Why Online Education and Homeschooling Go Hand in Hand

Today's homeschooling experience is very different from that of the past. In fact, according to Education Week (edweek.org, 2011), homeschooling is now considered "an integral part of the mainstream education system." Utilizing today's technology to deliver learning online, homeschooling parents can teach their children above and beyond the standards taught in public and private schools. In addition, research indicates that these online learning programs may even prove beneficial for children in traditional public school classrooms.

How does homeschooling work with online education?

In the past, homeschooling was the norm, especially in areas where there were no organized public schools. As cities and towns took hold, public schools were established so that all children could obtain equal educational opportunities. In 1993, homeschooling became legal in all 50 states.

The integration of online education with homeschooling is nothing new (tandfonline.com, 2007). According to Eric J. Isenberg, author of "What Have We Learned About Homeschooling?," "The establishment of a legal right to homeschooling combined with the expansion of the Internet [energized] a growth spurt in homeschooling in the mid-1990s. The Internet eased the delivery of homeschooling materials and better connected homeschooling families."

With the combination of legalized homeschooling and online learning materials, the number of homeschooled students grew, and as of 2007, there were over 1.5 million students being homeschooled in the U.S. (NCES.ed.gov, 2008).

Through a process known as "blended learning" -- in which online course work is combined with one-on-one teaching -- online homeschooling can be more effective for students than traditional homeschooling alone. According to a report from the Innosight Institute (innosightinstitute.org, 2011), "Home schooling and full-time virtual schooling cannot completely substitute for mainstream schooling because they require significant parental involvement." Online and blended learning can help parents limit some of their involvement, providing an education for their children that is not restricted by their parental time constraints.

Does online homeschooling really work?

According to the Innosight Institute, blended learning began as a form of alternative education in dropout recovery schools (innosightinstitute.org, 2011) and has found success with mainstream public schools, such as the K-12 blended learning/virtual learning program known as ACCESS, one of the largest virtual learning schools in Alabama. ACCESS offers students video conferencing and Web-based courses. The program was introduced in 2004, and by 2010 the overall number of advanced placement (AP) test-takers had doubled, and the number of African-American AP test-takers quadrupled. By 2008, the high school graduation rate had climbed from 62.1 percent to 69 percent.

Furthermore, according to a study conducted by SRI International for the U.S. Department of Education, students may perform better in an online K-12 environment than through traditional instruction (nytimes.com, 2009). The report examined research from a 12-year period and concluded that "on average, students doing some or all of [a] course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile."

Today's homeschooling parents and guardians have options they didn't have even a few decades ago, such as Internet classes and online testing programs. These programs have shown great success in the public school sector and may help even the busiest homeschooling parents educate their children.

Haley Schaeffer is a part-time blogger who earned her nursing credential through online learning. She is a regular contributor to PracticalNursingOnline.com and a handful of other websites that promote distance education.

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Education Week, "Home Schooling," August 4, 2004/Updated July 13, 2011, http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/home-schooling/

Taylor & Francis Online, "What Have We Learned About Homeschooling?" Peabody Journal of Education, Eric J. Isenberg, Volume 82, Issue 2-3, 2007, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01619560701312996

National Center for Education Statistics, "1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007," December 2008, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009030.pdf

The New York Times, "Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom," Steve Lohr, August 19, 2009, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/study-finds-that-online-education-beats-the-classroom/

Innosight Institute, "The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of emerging models," Heather Staker, May 2011, http://www.innosightinstitute.org/innosight/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/The-Rise-of-K-12-Blended-Learning.pdf