Online Homeschooling, Digital Homeschooling, Virtual Homeschool; How it Transformed Our Homeschool

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By nature, homeschooling families’ days are busy. We’ve got the normal household chores and the raising/nurturing of children to stay on top of. You know, all the normal parts of being a parent. We’ve got spouses who need our attention and support. And when you add in the responsibility to teach kids all the things- it’s no wonder we’re so stressed! We’ve got a lot on our plates! Throw in the fact that many homeschooling parents (including myself) work from home, we are nothing less than chickens with our heads cut off. Or are we? Maybe some homeschooling parents feel that way, but I haven’t felt that level of crazy busy in a while – not since I discovered the freeing nature of online homeschooling.

How Online Homeschooling Transformed My Homeschool

What is Online Homeschooling?

Online homeschooling may look different in other homes, but in my home, online homeschooling is a homeschool that does the majority of their learning online, or at least with digital devices. Think digital homeschooling, or even virtual learning in some cases. And I’m not talking about this public school virtual homeschooling. I mean the parent’s choice on curriculum, time, and experience virtual homeschooling. I mean, like a true digital homeschool experience.  I taught all seven of my kids how to read using digital programs, all of our math curriculums have been exclusively online, and even our science and history subjects have slowly migrated to be mostly digital in nature.

Do Digital Homeschools Get Too Much Screen Time?

Some families might worry about their kids getting too much screen time, but I don’t worry about that too much. Because of the nature of our homeschool schedule, even with everything being exclusively online, the kids still only get 2-3 hours of screens per child per day, and the rest of the time they are free to explore or play creatively. Let’s take a look at my homeschool schedule, as an example.
  • We wake up in the morning, and the kids have a list of chores and other personal items they are all expected to accomplish. They may take as long as they need to on these lists, but if they’re done before noon, then they have time to go play independently until school starts.
  • Some of my kids regularly finish by 8 am and have several hours to play, while others barely finish by noon: it’s all a matter of their personalities and how they manage their time. I find that putting the kids in charge of their own schedules in this way has helped to teach them about time management and personal responsibility.
  • At noon, we all gather as a family for our devotional and scripture study, and when that’s through, we start our official school day.
First, we do some digital P.E. by watching and following along to some kid-friendly workout videos. I typically join the kids for this part so I’m getting some sort of daily exercise in as well. Following P.E. we gather around the computer for a family-style history lesson. The curriculum we subscribe to has pre-recorded videos of teachers going through the lessons with us as if we’d shown up to an actual classroom setting. Although, we have also gone through time periods of just watching documentaries or other educational shows and then talking about them afterward. After our history lesson, we alternate between doing reading/language arts one day and math the next day. All of my younger kids are using digital learn-to-read programs (two of them use Homer and one of them uses Reading Eggs) and my older kids can choose to either read a chapter book independently or to listen to an audiobook as a group. For math, we used to use Khan Academy with a little bit of success, but we have since moved onto CTCMath. Each child has to complete a certain number of lessons (determined by their age) and then that’s it! They’re done for the day. All in all, our official school day only lasts for 2-3 hours, tops. You may be wondering about the other subjects that are typically covered in a school day. Science, geography, music, art, etc. Do we still cover those? Yes, we do! However, we follow a term-based homeschool schedule which means we focus heavily on one or two subjects for an entire term (in this case, history for 4-6 weeks) and then we move onto another subject the following term. I find that for my kids, this helps their retention levels. And in an overall year, we are able to get to everything that matters without overwhelming ourselves!

Why A True Virtual Homeschool Can Set You Free

I mentioned earlier that even though I’m a busy work-from-home homeschool mom, I don’t feel like a chicken with its head cut off- even though a lot of my homeschooling friends do. Why is that? There are a number of reasons, but all of them can be attributed to my online homeschooling style.

Benefits of an Online Homeschool

  • No time spent planning lessons – everything is planned out and done for me
  • No time spent teaching lessons – again, it’s all done for me. All I have to do is stay close by in case a child needs help with something.
  • No paper cluttering my workspace – when everything is digital, there is nothing to clutter!
  • No time spent grading worksheets or tests – also done for me!
  • No need for dedicated homeschool space (that’s been cleared recently) – everybody can work on a laptop or a tablet so they can sit wherever is comfortable.
  • Traveling? Great! Your schoolwork can come with you. When your entire curriculum fits in your back pocket or tucks into the top pocket of your suitcase, you can school no matter where you are.
I used to try and homeschool the traditional way with books and worksheets and hands-on activities, and sometimes we do still enjoy a fun hands-on activity. But for the most part, swapping to an online homeschooling style has really done a lot to lower my stress levels.

What Can An Online Homeschool NOT Replace?

There are a few things that an online homeschool cannot replace, one of those being family time. When playing with your kids or teaching them success principles that you feel are important, it still works best to gather together and have a family discussion or activity. If you are a religious family, spiritual foundations are also something that is better taught offline. Nothing replaces reading and studying the scriptures as a family And finally, even online homeschoolers must still consider a good library filled with books for their kids to enjoy anytime they want. Digital books are fun, and there are more and more programs coming out with digital book subscriptions that are perfect for kids, but nothing replaces the feel of a real, physical book in a child’s lap – especially children’s books that teach life lessons.

Our Favorite Digital Homeschooling Resources

In an effort to be helpful, I have compiled a (non-comprehensive) list of some digital homeschooling resources our family has benefited from in the past.
  • Khan Academy – Free online math curriculum for grades K-12. Follows CommonCore standards
  • CTCMath – Paid online math curriculum that doesn’t nickel-and-dime you for having multiple kids. Short, easy-to-follow lessons
  • Math Seeds – In conjunction with Reading Eggs, a great program for teaching preschoolers basic math.
  • Reading Eggs – Our favorite learn-to-read program bar none. Perfect for ages 4-9. Kids cannot ‘cheat’ and move onto other lessons before they pass previous lessons.
  • Homer – Another fun learn-to-read program that the kids have enjoyed. No computer options but is Android and iOS compatible
  • Reading Kingdom – A good learn-to-read program that teaches kids to read while teaching them to keyboard
  • YouTube – With parental discretion, there are many free learning resources on YouTube. One of our favorites is the Animal Planet’s Most Extreme channel.
  • Curiosity Stream – A streaming TV service filled with documentaries that are fun for older kids.
Remember, don’t ever let anybody tell you what your homeschool should look like. Do you want an exclusively digital homeschool? Great! Don’t let anybody tell you screens are bad. Do you prefer a screen-free environment? That’s great too! Teaching kids without screens is a wonderful and rewarding endeavor. Or maybe you want to pick and choose a little bit of both?

Do whatever works for you and your kids because nobody knows them better than you.

This post was written by….

Charlene Hess spent many years teaching kids in volunteer positions before she had her own kids. She now has 7 kids of her own, whom she has been homeschooling for the last 10 years. Charlene still teaches other children outside of her home but finds great joy in exploring the world with her family. Charlene and her husband Benjamin blog about homeschooling and success principles for kids at Hess UnAcademy. Charlene also blogs about homesteading and emergency preparedness at The Penned Prepper. This article is a part of our How We Homeschool Series; a collection of content from full-time, veteran homeschoolers sharing their own experiences on the versatility and diversity of homeschooling. You can read more about the series, and see all of the content, by clicking the image below. 

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