5 Reasons Why Cyber Schooling Is Not Homeschooling

cyber school not homeschool

A few weeks back when I finished my series on homeschooling methods, some of you may have noticed that the topic of cyber school, or virtual charter school, never came up. The reason for this is actually quite simple and is something that really needs to be understood by the general public: Cyber schooling is not homeschooling.

First of all, I’d like to address a few things. I am not referring to computer-based classes that some homeschoolers choose to enroll their children in. I am referring to the publicly funded programs that offer free computers, internet, and tax credits to the families who use them. I am also not looking down on those who do use this path of education because it is, no doubt, far better than most schools today. I’m not nit-picking about terminology, either. Believe me, I will get into why it is so crucial to distinguish between the two. 

In my own experience, when I tell people we homeschool, they automatically assume I’m speaking of cyber schooling. Perhaps it’s because they’re a little more comfortable with it because there is a hierarchy involved like there is in brick and mortar schools. Perhaps it’s simply because they recognize we live in a technology-focused world and can only envision any home-based learning as happening from a computer. Whatever the reason, there is a big difference between the two, and I will attempt to clarify it.

Millions of families utilize cyber schooling options and are very satisfied with it, but there are some issues which turn many people away from it.

It is these issues that separate cyber schooling from homeschooling.

Whether a cyber school is being offered through a public school district or it is an independent agent, they all operate in much the same way. They both include a mandated curriculum, and the parents and students are responsible for answering to these programs in regards to attendance, turning in written work, and completing the required number of hours of school work for each day. (In other words, the students must be logged on for a certain number of hours per day- usually about five.) Furthermore, these programs also offer free services and tax credits to those who use their programs.

This is where cyber schooling vastly differs from homeschooling, which brings us to the:

5 Reasons Why Cyber Schooling Is Not Homeschooling

 

#1- Cyber schools use a mandated curriculum. Homeschoolers love to take advantage of the fact that what their children learn and how they learn it is up to them and their children- not to anyone else. They can use any approach to any subject they choose. Cyber school students are restricted to the subjects that are offered and, of course, must learn them in the way they are provided. Although cyber schools do offer electives, the students are limited to only the electives that are offered and do not have the freedom in how they go about learning it as a homeschooled student would. And as for those subjects that are required by a cyber school curriculum- there is no evidence that following the prescribed order put forth by just about every school organization is the best way to learn. Who says that geometry has to be learned in 10th grade? Is there an advantage to this? No. This is simply how it’s always been done. Homeschoolers are able to take the reins and learn when they are ready, not when someone else says they should be.

 

#2- Cyber school requires logging in for attendance. The issue of attendance is almost laughable to the vast majority of homeschooling families. If your child is awake, they are “present.” Any situation on any given day, whether it is a “school day” or not will inevitably present an abundance of learning opportunities.

This is not so with cyber schooling. Failing to log in for the required time may well result in receiving a truancy letter for your child. 

My former homeschool evaluator used to cyber school her son while she, herself, was a school teacher. She once related to me that while she and her family were in the midst of moving, she couldn’t find the box that the modem was in for a few days, so her son was unable to log in to his cyber school. (I believe he was in Kindergarten or 1st grade.) Sure enough, she received a letter stating that they were out of compliance because he failed to log in for about three days. Three days. There’s certainly not much freedom in that aspect, is there?

 

#3- A requirement of cyber school is to submit finished written work to a school authority at pre-determined times.

A year or two ago, a friend who was using a virtual charter school for her children was completely shaken up because she had received a letter from their cyber school program since she had not turned in any written work for her son yet. The letter failed to mention that she had been trying to get in contact with someone regarding questions she had about when and how to turn in paperwork, and no one bothered to email or call her back.

Homeschooling parents have complete autonomy over their children’s learning. Other than complying with individual state laws, homeschoolers decide what they want to do, how to do it, and do not need to worry over bureaucratic rules imposed on them by outside organizations.

 

#4- Cyber-schooled students are mandated to be logged on to their program for a certain number of hours per day, whether they have completed their work or not. This is equivalent to the busywork offered in schools to keep the faster students occupied while waiting for all of the other children to complete their work. This is utter nonsense.

