Homeschool vs Online School: What’s the Difference?

May 28, 2024

Discover the key differences and benefits of homeschooling vs online school. Explore which educational path suits your child’s needs best.

There is often confusion when it comes to homeschool vs online school. And while they do share some of the same characteristics, a homeschool education and online education actually differ in many ways. In this article, we’ll explore homeschool vs online school, the differences between the two, and the benefits of both forms of education.

What Is Online School?

Online school, which is also known as online learning, is education that provides instruction online to students who are not physically in the same location as the instructor. Online school encourages frequent interaction between students and instructors either synchronously during live classes every week, or asynchronously through online classes and modules that allow students to learn and complete assignments at any time during a given week.

Online school is the perfect education option for students who need flexibility and convenience in their schedules. This may apply to students who are high-level athletes or performers and spend several hours training, practicing, performing, and competing, and don’t have the luxury of spending seven hours each weekday in a classroom. Online school is also an ideal option for high school students who work, allowing them the freedom to fit in classes between their work hours.

How Does Online School Work?

The “average” online school day varies by student—in other words, there is no true “average” school day for an online student. What is certain, however, is that their school days are drastically different from those of students attending in-person school.

Let’s compare:

A typical student in a traditional school may spend around seven to eight consecutive hours in class each weekday, plus up to an hour traveling to and from school. An online school student may be in class for three or four non-consecutive hours a day—sometimes during the week, sometimes on weekends depending on their schedules. Online school students can take breaks as often as they’d like, and they can stagger their schedule throughout the day and week. Plus, there’s no transportation necessary to and from school.

As an example, here’s a “typical” schedule for one of Holston Academy’s amazing students, Mikah “Eddie” Ramos, who will be entering 7th grade when the 2024-25 school year begins:

  • 7:00 am wake-up
  • Hourlong swim, skate, or workout to get her up and moving
  • Breakfast and chores
  • First classes at around 10:00 am
  • 10-minute break between each class
  • Including studying and homework, ends her school day between 3:00 and 5:00 pm
  • Free time the rest of the day

To illustrate the variety in schedules among online school students, below is Trey’s schedule. Trey is entering his senior year with Holston Academy and is a competitive skier with Olympic dreams.

  • 8:00 am wake-up
  • 30 minutes of exercise at home followed by breakfast and a shower
  • Algebra lessons from 9:00 am to 11:00 am on Mondays and Wednesdays and Physics on Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • 11:15 snack break and play time with his dog
  • Language Arts lessons and schoolwork from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays and World History or Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Off to the mountain for skiing and training until 4:30 pm
  • Dinner with the family from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
  • Spanish lessons from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Mondays through Thursdays
  • Fridays are spent at the mountain practicing and training with his ski team
  • If he needs more time to catch up on schoolwork, Trey will either skip his Friday morning training session or spend some time on Saturday making up the work

As you can see, the school days of online students can vary quite a bit. And these schedules are a huge departure from a traditional school schedule. Like Eddie and Trey, every online school student has their own reasons for preferring this form of education. But they all have one thing in common—the typical seven-hour traditional school day of rotating classes doesn’t work for them.

How does online school work for Holston Academy? These are the basic steps:

  • Student Assessments
  • Academic Coach Support
  • Teacher Interaction
  • Mastery-Based Learning
  • Time Management & Parent Involvement

Learn more about our process designed to help your student reach their full potential.

The Benefits of Online School

By now you’ve seen some of the many benefits online schooling has to offer. Some of those benefits are similar to homeschooling’s benefits—flexibility and convenience, to name a couple. But when you compare homeschool vs online school, you’ll discover how much more online school has to offer.

Instruction

Online schools (like Holston Academy) employ certified instructors who are experts in their subjects to teach classes. Plus, for most online schools (including Holston Academy), each student is supported by a counselor or Academic Coach. With homeschooling, most students are educated by their parents, caregivers, or tutors.

Curriculum

Online schools offer fully developed and vetted curriculum for each subject. Homeschoolers usually choose their own curriculum from a variety of publishers, or even create their own.

Format

With online school, lessons are either asynchronous and self-paced, which students can complete anytime and anywhere there’s an internet connection, or they are conducted live by a teacher experienced in online education. While homeschooling can incorporate either of these online components, most homeschooled students receive their lessons from a parent-educator or tutor at home.

