For many parents wanting to homeschool, online homeschooling or other online learning options may seem like the best option. If you’ll be homeschooling multiple grades, or if you’re not confident in teaching some or all subjects, online homeschooling can help you to take care of all your children’s learning needs. But online homeschooling does have its limitations and potential risks. Some students may be more easily distracted on a computer. Internet access without the proper restrictions can give students too much freedom. Additionally, some students do not thrive with online learning expectations. So how can you be successful with online homeschooling? Let’s explore online homeschooling and some tips for being successful.
What is online homeschooling?
Online homeschooling happens when the majority of your children’s learning takes place online, but you still direct their education. This might mean their curriculum or reading material is online, they watch or complete lessons online, or they complete activities or take tests online. So long as you’re still in charge of big decisions and grading and you set the tone and schedule for learning in your home, you’re homeschooling online. If your kids’ online learning experience leaves you with little authority or decision power over their learning, you’re doing online learning through another organization.
Online Learning vs. Online Homeschooling
Online learning is a larger category that includes both online homeschool and enrollment in an online academy. A key element of homeschooling is that you maintain freedom and grading authority over your children’s education. Enrollment in an online academy often entails a more limited schedule (lessons occur at scheduled times) and no grading authority (teachers assign grades to their students and parents cannot affect grades).
Other decisions that you might also prefer to direct yourself may also not be available to you. In classroom situations, it’s important that teachers have the freedom and authority to manage their class so they can teach effectively and with minimal group distractions. These decisions might have to do with individual student conduct, grading policies, testing policies, and more. By enrolling your student in an online academy, you may have agreed to allow the teacher to make these decisions and have little to no say in how classes are conducted. In a true homeschool situation, you have final say on all student management questions.
Parent’s Responsibilities in Online Homeschooling
Depending on the curriculum you’re using and your child’s level of independence, your responsibilities for online homeschooling may be significant. You may need to
- Create a schedule for lessons and assignments
- Find and arrange assignments
- Grade your student’s work
- Keep appropriate records
- Supplement available teaching
- Research and choose a curriculum
- Monitor student performance and behavior
- Plan and arrange lessons
Parent’s Responsibilities in Online Learning from an Online Academy
In general, enrollment in an online academy shifts most of a parent’s responsibilities in homeschooling from the parent to the online teacher. Instead, the parent will just be responsible for helping their student meet time and schedule responsibilities, such as completing their work on time. In any online academy, the teacher will plan lessons, give assignments, grade work, keep records, and supplement teaching as needed.
Pros and Cons of Online Homeschooling
There are pros and cons to online homeschooling, so it is important for you to be aware of them as you plan and prepare for an online homeschool journey. If you’re still deciding if this journey is right for you, be sure to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks carefully.
Pros of Online Homeschooling
- Total freedom in all areas of homeschooling
- Flexibility to change schedule as needed
- Ability to homeschool wherever you have an internet or data connection
- Digital assignments and lessons are often highly customizable
- Many tools are available for support, record keeping, and scheduling
Cons of Online Homeschooling
- More responsibility
- Students may be more prone to distraction while online
- Local outages, hardware problems, or system updates may cause delays
- Giving students internet access can have risks
- No direct access to a teacher
Is learning online effective?
Any learning option, including online learning, can be effective with the right expectations. In the same way, if you don’t set learning expectations and monitor your children as they learn, their learning may not be as effective as it could be. Because you won’t have a teacher tracking your students’ progress and alerting you to potential problems, you have responsibility to make sure your children are doing the work, staying focused, and staying safe online. Your online homeschool journey will be as effective as the effort you and your children put into it.
How to Homeschool Online Successfully
- Consider your student’s learning needs. If your student would be at a disadvantage with online homeschooling, consider doing as few subjects online as possible or look for other homeschooling options that meet his or her needs better.
- Let them take responsibility for their own education. If you have students old enough and confident enough to direct their own learning—by setting their own pace and schedule—then giving them ownership over it will help them become invested in their learning and their success. If they aren’t old enough for that level of responsibility, they can take ownership in other ways. They might be asked to care for their own materials, start their own videos, or decide when and how they study.
- Be involved. Even if you’re just a facilitator of your child’s online learning, your involvement will always have a direct impact on how your child perceives the importance of education and how much you value his or her success.
- Take advantage of hands-on activities whenever possible. Video learning often includes video demonstrations of concepts and activities, which may reduce the cost of lab materials and other resources if you can’t always do those activities. But hands-on activities will always be an important way for online homeschool students to get engaged with their learning, so it will be valuable for them to do these activities themselves whenever possible.
