To My Email Followers: A Few Email Updates

Recently I switched to a different email subscription manager. Don’t worry, you will stay on the list! My current posting schedule is every two weeks on Thursday. If I ramp it up, I will let you know!

The new email subscription manager will allow you to have more options opting in or out of specific emails. I will NOT be sending you spam or marketing emails, however I may include current education news.

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Thanks for your continued support for Enable Teachers!

Should The United States Adopt Finland’s Play Based Kindergarten Method?

Let’s talk about Finland. There is a popular article circulating around about Finland’s “illiterate” kindergarteners. It has stirred up a lot of anxiety that we’re doing it wrong in the United States. And maybe we are, but here’s what I currently know about it…

Finland has become famous for their play based learning for kindergarten aged children. This has turned heads because academically, Finland always ranks high on their test performance. And since the United States continues to place high importance on eradicating poverty through our education system, and simultaneously working to ensure our future workforce is the best in the world, the US is searching for the best methods of teaching our students.

First, I want to mention that literacy skills do not necessarily mean that students are sitting at desks learning their alphabet sounds, and reading short sentences. Literacy skill include understanding print concepts (like which way the book is read, that text has meaning, etc.), hearing rhyming sounds and rhythms, developing background information, exposure to vocabulary, and being able to verbally tell a short story. Most likely countries like Finland also have these basic skills in place at their kindergarten levels.

Vocabulary Gap or Economic Gap?

While the research is a little vague on whether early academic interventions and increased kindergarten literacy actually help students in the long run (read my previous article on 16 research articles I reviewed), we do know that students with increased vocabulary directly perform better in school and life. Students who typically lack vocabulary come from a low economic status. Increasing vocabulary can increase success, so preschool for students in poverty is used as a vocabulary intervention.

So does Finland have a vocabulary gap within their lower and upper economic class? Probably. But one important difference between our country and Finland is how we care for our society. Finland has more programs that help families pay for health care, child care, food, housing and other basic needs. (The US definitely has these programs, but they are not as extensive)

The US lower economic class typically has been poor for several generations, often has lived in the same area for their entire life, typically are stuck going to lower quality public schools, often have limited access to public facilities like parks, health care, and libraries, and often don’t have access to a grocery store. The quality of life for the poor in the United States is arguably worse than those in Finland. 

Poverty creates a gap in living standards. Using a football analogy, some students start at the 50 yard line, while others haven’t even left the end zone. The gap between high economic status and low economic status in the United States is greater than the gap in Finland. This means that the gap in vocabulary is also greater in the United States than in Finland.

Since research repeatedly shows academic success is very tied to economic status, and since there has been little definitive evidence that kindergarten interventions increase academic success over time (again check out my previous post), Finland’s smaller economic gap has a significant effect on their test scores. 

The Alliance for Children has a publication disputing this specific point. They argue that since countries like China and Japan also have high test scores and allow their young children to have more play time, success can be specifically linked back to learning through play. I agree that play is critical to development, but China and Japan are also notorious for very long and rigorous school days and heavy homework loads. This again places doubt that playtime has a direct correlation with increased test scores. Or in other words, there are probably still other things factors that are contributing to other country’s increased test scores.

This is not a commentary on politics or policy (I honestly believe there are many solutions to this problem). These thoughts are just concluding that our country needs to be careful not to adopt another country’s education methods before assessing all components that contribute to academic success. 

Play Time Is Just As Important

We know that early intervention for students who are disadvantaged (from poverty or a disability) do benefit from early interventions. We also know that these early interventions seem to statistically disappear once students enter 4th grade (maybe because they fall behind again? maybe public school doesn’t keep supporting them? maybe their family situations out weigh the interventions?). 

On the other hand, we know that increased play and increased emotional/social skills do translate into long term success. In a research article reviewed by Alliance for Children, HighScope’s Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study found increase success in all types of interventions in the short term, but by age 23, students who had increased play showed statically significant success rates. Another study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes for Health, found a correlation with low social skills and the increased likelihood for arrests and to be on government housing lists. 

At a minimum, these factors indicate that social and emotional skills that develop during play time have more long term effects on success than targeted academic interventions. Potentially, neglecting play time could actually hurt academic success. More high quality research (large sample, good statistics, over a long time) in this area is needed to be able to draw a definite conclusion. 

Wrapping It All Up

There are too many outside factors to definitively say whether Finland’s lack of poverty or increased play is responsible for their higher test scores. However research has shown that both factors DO matter, and BOTH increase academic success.

My opinion is that the United States should be attempting to address both poverty and increased play learning. Not only should increased structured play time be incorporated, but we should reassess how we are supporting our families in poverty by increasing family education and family support. We also should look at combining methods from other countries that are tailored for our own country’s culture.

This Is What 16 Research Articles Say About Literacy, Kindergarten, And Entrance Times

I was chatting with a group of friends about kindergarten recently, and realized that there’s been a lot of hype around how kindergarten should be run. Should we be teaching reading in kindergarten? How long should young children be at school? Are private schools with more play time better for development? Has full day kindergarten even helped our struggling readers?

It doesn’t take a lot of looking to find articles pointing out areas that are lacking with our current kindergarten practices. For instance, students in Finland are waiting until later to learn literacy, and their test scores are historically higher than the United States. Another article by the Atlantic shows that our test scores really haven’t increased in 20 years, most likely due to our lack of teaching foundational knowledge for understanding subject matter (or background knowledge). 

