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Homeschooling vs. School at Home: What’s The Difference?

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    Homeschooling vs. School at Home: What’s The Difference?

    Mom and daughter looking at CCA laptop at home

    During the pandemic, schooling at home became a universal phenomenon. Suddenly, families everywhere cleared space at the dining room table and turned the home into a school. Many parents came to appreciate the flexibility that cyberlearning offered their families.

    But there are distinctions in homeschool versus school at home. Parents exploring school at home or homeschooling might not even realize that they can be diving into two different worlds.

    What’s the difference? In homeschooling, parents are teachers. They choose the curriculum. They deliver the lessons. In schooling at home, an online school can be a free public school delivering a curriculum taught by highly qualified teachers – all while allowing families the flexibility in schooling that suits their circumstances and lifestyles.

    What Is Homeschooling?

    Homeschooling has been around as long as there have been homes and children who need schooling. Parents choose homeschooling for reasons as unique as their own families. The reasons driving them toward this decision vary, but all share a passion to do what’s best for their children. The challenge for these parents is carving out the time, energy and resources needed to truly become their child’s teacher.

    About Homeschooling

    There is no single way that homeschooling is conducted. Variations can follow the traditional route, with parents teaching kids the three R’s, just as they would learn in a brick-and-mortar school. Or, they can follow a curriculum based on a distinctive philosophy, such as classical education that emphasizes history, literature and language, or the Charlotte Mason method that calls for educating the whole person.

    The common thread running through most of these families is parental control. Parents choose the curriculum, but freedom of learning has its limits. In many states, including Pennsylvania, parents must teach subjects required by the state and maintain portfolios of schoolwork to demonstrate progress. Children must take standardized tests at certain grade levels. 

    Consider these pros and cons of homeschooling.

    Benefits of Homeschooling

    Most parents who choose homeschooling do so to gain control over their children’s learning. They make the call on how lessons are delivered.

    • They can tailor schooling to their child’s strengths, interests and learning style.
    • They can maintain control over the costs of materials and the complexity of curriculum. There are no unwanted fees imposed by the school or unwanted lessons delivered.
    • Homeschooling offers increased flexibility that allows families to pursue their interests and work responsibilities.
    • Homeschooling parents worried about school safety are assured of their child’s well-being in a home setting, safe from bullies and other threats.

    Disadvantages of Homeschooling

    The disadvantages of traditional homeschooling can outweigh – by a significant margin – the advantages. Consider these obstacles:

    •  Family finances take a hit, because the teaching parent probably cannot hold a job or must cut back on or change existing hours.
    • Homeschooling demands a significant time investment. It’s about a lot more than sitting with children during school hours. The homeschooling parent must plan far ahead, prep for each day’s lessons, grade and administer tests, and compile portfolios. Plus, as their children’s needs change or certain approaches aren’t working, parents might have to spend time researching and implementing new curricula.
    •  Homeschooling parents often report feeling anxious or isolated. The increased stress load can adversely impact the school day by turning parents into cranky, ineffective teachers.
    • Just like children, parents can lose focus. Parents who lack the discipline to teach their kids day in and day out probably aren’t suited for the job.
    • The cost of extracurricular activities and school supplies comes out of the family budget. Textbooks can be especially pricey.   
    • Costs to buy and maintain technology also fall on the family. When something goes wrong, there is no IT support to call.

    The homeschool curriculum may not be well-rounded. Parents can be well-meaning and even highly educated, but that doesn’t mean they are trained in delivering a thorough education. The parent who isn’t very good at math probably will stumble at teaching math, or even avoid the subject as much as possible. Homeschooling parents can choose to buy a packaged curriculum, but once again, the cost falls on them.

     Cyberschools and brick-and-mortar schools offer plenty of opportunities – whether organized or organic – for kids to make friends and learn how to navigate social situations. Homeschooling families must take deliberate action to immerse their children in social settings and activities. Once again, there can be stiff costs involved, plus time commitments to make socialization happen.

     Homeschool families can lack a network of support from professional educators, counselors and other school families to help with challenges and share successes.

    Lack of facilities can hinder a child from exploring the sciences in fully equipped laboratories, learning the intricacies of electronics in fully equipped shops, or immersing in world language labs.

    What Is Online School?

    Online school leverages the power of technology to connect children with great teachers. Kids can still learn in the safety of the home, under the eye of parents confident that they know what their child is being taught. At CCA, children learn at their own pace, whether accelerated or deliberate, and with help easily available whenever it’s needed.

    About Online School

    Online school might also be called cyberschool, cyberlearning or cyber charter school. Whatever the term, it offers trustworthy, high-quality education without the rigidity of brick-and-mortar schooling. Just as with homeschooling, online school gives parents the control that brick-and-mortar schooling can diminish. Parents can be confident that their child’s learning style and needs are recognized and being met.   

    In Pennsylvania, cyber charter schools offer a free public education. They must pursue a curriculum based in the state standards. Students are required to take the state-mandated standardized tests. When students graduate, they have a diploma fully recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, just like one from a brick-and-mortar school. 

