First, you need to ask about accreditation. Homeschooling is an alternate form of education and, while it is growing more popular, it is an approach that has to be carefully documented and supported for the higher institutions to accept from students. Online programs should display their accreditation credentials so parents can see they have specific standards they must adhere to for teaching and in curriculum. Sites that lack this should be avoided because when it comes time to submit the transcript to the college admissions board, they are going to see the school is missing this and will take longer to review the document.
Accreditation ensures a recognizable standard of quality and performance so that other education institutions can trust the coursework meets established requirements and can transfer or be accepted for the usual credits. Even though this may not be as important in the elementary grades, it is still a good idea to find online homeschool curriculum that has this from the beginning so students can stay with the same program from beginning to end.
The next question is how long and for what purpose will the homeschooling be done? Choosing the right online program means finding a school that fits the reason the parents decided to homeschool, provides flexible options to choose from and can accommodate for more than just a few grades. Some families choose to teach their kids at home because they want faith incorporated into the core subject learning and as a separate class where the Bible is the focus. For this, it is important to find an online homeschool curriculum that supports the faith-based approach and aligns with the belief parents want to establish in their children.
Homeschooling has the benefit of being something that can be done for a short period of time to cover gaps for illness or to allow students to ‘skip’ a grade by going back to the traditional school and testing up. It can also be a permanent way of education that families adopt for all their kids so when choosing a program, you need to determine if what it has to offer meets those needs. The Admissions office is a great resource to start with after reviewing the online website so parents can ask questions and even request a free demo of the online portal where students perform and submit their work.
What resources does the online program offer? This may seem like a simple question but first-time homeschoolers can often find themselves overwhelmed by the task of teaching their younger children, monitoring older students, grading and determining how to keep everyone on task so they finish on time. When you find online homeschool curriculum that is designed specifically to help parents and students work with the institution in an organized manner then this process is simplified. Parents should be able to choose whether they want to be part or full-time teachers for their upper elementary students; otherwise, they can take advantage of the professional instruction of teachers dedicated to the online program.
A daily lesson planner is the perfect tool to keep everyone working on track whether it is with the print curriculum for younger students or displayed with each online course for those using that method. It is a recommendation of which lessons should be completed in each class daily but the advantage is that families can use this as a guideline so students can work at their own pace and work around unexpected events. The site should provide additional links to research libraries, labs and tutorials to help students through their courses. Parents are best assisted by the formal documentation the program maintains so parents don’t have to search for which is ideal in states where this is required to show proof of learning and at graduation when the senior needs official transcripts to send to the colleges for admission.
Homeschooling is a big decision that requires a lot of work, time commitment and looking for the right fit not only in the areas mentioned above but also for cost and support. Whether you homeschool one or several children, it is important to have a home system that works for you and the kids to make it fun. New homeschoolers should check out online articles from individuals who have experience and see what worked for them and what didn’t even when using a formal online homeschool curriculum. The last question is how to make learning a positive experience because not all education takes place in a textbook but should be supported by hands-on interactions, meetings with other homeschool students and creative exercises that stretch the imagination. Parents are critical in this area because this is not something the online teachers can do for the student but it brings the information to life as well as giving students a chance to get out of the classroom.