So… Are literacy skills in kindergarten actually helping students long term?

The Controversy

The research below is by no way all inclusive. These articles are peer reviewed, were published in high quality journals, and are respected in the education community.

Research that shows increased rigor in kindergarten increases student success:

  • Bruiss (2000) found mixed results whether full day kindergarten resulted in increased academic success, but did find higher test scores for students with disabilities or disadvantages (from poverty, less reading at home, etc.).
  • Elicker (2000) was able to imply full day kindergarten gives academic achievement for longer periods of time with students from low economic status.
  • Northwestern University is one of the only studies that I have found that finds a direct correlation between early skills leading to later academic skills. (However I wonder if this is just is pointing out that students who are “good” at school will still be “good” at school? Again more support that higher income families tend to continue to be successful at school.)
  • Moore was able to find that more preschool increased student’s “emotional knowledge” in grade school when rated from their teachers.

Research that shows increased kindergarten rigor has no effect:

  • Milligan (2012) found that full day kindergarten had no significant effect on reading or math success vs. half day kindergarten. Study was completed in California on a varied sample of students.
  • Barnett (1987) used an economic analysis (widely accepted as the most credible statical methods) on several studies. They wanted to determine if it was cost effective to have early interventions. They found that very few research studies had sound enough statistical models to prove that interventions were cost effective. They did point out that these is still a lot of research left to be done.
  • Hildebrand (2001) studied three different kindergarten schedules and found that length of time in school did not ensure greater test results.
  • Cooper (2010) found that full day kindergarten has a significant effect on academics up until 3rd grade. At that point the effects become negligible. (This was sound similarly on a Head Start research in the 1980’s)
  • Limited conclusions were drawn in Chicago after a long-term study on early interventions. The data was trending in the right direction, but they could not say conclusively if their interventions increased student success.
  • Leow’s (2016) results found that full time head start preschool students did not fair better than half day head start preschool students in kindergarten.

Research that shows increased kindergarten rigor could be problematic:

  • Shephard’s research does NOT point towards rigorous curriculum as causing a negative effect, rather they point out that rigorous academics are inappropriate for young children and that policies such as retention, pre-screening, and moving the age of kindergarten entrance, do more harm because they cause inflated academic rigor.
  • A Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation lays out the numbers and reading scores thoroughly. While this report says that early intervention CAN help students who are disadvantaged, it also points out that raising standards without increasing the quality of education and appropriate education actually widens the gap in performance between high income families and low income families.

Please note: These article’s results do not show direct harm from learning literacy in kindergarten. These found that there were in-advert consequences that could be negative. This is important to note so as not to make conclusions that kindergarten, early academic interventions, or literacy skills are inherently harmful.

Since publishing this article, I have since found some research from the Alliance For Children saying that play based learning could actually harm children in the long term. However, I am not sure how well the statical models were completed since I was unable to access the actual research. To look at their reviews check out their article on play gaps and reading instruction. Both articles site peer reviewed research on increased play time increasing academic success into adulthood. 

Research that found increased student success when children wait to start kindergarten:

  • Datar (2006) found that delaying kindergarten by one year boosts test scores. (student enters school at kindergarten level though)

Research that found no difference when children wait to start kindergarten:

  • Narahara, May (1998) was unable to find any difference in academic success by 2nd grade in students who started kindergarten between 4-6 years old.
  • Using the National Education Longitudinal Survey, Lincove found no long term advantages to delaying kindergarten.
  • Lubotsky (2016) found that while older kindergarten entrants tend to grow both cognitively and non cognitively (books smart and emotional smarts) quicker than their younger peers, everyone’s scored tend to even out by second grade.

Research that found waiting too long to start kindergarten could be harmful:

  • Deming was able to conclude that there was no positive effects from delaying kindergarten when using IQ, earnings, and educational attainment as the test. They did however find evidence that delayed kindergarten can hurt outcomes by increasing the likely hood of high school drop out, and overall earnings by a delayed start into the labor market (statistical models were economics based).

Research that found harmful effects of starting kindergarten early:

  • I do not have a link to the original research, but the Foundation for Economic Education reported increased ADHD diagnosis for students who entered school as the youngest were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. (However this research is not causal, it’s pointing out a correlation. This means that adults could be over diagnosing children who are still developing.)
  • A study from Australia done by Narahara found that early schooling helped students from low income families cognitively (or academically), but that early schooling hurt all (both low and high income) students in non-cognitive areas.

What Does This Research Mean?

After a lot of reading, I have formed a few opinions from our current understanding of rigorous academics in kindergarten :

  1. We do not have enough research with the most accurate statistical models that prove positive or negative results from increasing time and rigor of kindergarten. Most of these studies say their conclusions are limited.
  2. Early interventions in academics are most beneficial to students who are disadvantaged or have disabilities. However, it appears that these gains might even out by third grade. One scholar proposed placing more supports for those grade levels instead of early interventions.
  3. Overall, rigorous kindergarten is not harmful to students’ future academics, but could take away from other developmental skills like creativity, experiences that increase background knowledge of our world, and social/emotional skills. Background knowledge is leads to greater reading comprehension, and social/emotional skills have direct predictions for adult success. This implies that increased non cognitive skills teaching (like how to speak to an adult, work out problems, and other skills in a way that is most accepted in our country) is just as or more beneficial for disadvantaged students than academic interventions.
  4. Early academic interventions do not negatively impact students in the course of their life time. However there is research that could point to negative impacts when students miss out on creative and play based learning as children.
  5. Student success is still ultimately tied to family income and child exposure to vocabulary, books, and experiences to build on. No research has shown preschool, kindergarten timing, or rigor, to out weigh those family cultural effects on achievement. There is some evidence that play based learning could be a better early intervention.

