Is an Online Distance Course the Answer to Homeschooling Well?

We all want to learn how to homeschool well, but one day we may want to pass some of the teaching burden to someone else. That is when we might consider a correspondence or an online distance course. Whew! It can be a hard decision to allow even that much outside intervention, but once we make the decision, we usually warm up to the idea — fast! Don’t have to worry about that subject anymore, we smirk as we mentally plan to read that new novel or have a snooze! Let the teacher take over now, we cackle. We think our job is done at that point, but we need to think again.

Reasons to Choose This Method

First, let’s examine the reasons for going this route. It doesn’t mean that it’s time to quit homeschooling, but for some reason we want someone else to “teach” a subject. Maybe we don’t feel capable or knowledgeable in that area, or perhaps we have too many subjects or too many kids! Maybe it’s time to begin working with another adult in preparation for a return to school. Maybe we want to vary the program or maybe we have been homeschooling for many years and we’re plumb worn out. Whatever the reason, there are three choices for a family in this situation: find a tutor (sometimes parents swap instruction or create a learning co-op), send the child to an on-site class or take a distance course.

The Way it Works

Distance learning means either a correspondence (books and paper booklets) or online course, but either way, the assignments are sent by mail or electronic transfer to a teacher. Sometimes the teacher conducts webinars to involve the students in a mock classroom learning experience. This year, I am teaching three online French courses in grades 6, 7 and 10. It’s interesting and fun to connect with kids this way.

Your Responsibility

What I am seeing, however, is that the homeschooling rules of engagement (relationship) also apply to distance learning. Even though the child is working for another teacher, the parent needs to be involved in the process. Absentee parents make for poor results. What I have noticed is that unless the parent is interacting and supervising the study, the child is rarely successful in either completing the course or working to potential.

Kids Need Supervision

I can’t emphasize enough: kids are kids. They do not learn in a vacuum; neither do they excel when unsupervised. Even if parents know nothing about the subject matter (i.e. a second language), that should not keep them from being involved in the learning. Passing the torch to a distant teacher does not quite get you off the hook. That teacher’s influence, however valuable, is limited. It’s still up to the parent to keep the child engaged and on schedule.

Sit with the child, look over the work, discuss the lesson, be familiar with the schedule (how often should work be sent to the teacher? Is the child on track?), ask for feedback and clarification, contact the teacher and discuss the progress. Be involved! Do not neglect your child and don’t wait for the teacher to contact you about overdue or poorly done work. At that point, the parent will often turn angrily on the course and/or the teacher and declare that it “just isn’t working” for them. She’s fed up with this distance learning! Hold it now. It may not be the fault of the course or the teacher. You may just be missing a component (the most important, by the way): the involvement of the resident adult — YOU.

Give it a Fair Try

A correspondence or online course can enhance your homeschooling program. It’s not for everyone, but if you decide to try it, please give it a fair try. You need to do your job or it will fail, so you aren’t really passing the entire burden to another adult. You are still homeschooling, after all. If not, then send the child to school.

Don’t Take Over

One last point to consider: please do not do the work for the child. Being involved does not mean taking over. Teaching your kids how to do a course for someone else is another way of teaching life skills. Get the child to work and let the chips fall where they may. If mistakes are made, the teacher will deal with them. It’s not up to you to clean it up and make it perfect. What’s the point of that? Who are we kidding?

Do we want to learn how to homeschool well? Then let’s give it our best shot in every area. Our kids deserve it.


Dianne Dachyshyn is a freelance writer and a motivational speaker who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  She works as a home education facilitator, helping homeschooling families plan their programs and deal with challenges.  Dianne is passionate about teaching children to write.  Visit her website at HomeschoolWell.com.

avatar Dianne Dachyshyn (14 Posts)

Dianne Dachyshyn is a freelance writer and a motivational speaker who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She works as a home education facilitator, helping homeschooling families plan their programs and deal with challenges. Before working as a facilitator, she home educated her three children for seven years. She has sold curriculum, worked as a private consultant to homeschoolers, served on a homeschooling board and has been a keynote speaker at homeschool conventions and support meetings. Dianne is passionate about teaching children to write. From her experience in the classroom, in homeschooling and in relationships with other writers, she knows that this is by far the most challenging area to learn and to teach. Dianne Dachyshyn is available to speak to groups on the topics of homeschooling, parenting and teaching writing. She can be reached at dianne@homeschoolwell.com.


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