Sterling Academy Blog

Key differences between private online high school and homeschooling

Posted by Sterling Staff on Jan 28, 2015 8:22:00 AM

While homeschooling and a private online high school have some things in common, they differ in several important ways. Web-based schools are sometimes called “online homeschool” because students often work at home.


Both homeschool and online high school offer a positive alternative for many students for whom attending a traditional brick-and-mortar isn’t an option or is not a good fit. That includes those who have busy schedules in the arts, amateur athletics or a budding career to those who have medical challenges or wish to get away from bullying that makes school a place to fear rather than a comfortable place to learn.

online homeschool

Students can study from home or anywhere their computer may have Internet access. That flexibility is a fundamental difference between these educational approaches and traditional brick-and-mortar high schools.

Differences in Responsibilities

While homeschooling and online schooling have these similarites, there are important differences.  Homeschool parents have to spend time researching various curriculum options and somehow determining which will be best for their student(s). They also have to research all applicable legal or other regulatory requirements associated with homeschooling and follow those rules regarding record-keeping, reporting and so on. It’s time-consuming, but not time spent on student learning.

An online homeschool functions like any other formal school, with administrators responsible for meeting regulatory requirements, maintaining student transcripts, etc. Online schools can also choose the curriculum they offer, as long as it meets state-set requirements for core competencies and so on. Schools like Sterling Academy offer a far more extensive range of electives, in-depth math and science and other specialized courses that students generally cannot obtain at a brick-and-mortar school.

Sometimes homeschool parents rely on online high schools to help fill these gaps for their children.

Teaching skill and experience

Homeschooling requires parents to teach their children, regardless of whether they have been trained in teaching techniques or have a formal background in the subject matter.

Homeschool parents often say this can make them feel inadequate and leave them wondering if they’re “doing it right.”

Online high school teachers are educated about topics such as learning styles, how to prepare lesson plans and effectively present material and how to detect why a child may be having difficulty with a particular subject or task. At Sterling Academy, our instructors possess a broad range of credentials and experience, in traditional and non-traditional settings. They also have a broad repertoire of multi-media presentation technologies and methods at their disposal.

There’s also the “mom factor.” Parents often find they aren’t the best person to teach their children, whether the lesson is riding a bike, driving a car or school work. Parents have a unique relationship with their children that can be supremely supportive yet too personal to allow them to dispassionately judge their student’s work, especially when corrective action is needed.  Are they being too hard on their kids? Too lenient?

With online homeschool, parents can be “just parents.” But they can still provide assistance and stay actively involved in their child’s educational progress.

Student Driven Education

“Teaching to the test” has become a significant concern among parents around the country, who fear their children are being taught answers to standardized tests rather than focusing on understanding concepts, assimilating facts and learning how to put them together in useful and imaginative ways. Many states require homeschooled students to take these same standardized tests, at the same time as their peers in brick-and-mortar schools.

At Sterling Academy, online homeschool education is not test-driven, it’s student-driven. Every student learns at their own pace, not on a mandated schedule. And because Sterling is regionally accredited, credits students earn and their high school graduation diploma are recognized by other accredited high schools and colleges.


Topics: online high school, online homeschooling

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