    Benefits of Online School

    • Online schools offer a rich array of socialization opportunities. CCA, for instance, schedules hundreds of field trips every school year, allowing kids to enrich their learning through hands-on experiences, even while they get to know each other. Plus, CCA clubs connect learners with peers who share their passions, whether it’s building robots, writing plays and acting, designing video games or exploring community service. 
    • Parents can support their child through coaching. Online schooling gives parents a vital role. They are learning coaches, guiding their children through lessons and activities. They are there to sense when their child is struggling or needs more stimulation.  
    • Personalized learning from professional teachers. The highly qualified teachers of online schools are trained in effective delivery of learning. They are experienced in recognizing when each class and each student needs an extra challenge or a moment to comprehend a lesson. They are especially adept at adjusting to the learning styles of individual students, making sure that each gets what they need to understand the concept and move toward the next. From the parent’s perspective, online learning offers the best of both worlds – control over their child’s schooling, with access to great educators who take the teaching responsibility off their shoulders.
    • Technology provided. The technological part of homeschooling can be daunting, but online schooling helps solve that problem. Online schools provide the laptop, headphones and other devices needed to make the remote learning experience a success. Equipment is provided at no cost to the family, and IT support helps ensure that everything works smoothly.
    • Increased safety. Although brick-and-mortar schools take their responsibilities to protect students seriously, too few truly take it to heart. They may treat bullying casually, refusing to see the harm its victims endure. Online schooling removes children from toxic situations and from the company of children whose behavior detracts from an atmosphere of learning and fun. Even if cyberbullying appears, CCA acts immediately, working with families to root out the problem and give targeted children the support needed to recover and thrive.   
    • Increased flexibility. With online school, learning fits family needs. The family doesn’t have to contort to accommodate the school schedule. Children can pursue their interests in sports and the arts. Older students can take jobs that don’t cut into schoolwork time. Families can round out the learning experience through travel. Parents can balance work and school responsibilities more easily. Through it all, students can access their classes in real time or later, when it suits their schedule.
    • Attention to special needs. Children with special needs may need physical or academic accommodations, or both. Online schooling delivers education in the safety and security of the home, from teachers and administrators trained in helping learners achieve their full potential.  

    Disadvantages of Online School

    • Adjustment period. Online schooling is a different type of education. Many parents have nothing to compare it to in their educational backgrounds, so they might feel a bit disoriented at first. With help from available supports and mentors, this adjustment period can clear up quickly and lead to a fulfilling experience.
    • Self-discipline required. When the home becomes a school, the lines must be clear. There are times for lessons, and times for play and relaxation. Parents and students must be strict in warding off distractions and turning the focus to schoolwork.
    • Self-direction required. Every child should learn the arts of time management and self-direction, but too few do. Online schooling places extra demands, because the teacher is not there physically with reminders about assignment due dates and upcoming tests. The upside is that cyber schooled children learn time management skills that put them far ahead of their peers, preparing them for the rigors of college or the workplace after they graduate.   
    • State standardized tests are mandatory. There’s no escaping it. Tests are inevitable. CCA commits to a no-pressure experience, making sure that learners are ready for the tests without the stress.

    What’s Best for My Family?

    Many families and students can benefit from the flexibility and personalized approach of online schooling, but the decision must be made carefully.

    • How should you decide? Consider your child’s needs from these perspectives:
      • Mental: Is your child self-directed? Is there a true motivation to learn? The child who is eager and curious, and who follows the path where curiosity leads, can be a prime candidate for online learning. Other children may be on the cusp of self-direction, and online schooling can provide the disciplined atmosphere that helps it burst into action.
      • Emotional: School is hard, wherever it happens. Online learning can offer an emotional boost – especially for students escaping the ravages of bullying – but it can also require an extra level of emotional stability.
      • Physical: Online learning that’s engaging and rigorous requires that a child sit at a computer and participate in classes. Every school day requires focus and attention. For children who can’t sit still, and even those who can, parents can schedule frequent breaks for play or relaxation to give kids a chance to rejuvenate.  
      • Social: Some children are just naturally social. They will find their circles no matter how they attend school. Others are shy and reluctant to break out of their shells. Each can thrive in online schooling, but parents need to understand their role in creating and taking advantage of socialization opportunities offered by the school and in their communities.   
    • Keep in mind that children change and grow. The first-grader who isn’t ready for online school might have matured sufficiently by eighth grade to tackle the challenge.
    • Time Investment: Online schooling doesn’t demand of parents the time intensity of homeschooling. However, it does require the presence of a designated learning coach – usually a parent or trusted family member or friend –to be with and guide the child, especially in the younger years. Can your family devote the time and supervision to making online schooling a success? If the answer this year is no, revisit the question next year. Just like kids, families change, and the time can be right for the unique educational fit that online learning offers.

    The CCA Difference

    Parents have many choices in education. The panorama can be confusing, but it can also be liberating. Quite often, there’s no reason to accept an option that doesn’t work for your family or your child. It’s your choice. If a brick-and-mortar school isn’t serving your needs but homeschooling would drain too much of your time and energy, CCA offers the best of both worlds, with flexibility and personalized learning in the safety of your home. Professional teachers make learning interactive and fun, while your guiding hand crafts an experience that suits your family’s lifestyle. Learn more about CCA and its commitment to engaging online learning.


    Commonwealth Charter Academy


    December 1st, 2020


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