How to Help Children Struggling with Online Learning
Some students may struggle with the environment, structure, or process of online homeschooling. These are often the students that thrive off developing relationships with their teachers or those around them, who use routine and their environment to help them focus, and who enjoy direct participation in the learning process. Students who learn better from an in-person teacher in a group are often unable to identify what it is about online learning that they struggle with. If your student struggles with online learning, they may not necessarily have a learning disability. They may simply not know how to help themselves learn in an online learning situation. Here’s how you can help.
- Be available and confident. Online homeschoolers are often learning from pre-recorded teachers, so they need someone they can turn to with questions and advice as they do their lessons. While you may not feel equipped to teach all the material to them, you also have more experience and insight on how to learn information you don’t know. And, as the parent, you often have access to teaching resources and parent guides to help your student through the material.
- Don’t leave them alone. One of the biggest things students who learn better in group settings miss is being around other people. Body doubling, which is a term often used for students with ADHD, is the process of using the awareness of being around other people to stay on task and focused on what you’re doing. Students in the same room don’t even have to be working on the same thing. People simply benefit from being near other people as they work. Body doubling can be helpful for any student, with or without ADHD.
- Use the rewind button. If you have video lessons, it will be invaluable for you to recognize and embrace that these are videos and your student can rewatch material as often as necessary. It’s not the end of the world if they get distracted, and it will often be very helpful for them to rewatch material if they don’t understand something.
- Limit access to distractions. Make sure that other devices aren’t near to hand and limit browser settings so your students aren’t able to access other websites while they learn.
Tips for Homeschooling Online with Students with ADHD
- Let your kids watch their videos how they want to—they don’t need to sit still. Students in classrooms often need to sit still because they may distract other students. But if your students aren’t distracting their siblings, they can watch their lessons while standing, walking on a treadmill, bouncing on a balance ball or trampoline, or hanging upside down.
- Give them fidgets.
- Establish a structure and routine. Kids with ADHD thrive on routine and structure much more than they would let on. An ideal structure would give them the freedom to choose which order they do their work in, while also establishing expectations for when they will be working and when they will be free.
- Help them keep a consistent sleep schedule.
- Be consistent with medications or supplements. Whether you choose to medicate your student with ADHD or choose homeopathic options, be consistent. As students with ADHD adjust to medications or supplements, they often forget the coping mechanisms they relied on before they had medicinal support for mental challenges. Inconsistent support may lead to difficult periods of adjustment.
The Cost of Homeschooling
Depending on how you establish your online homeschool, your cost may be free or may be equal to the cost of your curriculum and any additional supplies you need. So long as you’re not enrolling in an online academy, you won’t have tuition costs or other fees involved. As you look for the best homeschool curriculum for your family, cost will be a factor to consider.
Get Started with BJU Press Online Homeschooling
If you’re certain online homeschooling is right for you, consider getting started with BJU Press! We offer full grades or individual subjects for your online homeschooling needs. Our online video courses include a full year of video lessons, all required printed student materials, online lesson guides, an online planner, and online access to teacher editions and some student materials. Our program is flexible and customizable, and you have final say on all educational decisions for your children.
Christian Online Homeschool Program
Most importantly, BJU Press textbooks and video courses entirely support a biblical worldview. We believe that helping students develop and defend a biblical worldview early in their lives is crucial to raising the next generation of Christian young people. Our textbooks encourage children to understand the Big Story of Scripture and to consider how to apply biblical principles to their lives and to their studies. Their video teachers also have a passionate love for Christ and a desire to help their students develop a closer relationship with Him.
Online Homeschool Planner
Our online homeschool curriculum includes access to a revolutionary new homeschool planner that simplifies planning, scheduling, record-keeping, and reporting. The BJU Press Homeschool Hub is an all-in-one homeschool planner that was uniquely designed to support BJU Press materials. When you purchase an online video course, you receive access to those materials on the Homeschool Hub. Visit our website to learn more about the Hub or create an account on the Hub and start using it now for BJU Press textbook courses or other homeschool courses.
Online Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers
Testing is often a beneficial or required aspect of homeschooling, and online standardized testing for homeschoolers makes it more accessible and convenient. Online standardized testing means you don’t need to become or find an authorized test administrator. An administrator will be provided for you. Your student’s scores will be posted to your online account within 5–10 days after testing. Learn more about your online testing options from Testing and Evaluation.
An Accredited Online Homeschool Program
BJU Press offers an accredited online Christian homeschool program through The Academy of Home Education. The Academy of Home Education is a record-keeping and transcript service with several benefits, including options to receive an accredited homeschool transcript or diploma. While an accredited education isn’t required, accreditation can guarantee your homeschooler has access to all opportunities after graduation. Visit our website to learn more about the Academy of Home Education.