– By Yvonne Bunn
This article was written in response to a June 12, 2011, Richmond-Times Dispatch article that inaccurately linked homeschooling to the state government’s contract with thirteen virtual public school providers.
In the Richmond-Times Dispatch June 12 article entitled “11,000 delve into home schooling: Convention follows state’s approval of 13 virtual schools,” the article inaccurately links homeschooling to the state government’s contract with 13 virtual public school providers.
Homeschool Vs. Virtual School
Since 1983 when the homeschool statute was passed in Virginia, home education has become a thriving, mainstream, educational alternative. As a result of the increased growth of home education (45.2% growth in Virginia in the past eight years), states, including Virginia, have begun to develop virtual public schools in order to “reach out to more non-traditional students,” according to Virginia state superintendent of public instruction Patricia Wright. However, there are core differences between homeschools and virtual public schools.
Home education is parent-directed education. Homeschool parents can choose an individualized curriculum that complements their child’s learning style and imparts the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values they choose. They are also able to use the time-tested one-on-one, tutorial approach to learning, introduce concepts when their child is developmentally ready, and work at advanced levels whenever appropriate.
In contrast, a virtual public school is essentially a small public school in the home of each participant. Parents accept the public school curriculum chosen by the state. This curriculum dictates the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values their child must acquire. Virtual school students move at a predetermined pace and meet the benchmarks of the state SOL tests. A certified teacher oversees the records and progress of the student, and faith-based curriculum cannot be included.
With the expansion of web-based, virtual public education, it is important to understand the differences between homeschools and virtual public schools. There are distinct differences in methods, curriculum, parental involvement, and results.
Yvonne Bunn is HEAV’s director of homeschool support and director of government affairs, and works with HEAV’s legislative team to protect and improve Virginia’s homeschool laws.