Tutoring outside school hours may be one of the most beneficial activities a family can take on. However, we know it isn’t always easy, with busy schedules, childcare and transportation challenges, and more. Online tutoring during the summer is one way to make it simpler.
While we previously have talked about the advantages of online tutoring, even families who have been doing in-person lessons may want to consider it once summer vacation rolls around.
“People are thinking about their cottages and vacations and camping,” says Lawrence Kloth, co-founder of Reading Success Plus. “They were able to come to the office for tutoring during the school year, but now they face a long, maybe impossibly long drive if they want to see a tutor in person. We want to give them a convenient option so they can enjoy summer and the child can continue to make progress.”
All RSP programs – reading and spelling, writing and grammar, and math – are offered online as well as in person. Roughly a third of our students are online year-round. In Michigan, their locations range from near the Indiana state line to Leelanau County. Out-of-state students meet with RSP tutors from their homes in Minnesota and Illinois.
“We have the capability of helping a student anywhere in Michigan, or the United States, or, really, the world,” Lawrence says.
For many of our students who meet face-to-face with their tutors during the school year, online tutoring during the summer is a more attractive option. Likewise, online work might be a better fit for new students beginning the intensive summer program. Here are the reasons some families might want to consider online tutoring while school is out – and perhaps after it resumes.
Across the miles
Summer is a great time to get a change of scenery. That might be as dramatic as a camping trip out West or a trip out of the country. It could mean a summer home or cottage, a shorter family vacation, or an extended stay for the children with grandparents.
No matter where you go, if you have an internet connection, you have the opportunity for online tutoring. Students have logged into lessons from hotel pools, campground shelters, and parking lots near the beach. If you can get online with a capable device – basically, a computer or a tablet – you can study remotely.
“I have tutored people who were in Mexico,” Lawrence says. “A former tutor was on vacation in Spain for a couple of weeks and he tutored from there. It gives a lot of flexibility.”
Of course, while on a one- or two-week trip, fitting in twice-weekly tutoring sessions might not be a priority. And taking that kind of break won’t be much of a setback for most students. But for families who are away from home for an extended period – for example, those staying at a summer home from mid-June until late August – online tutoring is a vital tool to prevent the student from not just stagnating, but backsliding.
“It’s crucial that students continue their lessons through the summer,” Lawrence says. “If they don’t, not only will they miss out on three months of progress, but they likely will lose weeks more once they return because they will have to review all the material that they lost over the summer.”
Spare the babysitter
Working families face the challenge of finding additional childcare over the summer. Maybe a relative will step up, or a neighbor can help, or the parent will find a paid caregiver.
In any case, transporting a youngster from childcare to tutoring can be difficult. Sometimes the caregiver will have the time and means to get the student to the office. But in other situations, the caregiver may have too many other kids in their care to take one child to the office for lessons. The caregiver may not have a vehicle or may not have a driver’s license. Every situation will have its own obstacles to in-person tutoring.
“Online tutoring is a way to get around those difficulties,” Lawrence says. “Grandma or the babysitter or even mom or dad won’t have to round up a bunch of kids and get them in the car so one of them can have tutoring – then do it all again in an hour to bring the child home.
“Instead, just find a quiet spot and put the child with the computer for their lesson. The caregiver doesn’t have to do anything else. The student gets their tutoring, and the babysitter doesn’t have to deal with the hassle of getting in a car and driving who knows how long, or taking attention away from other children they are watching.”
When school resumes, many families need after-school care. If that is your situation, online tutoring will offer all of the same advantages during the school year.
Not every family has to cope with being a long distance from in-person tutoring. But almost all of them must deal with scheduling conflicts.
“Let’s say Johnny has tutoring,” Lawrence says. “But he also has soccer camp and piano lessons, and his sister plays volleyball and needs a ride to her summer job. Not only is that a lot of travel, but it’s a lot of time slots to juggle.
“By tutoring online, a parent can save themselves several hours a week by not having to be in the car to and from lessons and having to wait an hour while their child is in tutoring. Instead, the child is being tutored online, working independently. That parent’s day, or the caregiver’s day, has become a lot simpler.”
As with childcare, the time crunch won’t go away after school is back in session – if anything, it becomes more concentrated. Again, online tutoring can be a way of saving precious time that otherwise would be spent in the car.
What you’ll need
Most families already have the technology needed for online tutoring.
“The most important thing is a reliable internet connection,” Lawrence says.
That’s the biggest obstacle to families who want to do tutoring while on vacation. Your hotel or resort likely has good internet service. A campground or cottage may be iffy. And the wilderness is, well, the wilderness. So, if you want tutoring while on the road, check ahead for internet availability – or see if there’s a coffee shop or library nearby.
But most homes or daycare operations already have adequate internet service. If you can stream Netflix or watch YouTube, you can do online tutoring.
As for hardware, the best setup would be to have a desktop or laptop computer, either a PC or Mac. Students have been successful with iPads and other tablets, while Chromebooks have had mixed success, depending on the model and how they are set up. RSP tutors use the Zoom app, so have the latest version of that loaded. Headphones may be helpful but are purely optional.
Phones might work in a pinch, but they aren’t recommended.
“Whatever device the child is using,” Lawrence said, “I just want the child to know how to use it, that they understand it and are efficient with it, and that they know how to get around on it before the session starts.”
Extending the opportunity
Online tutoring isn’t right for every student. Not every child is capable of sitting alone at a computer for an hour while concentrating on a lesson. Younger students may not be able to handle the technology on their own. Those with severe ADHD may have difficulty sitting through an online session. And some students’ learning style simply is better suited for in-person instruction.
But in many cases, online tutoring is the best way for a student to receive instruction. It can overcome distance and transportation difficulties, ease scheduling difficulties and reach students who can’t do in-person learning.
“We want to give kids the opportunity to succeed,” Lawrence says. “We don’t want a barrier to entry to be, ‘Oh, we can’t drive there.’ We want to remove that barrier so people can enjoy the services they need to become successful.”