More and more, homeschooling is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional in-school education. In the United States, places like Washington and Pennsylvania now offer state-funded online charters as public school alternatives.
One of the benefits of this approach to education is the many ways it frees up families to bring learning on the road. Rather than remaining shackled to the local school calendar, students can learn at their own pace and tackle curriculum as they actually see the world they are learning about.
Making things even more convenient, there is no shortage of material available online to help support students as they engage with new content. Many parents opt for prepackaged digital curriculum systems to help ensure their children are keeping to a learning pace comparable to their age-group peers.
However, road learning is about more than just doing schoolwork on the road. Traveling families have the opportunity to make learning come alive in authentic ways – ways that cannot be mirrored in a classroom (virtual or otherwise).
But what happens when a student is struggling with a particular academic concept? It is bound to happen, regardless of the learning pathway a family may choose. When learning hits a roadblock far from home and online resources aren’t cutting it, it may be time to reach out to a tutor.
Finding Tutoring Help
When most parents think of tutoring, they picture the local college student or friendly neighborhood teacher sitting down with their child and plugging away at homework, test prep, and practice problems. This one-on-one approach to academic support is very much alive and well; many families call in tutors to help their children for a wide variety of reasons.
On the road, this type of support may seem out of reach. The reality is it may be more feasible than you think.
If you conclude that some outside academic support may be what your child needs, start by finding a reputable online tutoring database that allows you to search tutors by location. Search your current location (or next destination), and a list of eager educational professionals will be at your fingertips.
With a little effort, you should be able to coordinate with a tutor and get your child some help with that nagging concept. Sure, you will need to coordinate a time and place based around a local tutor’s home base and your temporary location (local coffee shops and libraries are always great options!), but it is doable!
Know What Help Your Child Needs
Part of finding the right academic support comes down to knowing what type of help your child actually needs. When calling or emailing prospective tutoring candidates, be prepared with tangible examples of academic work or particularly troublesome problems.
Simply stating, “My child is struggling with algebra,” may be enough for a typical, ongoing tutoring relationship, but on-the-road tutoring is typically more of a triage-type scenario. Something along the lines of, “My child is having difficulty with trinomial factoring,” will help ensure a tutor is equipped and prepared to deliver the targeted help you are seeking.
How to Screen Candidates
There really isn’t any magic shortcut for finding the best possible tutor; put in the required energy, and you will be sure that you aren’t wasting your time and money.
The thing to remember is that you are trying to evaluate a candidate’s qualifications and potential fit. It is a waste of time to bring a tutor into the picture that cannot teach the concepts your child needs help with. Similarly, no learning will happen with a tutor that is unable to connect with your child on a personal level.
Because of this, evaluating tutors while traveling is probably the hardest part of the tutoring equation for road learning families. That being said, it is also the most important.
All tutors are not created equal. Even if you are seeking a tutor for a one-off help session, still take the time to read a candidates résumé and call their references. There is no substitute for actually putting in the due diligence to screen your choices.
Online testimonials and reviews can only tell you so much. Similarly, the highest-priced tutor in town may not be the best. Talk to the real people who can attest to tutors’ strengths and vouch for their results before deciding to make a hire.
The Potential for Ongoing Support
Just because your family may have moved on to the next stop on the journey, does not mean you need to sever ties with a particularly good tutor. If in your travels you come across someone who is especially helpful, inquire about the possibility for future virtual sessions. These sessions could be in real-time using chat or video conferencing software, or they could be asynchronous conversations over email. Most tutors would be appreciative of the continued business!
Some tips to consider when pursuing a distance tutoring relationship:
- Be mindful of time differences – While it may be 2 pm where you are, your tutor’s time zone may be drastically different!
- Find an optimal time for future sessions - Make sure you ask your tutor about their work schedule and when they would typically be available for an on-call session. Your best bet may be to schedule times that line up with when students in the tutor’s local area are in school (less competition for attention!).
- Avoid waiting until the last minute – If there is a potential need for a tutoring session, do not reach out expecting to be accommodated within 24 hours. These types of flexible arrangements require flexibility on both sides!
- Maintain the relationship with check-ins from the road – If there is a chance you will need a tutor’s services down the road (pun intended), make sure you are maintaining fairly regular contact. Keeping the relationship cordial and alive will make it more likely that a tutor will be able to accommodate your future needs.
Don’t shy away from getting tutoring help for your kids just because you are away from home. No matter where you are, there is likely a handful of great tutors to choose from ready and willing to serve as your helpful learning pit stop!
Sheldon Soper is a ten year veteran of the teaching profession and currently serves as a junior high school teacher in southern New Jersey and as a writer for The Knowledge Roundtable, a free tutoring marketplace. His primary focus is building reading, writing, and research skills in his students. He holds two degrees from Rutgers University: a B.A. in History as well as a M.Ed. in Elementary Education. He holds teaching certifications in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Elementary Education. Thomas has also worked as a tutor for grades ranging from second through high school in a wide variety of subjects including reading, writing, calculus, chemistry, algebra, and test prep. His core educational beliefs stem from the notion that all students can be successful; it is the role of educators to help facilitate growth by differentiating and scaffolding student learning on a personal level.