In a world where all services seem to be the going online, education is radically changing. And home education, whether it be supplementary to regular schooling or a complete alternative, increasingly relies on tutoring. In fact, as more working-parent and single-parent families switch from traditional public or private schools to home education, the role of an outsourced tutor has grown.
Whether home-schooled (in the purest sense of the term) “at home” by a parent or guardian, or at a smaller learning tutor centre, more and more children are being educated in these types of environments. Please note that I use the terms home-schooling (largely US) and home education (largely UK) interchangeably, whilst the umbrella term “alternative education” could cover the full spectrum of educational philosophy and practice.
We all know that the primary role of classroom teachers goes beyond the mere transmission of knowledge. Both teachers and parents inculcate values in children. There is thus a tension between parents’ expecting home-based tutors to enable academic success, and the need to empower students beyond the world of academics. This stems from a concern to balance children’s academic attainment with maintaining their integration into and enjoyment of the world around them.
The proportion of students receiving special education services (for kids with barriers to learning) among traditional schools in the USA is 13%. A review of the membership applications at Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) suggests that 9.8% of their members had children who have special education needs (C. Hurst, personal communication, monthly from February 1999 to January 2000). Thus, learning difficulties seem under-reported amongst home-schoolers in comparison to the general student population. So, within the home-school communities, are children’s mental health issues or learning difficulties going undiagnosed, undetected, or untreated?
And what is the role of the private tutor and of online tuition providers in this environment?
Personal tutors hold a unique role in the relationships they form with their students. Whether it is the one-on-one time they can give that is not usually available to most teachers, or the fact that they are often in the student’s home with ready access to parents, or even just the focus that they can provide, it adds up to a privileged position in the educational landscape. How can they best use this to address the wider needs of bringing up well-balanced and well-integrated children? How can tutors help students and parents alike to balance these wider needs and concerns?
One of the unintended consequences of the power of individualised tutoring is that, for example, symptoms of conditions like ADHD are often masked in a one-on-one tutoring environment. Truly effective tutors must be equipped with the wider skills needed to do more than merely pass on knowledge. This is where training as a professional teacher can help.
One of the other ways to overcome this, is to forge stronger links between parents and home-school tutors, rather than working independently. But another way is by reaching the many and not just the few, as can be done on a much greater scale and far more rigorously and economically by online instruction. Personally-appointed private tutors can thus forge stronger links between parents and home-school tutors. But online technology permits this personalisation to scale to many more students, and in a more economical way.
Whereas Cambridge International experienced tutors can charge anywhere from $20-$40 per hour, whether they be formally certified and accredited Cambridge educators or not, virtual schools can provide online instructors who are professionally trained at a much lower cost, thereby revolutionising the whole way we educate our students. For example, when considering the daily and weekly personalized direct engagements with each teacher through the online web chat (daily) and Q&A tutorial sessions (weekly), CambriLearn’s hourly cost per pupil is no more than $10 per hour, making professional tutoring far more accessible and affordable for the home education community.
Another factor to consider is that private tutors are often inexperienced when it comes to Cambridge International assessment standards, rendering their ongoing marking of assignments and practice past papers questionable. And since assessment drives pedagogy, their lack of expertise in the Cambridge-specific standards of testing, calls into question any exam preparation techniques conveyed.
Furthermore, a cumulative portfolio of work (“evidence of learning”) is questionable when compiled by an uncredentialled tutor. By law in many countries, home-schooling parents are responsible for ensuring their children do the necessary testing as per the national curriculum requirements. This is part of the intention behind the BELA Bill in South Africa. It requires parents to get an assessor (any qualified educator) to assist with the assessment of the child. The assessor will provide the necessary input with respect to where a child must be (educationally speaking) and to determine their progression to the next grade.
It is not enough to gradually adapt to the new world of tutoring; we should be taking more proactive steps to help drive that change – or even revolutionise the whole way we educate our students.
Ultimately, we mustn’t forget that tutoring or teaching is a privileged position to be in:
“Teachers who put relationships first don’t just have students for one year; they have students who view them as their teacher for life” – Educator Justin Tarte
Below is a diary of a home-school parent, which provides an example of how Premium Tutoring can remake the educational landscape through the use of personalised tutors:
The freedom of home-schooling: a week in the life of Zaran
Zaran is 11 years old. He wakes up every day, chooses a playlist, and at 05:30 a.m., does 30 push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, toe touches, lunges and inchworms. His morning exercise routine was inspired by the book Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Wilink, a story of a boy in Grade 5 who learns about the value of self-discipline. Zaran does this on his own, while I, his mom, am preparing breakfast and getting his little sister ready. He then has a shower, and by 07:00 a.m. is eating a lectin-free diet of salad, salmon or egg and avocado.
He begins his day by putting his mind into a peak state to gain the best experience of life for that day and does this by focusing on what he is grateful for, and what he wants to achieve. Visualisation is a huge component of this, and Zaran visualises that he is travelling first class to Japan where he will eat mint-flavoured Kit-Kats and have a chocolate bath. This will be his reward for achieving 100% for his school work. This goal is important to him. I can spew out something about him wanting to pass matric to get into university to get a high-paying job, but he’s 11, and what’s important to him is going to Japan, going to the Toy Fair, and eating Sushi in Tokyo. Why this is so important to him, I am uncertain. But as Victor Frankl said: “A man can do anything if he has a Why”. And Japan is Zaran’s why.
He left a remedial school who told us that he barely had the ability to pass. His average is now 99,6% for Cambridge Grade 5. Zaran does three Cambridge subjects: Math, Science and English, each an hour-long lesson with a 30-minute break in between. During these breaks, Zaran plays outside, has screen time, or listens to an audiobook.
His afternoons are sprinkled with fun and exciting activities at specialised schools nearby. On Mondays he does Robotics and Kung-Fu, on Tuesdays he plays with his friends, Wednesdays he does Art and Kung-Fu, Thursdays he does Functional Fitness training, Music and Drama and on Friday he usually has a sleepover. His total ‘school’ work time is three hours a day, with loads of time in between each lesson and class to ‘do his own thing’. And sometimes, my own thing. I take Zaran to work with me often, with an emphasis on learning Business. The real value of home-schooling is being able to teach our children the necessary skills to succeed in the world, and not the skills to succeed in a classroom or institution. In the world, you learn about banking, traffic, life administration, politics, hospitals, insurance, social dynamics, rapport and money.
The choice to home-school came down to three things:
- quality of life,
- value for money, and
- value for life.
I don’t teach Zaran his Cambridge subjects myself but hire appropriate tutors, and I send him to specialised classes, where I have personally met with each teacher, understand their underlying ethos and skill level. There is a huge management component involved in both the quality and consistency of service delivery, as well as the finances behind it all: which I suppose is what you’re paying a school to do for you. Except in this way, it is customised.
I have customised Zaran’s education to suit his learning style, his needs and his interests. And the value that I bring as his mom, that no institution I have found can bring, is mindset. In school, Zaran was never enough. In that system he was lacking, and it was a knock to his self-esteem. Yet in life, he is thriving. He is thriving because he is undeniably awesome! He is starting to understand who he is and his place in the world and is also starting to recognise and harness his power. It isn’t always a perfect system, and no one week runs like clockwork, but that too is the nature of life. So, rolling with the punches, managing change and problem-solving are all part of this Customised Education Solution.
Zaran meeting with Major Charles Bolden, former Administrator of NASA and Astronaut, one of our many expeditions into the vast expanse of the limitless potential of life.
Duffey, Jane. 2002. Home Schooling Children with Special Needs: A Descriptive Study. NHERI.