Cyber Schooling vs. Homeschooling
When you hear a family is homeschooling their child, it often doesn’t mean what it did 20 years ago. Many times the family is actually schooling their child through a cyber charter school, a home-based education program. PA Virtual Charter School is one of several cyber charter schools available to Pennsylvania families and has been serving students since 2001. While the phrases are often used interchangeably, it’s important to note that homeschooling and cyber schooling are not the same. In this post, we will cover the top three differences between attending a cyber charter school and homeschooling.
1. Cyber charter schools are public schools.
Cyber charter schools are public schools and therefore must meet the requirements of the state department of education. Cyber charter school students must participate in standardized testing, log attendance, submit mandatory health forms, attend class, and submit assignments to their teachers.
Families who traditionally homeschool their children are required to submit an affidavit to their local school district at the beginning of the school year. Annually, they are required to have their student evaluated by an independent evaluator who then submits a letter to the school district confirming that the child is progressing academically.
2. Instruction is primarily delivered by the teacher in a cyber charter school.
The second biggest difference between a child attending a cyber charter school and homeschooling is the individual primarily in charge of instruction.
Cyber charter schools provide a state-certified teacher who creates lesson plans, provides academic oversight, and in the synchronous model, live instruction to students. Most cyber charter schools also plan field trips to give students the opportunity to meet and socialize with each other outside of the online classroom. Parents still play a very active role in the cyber charter school model. At PA Virtual, parents are called the Learning Coach and their ongoing partnership is critical to student success.
On the other hand, generally, in a homeschooling environment parents typically are the ones to develop lesson plans, plan field trips, and instruct their children.
3. Curriculum & Cost
Since cyber charter schools are public schools, the school provides each child enrolled with the technology and curricular materials needed to be successful in the model. This includes a laptop, printer, online curriculum and related instructional materials. The school’s administration selects the curriculum the school will use.
On the other hand, homeschooling parents are able to pick out the curriculum of their choice. In addition, homeschooling parents incur the cost of the curriculum and any other related instructional materials.
There are both benefits and challenges that come along with each method of schooling, and one model of education may appeal to you more than the other. When deciding which option may be a better fit for your family, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you looking for more structure? Do you want the support of a state-certified teacher?
If so, a cyber charter school may be what your family is looking for.
- Does your family require a lot of flexibility in your schedule? Is it important to choose your own curriculum?
If so, you may want to look into homeschooling.
Also, if you are looking for more flexibility, it's important to note that many cyber charter schools also offer asynchronous instruction where students work in a self-directed environment at their own pace, with the support and guidance of a certified teacher. If you'd like to learn more about the instructional paths offered at PA Virtual, check out our blog post, "Cyber Schools: Asychronous vs. Synchronous: What's the Difference?"
If you're looking for more information on cyber charter schools, check out our Ultimate Guide to Attending a Cyber Charter School in PA. This comprehensive guide has everything you need to know about cyber schools all in one convenient place, and it will paint a clearer picture about what a cyber charter school experience would look like for your child.