Accreditation

If you’re unfamiliar with accreditation, it’s very important when it comes to alternative education. The accreditation process ensures that schools meet high-quality educational and operational standards. It also shows schools, colleges, and universities worldwide that credits were earned through rigorous, standards-based curriculum. Unless a homeschooling family is working with an accredited homeschool partner, their classes and credits probably won’t be accredited.

Graduation

A diploma is a symbol of an accomplishment, one that required hard work and discipline. Online schools provide their graduates with that valued high school diploma upon completion of high school. Homeschoolers, meanwhile, usually don’t receive a diploma unless they’ve been educated with a homeschool partner.

What Is Homeschool?

The quite literal definition of homeschool is “to teach school subjects to one’s children at home.” Of course, there is more to homeschooling than this. For one, there are a variety of ways to homeschool a child. But, for many families, homeschooling does involve a parent, caregiver, or tutor providing instruction within the home.

How Does Homeschooling Work?

A typical day for a homeschooler depends on what type of homeschooling they’re doing. A “traditional” homeschooling day might look something like this:

  • 8:00 am wake-up
  • Breakfast
  • Classes from 9:00 am until 12:00 pm
  • Break for lunch and activity
  • Classes from 1:00 pm until 2:30
  • Extracurricular activities from 2:30 to 4:30
  • Studying/homework from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
  • Dinner and then shower
  • Free time from 7:00 pm until bedtime

However, many homeschoolers’ days may more closely resemble Eddie’s or Trey’s above than this sample schedule. Or, if a family is part of a homeschool co-op or group, there may be days where classes are held with other students and families. If a family “roadschools,” students may learn exclusively in a car, RV, or anywhere but their homes.

That’s all to say that homeschooling can occur wherever or whenever a family wants it to. While it shares that similarity and benefit with online school, the support a homeschooler receives may look much different. When considering homeschool vs online school, students who attend an online school are more likely to get more support. That can come from a certified teacher/instructor, from a counselor, or from an academic coach.

Traditional homeschoolers aren’t likely to have that support system in place. Sure, parents and tutors are great sources of information. But they may not have the experience some students need as far as supporting students with managing their schedules, multitasking, or understanding which courses are best at a specific point in their learning.

Additionally, in most states, parent-educators are not required to have any teaching experience or even a college degree. Now, that doesn’t mean a parent can’t be an excellent instructor; there are many outstanding parent-educators out there who don’t possess some of these qualifications. However, many families feel more comfortable entrusting their child’s education to experienced instructors and counselors or coaches, which is what online schools can readily provide.

For that type of support and experience, there are homeschool academies that offer accredited courses and seasoned academic advisors to support their students. However, much of the education still comes from parent-educators.

The Benefits of Homeschool

As with online school, homeschooling offers plenty of benefits. Let’s look at a few.

Flexibility

Many homeschoolers opt to do so because of the flexibility and convenience it offers. Like online school, homeschool can occur whenever and wherever a family chooses. More importantly, there’s flexibility in what parent-educators can teach their children. Yes, some states have fairly specific regulations around the subjects that should be taught at home. Some states don’t, however, meaning parents are free to teach their children what they feel is right.

This flexibility also opens the door for families to instill faith-based values into their child’s education. Many families opt to teach a faith-based education because it is not an option in a traditional school environment.

Cost

Online school can be expensive. So can homeschooling if you opt to partner with a homeschool academy. However, if you do most of the educating on your own, the cost falls significantly. The main expense for homeschooling is curriculum. Even then, many homeschool families trade curriculum, sell their old books, and buy them used. So there are ways to save on curriculum. That’s much harder to do when enrolling in an online school or homeschool academy.

Familiarity

Because parents know their own children better than anyone, they’re able to more accurately tailor a homeschool education to their child’s specific learning style, personality, and interests. This can be done to an extent with online school. But there’s much more runway for personalization with homeschooling.

Conclusion

Homeschool vs online school… so, which is better? It all depends on what you and your child want out of their education. If you’re looking for maximum flexibility and want to instruct yourself, homeschooling is probably the right choice for you. If you prefer to have experienced teachers instruct your child, and you want your student to learn more independently, online school is likely the better fit.

Both options will provide you with plenty of flexibility and convenience. But online school can offer your family some benefits that most homeschool options can’t match: Accreditation, expert instruction, a real high school diploma, and fully vetted curriculum, to name a few. Learn more about online school with Holston Academy, or reach out to request information and we will get in touch. 

Back to top