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How to incorporate a tutor into your homeschooling or unschooling environment

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

While the decision to homeschool or unschool is highly personal, and reasons to do so are as diverse as each family, many homeschooling and unschooling parents are motivated because they want to be much more involved in their kid’s education. But what about when you want to add another person to your instruction team?

Whether you’re bringing someone on board to help your kid explore an academic or artistic interest at a deeper level, or calling in backup for a topic you don’t personally feel comfortable instructing, here are some tips on how to incorporate a tutor into your homeschooling or unschooling environment.

Define the tutor’s role in advance. The clearer you are at the outset about what you want the tutor’s role to be, the easier it will be for them to meet your needs. So before you contact potential tutors, ask yourself what you want a tutor to provide.

Some homeschoolers/unschoolers want the tutor to be the sole instructor for a core subject they do not feel comfortable teaching themselves. Others just want a tutor to give their kid some extra one-on-one attention and practice in a subject they’ll be receiving instruction for at home or elsewhere.

Homeschooling/unschooling parents might to want to hire a specialist to help their kid explore a specific interest, recover lost confidence in a once-favorite subject, or provide more challenge and enrichment.

Communicate this from the outset.
Many tutors are used to working with non-homeschoolers/unschoolers whose priorities are determined by the deadlines and structures imposed by outside authorities. Without these exterior pressures, it’s even more important to be clear what your goals are so your tutor can structure sessions accordingly.

Choose someone you feel comfortable with. The more you feel you can trust a tutor, the easier it will be to incorporate them into your homeschooling/unschooling curriculum. So choose someone who can attune to how your kid learns and support their goals.

Maybe you got a great recommendation from another homeschooling/unschooling parent. Maybe you just feel really comfortable talking to the tutor on the phone the first time you call.

Whether you hire someone in your neighborhood or decide to connect with a specialist not available in your area by doing tutoring online, go with your instincts and choose a tutor you feel you can trust. And if, after a few sessions, the tutor isn’t helping or your kid doesn’t feel comfortable, it’s okay to switch.

Facing new challenges can get emotionally intense, so the more comfortable your kid is telling the tutor what they do and don’t understand, the more he or she will get out of the whole tutoring experience—and the more fun it will be.

Also, the more honest you can be with the tutor and the more candid they can be with you, the better you’ll be able to work together as a team.

Keep the lines of communication open. If there are any learning breakdowns or epiphanies between sessions, pass that information along. If your kid is really struggling with a certain type of problem or discovers a cool learning strategy, knowing that will only help the tutor do a better job.

If you feel comfortable sharing personal information, let your tutor know if there are any family crises or emotional issues that are affecting your kid’s focus. (If you need to tell your tutor something your kid is sensitive about, make a point to talk to the tutor where you can’t be overheard.)

Ask your tutor what’s the best way to keep each other informed. When and how you check in will vary depending on the situation—what really matters is just making a regular effort to communicate.

A good tutor will keep you up-to-date about what they’ve covered during sessions, as well as any stumbling blocks, behavior issues, or discoveries. Be receptive to your tutor’s observations—they may even help in other subjects.

Reevaluate curriculum as necessary. As a homeschooler, you probably have ideas about what curriculum you’d like your tutor to use. Maybe you’d like them to review materials you’ve used in the past, or you want to put some hand-me-down textbooks to good use. Or maybe you’re just excited about a curriculum you’ve researched.

A good tutor will be receptive to your ideas, but will also share their professional assessment of what will help your kid learn best. Your tutor may ask you to purchase a different curriculum than you’d planned, or recommend that you buy other materials to use in conjunction with the materials you’ve chosen yourself. Try to be supportive if this happens.

Reinforce outside of tutoring time. Kids will get the most bang for their buck if they practice what they’re learning outside of tutoring time.

The more time your kid puts into learning and practicing outside of tutoring, the more they’ll get out of the sessions themselves. That way you can use tutoring time to introduce new concepts, overcome roadblocks that have cropped up since their last tutoring session, or go over the most challenging material.

*I’m very glad to be included in today’s Carnival of Homeschooling, Princess Bride Edition. It’s the wittiest blog carnival theme I’ve seen yet, so check it out!

*If, on the other hand, you’re visiting from the aforementioned Carnival of Homeschooling, Princess Bride Edition, welcome! I’m so glad to see you here! If you’ve chosen to incorporate a tutor into your homeschooling/unschooling environment, I’d love to hear all about it, so feel free to leave a comment!

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How to find a good math tutor
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Doing fractions “in Chinese”?!

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