Unless they are coming from an extremely rigid schedule, homeschooled students are done when they are done. Period. Sometimes they may complete everything in a couple of hours- or even less. Other times they may be involved in something that lasts the better part of the day. It is not the quantity of time that matters to homeschoolers but the quality.

This avoidance of strict time schedules can be a very large advantage in that homeschooled students have much more time to pursue their own interests than most other kids their age, and, let’s face it. It is often these interests that will lead them to the life path they choose for themselves.

 

#5- Parents of cyber schoolers are provided with a free education for their kids, free computers to use, free internet, and, very often, tax credits. This is the main reason that homeschoolers often bristle when people refer to cyber schooling as homeschooling.

On the surface, all that free stuff looks very appealing. But who is providing the free resources? The government. And if you know anything at all about the U.S. government, it’s that when you get something for free, you are at the mercy of any regulations the bureaucracy wants to throw at you.

-mandated curriculum

-strict attendance records

-restrictive oversight

As homeschoolers who value our freedom in education, we don’t want anyone to confuse what we do with what cyber schools do, because we are not willing to compromise the flexibility we have in providing an education that is tailored specifically for our children for a few cost-free commodities. If the line between these two forms of at-home learning gets too blurred, we fear that we will be hit with the same burdensome regulations.

 

And one more thing…

Many, many people begin to use virtual charter schools because they are fed up with public schools, but that doesn’t solve the problem because cyber schools are simply government education invited into your home.

Will you be comfortable with that decision? If you would be, go for it, and I hope it works well for you. If not, look into homeschooling. It’s made such a difference in the lives of so many children.

Whatever you choose, though, I applaud you for showing an intense interest in your child’s education. There just aren’t enough parents like that these days.

 


 

 

Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

51 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why Cyber Schooling Is Not Homeschooling”

  1. Great distinctions! We pay for a few online classes through an amazing private Christian school. There is no login tracking, no assignments to turn in (unless the student chooses to be accredited), no set amount of classes, choice in classes as far as what they offer, choice in when to watch the classes (streamed-live or recorded), they are only 4-days a week, and my favorite part is how parents are truly considered equal partners to the teachers, if not above the teachers. Parents give the grades (unless accredited). The teachers do choose their curriculum, but that only makes sense. I personally love the history textbook as it’s their own written publication. It’s the most flexible, homeschool-friendly online program I’ve come across! I personally dislike/distrust virtual public/charter school for the reasons you mentioned. I appreciate your point on how that option only brings the government into homes as that is so true, and for me would defeat one purpose of our homeschooling. Great post!

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    1. Yes! I was actually thinking of you and a few other homeschoolers who use online learning when I made the distinction between what you do and what cyber schools do. There really is a huge difference between the two!

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  2. Oh so glad you clarified this! My kids do online courses (a lot of them) and some with live teachers, but it’s a curriculum of our own making since all offer the opportunity for parent grading. Since I started homeschooling my kids, I’ve become rather possessive of their learning and don’t want a state mandated online school to determine what is best for my kid.

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    1. Yes! The distinction is so important. So many times I’ve met kids or parents who say they homeschool, only to find out that they mean cyber school. It’s really like comparing apples and oranges.

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  3. OhMyGoodness, my husband taught through a virtual school when he first moved up here with me after we got married. We both have PLENTY to say about that whole world, and it’s not pretty. Not that it doesn’t have some advantages, like you said, but I just don’t think many people realize how much it really is a regular government-controlled school PLUS whatever corporation’s in charge stuffing their pockets. I’d better not get started…😉

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  4. I just recently wrote a blog post for the Pitsco Homeschool News concerning this subject. http://community.pitsco.com/homeschoolnews/2016/07/28/virtual-public-school-homeschooling-or-not/
    I didn’t realize it was such a controversial subject when I wrote it. I do believe that “traditional” homeschooling is the ideal (which we spent many years doing), but if it is defined, schooling at home, whether it be traditional or Virtual Public (Cyber) School, are both forms of homeschool, very different, but still forms of. For us it came down to either choosing to put our oldest in a public school, or to try a VPS. Our experience with the VPS was not nearly as strict as described in the blog post here. The school that we utilized was very pro-homeschooling and worked with us on scheduling, assignments, even curriculum. We used Calvert curriculum, which is used by many “traditional” homeschoolers, and we felt is was very thorough and actually very impressed with the rigor of the learning.

