Distance learning has long been part of the homeschool repertoire with companies like AOP and BJU Press paving the way for families to provide quality education within the home through technology. Gone are the days of CD-ROM courses with pre-recorded lessons, a teacher and a white board. In fact, distance learning has been replaced mostly by online courses. And many online courses set the bar high for quality, expertise, and engagement! Even though online homeschool programs have never been more in demand, choosing the right one can be like finding a needle in a pile of needles. If you’re a die-hard book learner or homeschooler, you may be intimidated by the idea of online courses or fully online homeschool programs. But, we are here to help you weed through the options to find the best online homeschool program for your student.
5 Must Haves for Online Homeschool Programs
- The best online homeschool programs will be fully accredited. There are tons of online learning communities and programs to choose from, but not all are created equal. An accredited institution has chosen to open themselves up to a 3rd party review process in every part of their program, from admissions to finance to grade reporting. With accreditation, you can be sure that your homeschool partner is backing up what they claim because they’ve proven it to an outside party whose sole job is to make sure the homeschooling partner is meeting standards and fulfilling their promises. So when choosing a homeschool program, make sure you know the accreditation and responsibilities of the online learning institution. You can find out more about how important accreditation is here.
- The best online homeschool programs will be flexible. Online learning shouldn’t change how and when you do school. But, it can if you let it. Many online programs will require you to login at certain times, log certain hours, and follow a traditional school calendar. This will limit your freedom, the very heart of what we cherish as homeschooling families. Online learning should be as flexible as your schedule and child needs. This means no required login times unless you choose and the ability to do school whenever and wherever you are. The best online program for your child is one that is waiting for them when they are ready to learn and gives them the time they need to absorb the material and apply critical thinking skills. Find out more about flexible homeschooling here.
- The best online homeschool programs will include blended learning and a range of options. Let’s face it, online learning isn’t going to be the best fit in every situation. That’s why we recommend finding a program that gives your child access to a blended approach. What does this mean? Blended learning is a fancy way of saying a blend of online and traditional learning methods. Simply, your child shouldn’t have to stare at a computer all day! Your online homeschool program should include note-taking guides, manipulatives, live classes with project-based learning, hands-on projects, and the ability to take a traditional textbook course if needed.
- The best online homeschool programs will include an advisor. Your child shouldn’t feel alone when it comes to learning online, and you shouldn’t be required to troubleshoot! Having a dedicated teacher or advisor to answer questions, monitor progress, encourage and support your student every step of the way will be critical to their success. This advisor should help you to select the classes you need, whether its just one or an entire year, and should understand your child’s learning style, strengths, and difficulties to be able to give you guidance and added resources as needed. Online programs do provide instant feedback, which can be very helpful, but without an expert this feedback can be useless. Choose an online homeschool program that provides you with someone to help you navigate the program throughout the year. Find out about the excellent support families receive from Bridgeway’s Academic Advisors here.
- The best online homeschool programs will require engagement and socialization. Just because your child is learning online doesn’t mean they are alone. Technology enables students around the world to meet together, share information, collaborate, and create online. That’s why the best online homeschool programs and schools include opportunities for online students to work with a teacher or peers, complete group projects, and share their work. This can be done through live courses, Dual Enrollment, and learning management systems that encourage interaction and discussion. If your online program is pre-recorded with limited interaction, you’re not getting the best of what the homeschooling online has to offer, and your child is suffering because of it.
Not all online programs are created equal. Make sure your child has every advantage they deserve by choosing the right online homeschooling program. With Bridgeway Academy’s Total Care Online homeschool program you can be sure your child will gain more than just an education, they’ll gain support, accountability, encouragement, and a love of learning!