Enjoy Teaching Kids? Start a Business Tutoring Home-Schooled Students

A woman tutors a group of middle school aged girls.
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We all remember those days when we would have loved to stay home from school. But what happens when staying home still means you have to go to school?

For many families who choose to home-school, once the breakfast dishes are cleared, the kitchen table turns into a giant desk. Brothers and sisters pull up a chair and wait for the lesson to start. While a parent often handles the teaching, that’s not always the case.

With more than four years of experience teaching in various homes, I’m here to give you the insider’s scoop on how you can get paid to teach home-schooled students in a number of settings — even without a teaching certificate.

What is Home Schooling?

Home schooling often gets a bad rap as a substandard alternative to public school. But the reasons parents choose to home-school are quite varied. Some, frustrated with public schools, decide that they want more control over what and how their children learn. Others, regardless of their opinions of traditional schools, choose to home-school due to travel schedules — think missionaries and military families.

Some parents choose to home-school to allow gifted students more time to focus on endeavors such as art, music or athletics, while others want their children to explore topics at their own pace. Parents of children with special needs are often drawn to home schooling because some feel that they can better meet their child’s needs at home.

Is Home Schooling Legal?

“Yes! In all 50 states, parents can legally teach their children at home without a teaching degree or certification,” says The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), an advocacy group for home-schooling families. But keep in mind that every state is different in regard to how they handle the specifics of home education. The HSLDA State Laws page has information for each state.

Another great resource is HomeschoolCPA, where CPA Carol Topp offers a number of resources including articles, ebooks, free webinars and a podcast. She outlined some of the state-by-state law variations in a guest blog post:

  • For example, in my state of Ohio we must record the name of anyone, outside of parents, that educate our children. So it is legal, but recorded.
  • In some states, I learned, it is not legal to homeschool other people’s children. For example, homeschooling laws in Wyoming say, “An instructional program provided to more than one family unit does not constitute a home-based educational program.”
  • Some states allow a limited amount of non-parent led instruction. In New York the bulk of the teaching must come from the parents. For instance, if someone else homeschools your children for two days, then you must for homeschool at least three days.
  • Georgia and several other states allow parents to hire a tutor for extra assistance. Pennsylvania law states the parent is the homeschool supervisor, which does not necessarily mean the teacher, but the parent is responsible.

Before you get too excited about this new opportunity, make sure to check the regulations for your state to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.

Private Tutoring vs. Tutorial Programs

You need to make one more decision before you get started: Will you tutor privately or teach for a tutorial program (sometimes called “enrichment” programs)? Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Private tutoring means fewer students, which translates into less administrative work (i.e., grading and record-keeping). However, you are usually hired to teach a variety of subjects. For example, in one year, I might teach algebra, Latin, anatomy and physiology, American literature and geography to the same student. Private tutoring typically pays hourly ($13 to $20 an hour on average, according to one source).

Teaching at a tutorial program, however, can often be more profitable if your program pays per student — more students equals more money per hour (sometimes up to five times more than private tutoring). Unlike tutoring for a family, tutorial programs usually hire you to teach a particular subject to a specific grade level. For example, I teach five high school English classes for one such program.

However, not all tutorial programs pay their teachers. Some programs run as co-ops, where each parent teaches a class in exchange for the program waiving or discounting their child’s tuition. (If you’re a parent home-schooling your kids, this could be a great way to keep your own costs down.)

How to Market Your Services

Whether you choose private tutoring or tutorial work, you’ll want to start advertising the subject areas or grades you feel most qualified to teach.

I found my longest-running home-school client on Craigslist. I ran into a lot of scammers along the way, but after over three years with this particular family, I can honestly say it was worth the trouble. I’ve also found gigs by simply leaving my name and number at a local home-school tutorial office. Find tutorial programs in your area by searching for the name of your city and “home school tutorial programs” on Google (or Bing).

Another option is to research home-schooling associations in your area. Getting in touch with leaders of these home-school groups can often help you connect with members who may be looking for a tutor.

If you aren’t having any luck striking out on your own, consider signing up with an online tutoring agency such as Tutor.com, Care.com or WyzAnt. Most of these companies will take a cut for themselves, but it’s still a great way to get started and gain valuable experience to help you land your next gig.

My Insider Advice

And now for those insider tips I promised you. Here’s what I’ve learned in four years of teaching and tutoring home-schoolers.

Focus on High School Subjects

In my experience, it’s much easier to land high school tutoring gigs. Why? Home-school parents feel more comfortable teaching elementary school concepts such as the alphabet, addition and subtraction. But those same families often choose to call in reinforcements when it comes to upper-level math, science and English courses; foreign language classes; and electives or enrichment courses.

If you’re able to teach these subjects, you’ll likely have an easier time finding clients:

  • Math: pre-algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, calculus, geometry
  • Science: physical science, biology, chemistry, physics
  • Foreign Languages: Spanish, French, German, Latin, etc.
  • Enrichment: visual art, performing art, music, drama

Be Creative

As with any entrepreneur-style business, two keys to success are promotion and creativity. In terms of marketing, I try to offer discounts (like one free hour of class) for referrals. I also try to extend a multi-student discount if a family has more than one child they want me to work with.

It also helps to be creative about where you hold your classes. Many families will want you to teach in their homes, especially if they have younger kids in addition to your students. I also teach from my home, at libraries, in coffee shops and even over Skype (my personal favorite).

Provide Great References

Trusting you with their children is a big deal for parents. Be prepared to provide references and possibly complete a background check. I’ve always provided a list of references, both previous clients and others who can vouch for my skills and trustworthiness.

Show Your Ability and Experience

Demonstrate your tutoring abilities and related experience to your potential employers. Even if this is your first tutoring gig, think about what you bring to the table. You may not hold a Ph.D. in education, but you likely have valuable real-world experience in the subject areas you would like to teach.

For example, if you used to be a nurse, you may be the perfect fit as a science teacher for a high schooler who wants to be a doctor. And my high school English students love the fact that I’m also a writer! Your credibility is often based more on your practical experience than on the degrees you hold, and this is especially true in the home-school arena.

So, if solving for “x” or fixing comma splices is your idea of fun, grab a pack of red pens and think about becoming a home-school teacher or tutor.

Leah Thayer is a Nashville-based writer and teacher. She spends her weekdays sharing her love of the written word with her students and her weekends meeting with local authors who share her passion for writing.