    The teacher oversight, at least in our situation was basically a conference every once in a while, checking our son’s tests, and being a support to us. We still did all of the teaching, but with an already prepared curriculum which had been a major endeavor and stress for my wife to prepare in the past few years.

    For us it was a change in life circumstances that made it necessary for us try the VPS. It was our best option to still have some say in our son’s daily education. Yes, we did have to balance that with the Standardized testing and having to report to a teacher, but in the end, it was worth it to us for that specific time in our life. So my take on it is that for certain families in certain circumstances it is definitely an option worth looking at

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    1. I agree that virtual charter school is certainly much better than public school, but, although the learning is done at home, it is not technically homeschooling, which you did point out in your article. The reason it matters so much is because onlookers who hear cyber schoolers consider themselves homeschoolers soon start to wonder why this one set of “homeschoolers” has to follow common core, do standardized testing, report to teachers, etc, and the other group of homeschoolers do not. Before you know it, the lines become blurred and people start pushing for true homeschoolers to be regulated in the same way as cyber schoolers, which would completely defeat the purpose of tailoring our children’s education to meet their needs. It would be much clearer for cyber schoolers to refer to themselves as such because homeschooling is really very different. And I applaud your reply to the commenter on your post. You’re right, she was very passionate, but you remained calm and collected in your response. I admire that.🙂

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  5. While I agree there is a slight difference between Homeschooling and Cyber school. I was surprised by some of the examples. My children have been with ORCA for 4 years now. Never have we been held to only what the school is teaching. I have added curriculum,or a different view as I saw fit with no trouble from the school. As far as the attendance, in our state you must have documentation of your hours no matter which program you choose. One of the reasons we choose to Cyber school is so that our tax money did not go to the local school board. We grew tired of our money being used to fund the pushing of “Family Services” in the form of birth control and family planning in our middle and high schools. I agree that no matter what, the more involved the parents. The better we all are.

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    1. I think the differences are actually pretty vast between homeschooling and cyber school. I think it’s awesome that you are allowed to supplement curriculum and tailor it to your own world view. What I like, though, is that we are able to choose our ENTIRE curriclulum- or even make the decision whether to use a formal curriculum at all. My daughter will be taking her third year of psychology this year. Additionally, she will also be learning chemistry, physics, and quantum physics. I don’t know about ORCA, but cyber schools around here let you choose a couple of electives but make other subjects mandatory, and psychology would never be offered three years in a row. My son will be doing most of his science out in the field this year, studying the wildlife at creeks and in forested areas. I think if I would tell him to sit at the computer instead of doing this he would lose his passion for the subject, but every child is different. As for keeping attendance, where I live we are also required to “do school” for 180 days, but our documentation can be as simple as 180 check marks on a calendar or a written note stating that we homeschooled for 180 days. And I hear you about not wanting your tax money to go to public schools, but, as far as I know, our tax money goes to the public schools whether our kids attend them or not. Like I stated before, I agree that cyber schooling is a thousand times better than public schools. With that being said, the government does not consider cyber schoolers homeschoolers, either, but public school students. Again, we homeschoolers prefer this distinction because we do not want the line between these two forms of learning to be blurred so much that we lose our autonomy in our children’s education because that’s why most of us are homeschooling in the first place!

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  6. Until I took my kids OUT of the online public school system last year, I would have argued you down about these differences. However, that was BEFORE I tried the “real homeschooling” route. I love the real homeschooling route, but my kids thrive and do really well with the online public school system we use. We do NOT have to be logged into a computer five hours a day. We do have to use their curriculum, but I put my own twists on it all the time without any complaints from them.