If The Research Is Somewhat Inconclusive, Why Is The United States Pushing Early Academics?

First, since the United States was first organized, public education was a viewed as an equalizer and a way to allow those in poverty to move up into a higher economic situation.

These ideals have not changed within the US. When Head Start was originally created, it showed huge IQ jumps for students who came from poverty. However they found later that these gains evened out by third grade. Today there is still a large achievement gap between students who are white verses a minority, and students who come from high income families verses low income families.

 Research also shows that students who struggle reading in third grade are at much higher risk for negative adult outcomes. A fantastic review of statistics around third grade reading, implications, and how to fix it, can be found from the free Annie E. Casey Foundation Report. Another easy read about the danger of low reading scores is from HuffPost and the Atlantic.

These facts coupled with the realization that SAT scores haven’t increased in 30 years, 4th grade reading scores have not significantly increased in the past 15 years, and that students who go to college are typically from middle class to upper class families, our government leaders are very concerned about our children who are disadvantaged. And up until this point, providing early interventions for those children is the “low hanging fruit.”

There’s also considerable research done on the amount of vocabulary a child is exposed to while young, directly impacts their academic achievement for the rest of their life. Providing early interventions help young children who are disadvantaged have access to the vocabulary they may be missing.


What do we choose?

Unless your student is showing early delays, you should feel comfortable making an early education decision that works best for your family. Most research is showing no quantifiable negative or positive effect of kindergarten and preschool on achievement.

Research looking at the amount of time spent at kindergarten or preschool did not show any difference in student success. It seemed that the intervention its self was more beneficial for students who were delayed, not the actual amount of time spent in the classroom. This implies that half day kindergarten or preschool is enough for children. On the other hand, full day kindergarten is not harmful, so feel comfortable doing what works best for your family.

The academic success in Finland may have more to do with their culture and less to do with their illiterate kindergarteners. Since wealth is such a strong predictor of success, it’s important note that in Finland, struggling families have more government programs to rely upon. Socialized programs may be allowing citizens less stress about “working their way out of poverty,” and more learning just for the love of it. (This is not a political statement for or against socialized programs or nations)

Other high scoring countries, like Singapore, highly encourage preschool and kindergarten schooling. The big difference between the US and Singapore is the length of the school day. Their school day is shorter than ours but schools typically go year round with about a month long break in the summer. Singapore also has a lot of wealth in their nation. Wealthy families produce situations where students can succeed easier.

Learning to read doesn’t harm our young students, but neglecting time to explore and experience our world could reduce long term comprehension and non cognitive/emotional skills. Additionally, as research on achievement and income point out, our culture puts an emphasis on middle class behaviors (talking “sassy” is disrespectful, looking people in the eye and shaking their hand is encouraged, etc.).

Families who emphasis these “norms” within their own homes are inherently going to help their children be successful. That said, we should still advocate for more non cognitive skills within our schools (or choose to put our children in a different setting that puts an emphasis on this), and include non cognitive skills within whole family interventions.

Implications for our country

Adding play and experiences into early education could help struggling students understand text easier. Comprehension is more tied to linking the text with our understanding of the world, rather than understanding the words we are reading (although, students first need foundational reading skills to even access the print). Increasing those experiences earlier could show overall gains for our disadvantaged students. (refer to this article for more information on changing our teaching for comprehension)

Focusing more on exposure to vocabulary, text and early literacy skills can help students catch up, but these interventions do not need to be in place for the entire day. The time spent in various settings did not show any gains for students. Early academic interventions have not shown to harm students.

Multiple scholars mentioned the need for non cognitive skills in early schooling, and that these skills are predictors for adult success. College graduates all similarly share these skill sets: interact/connect with others, deal with stress, and advocate for themselves. Since the length of time did not show increased achievement, the US education system should be able to find time to incorporate those skills. These skills should especially be emphasized with students who are disadvantaged.

Ultimately, what children need more than anything else, is a home where their parents are engaged and able to provide a safe environment. Families in poverty typically are unable to do that because they constantly in survival mode. If our nation really wants to increase student achievement, we need to focus first on educating and supporting our families who have disadvantages by giving whole family interventions.

Lastly, as a word of caution to parents, I would be careful about getting too tied to any new research claiming a correlation in education. Often times the statistics are not the most accurate and can have very limited results (they cannot be generalized to the entire nation).

