Updated: Sep 11, 2020
1. What type of platforms do I need?
While some homework can be done over basic video chat, we’ve found that using online whiteboards enhances the tutoring experience by engaging students through real-time collaboration. Zoom, Bramble, and Bit Paper are some great options. The whiteboard is particularly beneficial in that it allows your student to share and collaborate on homework documents, download completed work, and simultaneously work with their tutor using audio and video.
For basic video conferencing, platforms like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Facetime are all free and easily accessible. Zoom is widely used by schools and businesses alike. Similar to Skype, you can create a Zoom account for free. However, some advanced features, such as unlimited guests per video chat, are only available with a paid subscription. Facetime is included with any Apple device, and Google Hangouts can be accessed as part of the Google apps suite.
2. What should I know before starting video/audio conferencing?
(a) Use a headset to cancel background noise and feedback
(b) Use the scheduling feature to set up meetings in advance: After creating a Zoom account, you will be able to schedule regular (daily, weekly, bimonthly, etc.) video meetings using the 'Schedule' menu on the main page. From this menu, you can select the day(s), time, duration, and title for your meeting. This feature is very useful for weekly tutoring lessons because the link and password stay the same for each session. You can keep track of your scheduled meetings by connecting to your Google Calendar or another calendar application.
(c) Set up your Zoom preferences: When scheduling a meeting in Zoom, it’s helpful to set your preferences in advance. You can require guests to have their video and microphones activated upon entry, create a waiting room so that no random users can join your meeting without your approval, and more. You may want to enable the camera and microphone of your own device and that of others in the meeting immediately to avoid confusion about how to turn on audio/video for new users.
(d) Screenshot worksheets using Shift + Windows + S (on a PC) or Command + shift + 4 (on a Mac). This allows you to save a picture of your computer screen, which you can then crop to show only the relevant information. The screenshotted section will become a file on your desktop that you can easily email or share with collaborators.
(e) To paste, use Windows + V (on a PC) or Command + V (on a Mac). This will save you lots of time, as you can just copy and paste instead of typing out large passages of text or numbers.
(f) Enable a virtual background: In order to set up a virtual background, you will need the most up to date version of your conferencing platform. In Zoom, you can set your background by clicking on the video button in the bottom left corner and selecting 'Choose Virtual Background.' Here, you’ll be able to choose from a few default options, such as grass, the Golden Gate Bridge, outer space, and more. You can also upload your own image from your desktop or camera roll. If you’re worried that your actual background is messy or that other participants will be distracted by the busyness in your home, adding a virtual background is an easy solution.
(g) Use multiple devices, such as an iPad with a stylus pen and a laptop. You can create a video chat screen for each of your devices, which will allow you to draw problems on the whiteboard on one screen and keep the video feed of yourself on the other. Make sure to mute the iPad screen!
3. At what point should I consider finding a tutor for my student?
If you feel like keeping your student on-track is becoming difficult or contentious, a tutor can be a great resource to have. Rather than simply telling your student what to do, a tutor will work with them to see what they need to focus on, and will tailor their approach to fit your student’s learning needs. Using websites like Khan Academy and time4learning, your tutor can also help keep track of your student’s progress, assigning lessons and evaluating their performance.
4. How can I assess my student before reaching out for assistance?
There are many useful online resources available if you want to homeschool your student or if you just want them to have some extra practice. Using these websites, you can also get a better understanding of what your student knows already and what they may be struggling with, before setting up a meeting with a tutor.
(a) Use Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) to evaluate where your student is academically. You can skip between lessons to discover what your student understands and which concepts they’re struggling with. Assign lessons or watch videos to revisit difficult concepts. You can also assign customized quizzes to make sure they understand what they’ve covered before moving on.
(b) www.time4learning.com is similar to Khan Academy in that it allows you to measure your student's progress. Get started by choosing their grade level; depending on your student, it may be helpful to begin with the grade they’ve just completed to catch any gaps in knowledge. You’ll be provided with lessons in Language Arts, Science, Math, Social Studies, and other electives. Colorful and engaging cartoons are used in combination with infographics and videos to encourage learning without it becoming too boring. Assignments can be checked by the parents' account and progress can be managed by completion of assignments, quiz scores, and more.
