Education: Making the Choice
A growing number of parents are choosing to homeschool for a variety of reasons. Alongside those parents is another set of parents who are choosing to school their children at home using virtual online public schools. These parents may or may not be under the misconception that they are home schooling their children. Before I go any farther let me say this, I am of the belief that every parent has the right to choose how to educate their children. This is not a post about what method of education is better. It is a post clarifying a growing misconception arising around virtual online public schools.
Defining Homeschooling vs. Virtual Public Schools
Defining homeschooling can be a tricky endeavor. For example, in Texas a homeschool is considered a private school. However, each state can determine the legal definition and requirements for their state. In fact, today you can not even conclude that someone who is “homeschooled” schools at home! In the high school years, some homeschoolers spend as many hours enrolled in formal instruction away from home as do their public school counterparts. This instruction may take place in co-ops, one or two/day a week academies, community college classes, or various other forms of classes. Vice-versa a person enrolled in public school via a virtual online public school may spend most of his education hours “at home.” Since being at home is not a requirement of home education, and since a public education can take place at home, the amount of time spent at home can not be used to determine whether one “homeschools.”
Since the definition for a homeschool varies from state to state, and being schooled mostly at home is not necessarily part of being homeschooled, the lines between education methods have become blurred. People using virtual online public schools will often say they are “homeschooling” when in reality they are schooling at home using the public school system. This is an important distinction.
The Need for Clarity
Why is this important you ask? It is important, first, from a legal standpoint. In most, if not all states, the laws governing public schools vs. home schools are drastically different. In Texas, for example, if you are enrolled in a virtual online public school, even though your child is “at home” while he does his work, he is still bound by the laws governing public schools, including but not limited to, standardized testing and the 180 day attendance requirement, neither of which is required of private schools in Texas, including homeschools.
It is also important because parents looking for other options outside the public school system are being lured by advertisements and other means to these virtual schools as if they were alternatives to the public system. For instance, if you do an Internet search for “homeschooling” the top result will likely be an online public school. Families who sign up for these schools often wrongly assume they will be homeschooling, and/or use the term when expressing to others their education choice, which perpetuates the misconception that attending an online virtual public school in homeschooling.
If you are exploring either of these options, homeschooling or virtual online public schools, please do your research and understand the differences, advantages, disadvantages, etc. of each. Use the correct terminology when referring to both to avoid confusion and misinformation. When parents are trying to decide the best way to educate their children, they need straight honest answers, not glowing advertisements or misinformation. The best way for a family to educate their children is already a difficult and time consuming decision without the waters being muddied with misleading information from advertising, institutions, or individuals.