As always, I invite comments, questions, and new ideas. 🙂

Research Citations

  1. Barnett, W., & Escobar, C. (1987). The Economics of Early Educational Intervention: A Review. Review of Educational Research,57(4), 387-414. Retrieved from
  2. Christine Leow & Xiaoli Wen (2017) Is Full Day Better Than Half Day? A Propensity Score Analysis of the Association Between Head Start Program Intensity and Children’s School Performance in Kindergarten, Early Education and Development, 28:2, 224-239, DOI: 10.1080/10409289.2016.1208600
  3. Clark, P., Kirk, E., & Burriss, K. G. (2000). Review of research: All-day kindergarten. Childhood Education76(4), 228-231.
  4. Cooper, H., Allen, A. B., Patall, E. A., & Dent, A. L. (2010). Effects of Full-Day Kindergarten on Academic Achievement and Social Development. Review of Educational Research80(1), 34–70.
  5. Datar, A. (2006)
  6. Deming, D., Dynarski, S. (2008) The Lengthening of Childhood. The Journal of Economic Perspectives. 22(3) starting on page 71. Retrieved from
  7. Elicker, J. (2000). Full-Day Kindergarten: Exploring the Research. From Inquiry to Practice. Phi Delta Kappa International, PO Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-0789.
  8. Hildebrand, C. (2001). Effects of three kindergarten schedules on achievement and classroom behavior. Phi Delta Kappa Center for Evaluation, Development, and Research. Research Bulletin, no. 31. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa. 
  9. Jones D., Greenberg, M., Crowley, M. (2015) Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness. AM J Public Health. 105(11). 2283-2290. Retrieved from
  10. Milligan, C. (2012). Full-Day Kindergarten Effects on Later Academic Success. SAGE Open. 
  11. Moore, J., Cooper, B., Rhoades, et al, The Effects of Exposure to an Enhanced Preschool Program on the Social-Emotional Functioning of At-Risk Children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 32 starting on page 37.
  12. Narahara, M. (1998) The Effects of School Entry Age and Gender on Reading and Math Achievement Scores on Second Grade Students. The US Department of Education Educational Resources Information Center.
  13. Shepard, L., & Smith, M. (1988). Escalating Academic Demand in Kindergarten: Counterproductive Policies. The Elementary School Journal,89(2), 135-145. Retrieved from
  14. Suziedelyte, A., Zhu, A. (2015) Does Early Schooling Narrow Outcome Gaps For Advantaged and Disadvantaged Children? Economics of Education Review. 45, 76-88. Retrieved from
  15. Vinovskis, M. (1993). Early Childhood Education: Then and Now. Daedalus,122(1), 151-176. Retrieved from
  16. Northwestern University brief:

Which Is Best To Work For: or Varsity Tutors?

Tutoring can be a fantastic way to bring in extra income, or earn money with a flexible schedule. Even though remote tutoring for English as a second language (or ESL) has become a giant job market (read more about which is best here), there are plenty of companies who provide means for general tutoring to take place.

Previously I have written a lengthy article on several of the top online tutoring companies. I ranked them based on a rubric, and then broke down their scores. If you are interested to know more, you can read that here. However, when “online tutoring” is searched for in google, and Varsity Tutors are the first companies to come up. Since these are the easiest companies to find, I wanted look into these tutoring companies specifically. 

How Did They Score On My Previous Line Up?

Out of 20 points, earned 9 and Varsity Tutors earned 11. After realizing these are both failing scores… it’s easy to feel like these are rather shabby scores. Here are their individual breakdowns: 

Varsity Tutors
Pay: Varisty Tutors pays based on the subject area and expertise. Online tutors reported a range from $15-33 per hour. + 2 points
Flexibility: Varsity Tutors has one of the most flexible platforms for tutors. You can work online, in person, or accept instant tutoring jobs. Teachers also have control over which student they accept. + 3 points
Easily Find Students: Students are matched to teachers, but teachers can reject the assignment if they would like. + 3 points
Reviews: Employees ranked Varsity Tutors with an average of 81% approval. + 3 points (glassdoor ReviewsIndeed Reviews)
Support: There were several sources claiming that it was difficult to work with managers and get help when needed. + 1 point
Hiring Process: Varsity tutors looks at your past experience, conducts and interview, requires a history of academic excellence, and has several mock tutoring sessions before hiring happens. +2 points
Awards: None

Pay: pays $11-13 per hour. +1 point
Flexibility: This company allows teachers to create their own schedule, however, they do not allow more than 3 hours of tutoring in one day. + 2 points
Easily Find Students: Tutors say it’s difficult to be matched with students on this website. +1 point
Reviews: Employees ranked with a 68% approval rating. + 1 point (glassdoor ReviewsIndeed Reviews)
Support: Teachers are given a technology platform to provide easier tutoring experiences. + 3 points
Hiring Process: This company touts that only 3% of screened applicants are actually hired. In addition to interviews and mock tutoring sessions, this company also requires tutors to send in writing samples and pass subject exams. + 1 point
Awards: None

Are There Better Companies To Work For?

Yes. There are definitely better options out there, but these companies are not the worst. They are fairly difficult to get a job with though. If you do not have a lot of expertise in the field you would like to tutor in, I would try a different company.

A newer website you may be interested in trying is TutorOcean. They are basically a large search engine where students can find your profile and begin tutoring with you. This service is free for both teacher and student. A similar company is called TakeLessons.

Why Should I Still Consider Varsity Tutors?

Varsity Tutors has a very interesting feature which allows tutors to log on and accept students instantly. This creates an easy way for consumers to find tutors quickly and as needed, thus generating more income for tutors.

Another obvious reason to pick Varsity Tutors is simply for exposure. If they are always first in google searches, more students are going to be drawn to them as a company. That means more business for you.

Why Should I Still Consider Tutor.Com?

Similar to Varsity, Tutor.Com has a fantastic SE). Anytime someone searches online tutoring, Tutor.Com is naturally going to pop up! That means more students for you. They also provide 24/7 tutoring services.

