“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself” —Galileo
Recently it seems not a week goes by I don’t get an email from some fed-up public school teacher who wants to leave her job and set up a tutoring service for homeschoolers. She’s met some and decided that these are the children that would be most fun for her to teach. Usually she has not homeschooled her own kids, but she feels that she could still have something to offer homeschoolers. She’s asking me how to get started.
Step by Step
Monday, March 6, 2000, a North Carolina newspaper ran an article that talked a lot about teachers who have formed businesses to assist homeschoolers, to the joy of both: “Home-schoolers find their options abundant.” ... But more and more, parents are reaching out beyond their own group and hiring certified teachers in everything from chemistry to computing. Many of these teachers, eager to make extra income, are happy to oblige.
“The students I work with are some of the most polite and respectful I’ve ever seen,” said Angie Heinze, a certified public school teacher who teaches science to home-schoolers at a church and at her home.
“They thank me for every class. They help me clean up. They’re a breath of fresh air.” Ann Lahrson-Fisher writes about her “Tuesday School,” a misnomer, because it isn’t at all like school! At the Tuesday School, within the boundaries of established house rules and her minimal requirements for order and structure, students enjoy an uncommon amount of freedom to discover and learn through social play, exploration, and directed activities. Here the steps I’d advise if you wish to start a learning service for homeschoolers:
Do a market study in the area where you are willing to travel. Are there enough homeschoolers?
Drop in at park days and talk to parents about tutoring possibilities. Ask them what sort of tutoring they want for their children and what classes they already have them signed up in. Is there some gap? If so, figure out your niche and place an advertisement in the publications of support groups.
Contact nearby conference coordinators and see about putting a flyer in their vendor packets.
Try to attend some field trips or other learning situations where there will be homeschoolers. This will give you a better idea, especially of what works and what doesn’t.
You’ll see “lectures” fail dismally, while moderated explorations work wonderfully. You already knew this, right?
Read a number of books on the topic of homeschooling. I have as many of these listed and linked on my site that I can find online. There are always more from groups that aren’t online yet.
A good book to read is David Albert’s “And the skylark sings with me” which I have listed in my Amazon books if you can’t find it locally. The Alberts carefully chose tutors or mentors for their daughters as their interests dictated. You should expect that homeschool parents will want some very specific instruction for their child, and not that they’ll want to hand the kids over to you all day and every day for learning “the basics.”
Deciding on Your Niche
Of course, there are exceptions.
To teach the children of embassy personnel, contact some of the groups linked under “Expatriates.”
We have a science teacher in our area, Mr Mack, who has bought himself an old school bus which he has remodeled into a science lab and painted with a rocket theme. He offers science classes to homeschoolers and other interested children’s groups, parking his “lab” at a convenient spot. Quite clever! This fellow regularly advertises in our local homeschooling newsletter activity journal.
As a science teacher, you may be able to offer discounted buying services to homeschoolers looking for lab equipment.
Often your experience as a teacher would make you an excellent field trip coordinator. I’ve known people who have made an excellent living just arranging interesting tours for people. They take care of all the details: the bus, the entrance fees, where to get food and find the restrooms. Often they sell a “series” of these trips and people subscribe to them. No reason this couldn’t be done for homeschoolers.
Start a homeschool children’s book club. Make sure to serve pizza. [Author’s son’s suggestion.]
Conference coordinators often would like to have someone lead a teen session or provide a set of interesting sessions for elementary aged children while the homeschool parents attend their own sessions. Conference season lasts from about April to September, and events are held all over the country.
If finding resources at a library is your forte, see if your local library is willing to let you hold a weekly homeschoolers class in which you help the kids and teens that show up how to locate and use the library for their own research.
My support group hires a Stanford student each year to lead all the kids in group games. These are the sort of games that can be played with a huge group of kids between the ages of 6 and 16 with no one getting trampled.
Often support groups are looking for someone to help them set up a basketball team or something similar.
Some states require testing or evaluation and require that it be given by a qualified teacher. See if this is the case in your state, as such teachers who are sympathetic toward homeschooling and willing to interpret a lot of “relaxed” learning into educationalese are few are far between.
Going Through the Red Tape
Check the tutoring laws in your state as well as the homeschooling laws.
Most states do allow parents to hire tutors full or part-time, but it is wise to check. Usually the parents still have to comply with the homeschool regulations. In fact, we “out source” quite a bit of our children’s education: for instruction in a sport, fine arts, and a variety of interesting learning activities.
I have a most of the homeschooling laws listed on this site. Some even include tutoring information. Usually I have a link to the state site’s version of the law. If not, look on both your state’s home page and the page for the Department of Education. What you are looking for is exemptions from compulsory attendance. Tutoring usually falls under this category.
Check with your CPA about the best way to set up your business for tax purposes. There is sometimes a big tax break if you set up a room in your home just for your business.
Is a homeschool tutor an employee of the family who hires her? You need to understand the difference between being a contractor or an employee, as far as the IRS is concerned.
