School Choices: Remote, Virtual, or Homeschool and How to Choose

The last year has been difficult for all of us for a number of reasons, but it has been particularly hard on our school-aged children. With so many changes, restrictions, and safety regulations, even the simple act of going to school has become complicated, and has even led to gaps in their education.

Fortunately, nowadays there are more options than ever before for parents considering changing the way they approach education for their children. If sending them to school in person is too troubling, parents can also opt for full-time virtual education, homeschooling, or a hybrid model that allows students to divide their time between in-person and online learning.

Parents are often conflicted over this decision and wonder how to make the best choice for their children.

How Do You Choose The Best Option?

When considering the right model of education, it’s best to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option. What’s important to you? What do you prioritize? What are your non-negotiables?

Consider your child’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Could they benefit from more one-on-one attention? Are they more comfortable at home? Do you want to foster their sense of independence?

There are no “good” or “bad” options; it all comes down to individual choice.

Blended Learning

While not a particularly well-known choice, remote education has emerged in schools across the country in the midst of the pandemic that changed the face of modern schools.

Pros:

  • Variety of options

Unlike traditional schooling, remote, blended, or hybrid learning offers a variety of options. Students can divide their course load between in-person and virtual attendance. Credit recovery courses or other alternative options can also supplement the educational experience.

  • Social benefits

Having the option of attending in-person classes can greatly benefit a student’s social needs. Some students can find attending fully remotely can be challenging to connect with other students, so having the option to be around peers and educators may be a large motivator for some.

  • Affordability

Many public schools have made remote/blended learning an option in their districts, which means students can attend at no charge. 

Cons:

  • Potential for confusion

Vacillating between online and in-person classes can be confusing for the student. They may not be able to fully adjust to either style.

  • Safety concerns

Currently, attending in person may very well raise safety concerns. Controversy over masks and vaccinations add increased stress over these decisions. Covid positive students or teachers often means interrupting classes. In addition, wearing a mask in class can really impact the comfort of the experience.

Is it the right choice? A remote or hybrid model of education is right for a student that desires variety, is studying a practical subject that benefits from in-person learning, and who enjoys support for both remote and in-person education.

Virtual School

Especially in the midst of the pandemic and with uncertain marching orders regarding mask mandates and going back to in-person education, virtual school is an option many are considering long-term.

Pros:

  • Increased safety

A primary advantage of virtual learning for many is that it is a much safer option than face-to-face education. The student is in their own home, and they do not come into contact with other students and teachers. It also ensures continuation of education, whereas in-person school can be subject to ever-changing regulations regarding Covid safety.

  • Home comfort

The comfort of studying from home cannot be beat. It cuts back on time and money spent commuting – all you need is a good internet connection. That means the child is well-rested, less stressed, and has more time for school or personal endeavors.

  • Customization

The beauty of a great virtual school is the variety of course content and the ability to personalize course load based on student goals, preferences, and learning styles.

Cons:

  • Potential for isolation

Currently, one of the major drawbacks of 100% remote education is the increased potential of social isolation and aggravation of mental health struggles. The student will need to find outside opportunities for socialization.

  • Requires full independence

Virtual school requires a higher level of independence from the student. The greater burden of responsibility can be a jarring change, especially if the student is accustomed  to in-person school full-time.

Is it the right choice? Especially in the current health climate, and with our increasingly connected society, full-time virtual school is becoming an increasingly attractive option. It’s a great choice for a student who is immunocompromised, prefers consistency/predictability, or whose lifestyle and learning style favors online education.

Homeschool

Having been the primary alternative to traditional school for a long time, homeschool is still a popular choice among certain categories of students. It offers a greater flexibility, but also requires much more involvement.

Pros:

  • Student-led learning

A major advantage of homeschooling is that it accommodates student-led learning. Students can have a say in choosing what they learn, when, and in what style. Every student learns differently, so being able to cater to a more playful or hands-on approach is a significant privilege.

  • Hands-on education

For parents, homeschooling is often a way for them to oversee and influence the learning process and their child’s education. In this way, they can ensure that their values and knowledge are being passed on and the standard of education is high, especially in areas where the schools are not at the desired level.

Cons:

  • 100% parental involvement

One of the most important things to consider here is that it requires heavy parental involvement. Essentially, parents either need to be able to dedicate themselves to teaching or need to be able to provide a private tutor. That can be cost-prohibitive and/or time-consuming.

  • Potentially demotivating for the child

While learning from home with a parent may seem ideal, it can be very demotivating for a child, if this style of learning is not suitable for them. The structure of a classroom, teacher, and traditional school year provides a built-in system, goals, and motivation for learning. Without them, some children may struggle.

Is it the right choice? If you have a child who enjoys learning at home through alternative means and you’re an involved parent, homeschooling can be an excellent choice.

Otherwise, virtual and hybrid models of education are also possible as an alternative to traditional, in-person education if homeschooling is not the ideal option.

What’s The Bottom Line?

There is no universal right or wrong option when it comes to education, which is why traditional, in-person education can be quite limiting for students who enjoy alternative learning methods.

Thankfully, there are now more educational options available than ever before, even beyond the modalities discussed above. In determining the right choice for a student –  whether that’s entirely virtual, a blend of in-person and remote, or homeschooling – it is about finding what best suits the needs, goals, and learning style of each student and family.

Byline posted by Emily Miller and Leigh Anne Pearson.