important distinction is the curriculum your child will follow. With schooling online, this curriculum is a decided and standard curriculum set by the institute you have enrolled in. Religious studies play no role in this curriculum and there is a standard study pace set by the institution. On the other hand, with schooling at home, the curriculum is decided by the parent. It can be tailored to meet subjects your child is interested in and religious perspective in subjects through faith-based learning can be included in study material. Since you are in charge of your child’s curriculum, study pace can either be accelerated or slowed down to help your child. For example, if he or she is more adept at science and weaker in languages, you can be in control of the same.
2. Primary Teacher/Instructor Although education in both scenarios is imparted at home, the primary instructors with schooling virtually are the appointed teachers by the institution while parents serve as learning coaches alongside but have no control over content delivery. On the other hand, in homeschooling, the parents serve as the primary teachers and since the curriculum is designed by you specifically for your child, you will be able to understand and control how the subject material is communicated to your child.
3. Socialization Opportunities Socialization is an aspect of both virtual and home schooling that is under a lot of scrutiny. But most research goes against this idea because with proper planning, there are many opportunities created for your child. More often than not, virtual schools manage social opportunities for their students by organising picnics and field trips, integrating socialization opportunities into their curriculum. In addition, students who are schooled online are presented with the opportunities to interact with their peers and because of which, they are more conditioned to desire peer approval than students who are schooled at home. Home-schooled students have socialization opportunities that are created by their parents. In this scenario, the parent is more involved in creating (not controlling) the social lives of their children. Organising picnics and field trips become the parent’s responsibility and peers usually include other home-schoolers and this makes them less dependent on their peers but at the same time, expands their social connection with people from all walks of life and different age groups.
4. Standard Assessment Tests Although this differs from country to country, some of them require standardized assessment tests to be taken by homeschooled students whereas other countries do not require homeschoolers to take such tests. India has state and central board exams that you have to ensure that your child is prepared for. Additionally, if you choose to stop schooling at home at any given point, any educational institution would require an assessment of your child’s capability through an entrance test. Now with homeschooling, it is up to the parent to ensure that your child is prepared for any of these tests that he or she will be required to write. With virtual learning, these institutions, more often than not, administer these standard tests themselves and their curriculum is built to keep your child prepared. However, remember that you can also create a similar curriculum and the advantages here with home-schoolers is that their pace can be altered to be specifically suited to their needs. Think of it as playing to your strengths and weaknesses!
5. Schedule Flexibility Even though online schools offer more flexibility than public schools, virtual learners are still tied to deadlines and live lectures which still adhere to general school schedules. Homeschoolers do not have such restrictions and can take well planned holidays. This helps parents control stress levels and vacations without the constant gloomy flag of deadlines hanging close. There is also a flexibility in daily schedule because home-schoolers can choose to accelerate and decelerate their learning speed of certain topics or subjects.
Why is knowing this distinction important?
A decision regarding your child’s education is not an easy one to make and with the misinformation or lack of information, it can get really hard to understand your choices. Every parent is looking for different criteria i.e. you may be very busy with a full-time job in which case virtual classes are a better option but if your family is one that attaches a lot of importance to faith-based learning, then homeschooling is the right option for you. The most important question here is how can you decide that and the answer to that lies in knowing what you can expect in each choice. This can be broken down by certain aspects of your involvement in your child’s education!
· Comfort With homeschooling, the parent serves as the primary teacher. There are homeschool networks and services for a subject or two but at the end of the day, the parent remains in control of the curriculum and schedule. Most parents who opt for this either have or had a teaching background. Even without a teaching background, parents can handle a preschool education for their children but with higher grades, it might be more difficult. As soon as you are convinced that their course material is too advanced for you to be able to deliver it, you can opt for virtual learning but if you are comfortable and require the perks that homeschooling provides, that is your best option.
· Finances Before making such a decision, it is important to look at how much money both unconventional options require. A home education is more expensive than virtual schooling, mostly because you have to consider spending on course material, creating social opportunities, stationery, redesigning (a study space) and, organising. A virtual learning system requires a single-time purchase of course material and expenditure on a stable internet connection but stationery expenditure is lesser than it would be in a homeschooling system.
· Time There are two aspects to look at while considering time – how much you have on your hands as a parent and how much you need your child to have away from studies. If you have a full-time job on the side, virtual schooling might be a better option. A home education takes up a lot of time of the parent who serves as the primary teacher – from the curriculum drafting to the necessity of organisation – there is very little time on the side to hold a job alongside. If your family relocates frequently, your child’s schedule has to be more flexible and homeschooling is your best option. Planning around a relocation or a busy period can be tough with fixed deadlines and lectures. This way, you can make sure that you choose the system of education better suited to your lifestyle and needs.
· Overall Involvement In both systems of education, the parent plays an essential role in their child’s life but the level of involvement in home education is exponentially greater than that in virtual schooling. With virtual schooling, you have a set curriculum, fixed classes, fixed deadlines and established social opportunities. This takes a lot of responsibility off a parent’s shoulders. So, if you believe that a lesser involvement in your child’s education on your part would be more beneficial, virtual learning is a better option for you.
With everything being said, there are no rights and wrongs with any decision made between these two systems of education. Both have their own distinct advantages which may be seen as obstacles depending on your needs. The important thing to remember is that knowing the differences between these systems can help you play according to your and your child’s strengths and weaknesses but both serve the same purpose at the end of the day – Giving your child the best education!