You may want to set up your business as a “home day care facility” in order to be eligible for daycare grants and tax breaks. Many good home day care providers also educate their charges. Talk to a few home daycare providers in your town.
Your CPA may recommend that you set yourself up as a small business. Check at your city hall on how to do this in your community. Some communities are quite concerned about the street traffic and parking problems you might generate.
Check with your insurance agent to see if you need to upgrade your personal liability insurance if you intend to supervise others’ children in your home for money. Should a child be injured in your home while you have accepted a fee for being responsible for them is considered quite different from a child who is there as a visiting friend. One teacher making this transition wrote to tell me that the insurance rider cost her only $20. No big deal for the security.
If all this seems feasible, you then become either a home day care center or a private school in the eyes of the legal system.
If the children are of school age, and you are set up as “day care,” then the parents should comply with the homeschooling notification procedure for your state.
If you are a “private school” the parents need only to inform their previous school that their children are now attending a private school. You, as the head of the private school, will need to send for their transcripts on letter head stationery. You will need to follow all private school regulations regarding the keeping of attendance and performance records. In some localities, you will also have to submit to a fire and building inspection. This may entail remodeling your home, providing boy and girl bathrooms, two exits to the room used for education, having a ramp for the handicapped. The list can get quite absurd for someone intending to have six healthy pupils quite used to sharing a family bathroom.
If setting yourself up as a private business seems undaunting, consider become an employee of an umbrella school, a recreation department, library, charter school, learning center or distance learning program. Some of these hire local facilitators, and working for them would give you legal protections and a regular income that private tutoring wouldn’t. There are some links for tutoring networks at the end of this article.
Regarding posting to Social Networks. Email the moderator off-list and ask if it is OK, or ask if she will post your offer to tutor. If she approves it, post one very polite message on the homeschool message board stating the service you have to offer. Do not mention a fee, but ask those interested to contact you.
Offer to set up a bookclub (or science club, etc.) and moderate it for homeschoolers of a certain age group you enjoy. Post your service on a A2Z Homeschool State Group, where parents come to look for help. All replies go to the poster. You should make sure the subject header tells where you are and what you wish to teach. The body of the message may be as long as you need it to be. All words you use will be searchable from the message area, so make sure you fully describe what you want to do.
Look on my state or province page for your area and see what conferences are coming up. Contact the coordinator of the event. Offer yourself as a speaker or session moderator on a specific topic of learning and teach the parents how to instruct your subject. Ask if you may distribute a flyer in their handout packet.
Facing Downright Hostility
Do understand that a whole lot of homeschoolers started homeschooling after an extremely trying time with a single public school teacher. This does make them a wary lot in general: they never again want to put their child in such a situation again. Some may get downright abrasive toward you. Can you face it?
If you mention you have children, you’re sure to be asked, “Why don’t you homeschool?” How would you answer this question? I’d just say, “I feel we are doing what is best for our family and child and his learning styles and needs at this time.” Period. (I know you’ve probably heard the “I” message psychology before. Sometimes we tend to forget to use it when confronted suddenly.) I find that reassuring the other parent that you feel they are doing the same, usually puts the damper on further criticism. (It is just hard when someone is complaining bitterly about their child’s learning situation and refuses to look at alternatives, but some people are just like that: stonewallers.)
What homeschoolers are trying to figure out about you is: do you really understand what “natural learning” is? Are you going to be able to cope with children who have been allowed this kind of free spirited learning for a good deal of their lives? These kids are usually quite capable of accepting a “give and take, hands-on” kind of learning experience, but often rebel at “top down” instruction. Picture yourself in a grad school seminar, only the students are 8 years old, and you get the idea of what a homeschool “class” may be like. These kids are used to being treated with the same respect as grad students, maybe a little more.
We homeschoolers talk a lot about “deschooling” or “decompression” when we first leave the school system. You’ll have to go through this as well. It is a lot like detoxing an alcoholic. You’ve been addicted to an unnatural form of learning, and though you now sense there is a better way, you may need to take some time to actually be able to let yourself “get with the flow,” as the New Agers among us might say. Veteran homeschoolers know you are in this stage and may be sort of laughing behind your back. Ask them for help deschooling. It will throw them off that you know the lingo.
I hope this essay gives you some realistic ideas. I cannot help you with pricing, as this must be modified according to the going rates for similar services in your area.
I do know that the school system is so bad in our area, our city of 65,000 supports four jam-packed tutoring centers.
Factories are building custom cars and dolls, publishers will print one book just for you, so people are coming to expect and demand custom education.
If you are willing to experiment with a “community resource center” you may be on to something that will grow. Working with homeschoolers in a natural learning situation can be a fun and rewarding occupation. It takes someone who is willing to think outside the box and not try to duplicate public schooling. Get into it with an attitude of “I’ll probably learn as much from these homeschoolers as I hope to teach them.” Plan for contentment and success not stress and failure, and the possibilities are limitless. We are willing to experiment with all sorts of joyful and loving forms of education. Just be willing to prove to us that you are, too.
By Ann Zeise