As a homeschooling parent, trying to teach a subject you are unfamiliar with or with which you are uncomfortable can be frightening. What happens when you spend all night studying the material yourself, but still feel unsure that you’ll be able to answer your child’s questions with clarity and understanding? There are options. PODs (as explained in a previous article) will sometimes accommodate the skills you lack, but when PODs can’t help, or you don’t have access to that type of group, there are other options.
One option to getting your child the training he needs is to hire a certified tutor, off-duty classroom teacher or other type of educator. These learned individuals can cover subjects you feel ill-equipped to cover personally in your child’s curriculum. From covering advanced concepts in math, for example, to your child pursuing a talent with which you have no experience, to learning an interesting hobby, help from a private tutor or teacher is a way to give your child certain tools to learn exciting new subjects.
Why Use a Tutor?
You may be wondering why you should hire someone else to homeschool your children in certain areas. After all, you chose to homeschool and not to send your child to private school. After all, you chose to homeschool rather than send your child to public school for free; so why pay for something you originally planned to do yourself. These are valid considerations, especially if you are in tight monetary situation. While hiring a tutor or certified teacher can enhance your child’s learning experiences, prudence also has to come into play. Your daughter may want to learn to play cello when you are bereft of any musical ability, but it’s not really wise to go into debt to get her lessons. Perhaps a better lesson would be a lesson in budgeting and economics—a great math lesson at any age. Teach her how to save until the lessons can be budgeted.
That said, if the area in which you lack skills is one that is more necessary in the now—Grammar skills that will be tested in an upcoming standardized test, for example—then getting a tutor now so that your child can learn the necessary skills becomes much more important. So, if you’re wondering if you should hire someone else to homeschool your children in certain areas, the answer to the question is a resounding, “maybe.” As with most things “homeschool” the decision must be yours based on what is best for your homeschooled student, what is necessary now, and what can wait until later.
Are You Allowed to Hire a Tutor?
Some states do regulate tutoring, so it is important to check with your home state to make sure you are complying with the law. For example, some states might allow you to hire a tutor and still call it “homeschooling” but the state may limit the number of students a single educator can teach. Some states may require certification or licensing before a tutor/teacher is able to present subject matter, so be sure to understand what to ask of a teacher you’re thinking of hiring. Check your state requirements using this resource from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
One option to remember, though, if your state requires that only a parent teach the child is that you can be taught a skill and in turn teach it to your homeschooled kids. This is actually a great alternative because when you learn the skill, you can pass the knowledge on to all your children!
Who Can Be a Tutor?
Tutors can be hired on a one time basis, or they can be brought in to teach daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Tutors can come from all walks of life, not necessarily just certified as teachers (keeping in mind compliance with your state laws). If you child shows a propensity to learn everything about skills involved in something as exotic as parasailing, wooden boat building, or sous chef training, a competent tradesman may become a mentor in teaching the skills needed. Job-following is a practice that teaches children the ins and outs of a day-to-day job, so they can decide for themselves if it’s something they want to pursue. Again, check with the state to see if the tutor/mentor needs to be licensed, insured, or bonded. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the community for information on teaching “off the wall” subjects. From politicians to plumbers, skilled teaching can spark a child’s interest. Letting their imaginations and creativity take flight can lead them to lifelong hobby or even a profession in later life.
Certified teachers sometimes find themselves teetering on the brink of not having jobs, especially in poorer states that don’t have the infrastructure and money to keep a large staff on payroll. These teachers may be looking for outside work. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, some schools are maintaining they will remain closed into 2022). Consider negotiating and hiring a teacher to teach your children the subjects where your proficiency is deficit. Check with your state laws to make sure you meet requirements and standard practices. If it is possible, you may even be able to share expenses with a homeschool POD to have the teacher teach several families’ children at once.
Licensed professionals in many fields are often willing to give talks and demonstrations on their work or hobbies. Consider asking in your community for experts in such things as shortwave radio, home building, solar power, baking, sewing, racing, beekeeping, and so on. The classes can be one time or multiple days/weeks long, enough to give your child the full experience of what there is to offer.
Online Tutoring and mentoring
Another consideration is online tutoring and mentoring. There are many outlets that provide teachers online. Many of these teachers may be university students working on degrees in their chosen field with the idea that they will be certified in the future. They will have references detailing their proficiency in the subjects they will teach. It is within your rights to check those references so you know your son or daughter is getting the best education they can provide. Some tutors use email or social media to communicate, others interact face-to-face via video conference calls. If your infrastructure allows for fast internet speeds this is a viable alternative. Some of the current available websites to find tutors are:
You can check accreditation and background, choose courses, and negotiate times to teach. Most have set fees, but some may be open to negotiation. Check with the website to see what is required.
Having the flexibility to homeschool with the help of tutors and teachers is an excellent part of the homeschooling adventure. Guiding your child through hobbies and passions opens up more possibilities for them to learn and grow. The hobby of today may lead to the job of their future, and learning the basics at an early stage will help seal the information in their minds that they need to have on hand to go forward in life. While not every hobby or exploratory passion turns into a future way for them to make money, the interest and delight they take in learning is lifelong. Having experienced tutors and teachers at their fingertips, whether in person or online, is one way to let your son or daughter see that learning is exciting and fun, and that even when Mom and Dad don’t know everything, they know how to find people who do know what they want to learn about. Encourage the process of learning from others, the gift that gives for the rest of their lives.