For this week’s parent profile, we’re going to work with a different format.
Since finding convenient ways to earn extra money is an issue for many homeschool parents, I interviewed someone who has been through the process of finding—and securing—a contract gig with one particular company that’s been receiving a lot of press of late.
My friend Care, whom I've known for years through the online homeschool community, found herself looking for extra money earlier this year.
"We ran into a situation where some of our income stopped in-coming. Our expenses didn't, and there weren't many extras at the time to cut. So we cut what we could and started looking for something that I could do, either opposite hours to my husband or from home," said Care, who lives in Canada with her husband and elementary-aged son.
Like a lot of homeschoolers, she briefly considered multi-level marketing ("MLM") endeavors.
"Naturally, the first thing that people recommend when you're a stay-at-home mom is MLMs,” she said. “But I don't like sales. I never have. And the idea of a huge buy-in to start working was well out of range even if I loved sales."
After a series of false starts, Care's husband emailed her about VIPKID, an international education firm that offers online, American-style classes to Chinese children.
"So I looked at it. It was an opportunity for part-time teaching. You must have a bachelor's degree, and at least one year's experience working with kids. With a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, yeah, this is right in my wheelhouse, I thought," she said. "But, teaching 1:1 in a flipped classroom, based on US Common Core to China?"
Hesitant to apply—and skeptical that she could make the promised $14 - 22 per hour from her living room as an independent contractor, Care set aside the idea.
But not for long.
"A friend sent me a link. Her friend had been doing this teaching thing for awhile now, was making pretty good money, and loving the [money]. Did I want to look at it? Sure enough, right back to VIPKID. I crossed my fingers and clicked the link."
Having made her way through the highly selective screening process, Care now provides online English instruction through four classes a day, five days a week for a total of ten hours a week. Her tech tools include a good headset with a mic, a stable Internet connection, and a computer to run video calls. The individual classrooms are hosted on VIPKID's website and features a three-way split screen with a large whiteboard. Lessons last no more than 28 minutes and include a review of previous content and new material.
According to a recent Bloomberg report, the billion-dollar company is working to meet pent-up demand for English tutoring in China. To that end, they're recruiting actively in North America. And, yes, they're targeting homeschool parents for their recruiting. Note also that current employees give the company a solid 4-star average review on Glassdoor, an indication that satisfaction is high.
Although Care personally has a degree in education, she believes that teaching her own son at a home was the best preparation she could have for VIPKID.
"My degree prepared me to manage a classroom of elementary schoolers. It prepared me to design tests, and it gave me a baseline knowledge of most elementary subjects. Homeschooling? That's where, for me, the actual learning happened. I learned more about teaching in our first year of homeschooling than I ever did in school. In university, you learn how to write the test, how to write the lesson plan, how to make what you're doing fit the listed curricular standards. But you don't really learn how to teach."
For Care, homeschooling taught her how to assess a child's strengths and weaknesses in real time and how to adapt a lesson to better fit the child. In addition to bringing her home education experience to the online classroom, Care went through VIPKID's required online training program. She also opted to review additional material the company made available to enhance her teaching. Still, she said, she had a learning curve as she worked to find her own unique style and approach as an online teacher. With practice, she's gained confidence.
Does she think the company is a good fit for other homeschool parents looking for extra money?
"Honestly, I think if you enjoy kids, and you enjoy teaching kids, it might be a pretty good fit," she said, adding that having an upbeat, quick-thinking, self-starter personality helps. "You have to be able to handle oddball hours [because of the time difference] and sweet little kids telling you that they love you."