When you are homeschooling younger children and the learning material is basic, there’s less to fear. You can spend more time focused on method and making each day fun and productive. When it comes to teaching GCSE and A-Level material, on the other hand, it’s a different story. The level of learning material moves up several gears, and the amount of detail can get intimidating, especially if you have been out of school yourself for some time.
Particularly difficult subject areas include higher-level maths and science courses, especially at A-Level, which are designed for students who have been in full-time study for several years. Literature can also be hard with some to connect with, as the requirements sought by examiners are tricky for untrained eyes to spot.
Because of these factors, if you’re homeschooling students preparing for GCSE or A-Level subjects, it’s more than likely you will need some outside help. The question is, what options are out there? And what are the pros and cons of each?
1. Private Tutors
Many educators may part-time as private tutors, and some may be in that market full-time. The concept is pretty straightforward; you hire an individual teacher to visit your home and assist your kids in targeted learning, especially in areas they are struggling with.
Pros: A private tutor brings very particular expertise into your learning environment, and your children will certainly benefit from the close, differentiated attention that a 1-on-1 experience will bring. Experienced tutors can often work wonders as they apply their trade and share their wealth of knowledge. It’s also a flexible system since you can hire as many/few tutors as you need and for as many/few hours as you need.
Cons: It will likely increase your homeschooling costs quite significantly, depending on how many tutors and hours you require. A-Level and GCSE subjects will raise both the cost and possibility of more hours needed, so you have to be ready to absorb that. Some 2019 estimates put average hourly rates between ₤30 and ₤60.
2. Online Courses
Modern technology has opened up amazing new possibilities for online and distance learning. There are now options for full-time courses based entirely online where students sign up, log in to a platform and conduct their work in this way.
Pros: Students benefit from a structured course that also has significantly more flexibility and ease of access than a traditional school. The classes are well organised, conducted by licenced and trained professionals, and have become a very affordable option. These are also better valued for those who need long-term regular professional assistance from a teacher, costing less over time than private tutors.
Cons: The kids get no proper face-to-face time with teachers, which can be an invaluable asset. Online courses are also often taught in groups/cohorts, making it harder for suppliers to offer differentiated or personalised learning. The entire course also relies on a stable and fast Internet connection, which, if interrupted, will set your studies back gravely.
3. Guest Speakers
The addition of guest speakers, lecturers and others can add a fantastic variety to your homeschool lessons. These speakers needn’t be professional teachers, but perhaps people from the local area who can offer special insight on a particular subject. For example, a local entrepreneur may help with business studies courses by offering up real-life experience to show how principles learned in the subject apply to business operations.
Pros: An occasional guest speaker will certainly spice up home tuition, introducing some variety into proceedings. The guest will also bring much insight and help students understand how what they are learning applies to real life. This disconnect is so often present in traditional education, causing a damaging disconnect between students and their learning materials.
Cons: You may be limited to the choice exclusively in your local area (maybe even within just a few miles) or your personal contact circle. You can mitigate this nowadays thanks to the advent of Skype and other online communication tools, but that presents other limitations.
4. Free Online Materials
A cursory glance at YouTube reveals a treasure trove of online lectures, how-to videos, inspiring TED talks and much more. Better yet, they are all absolutely free. You can also get outside help from sites like Primrose Kitten, where you can access revision and study materials that will offer new and fresh styles and perspectives on the materials your kids are regularly using.
Pros: A huge back-catalogue of material means that the online world is resplendent with invaluable knowledge and expertise. You can access all of this without expending a single penny (unless perhaps you pay to remove ads from platforms like YouTube) and can even store them on your own computer for future reference.
Cons: Online materials are pre-recorded and pre-made, which means that there’s no opportunity for live interaction with those who make them. When students have questions or problems, they can’t be resolved as efficiently as when you have a tutor or speaker present.
Don’t miss the other parts of our homeschooling series.
If you bring in outside help for the difficult subjects, don’t forget to make sure that the helpers are free in the mornings. We explain more about how challenging subjects should be taught in the morning in part 6 of the series. Check out earlier parts, too, to learn about budgeting, choosing courses, getting an exam centre, using online resources and incorporating different learning styles into your homeschool.