Hire a Tutor or Homeschool My Child?

(This is a response I gave to a question on Quora: “Am I allowed to hire a tutor instead of homeschooling my child?”)

I’d like to approach this question from a somewhat different aspect than the previous responders. (Though I would agree with the other responders that you do need to know the laws around homeschooling in your location).

As a tutor, a former school teacher, and also a former homeschooling parent of 5, I think there are definitely times when you might want to hire a tutor when you are homeschooling your child. As a few examples:

  • Obviously, if your child is studying a complex subject (for example, grade 12 calculus, or a foreign language) which you have no experience with or background in, a tutor could come in very handy.
  • A tutor might also be helpful if you are suddenly faced with a situation like a serious personal or family illness which uses up a great deal of your time and energy.
  • Sometimes, you and your child might be having some interpersonal difficulties in one or more subject areas, and hiring a tutor for a period of time for “academics” could take off some of the stress and allow you and your child to rebuild your relationship in other ways.

But before you rush out and hire a tutor and send your child off for tutoring lessons, consider these options:

  • Perhaps you could actually benefit more from the tutoring than your child might. Assuming you already have some background in a subject but feel you’ve “forgotten too much,” a couple “refresher” lessons for yourself could result in you being able to teach the child yourself—and the cost of a couple lessons for you compared to a series of lessons for the child would be considerably less.
  • If you are having difficulty finding creative ways to teach your child, or if you and your child seem to have different learning styles, or if your child has specific learning differences (special needs) you aren’t sure how to handle, asking a tutor to give you some advice could really help. Or you could ask the tutor to allow you to sit in (quietly observing from a distance) on some tutoring lessons for your child, and watch the tutor’s methods.
  • Do some research on educational methodology, and especially on methods that are successful in the homeschooling situation. Read broadly and ask questions of other homeschoolers. As you research, make notes of ideas that fit with your educational goals and beliefs, and with your child’s personal learning needs. Be willing to experiment with methods till you find what works with each child—you may end up doing some quite different approaches with your different children.
  • If you and your child just seem to need a break from each other or from homeschooling for a bit, maybe:
    • Take a break! That really is one of the great advantages of homeschooling—the ability to create your own schedule.
    • Allow your child to experiment with self-teaching/self-education (aka unschooling). Let him/her choose what he/she wants to learn about, and find ways to do that. Some children are amazingly self-motivated, independent learners, if you just give them a chance.
    • Allow your child to spend time with a “mentor” – perhaps a grandparent or other adult the child enjoys spending time with, or a family friend with whom the child can “job shadow.” While they might do some “academics” together, they might alternatively do a hobby or some kind of “work” together, or travel together, any of which can be really great learning experiences.
    • Enroll your child in a variety of children’s courses (not just academics, but sports, fine arts, etc.) for a while.
    • Join up with a local homeschool support group and get involved in lots of group activities; swap “teaching” assignments with some of the other parents; etc.

There are lots of other options, too. Homeschooling can—and should be—an adventure. Hiring a tutor can at times be part of that adventure. There are times, too, when school may be your best option. Or you might use a combination of all these options, at once or at different times. Use your creativity to find the learning options that work best for you and your family. I have actually written a whole series of blog posts on this kind of topic. If you are interested, you can find it here: Why Children Need Parent-Tutors (Scroll to the bottom of this first post for links to all the other posts in the series).

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