Since Tutor.Com only operates online, it also has a well developed tutor interface. This means that teaching with online tools is way easier than some websites. Tutor.Com has tools already built in. A nice feature about exclusive online tutoring is that everyone stays anonymous.

Tutor.Com also says they have the best tutors in the industry. That means the type of students attracted could be more mature and consistent. They also market directly to schools and libraries. This also increases the student market and creates more long term students.

Lastly, Tutor.Com has a program that provides free instant tutoring for military families. That’s awesome!

So Which One Is The Best?

In my opinion, Tutor.Com.

Even though their score was technically lower, if you are picking them for market reach, reliability, and ease, Tutor.Com has more. However, I believe the best tutoring company to work for in general is Chegg (which I review in my previous post).

Let me know if you have any tutoring companies that you have loved, or if you disagree with my breakdown. Love to hear more information. 🙂

15 Most Common Teacher New Year Resolutions That Fizzle Out Before February

The Holiday Season is winding down! After a nice long break we (the teaching community) feel a sense of renewal. We’re ready to jump back into learning, put a smile on our face, and deal with the most difficult student in class… or do we?

In my experience, the teaching community is one of the most likely profession to forget how terribly stressed they really were before a break! It’s similar to parenting. Once your first child reaches a certain point, you slowly forget how difficult pregnancy was… or how tired you were with an infant… it can’t really be all that hard, right? So we try it again!

Anyways, this list is not meant to cause additional negativity, rather it was meant to bring a few laughs. Hopefully we can find some camaraderie in the struggles of teaching, and then try our best to set some realistic goals this year.

So, without further ado…

The Resolutions

1. Have all lessons prepped and turned in on time.

2. Be on time.

3. Leave work at school.

3. Eat Less Sweets

4. Complete grading before report cards are due.

5. Get enough sleep.

6. Stop complaining about irritating coworkers.

7. Keep desk organized.

8. Remove sarcasm from workplace conversation.

9. Stop using treats as the default behavior reinforcement.

10. Keep a positive attitude through staff meetings.

11. Keep bulletin boards up to date with new student work and decorations.

(Luckily that old dried out wreath can work for Halloween next school year… right?)

12. End indoor recess on time.

13. Meal plan and bring a healthy lunch to school everyday.

14. While we’re doing that healthy eating, stop driving like an Indie 500 racer to leave, get fast food, and be back at school in under 15 minutes.

15. Empty teacher mailbox each day.

Keep up the great work and remember you’re doing a great work!

Happy New Years!

The Ultimate Teacher Gift List

I know there’s a million of these posts floating around. However, I have yet to find one that really boils down to the most wanted ideas. I also don’t typically post every week, but the count down to Christmas is winding down!

Monetary Gifts

Every year teachers across the United States have to figure out how they are going to receive enough supplies for their classroom. Instead of wasting gift money on a homemade treat (teachers may not feel comfortable eating), or a nicknack for their desk, think about putting that money towards something the classroom will actually use!

  1. Cleaning Supplies (Clorox wipes are pure gold)
  2. Dry Erase Markers
  3. A gift card to a food place that delivers to the school (Dominos, Uber Eats, Jimmy Johns, Panera).
  4. Pencils and Pens
  5. Gift card to Target, Walmart, Amazon, or office supply store
  6. Non scented hand lotion
  7. Tissues and/or Paper Towels
  8. White Copy Paper
  9. If they have their own printer: ink for their printer
  10. Ask if they need a set of classroom books or if they need a few new copies of a class set.
  11. Money towards a future field trip
  12. A small appliance such as a microwave or a coffee maker. (Check with the teacher though. Some schools do not allow these items in the classroom. However, they may need another one in the teacher’s lounge.)
  13. Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card
  14. Ask the teacher what supplies they are in need of and buy them.

Non Monetary Gifts

Many families forget that gifts do not always need to come from a store. Sometimes the most meaningful gifts are extra help in the classroom. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher about what they actually need!

  1. A letter of thanks. Seriously guys, these really lift teacher’s spirits.
  2. Offer to make copies 
  3. Help finish a project or decorate a bulletin board
  4. Deep clean the classroom
  5. If the school is okay with it, take a grading key and help grade some tests
  6. Help organize the classroom before the Christmas break
  7. Volunteer to pick up some lunch duties so that the teachers can have a break
  8. Offer to come and help with arrival or dismissal in the school (Make sure you are approved by the school to volunteer. Many schools require you to have a background check.)

Hopefully this helps you get started with ideas for your teachers! Happy Holidays! 

How Does The ESL Company 51Talk Compare To DaDa, QKids, VIPKID, and SayABC?

Chinese based ESL Companies are huge. They are an easy way to make extra money in your own home. There are several large companies, and most of them own one or two smaller sister companies.

In my previous article entitled, “Which Online ESL Company Is Best, VIPKID, QKids, SayABC, or DaDa?,” I reviewed and ranked each of the companies based on a set of criteria. Another large company to consider is The China Online Education Group. This company owns the two platforms 51Talk and HAWO. 51Talk is their specific brand name for private instruction, while HAWO offers 45-minute group classes. 

Here was my previous line up:

  1. DaDa
  2. QKids
  3. VIPKid
  4. SayABC

As a reminder, here is how I determined the past rankings: 

“In this article I focused on the 4 largest and most widely known companies that pair teacher’s with children. To assess them I created a ranking system based on their pay, ease of booking students, hiring process, and company reviews. Since all of these companies come with some type of curriculum (that means minimal prep work), I did not include that in the scoring process.” 

