Homeschoolers… I love ‘em.
I have worked with homeschoolers for 15 years, in a variety of live and online settings. My most recent endeavor is Online Classes for Groovy Kids, which offers live, online interactive classes to homeschooled students.
Homeschoolers are a fascinating group. Every family that chooses homeschooling has opted out of the mainstream. Pretty much be definition, they are not going to follow the crowd, nor will they suffer through a dull education.
That can make gathering them together for a lesson challenging. Herding cats comes to mind. That doesn’t mean that it is not worth it. You just have to consider your students and their families and plan accordingly.
Please note that I am making some generalizations here. Of course, these descriptions do not apply to everyone and might not at all apply to you. These are just some general trends that I have noticed while working with the population.
Theresa’s top ten tips for engaging homeschoolers:
- It has to be fun. Really fun. Of course, we all know that kids learn more and are better behaved when the activities are fun. With homeschoolers, if it is not fun, they will not come. You will not get students and your business will die. Fortunately, what is fun for the students is also fun for the teachers. Be sure to plan some amusement into your courses.
- Do not expect commitment. Homeschoolers like their free-wheeling lifestyle. When I first started teaching online, I wanted to offer a year-long program, so that I could get to know my students and have a steady income. I had the hardest time finding students. Furthermore, I perpetually had students who wanted to begin mid-semester. When I changed my format to 5-week sessions, it became much easier to fill my classes. Five weeks of commitment seems to work better for homeschoolers than 4 months. Ironically, most of my students end up coming all year anyway. They just can’t commit to that.
- Let them sleep in. Generally speaking, homeschoolers have opted out of the “Get-up-early-and-go” culture. They do not want that stress. I teach on the east coast of the U.S. I schedule my classes in the afternoon. That way, I am available to east coast homeschoolers in the afternoon and west coasters in the morning. My first class is usually at 1:00 PM. Earlier doesn’t fill.
- Ally with moms. I generally call parents a week before class. I ask them to help me to get to know the learner. Parents are allies. While online learning is powerful, it is not the same as live learning. You are not going to be able to read your students as easily when they are actually sitting in front of you. If a learner is getting frustrated, you might not notice. Yet you do want to know. Open communication with the parents can make that a reality.
- Build a following. I let families know through social media who I am and what I represent. My philosophy is not a good match for all homeschool families. I am clear about what I offer on my website, social media feeds, and in my marketing campaigns.
- Find your niche. There are a million niches in the homeschool market. Homeschooling is, at least in the US, heavily Christian. That said, there are plenty of secular homeschoolers. There are pagan homeschoolers who follow schedules and radical Free-schooling Christian homeschoolers who have no curriculum at all. There is every niche and possibility in between. Define your niche.
- Make it easy. Parents are willing to pay you because they do not have the time to teach the kids themselves. It has to be fun, but it can’t involve lots of supplies or complicated technology.
- Start collecting email addresses, right away. I use MadMimi to market my courses. Email marketing has been my most effective tool for gathering students. In my letters, I am professional but friendly. The families that I work with know that I am a hardworking mom and that they are supporting a small business.
- Provide students with rich feedback. Homeschoolers are hungry for teachers who actually read and interact with their work. I provide individual voice-comments on all of their written pieces. I respond to every email I get from a student
- Homeschoolers are great to work with! If the logistics of your class and marketing are as smart as your curriculum, you will gather—and keep—more students.