Homeschooling online is becoming more popular. There are many resources for online homeschool curriculum, and we've provided some guidelines for assessing online homeschooling sites, as well as a short list of valuable online homeschool resources.

In these days of online resources, even your homeschooling materials, courses, and instruction can be obtained online. Referred to as “distance educations programs,” “home study courses,” “online schooling,” “online instructional services,” “internet home curriculum,” “virtual schools,” and “online diploma completion programs,” these packages for homeschool online education need to be explored at least as carefully as you would check a school you enrolled your child in. For a run-down of some of the options available, keep reading.

First Things First

Wherever you seek homeschool online schooling for your child, look for the word “accredited” and check with the accrediting institution to make sure it is so. See the articles on school accreditation for more information. Accreditation by a responsible organization is your guarantee that the curriculum and methods of an online institution are sound, and that when your child goes to build on this experience-either through entering the next level of schooling or applying for work-his or her accomplishments will receive the expected acknowledgment. You don't want to get involved with a diploma mill . . .

Another consideration is whether the school is merely providing a curriculum that your child is expected to apprehend on his or her own, if you are responsible for assisting your child's learning, or if your child will be interacting with a teacher and/or a class of other students. These parameters greatly affect your child's potential experience.

And as for the curriculum: what is it? Will your child do worksheet after worksheet, have access to a range of multimedia lessons, have a curriculum tailored for his or her needs? These are important considerations, not only for a student with special needs-whether a child with a disability or a gifted child-but for every child, each of whom has his or her own areas of interest and learning styles.

Seek independent recommendations. Remember that these schools, unlike your local public school, which has a more-or-less guaranteed student body, are in business and have to sell themselves. Try to find homeschoolers who aren't affiliated with the school in any way and find out about their experiences with the homeschool online option they chose.

Find out about testing: if your state requires yearly assessments, it may be important for you to know what kind of assessment the school offers. Make sure to ask.

Check carefully for any residency requirements. Where you live may affect both whether you're eligible and what the costs are, if the school has state funding. Also, state-connected schools may have a curriculum closely linked to their state requirements, so you will need to make sure it is acceptable in your state.

Places to Look for Options

Here are some spots to check for homeschool online education. I have only listed sources that have a copyright date including 2008, which helps insure (though it does not guarantee) that information-including links-is up-to-date.

• A to Z Home's Cool: Distance Learning: University Accredited Programs

Don't be fooled by the site's hokey name: this may be the first place you want to look for quality homeschool online high school programs. This listing features eleven distance learning programs connected with the following institutions of higher education:

•Indiana University
•Michigan Virtual University
•Oregon State University
•Portland State University
•Texas Tech University
•University of California Extension
•University of Iowa
•University of Missouri
•University of Nebraska-Lincoln
•University of Texas, Austin
•University of Wisconsin

• Yahoo! Education Directory: Home Schooling Distance Learning

Including a couple of Christian schools, this listing offers a mix of K-12 and high school programs. Secular K-12 programs include Oak Meadow School, which-with over thirty years in the business-may be one of the oldest online distance learning organizations.

• Yahoo! Education Directory: Christian Home Schooling Distance Learning

This listing includes Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Christian non-denominational. Skip Ariel Christian Academy, Living Heritage, and Kolbe Academy-they don't (or no longer) exist.

• Baker's Guide: Christian Distance Education (includes some secular programs),_Homeschooling,_and_Virtual_High_School_Programs/

With a listing of 32 schools, this is the longest list and includes some schools that none of the other lists mention. Look for the “Visit Their Website” link under the e-mail address and telephone number, to go to the homeschool online school's own website.

Written by Mary Elizabeth