So… how does 51Talk and HAWO stack up? 

For this second review, I am simply going to add 51Talk/HAWO into the line up. If you wish to see the break down of the other four companies, please refer to my previous article. 

Since HAWO and their group classes are somewhat new, reviews on the HAWO work environment are difficult to find. Below I will only rate 51Talk since they share the same resources and technology as HAWO. 51Talk is compared to the same companies in my previous post: VIPKid, DaDa, QKids, and SayABC.


  • Pay – $15-$22 per hour (2 lessons per hour): This is actually not a bad pay scale and ties 51Talk with VIPKIDS. Employees mention that they have halted pay increases at this time, but the HAWO LinkedIn website still mentions bonuses. 
  • Booking – One-on-one is similar to VIPKIDS (you set your availability monthly and then students pick you). However HAWO has the group classes scheduled. The employee can pick various scheduled classes. The classes run up to 10 weeks at a time. : Compared to the other companies, their set up is the same as VIPKIDS. This set up relies heavily on students and parents choosing you consistently. 51Talk also charges large penalties if a teachers misses a class (most of the time much larger than the class would actually pay out).
  • Reviews – Average review of 3.0/5: 51Talk had pretty low reviews across Indeed, Glassdoor, and Facebook. Unfortunately this average score is the lowest of the five ESL companies.
  • Hiring – 47% positive interviews: This is score is not quite as bad as SayABC’s hiring process. Keep in mind however, that many employees expressed concerns of lack of communication from management, poor teaching materials, and poor training on how to even use the technology. 

In conclusion, DaDa is still the reigning champion for ESL remote tutoring companies. Unfortunately for 51Talk, their poor reviews and problems expressed by employees, place them in last place. 

When comparing the best part time ESL company, I still endorse DaDa or Qkids as the leaders in the industry. 

Similarities Between Parenting And Teaching: The Reward Is Worth It

If you have been reading some of my educational research, you may have noticed a short pause in new material. A new addition to our family created a shortage of time! However, after a 6 week maternity break, I am ready to get back in the saddle… the writing and research saddle, that is.


Moving from one child to two children has been consuming. There are absolute highs when I can’t believe how much I love these two crazy girls, and there are lows when I am not sure I am fit to mother anything (much less a child). And I hear that this occurs with just about every parent out there. Even with these ups and downs, there are still millions of brave parents out there willing to wade through the rough times to get those infrequent high times.

As I thought about that, I realized that this is also true of teaching. Teachers have a lot of crap to wade through. We wake up early, stay up late, work until the job is done, get paid pennies on the dollar, deal with never ending teaching policy, irritable/bored/angry/sick students, deal with politics of teaching, never ending demands from parents, and more! And just like parents, teachers keep coming back for more hardships.

So what is the reward? Why do we do this to ourselves? What is so rewarding that we take these rough times willingly and under paid?

I don’t know if I have a complete answer to these questions. But I do know that the reward of connecting with and helping the next generation brings a joy and fulfillment that is not found in other places. The hope that maybe our efforts will be paid forward and created into something better, is a driving force. I would even say that hope is addicting to those who cultivate it.

Too often we see children and students who aren’t successful. There are few things as painful as seeing a child we work with and love not meet their potential. I have felt that pain myself, and know personally that in those moments our hope for impact is crushed. It can weigh us down. But I also know that as we feel those pains fully and then focus on those who we can impact currently, we will feel hope again. Looking for the small changes we have helped children achieve can help us find the joyful reward again.

So to parents and teachers out there, keep on hoping and working for the better. Your work matters. And then after all of our work, hopefully the rising generation will be more than we can comprehend today. Don’t give up on the hard days. The reward is worth it.

Which Online And Remote Tutoring Company Is Best To Work For?

Online tutoring is a major business! The options for remote tutoring work are overwhelmingly large. Not only are there several options specifically for learning languages or English (check out my post about the best ESL tutoring company), but there are also very specific online tutoring positions that can be found through universities and companies that specialize in test prep (i.e. Kaplan).

What I am going to focus on in this article, are companies that hire teachers/tutors for a wide range of academic skills, needs, and ages. I also focused on the companies with the most accessible websites and ease to apply. (If you can’t find them, how will parents?)

Two tutoring companies that are worth mentioning, but are not ranked, are and Aristotle Circle. Special Ed Tutoring specifically tailors it’s need to students that have unique needs, and Aristotle Circle is a peer to peer tutoring service.


The rankings are as data driven as possible. To do that, a rubric based on 6 criteria was used. These criteria are: pay, flexibility for teachers, advertisement or ease at which tutors are paired with students, reviews from tutors, how support is given, and how hard it is to be hired within the company (NOTE: this is somewhat subjective because some people may want to work for a company with more rigorous standards.) The company was also given 3 bonus points if they had won any awards as a company.

Points were awarded based a rubric of 1-3. A total of 18 points could be earned by any company, plus the additional 3 bonus points for awards. The rubric goes as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 5.17.44 PM

The Quick Results (out of 21 possible points)

InstaEdu or Chegg Tutors (same company): 20
PrepNow or StudyPoint: 17
Club Z!: 17
TutorMe: 15
Elevate K12: 14
TakeLessons: 14
Pearson Smart Thinking: 13
Skooli: 12
Varsity Tutors: 11
Brainfuse: 11 9
MindLaunch: 8


Extra Considerations

While the overall score may be the best company to tutor with, different companies offer various options that might be more attractive. Take a look at these specific area winners as you consider which company is the best fit for you!

