A remote/home school teaching/inspiration idea

I had a homeschooling / tutoring / mostly remote teaching idea. Still need to flesh it out, but here is the general idea:

Running “normal” accredited school is expensive for a whole host of reasons, and an administrative nightmare. Because of the overhead, the only way a teacher can make  serious money is if the classes are relatively large, but that’s bad for the kids. If the classes are small enough to really be good for the kids, then either the school is very expensive, or the teachers get paid such poor wages they can’t raise their own family. If private, they have to compete with the massive tax-base wealth-extraction system of government schools. But trying to help home-schools is hard, because they don’t have a lot of money. Tutors are often hired for only a handful of hours at a high price for a specific focus, usually to help master a particular subject well enough to improve a grade or get a better standardized test score. If a kids needs to simply master a particular skill like synthetic division or calculating an equilibrium constant or know what the characters in a Shakespeare play are, there are a host of resources (Kahn Academy, YouTube, Cliff’s notes, etc) to teach it. OTOH, many homeschool parents need a break, and would like someone else to take the endless questions of a curious child, and few have “all the answers” for any but the youngest of children, and maybe not even then.

Kids  are rarely excited about “yet another lesson” in a lecture series on pretty much any subject unless it happens to tie directly into a topic of fascination for them. But how to do that? How does a teacher get paid a reasonable amount, reach a lot of kids, and make things personalized and relevant at a reasonable price to parents? I’m glad you asked!

Picture a website that combined a simple payment system, an interactive streaming system, and a calendar. A teacher could schedule a topic at a time and date (or just the topic, and a possible selection of dates/times that students could pick from). Parents / students could sign up at any time. Prices could be variable (to be worked out, depending on the number of attendees). At the appointed time, the teacher logs in, the students click join, the money gets transferred from the kids’ accounts to the teacher’s, and the lesson/discussion/debate begins. The students may post questions in the side-chat, and hit a button to “raise their hand” to ask a more detailed question or make a longer comment than appropriate for the side chat bar. The main part of the lesson is delivered by the teacher, scanning questions as they go, and then branches off as needed according to student questions/interest. The lessons are not necessarily tied into any specific school lesson, and have no grading assigned with them, but are attended by interested people.

So, for example, a sample lesson might be on the importance / relevance / meaning of the fight scene in the first chapter of Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and after starting there it may end in human psychology, 18th C literature, or courtship rituals of different nations. A teacher with a good reputation might be able to get several hundred, or maybe even thousands of attendees (they may want to limit if to be more interactive, and offer the same basic topic multiple times). The cost to the student to attend might be just a single dollar. If you have 300 attendees at $1 each, the hosting service takes a cut, maybe 15%, and the teacher gets the rest. $255/hr is a whole lot better than normal tutoring.

Because it could potentially go ’round the world, it could be a 24×7 service. It could have as many teachers as want to join. Some might have regular lectures, but more interactive than a normal pre-recorded lesson on something like Kahn Academy. Lessons could be student-driven, too, where listeners could upvote student questions to be addressed by later lessons. Each teacher could have their own “schtick” or field, or they could be a recognized generalist who is just easy to learn from. Accessing old lessons could be downloaded for some nominal fee, too, so the ‘royalty money’ can keep flowing as well. Some teachers might give a regularly scheduled whole lecture series like a typical “class” with the aim of prepping students for challenging a class by taking the final.

The beauty of this is that it can be used by all sorts of teachers and teaching styles, and kids and parents can go hunting (for a low cost) for one that matches them. It leverages the low user cost and high hourly income of one-to-many teaching, while retaining some of the interactive closeness of a more normal classroom, with the safety of a secure online platform. For myself, being a generalist, my main strength is tying things from things normally thought of as entirely different disciplines together. So I can tie almost any lesson a student would see in a “regular” classroom lesson to something they care about, or should know about as a human being growing up but that they too often have to learn the hard way. So, in the example of the Tom Sawyer fight scene, I can tie it into developmental psychology, general human male psychology, twain’s literary genius in distilling so many things into one short scene, how it moves and connects the plot, how different types of people react to the scene, the evolutionary psychology of it, how it ties into the character development which shows up in later scenes, how it plays into the courtship interaction with Becky Thatcher, how the names represent things, etc. part of my “personal schtick” would be to ask students for any two topics, and I’d show how they are related and what big-picture lessons there might be, or at least connect one of them to the topic of the main lesson I’d just gone over; the main goal if THAT is to show that most knowledge is related, and the more you know the more you CAN know, if you pay attention and think.

One of the main goals is to help younger learners see the “Big Picture,” the “story arc” of history and the world around them, by seeing the connections between all the facts and details and narrowly siloed data and subjects, so understand how almost nothing stands alone in the world, neither unaffected by, nor unaffecting toward, anything else. There could even be a series aimed at public school students designed to help them see and understand and fight against the indoctrination that goes on critical thinking in the classroom.

Random related thoughts: prices could be based on

  • monthly subscription, attend as many classes as you want
  • up-front charge of $X that gives you $(1.5*X) worth of access
  • charge on a strictly per session rate
  • something like $30/hr for one person, $10/person for 3-9 people, $5/person for 10-20, $2/person 21-40, $1/41 people or more; a sliding scale of some type.
  • a simple charge to request a specific topic or lesson, refundable if well-attended
  • some sort of reward (class-price refund, 1 free future class?) for asking a really good question or making an exceptionally insightful comment

Other random thoughts

  • some classes would be a strict time duration, others much more variable
  • eventually some sort of way for people interested in the same classes who are in the same area might have a way to locate similar age students in their same area (nation / state/ county / city) for local instruction & get-togethers.

Put your thoughts in the comments.

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