If you are thinking about working and homeschooling, chances are that your first thoughts are about online school programs. This was my first thought when it entered my field of vision. I figured that it was impossible to homeschool another way if I was working all day, and that I might have to show that I was using a certified teacher.

Well, I was wrong on all counts. A friend of mine, who was a certified teacher and experienced homeschooler, set me straight. That doesn't mean that it's a bad idea; it just means that your choices are broader than online homeschool when you are a working parent.

When choosing any homeschool curriculum, online, paper or otherwise, we should pay attention to things like our kids' personalities, our family values, and our budget. Then, we decide on the best choice.

Advantages to online homeschooling

There are some advantages to online homeschooling. First, it is simple to implement. The structure is already in place, and you and your child just have to learn how to navigate it. 

Online homeschooling also gives students the ability to do the majority of their work independently. Also, if the program allows your child to work at his or her own pace and it measures mastery, it can help you make sure your child fully learns important concepts.

For the student who really excels academically, online school can be something that allows her to finish basic school work quickly so that she can have more time to pursue other interests.  

Disadvantages to online homeschooling

I just mentioned the pace of online school. If the program moves every student along at a predetermined pace, keeping a schedule with a group of kids, then you really haven't changed the situation much from traditional school. Pacing might not be an issue, so this could be fine. However, this could be a problem for a lot of kids, so use caution.

Another thing to consider with online homeschool is budget. Online schooling is usually the most expensive choice, even though it might not be the most effective one.  The fee for one online class can fund a whole package of creative learning materials off-line that might be more stimulating and engaging for your child.

Engagement is important. Many people choose to homeschool because they want to give their kids the freedom to be creative and find their gifts and talents. If they are in a completely standardized program, it will be hard to meet that goal

Using online classes selectively

Online homeschool doesn't have to be an all or nothing venture. Instead of choosing one entire online program, you can choose individual online classes to complement your other homeschool curriculum, based on your family's needs. You might decide to use an online class for a subject that you are not as comfortable teaching. You also might find an online class that speaks to one of your child's interests.

My daughter took an elective class online that taught about finance and the stock market that she really enjoyed.  She also took some dual enrollment classes online in high school. Because most college classes involve some type of online work today, this was a great transition to prepare her for college work.

Many traditional curriculum publishers offer video teaching online or by dvd as a complement to their materials. This isn't a full online course. It is an optional feature, and it basically gives instruction time before the student moves into the book work; it's more like parental support. We used programs like this at different times for science, math, and foreign language. 

Do you need to use an accredited online homeschool?

Short answer? No. Online school is just one curriculum choice like any other materials you would buy. That accredited school might offer some great classes, but let that be the reason you choose to enroll, not because of their advertised credentials. Lee Binz, whom I often refer to as the person who kept me sane through homeschooling high school, does a great job of explaining this:

"When families sign up for those schools, they own you. Because they are accredited, they must do certain things to maintain their accreditation, and all those things make it very difficult to homeschool naturally, and at the same time they dramatically increase the record keeping requirements of parents."

I encourage you to read the whole article.  If you are considering accredited online schools because you are concerned about transcripts, then stick around on Lee's site. I promise you that she will be able to give you more valuable help with homeschool transcripts than an online school.

What about free online public school?

Again, I feel I need to caution you here. Online public school is still public school. The work is just done at home. If you are unhappy with your public schooling experience, this is most likely not going to solve your problem. 

There is a difference between public school at home and homeschooling. Homeschooling means that you as a parent are directing the education of your child. You might do it all yourself. You might hire a tutor or choose a friend or grandparent to help with some subjects. You might choose some online classes, some traditional book curriculum, or some in-person classes. Even if you are not the teacher in all of these situations, you are in charge

Don't choose online school out of fear

As long as you choose online homeschool classes for the right reasons, you will be fine. Those reasons should never include things like you need accreditation or a certified teacher. Choose classes because you have investigated your options and decided that it is a great fit for your child.