Most extensive curriculum for tutors to use: Club Z!
Most control over income: TakeLessons
Best employee reviews: Club Z!
Highest qualified tutors: Skooli
Most awards won: TutorMe
Highest consumer ratings: TutorMe
Offers tutoring services during the normal work day (9 AM – 5 PM): Elevate K12


The Comprehensive Results

InstaEdu or Chegg Tutors

  • Pay: Chegg Tutors pays $20 per hour AND allows tutors to calculate time spent interacting with the student outside of sessions. This awarded them 3 points in this area.
  • Flexibility: Tutors can set their own hours and rates. + 3 points
  • Easily Find Students: Chegg Tutors has type of search engine that allows parents to find tutors, and allows tutors to reach out to potential students. + 3 points
  • Reviews: With some of the highest employee reviews in the industry, Chegg gets an average of 81% approval. + 3 points (glassdoor Reviews, Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: Several complaints of limited support via phone drops this company down a point. + 2 points
  • Hiring Process: Chegg does conduct brief interviews and screenings, but it’s easy to sign up and get on their search engine. + 3 points
  • Awards: Best Place To Work Award from Glassdoor 2015 + 3 points

TOTAL POINTS: 20 points

Club Z!

  • Pay: Club Z! had a large array of hourly pay and was shown to pay $15-28 per hour. This was based on experience and subject taught. + 2 points
  • Flexibility: Tutors can set their own hours but are expected to do some outside work. One of these responsibilities is to create a monthly report. However, this company has both online tutoring and in person locations around the nation. + 3 points
  • Easily Find Students: The company matches tutors and students, and had minimal complaints about the amount of work. + 3 points
  • Reviews: Club Z! easily beat out the competition with an 89% approval rating from employees.  + 3 points  (glassdoor ReviewsIndeed ReviewsFacebook Reviews)
  • BestSupport: Club Z! provides training and a full curriculum for tutors to use (cutting down on prep time!). There were several complaints of difficulties contacting management. + 2 points
  • Hiring Process: Employees report that it’s difficult to get a job with Club Z!. + 1 point
  • Awards: Best Company Reviews voted Club Z!’s curriculum the best in the industry. + 3 points


PrepNow or StudyPoint (parent company)

  • Pay: PrepNow pays $20-$26 per hour and increases for tutors who are teaching higher education students (i.e. GRE prep). + 3 points
  • Flexibility: Once paired with a student, tutors can set their own hours. However they are required to work at least 6 hours a week, and must be available to work evenings and weekends. + 2 points
  • Easily Find Students: StudyPoint pairs you with a student who needs your exact expertise. There were minimal complaints about the amount of work. +3 points
  • Reviews: Employees gave this company an average 78% approval rating. Complaints ranged from teaching materials changing frequently to poor management. +2 points (glassdoor Reviews, Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: This company is open about the training it provides, responded to almost every negative response on Glassdoor, and works to pair tutors and students long term. +3 points
  • Hiring Process: PrepNow does require much more rigorous expectations. To be considered you must have a 4 year degree, and at least a 28 ACT or 650 SAT score. + 1 point
  • Awards: Inc 5000 list for the 7th straight year + 3 points



  • Pay: TutorMe pays it’s tutors a rang from $17-21 per hour. +2 points
  • Flexibility: Tutors are given the opportunity to set their own hours and schedule. +3 points
  • Easily Find Students: In addition to scheduled tutoring, this service allows parents and students to find a tutor immediately. This means that if tutors want the extra work, they have to be sitting and on-call for a student to ask for help. +2 points
  • Reviews: TutorMe received an 86% approval rating but was only found on glassdoor. +3 points (glassdoor review)
  • Support: There were several reviews that said the company had minimal support and was hard to reach. However they did provide materials and technology to help the tutoring process go smoothly. +2 points
  • Hiring Process: I was unable to find any information on tutor expectations or difficulty of getting a job online. I couldn’t give them any points in this area. + 0 points
  • Awards: TutorMe has tons of consumer reviews that rank it very highly. Parents have loved TutorMe. It was ranked as a Top Ten Company and has a BBB A+ rating. +3 points



Elevate K12

  • Pay: Elevate K12 pays its tutors $12-16 per hour. + 1 point
  • Flexibility: Tutors can set their own hours but are required to use weekdays from 9 – 5 PM. Typically tutors are asked to complete group instruction. Elevate K12 works directly with school districts to help struggling students. +1 Point
  • Easily Find Students: If you are hired, there is not a shortage of jobs. You will be placed directly with a school and group that stays consistent. + 3 points
  • Reviews: Elevate K12 had an average of 83% approval from employees. + 3 points  (Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: Elevate K12 gives training, support materials, and continued feedback to help tutors reach their students. + 3 points
  • Hiring Process: Tutors are expected to have an interview, have previous experience, and will need to preform a mock tutoring session before they are given the job. + 3 points
  • Awards: None



