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Homeschooling vs public schools: Is doing online public school at home the same as homeschooling?  The short answer is NO.

In the midst of the Covid Pandemic, parents around the world began calling online public school homeschooling. Veteran homeschoolers, like myself, knew that while these parents were doing their best, doing school at home is NOT homeschooling.

Why do I continue to reinforce this message? Why go down that road today? Because it’s critical to shed light on what homeschooling really is and to illustrate the differences between true homeschooling and doing public school at home. 

K12 Online Public School Programs Are NOT Homeschooling

While the Covid Pandemic school shutdowns have passed, K12 Programs are still offered across the nation. K12 Online School Programs may be offered as you look into homeschooling your kids, but it’s important to note that enrolling your child into a publicly funded K12 program is NOT homeschooling.

There are significant differences between enrolling your child into a publicly funded K12 Public School Program and truly homeschooling your kids.

In this article, we’re going to dive into the differences between online private or public education and true homeschooling.

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A Quick Introduction…

Hi! My name is Jackie. I’m a longtime homeschooling mom, the founder of HomeSchool ThinkTank, and the host of the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast.

I first wrote this article in the midst of the Covid Pandemic, but have updated it since then. Whether our society is in a time of “forced public schooling at home” or “normal times,” I think it’s vital that parents understand the tremendous differences between true homeschooling and doing public school at home.

Should we ever encounter a time when children cannot attend physical public schools, I want parents to understand their options. In my opinion, true homeschooling is so much better than doing online public school at home, and I want to help parents understand why I believe this to be true.

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How Did the Pandemic Influence Your View of Homeschooling?

Whether you did public school at home during the pandemic or not, you most certainly heard the horror stories of parents who were calling this experience homeschooling.

  • Getting kids on Zoom for online public school.
  • Trying to keep kids focused on a computer for hours on end.
  • Attempting to teach their children where a classroom teacher would normally be present.

The charades were never-ending.

Parents, kids, and teachers were frustrated beyond tears.

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Was Doing School at Home the Same as True Homeschooling?

Was doing school at home during the pandemic the same as homeschooling? I can assure you that THAT experience was nothing like homeschooling.

Why do I still broach this topic years after kids have returned to school? 

After this recent ‘forced experiment,’ some people may think homeschooling is terrible.  They may think they hate it when, in fact, true homeschooling and doing public school at home are very, very different.

If you are following a K12 Program, public school, charter school, or a private school’s agenda at home, you aren’t homeschooling.  You are doing school at home. This statement isn’t made to diminish the efforts families made during the pandemic or the efforts they make when implementing a K12 Program. It’s made to lay the foundation for what I’m going to say next. 

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Consider True Homeschooling

Now it’s time to explain the differences between true homeschooling and K12 Online Public School Programs and the Covid Pandemic experience of doing private or public school at home.

During the Covid Pandemic, I coined the term, true homeschooling. While the simple term of homeschooling is the word I had previously used, during the pandemic, I needed to differentiate doing public school at home from what I considered real homeschooling. As a result, when I need to differentiate the Covid experience of school or K12 Programs from real homeschooling, I use the phrase true homeschooling.

In one podcast episode, this is how I defined true homeschooling.

“True Homeschooling means you are legally homeschooling, that you are not using a public school curriculum or model in your home. You are not signed up through the public school system. You should be signed up legally as a home schooler.”

Listen to this podcast episode about the phrase true homeschooling and protecting the word homeschool.
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Definition Of True Homeschooling

I created a more thoughtful definition as I continued using the phrase true homeschooling.

True homeschooling is when a parent has chosen to take full responsibility for their child’s education. A child is presumably not enrolled in public or private school. The parent has likely registered their child as a homeschooled student with their government’s department of education. A true homeschooling family is unlikely to follow a public school curriculum or model in their home and has a choice in how to approach their child’s education.”

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This definition may alter slightly over time, but this is the essence of true homeschooling.

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True Homeschooling: Educational Choice, Responsibility, and Flexibility

True homeschooling includes choice, responsibility, and flexibility in your approach to your child’s education and in your lifestyle.

  • Educational Choice. You can choose to homeschool or send your child to school.
  • Parental Responsibility. The parent is completely responsible for their child’s education.
  • Flexible Education Models. You can choose how you want to approach your child’s education.
  • Lifestyle. You have flexibility in your day-to-day schedule and lifestyle habits.
  • Legal Responsibility. In many states and countries, you must file a letter of intent or register your child as a homeschooled student.

Below, we’ll address each of the key components of homeschooling in greater detail.

Ultimately, homeschooling is not only an educational approach but a lifestyle. When you homeschool your kids, you have the ability to alter your family’s daily living habits in a way that suits your family.

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Homeschooling Is An Educational and Lifestyle Choice

Generally speaking, parents have a choice to enroll their children in school or homeschool their kids.  During the Covid Pandemic, parents did not have a choice. Parents were mandated to do public school at home with their children. When you have a choice, that fundamentally changes everything in your mind.  As a true homeschooling parent, you know you could make a different choice, but you choose to educate your children from home.

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Legal Considerations for Homeschooling

While laws about homeschooling differ in each state and around the world, it is often a legal requirement that parents register each homeschooled child with their State’s Department of Education. For parents who enroll their child through a publicly funded K12 Program, enrolling as a homeschooled student is unnecessary because your child is enrolled in the public education system and is, therefore, not homeschooling.

As mentioned before, doing ‘as-directed’ schoolwork at home during COVID-19 was not homeschooling.  Should a situation like this occur in the future, it’s important that you understand the differences between doing public school at home and true homeschooling. You may prefer to disenroll your children from school to truly homeschool them.

Learn more about homeschool requirements where you live.

Responsibility for Your Child’s Education

True homeschooling parents assume all of the responsibility for their children’s education.  When your child attends school or partakes in an online K12 program, others share the responsibility for your child’s education.

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Educational Styles & Homeschool Curriculum

Homeschooling parents have options about how they want to approach their child’s education. There are a variety of approaches to homeschooling, and for those who want to use a curriculum-based approach, there are many options to choose from.

While there are homeschooling requirements to consider, you will have far more options as a true homeschooling family than you would by following an Online K12 Public School Program.

A True Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

When you homeschool your kids, they can have a truly individualized education plan. Your child has the freedom to work at their own pace. 

In other words, your child can move more quickly when their school work is easy for them and take their time for more challenging concepts.

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Traditional Public School vs Homeschool Schedules

True homeschooling parents have far more control of their family’s schedule than private or public school students. While traditional school students must attend school on certain days during certain hours, as a true homeschooling family, you will likely have the ability to create your own school calendar.

For families who want to travel or live a non-traditional lifestyle, homeschooling is an excellent way to create freedom while providing a stellar education for your kids.

Learn more about creating a homeschool schedule that works for your family.

Public School at Home Video Is Funny…

But This Isn’t Homeschooling!

While this video is entertaining, this is doing public school at home. This is NOT homeschooling.

Living & Learning Outside of the Home

As a true homeschooling family, you’ll likely take lots of field trips, partake in classes for homeschooled kids, and join homeschooling groups. In other words, you’ll be combining education from home with experiential learning opportunities. When your child is in an online K12 program, they’re more likely to spend a massive amount of their day in front of a computer screen.

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