Q. I’m confused. Can you tell me the difference between a virtual school offered by the public schools and a homeschool? In both situations, the student stays home to learn.
A. A virtual school is a public school at home. Although education is taking place in your home and there are some benefits, the content and time and place of your child’s education is controlled by the government school system.
With a virtual school, you must use the curriculum that is provided and cannot choose a curriculum that best suits your child’s needs or learning style. You cannot follow your child’s interests or delve more deeply into subjects of interest. You may supplement with religious instruction, but students will not receive credit for additional faith-based courses. Oversight from a certified teacher is required. Students must be in lock-step with what is taught in public schools. SOL standards must be met and testing is required. Students living outside the school district are required to travel to the school building for SOL testing. The school system has full control over curriculum choice and content.
In contrast, homeschooling is parent-controlled, parent-directed education. You have the freedom to choose the best curriculum and methods for each child. You can teach according to your child’s learning style; you can choose a curriculum that meets the individual needs of your child; you can choose curricula based on acceptable content; you can remediate if necessary or provide higher-level work for an advanced child; you can follow your child’s interests; you can include religious instruction or teach all subjects from a religious viewpoint. Homeschool parents also have a strong network for help and encouragement through support groups, co-ops, and statewide organizations.