(c) http://www.ixl.com/ offers a series of lessons for grade levels K-12 in math, social studies, English, and science. Have your student work through questions according to their grade level to assess their strengths and to see in which areas they might need some additional practice or help. You can also use IXL to encourage your student to work beyond their grade level if you think they need an additional challenge.
5. What if I want my student to review vocabulary or math multiplication tables?
Quizlet (quizlet.com) is a great, free resource for making virtual flash cards, creating practice tests, matching games, and more. There are thousands of pre-made flashcards sets available for free use that can assist your child in reviewing parts of grammar, numbers, Spanish, French, and multiplication problems! There are also advanced features in the paid premium account, but most sets do not require payment.
6. How can I keep my student engaged while homeschooling?
Here are some fun enrichment sites, which incorporate learning games and funny videos to make education exciting and entertaining:
(a) https://kahoot.com/: Kahoot is a fun way to learn virtually. You or your tutor can customize this virtual game to incorporate an academic subject in an exciting, interactive way. Your student will receive multiple choice questions presented in a colorful platform, and will have to choose an answer to the question within the allotted time. Participants are rewarded points for correct and quick answers. A scoreboard will show your student the high scores after each round, encouraging them to try their best. Multiple users are able to join the Kahoot quiz at one time by going to the free website and entering the quiz code at the landing page.
(b) https://caribu.com/: For early learners, Caribu is an easy way to share a book online. This may be a great choice for children who enjoy being read to from a variety of books that they would normally have access to at their local library or elementary school.
(c) www.gonoodle.com: Use GoNoodle for fun games that will get your student moving! This website offers a variety of videos and games designed to energize students and to get them ready to learn. They can keep busy with yoga exercises, brainteasers, “how-to” videos, and more.
7. How can I help my student receive additional enrichment?
If you’re homeschooling your student or want them to learn something new outside of their online school curriculum, check out the sites below:
(a) Duolingo: Using duolingo, your student can learn to speak, write, and read a foreign language. You can choose from a variety of languages, and lessons are broken down into small segments so your student can learn a little bit each day without becoming overwhelmed. If they’re already somewhat familiar with the language, they can take a quick assessment after creating an account to find out where they should begin.
(b) FluentU: FluentU is another great resource if you want your student to learn a new language. For a monthly fee, you will have access to lessons, engaging real-world videos, and quizzes. Like Duolingo, FluentU provides your student with bite-sized lessons, so they can build up their language skills in only twenty minutes per day.
(c) National Geographic Kids: With a variety of games, videos, and lessons, National Geographic Kids is a great site for your student to explore their interests and to learn something new.
(d) www.youngoceanexplorers.com: Young Ocean Explorers provides educational and entertaining videos that encourage your student to learn about marine ecosystems. After watching their videos, your student can also take a quick quiz to test their knowledge!
(e) https://mysteryscience.com/: Mystery Science provides parents and educators with free science lessons, organized by grade level. Each topic includes videos, activities, and questions to keep your student engaged. Their lessons are aligned with Common Core standards, so this is a great way to give your student some additional science instruction!
8. I’m homeschooling—how much should I expect my student to complete each day?
One challenge that comes with homeschooling is assessing how much time your student should spend each day on schoolwork. To get an idea of what you should aim for based on grade level, check out the chart below, created by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Grade | Minimum Time/Day | Maximum Time/Day
PreK Min. 20 Minutes/day Max. 60 Minutes/day
K Min. 30 Minutes/day Max 90 Minutes/day
1-2 Min. 45 Minutes/day Max 90 Minutes/day
3-5 Min. 60 Minutes/day Max 120 Minutes/day
6-8 Min. 90 Minutes/day Max 180 Minutes/day
9-12 Min. 120 Minutes/day Max 270 Minutes/day
While the amount that your student should cover will vary based on age and ability, make sure that you stick to a regular schedule—having consistency will make it much easier for your student to adjust to homeschooling. It’s also a good idea to create a daily or weekly checklist of assignments for them to ensure that they have a clear idea of what you expect.