Virtual School Trend is Growing Alongside Homeschooling

Are online schools the new 'homeschooling'? A new study says yes. Learn why – and what parents should know about the virtual school trend.

Homeschooling” can mean a lot of different things to different people – from parents who use boxed curricula to those who “unschool” and everything in between. But one of the newest forms of homeschooling is gaining popularity fast.

According to a recent report by Study International, online schools are quickly becoming the “new” homeschool.

Online schools, also known as virtual schools, provide students with a web-based curriculum and are often paired with support from certified teachers. In many cases, students take part in an online school for free through a public charter school.

A growing trend

According to the report, more and more parents today are opting for homeschooling. For example, one school district in North Carolina saw a 12.5 percent decrease in enrollment over the past decade but a 112 percent increase in the homeschool population during that same time period.

“A similar trend is being seen in Canada, as, since 1999, public school enrollments have dipped while homeschooling is becoming more popular,” Study International notes.

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Proponents say online schools offer more flexibility to meet students where they’re at academically, fewer distractions and more one-on-one attention, according to Connections Academy, an online tuition-free K-12 school option.

Local options

Here in Michigan, online school for kindergarten through high school students are offered by institutions like K12, Connections Academy and many others. Some local school districts are even getting on board.

In Oakland County, for instance, Oakland Schools offers the Virtual Learning Academy Consortium that boasts a flexible and home-based learning option for K-12 students. And Hazel Park Public Schools offers the Michigan Cyber Academy, which provides a self-paced high school program for students ages 14-21 throughout Michigan.

Cyber Academy, which provides a self-paced high school program for students ages 14-21 throughout Michigan.

Is it right for your student?

Deciding whether or not to take advantage of an online school involves many considerations. In addition to hearing perspectives from parents who have taken part in virtual schools, you should also consider the pros and cons.

While many parents and students enjoy the flexibility of learning at home with a set online curriculum, others say the format has its downfalls like the need for students to be self-motivated or a lack of social opportunities.

Research is “mixed” on the performance of students in online schools, Parents.com reports, so it’s best to ask lots of questions of the school you’re considering.

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