    I do agree that “real homeschooling” provides a whole lot more freedom. I do think it’s worth it to continue to fight for the right to teach our kids using that method despite the fact that our family does appreciate the online public school route AT THIS POINT in our lives. (I believe if any more regulations come down that we will go back to “real homeschooling.”) I do believe that we are slowly (or quickly depending on how you look at things) losing our rights as parents to raise and teach our kids the way we see fit without the government drastically interfering in ways that they shouldn’t. That’s a whole another topic in and of itself.

    I think without meaning to you did make it seem like we aren’t in fact “homeschooling” our kids when the truth of the matter is we are doing a lot of teaching of our kids despite using the online public school system. Their 1 hr worth of lessons come nowhere close to giving them everything they need to learn everything. I appreciate everything you were trying to say in this post because I agree with many of the things you’ve said. I also don’t think that you were intentionally trying to say we’re NOT homeschooling them, but rather there is a huge difference between the KINDS of homeschool methods.

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    1. I think that if you look at it like, “they are learning in a home atmosphere,” then, yes, cyber schooling could be considered homeschooling. However, legally speaking, cyber schoolers are not considered homeschoolers but are considered public school students, which is why all of the regulations and restrictions are in place. As, for lack of a better word, “traditional homeschoolers,” most of us prefer this distinction because state laws regarding homeschoolers are far more relaxed than those regarding students who are cyber schooled. When cyber schoolers call themselves homeschoolers, it confuses those who don’t know how this works, and they start to question why we have so much more autonomy over our kids’ education and some start pushing for us to have more restrictions, which we do not want to happen. The reason many of us homeschool is because of this freedom in learning and freedom from the government telling us what to teach our children. And you’re right, we are losing more and more parental rights as time goes on, and too much confusion over this matter could ultimately cost us the freedom to homeschool as we do today. This is why it is so, so important to call cyber schoolers “cyber schoolers” and homeschoolers “homeschoolers.” Thanks for your well- thought out comment!

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      1. I like that break down very well. I agree that we should continue to fight to have the flexibility we have with homeschooling our kids. I never want to lose the right to teach them as I see fit should we ever have to leave the ‘cyber schooling’ again.

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    1. Cyber schooling, which is basically public school at home, is definitely gaining popularity as our schools go more and more downhill. I’m sure you’ll hear much more about it as time goes on.🙂

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  7. I have to admit that I’ve never heard of cyber schooling – perhaps it’s not a thing in the UK. But to me, the whole appeal of home schooling would be the ability to tailor your child’s education, to go at their own pace, and to focus on activities that sparked their interest – none of which sound like cyber schooling is offering. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

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  8. I agree, and sometimes it irks me when a cyber schooling parent says that she homeschools. It’s mostly for selfish reasons because homeschooling is WAY more work for me than cyber schooling. I’ve homeschooled my children since the beginning, but my oldest has done cyber school for his junior and now senior year. I now try and distinguish that 2 of my kids are homeschooled and one does school online whenever people ask. I didn’t really want to go the cyber school (k12) route, but my husband and I decided to let this particular child choose. Letting go and giving your teens choices can be SO hard!! I only WISH we would have been given a computer – we had to buy one. Anyway, thank you for saying that there IS a distinction.🙂

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    1. Yeah, it does get to me, too, ut the main reason is I’m just afraid that if people get too confused, it will only get more restrictive for us, which defeats the purpose of homeschooling in hte first place!

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  9. I’m finding posts on homeschooling really interesting. It’s not, as far as I know, got s huge following in the uk yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it more and more of the cyber schooling elements. #kcacols

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  10. That makes sense. I have heard of cyber schooling & I understand the distinction, but I’ve never known of anyone doing it. I’m wondering if it maybe is not actually a legal thing in our system over here. We do have home schooling, but maybe I have never heard of anyone doing cyber schooling here because we don’t have it. Or perhaps we do & I’ve just missed it!😀 #KCACOLS

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  11. Really informative as I wasn’t aware of this at all and not sure we even have an equivalent in the UK. We are however, usually a step behind the US and it’s handy to have an insight. #KCACOLS

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