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Homeschool, Online, Hybrid, Asynchronous, Blended...What's the Difference?

As I write this blog post, I am counting 15-ish weeks to the end of this school year...give or take a week or two.

While you work through your own math on this one, I would like to talk a bit about what happened this year and how we can plan better for next year. Particularly, I want to separate some terms that we have been using interchangeably to describe how our children were learning this year, but they are really quite different. Understanding the difference between these three types of schooling, I hope, will help us set better expectations for next year.


Let me set this one straight right now, if students are enrolled in a traditional school and because of the pandemic they stayed home and attempted to follow the school's curriculum from home, this is NOT homeschooling.

Homeschooling is a unique path to education that is typically student-led and has its own curricula and assessment types. It is not connected to any particular school. It has its own structure where students move at their own pace, participate in enrichment activities in their community, and families submit progress reports to the school district as students move from one level to the next or however the district has the process setup.

There was a flood of families at the beginning of this school year who chose to pull their children out of school entirely and homeschool them instead, achieving various levels of success.

The bottom line here is, if a child is studying from home because their school is closed for in-person learning but they are still enrolled in that school then they are not homeschooled. They are learning from home, maybe.

Online school

This is where students are enrolled in a school that teaches only online even before COVID, or, students are enrolled in a traditional school but due to quarantine and all, teachers were teaching online through zoom or similar.

The difference between these two types of learning is that in the online-only school, the entire curriculum along with teacher training were designed for online-only education.

The example of a traditional school that went virtual and decided to have teachers teach online is a bit of a misfit and required a lot of work on the teachers' side to adapt both the curriculum and their teaching style to fit an online-only model. I think teachers have come a long way now and are able to teach online more effectively.

Other common names for this setup are virtual school or zoom school.

Asynchronous Learning

This is the flip side of learning from home this year. Some schools went virtual, some opted for asynchronous, and some chose a blend of both worlds.

Asynchronous learning means that students move at their own pace but follow their teacher's instructions and assignments. Basically, a teacher tells the students to read several chapters of a book or answer a worksheet or study for a test and gives them a deadline. The students then do the work in their own time and at their own pace aiming towards their teacher's deadline. For younger students, this could look like worksheets or packets.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a term used traditionally for in-class learning that blends technology and traditional schooling in a classroom setting.

However, since the pandemic took over, the name shifted a bit to represent a mix between online learning and asynchronous learning while the student is studying at home.

So, for example, the teacher would either teach a virtual class or send students to watch a video or do some online work for one part of the class or day, and then continue learning their lesson or doing homework away from screens at their own pace.

Hybrid School

This is when students alternate between going to school physically and doing schoolwork at home.

For example, they go to school for one week and stay home for one week, or they go to school Mondays and Wednesdays, but the rest of the week they are following their teachers' instructions from home.

So, as we wrap up this school year, let's take a moment to think about how the year went and how it would have worked better. Which style of learning would have given your child the highest chances for success? What can you do to make next year a better one?

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