Online schooling at home is not homeschooling

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Posted on: 17 Feb 2021

There is a fundamental difference between online schooling and homeschooling.

Written by Caryn Gootkin, a Valenture mom.

“But I don’t have the time or the knowledge to homeschool my teenager,” said any one of a number of parents when I told them Sam no longer attended a brick-and-mortar school. 

“But I don’t homeschool him,” I heard myself saying, over and over again.

Online schooling can be done anywhere that has stable internet access, which for many teens means their home. So they attend (log into) their online classroom via a PC or laptop while sitting in their study/bedroom/lounge/kitchen, or relaxing in the garden, or at a coffee shop with good wifi, or staying at an overseas hotel when their parents travel. The fact that many online schoolers attend school from the comfort of their own home does not mean that they are being homeschooled.

Let me give you an idea of a weekday in our home, which will illustrate what I mean. After leaving Sam’s breakfast on his desk in the playroom (which now has a Valenture sticker on the door), hubby drops our eleven-year-old at school on his way to work. 

Sam wakes up a bit before his first lesson and goes to the playroom aka a satellite Valenture Institute. I work in my home study, which is across the passage from the playroom. So Sam and I sit a few metres apart in separate rooms engaged in completely separate tasks. I have a copy of his timetable on the wall in front of my computer so I know when I can pop in to chat to him or deliver some sustenance. 

Sometimes I hear him answering or asking questions but I never hear what the teacher or his classmates say as he wears earphones, which means that I can have fairly loud Zoom meetings or Whatsapp calls without disturbing him. When he has a break between lessons he often pops across the passage to chat or ask for something to eat or persuade me to come and look at our (five!) guinea pigs. 

If I have to go out on a day our housekeeper is not here, I arrange for one of his grandparents to come over so that they can deal with the doorbell if it rings. Although Sam is old enough to be home by himself, I avoid leaving him alone during school hours so that he doesn’t have to leave lessons to deal with interruptions. And that is the only reason I don’t leave him alone – not because I or anyone else in the family have any part to play in his school day. He is completely in charge of his day and receives all he needs from his mentor, teachers, and online curriculum. He may share an interesting fact with me, he may even tell me that he has a cycle test starting in five minutes, but I play no active role in his schooling.  

Hopefully, people will stop asking me about my choice to homeschool Sam. But if they don’t, I’ll direct them to this column and say, “Repeat after me: Online schooling at home is not homeschooling.”

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