  • Pay: Teachers and tutors are considered freelance workers through the website. That means they can pick their own hours and rate per hour. However, TakeLessons takes 40% of hourly rate for the first five lessons, then 30% for the next 5 lessons, and so on until they reach only 10% off the top. In comparison to some payment options, this is definitely puts the most control on the tutor. + 3 points
  • Flexibility: Tutors can work, cancel, create their own policies whenever they like. Tutors can also tutor in whatever subject area they are interested in. One tutor provides classes in quilting. Tutors are not allowed to accept a student privately if they started on the TakeLessons website. + 3 points
  • Easily Find Students: Students review TakeLesson’s data base and then choose a tutor they like. It takes some time to be ranked higher in their searches, and there’s no guarantee that parents will ever pick you. + 2 points
  • Reviews: TakeLessons has a slightly lower employee satisfaction rate of 71%. + 2 points (glassdoor Reviews, Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: There are several reviews and complaints that when things are wrong, the company is very difficult to get a hold of.  + 1 point
  • Hiring Process: Tutors can sign up and post their credentials at any point. Since it’s freelance, anyone can hop on. + 3 points
  • A wards: None


Pearson Smart Thinking

  • Pay: Pearson has several tutoring programs, but program directly with the brand Pearson pays $12 per hour. (they also hire tutors to work with online schools, etc.) + 1 point
  • Flexibility: Tutors are allowed to set their own hours for availability. + 3 points
  • Easily Find Students: Tutors are hired for a specific subject area and then are placed with students. + 3 points
  • Reviews: Employees gave this tutoring service an average approval of 61%. + 1 point (glassdoor Reviews, Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: Pearson gives lots of training and feedback (however several people complained that there was too much micromanaging for the small amount of pay) + 3 points
  • Hiring Process: This company requires a lot of teaching experience and an advanced degree. (which is surprising if they are only paying $12 per hour). + 2 points
  • Awards: None


Skooli *I found very little information about this company*

  • Pay: I am a bit unsure of the tutoring payment, but I believe they pay $25 an hour. + 3 points
  • Flexibility: Tutors can pick their own availability. +3 points
  • Easily Find Students: Tutors and students are matched online. No complaints found online. +3 points
  • Reviews: While employee reviews were not available, consumer reviews ranked this company with a 3.7/5 and Facebook Reviews were a 4.5/5. +1 point
  • Support: Not sure about what type of support is given to tutors. + 0 points
  • Hiring Process: Could not find any actual data on the hiring process or employee expectations, but it was awarded most qualified tutors by + 1 point
  • Awards: Most qualified tutors from +3 points


Varsity Tutors

  • Pay: Varisty Tutors pays based on the subject area and expertise. Online tutors reported a range from $15-33 per hour. + 2 points
  • Flexibility: Varsity Tutors has one of the most flexible platforms for tutors. You can work online, in person, or accept instant tutoring jobs. Teachers also have control over which student they accept. + 3 points
  • Easily Find Students: Students are matched to teachers, but teachers can reject the assignment if they would like. + 3 points
  • Reviews: Employees ranked Varsity Tutors with an average of 81% approval. + 3 points (glassdoor Reviews, Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: There were several sources claiming that it was difficult to work with managers and get help when needed. + 1 point
  • Hiring Process: Varsity tutors looks at your past experience, conducts and interview, requires a history of academic excellence, and has several mock tutoring sessions before hiring happens. +2 points
  • Awards: None



  • Pay: Brainfuse employees report being paid $11-17 per hour. However if a student books you and does not show up, you are still paid. + 2 points
  • Flexibility: Tutors can create their own hours and have the option of scheduled tutoring sessions or instant tutoring. + 3 points
  • Easily Find Students: Students are matched internally to teachers. + 3 points
  • Reviews: An average, employees rank this company with a 55% approval rating (which is the lowest on this list). + 1 point (glassdoor Reviews, Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: There are multiple complaints of poor communication and student-tutor matches. + 1 point
  • Hiring Process: The Brainfuse website does not have a way to directly apply. It takes you to an email address where you can submit your resume. + 1 point
  • Awards: None



  • Pay: pays $11-13 per hour. +1 point
  • Flexibility: This company allows teachers to create their own schedule, however, they do not allow more than 3 hours of tutoring in one day. + 2 points
  • Easily Find Students: Tutors say it’s difficult to be matched with students on this website. +1 point
  • Reviews: Employees ranked with a 68% approval rating. + 1 point (glassdoor Reviews, Indeed Reviews)
  • Support: Teachers are given a technology platform to provide easier tutoring experiences. + 3 points
  • Hiring Process: This company touts that only 3% of screened applicants are actually hired. In addition to interviews and mock tutoring sessions, this company also requires tutors to send in writing samples and pass subject exams. + 1 point
  • Awards: None


Mind Launch

  • Pay: I was unable to find any data on employee pay, but parents pay $99 for a 50 minute session. + 0 points
  • Flexibility: There is the ability to schedule as needed with students. + 2 points
  • Easily Find Students: This company is specifically marketing to students who want long term tutoring. This makes for a stable environment for tutors. + 3 points
  • Reviews: I was unable to find any employee reviews. + 0 points
  • Support: There is some support to match students and then keep them enrolled for long term, but there was limited information on what that looked like. + 1 point
  • Hiring Process: Company states that tutors have a 10 hour interview process and an active teaching certificate. + 1 point
  • Awards: None




Hopefully this list of tutoring companies helps narrow down your search for a great company to work for! Let me know if I missed any companies or you have any questions!