Let me introduce myself, I’m Josh Goodkin, founder of Homework Helpers – a tutoring and test preparation center in New Jersey that offers personalized education solutions for students of all ages. At just 24 years old, I left the corporate world to open my tutoring center in my hometown of Long Valley, NJ. In just 10 years, we have quickly expanded the business’s footprint globally, and now have 40 tutors on staff who work with more than 250 students, mostly in Morris, Warren, Hunterdon, Somerset and Sussex counties. Most recently, with the transition to virtual sessions, we now have clients in India, Morocco, Canada and nine states!
I’m very proud of our resilience and the quickness we turned an in-person tutoring company into an international tutoring company serving students with the same quality and attention we were known for pre-COVID-19. Our entire staff deserves the credit as they quickly learned how to effectively tutor virtually. I’m also so proud of the community I grew up in and the community we are located in.
My story dates back to my childhood in a few key ways. As a kid, my sisters and I grew up working with tutors for help with our homework, and for me personally – math. These educators were so pivotal in my life, so much so that they were considered part of the family. They came over a few times a week to help us learn and grow, and even stayed for dinner. Funny enough, at my Bat Mitzvah, there was a whole table reserved just for tutors! In being exposed to tutors at a young age, I quickly recognized how tutoring could be such an instrumental tool in helping kids not only get by in school, but flourish.
As I got older, I worked summers as a camp counselor and babysitter. In doing so, I recognized how much I loved helping kids, and decided to go to college to become a pediatrician. Unfortunately, despite the tutoring I had received myself, math was still not my strong suit! So, I chose to take a step back and re-evaluate, and in doing so, I realized that there was another way I could work with kids and help them reach their fullest potential, and that was by creating a company that mirrored my own tutoring experiences growing up.
Homework Helpers was born in 2011, on the premise that tutoring is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Every student has a unique set of needs and learns differently – and our services help them reach their goals in more personalized ways, regardless of grade, subject or ability.
Our goal is to give teachers a place to share their passion for teaching and helping students achieve success. We are a business that welcomes all students, and we serve each with kindness, respect and the idea that every student is unique and therefore requires an approach customized to them. At Homework Helpers, we strive to boost grades while providing students with the confidence to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
We are a local business to our roots, with many tutors’ alumni of the local schools or living in Long Valley and its surrounding towns. In fact, many on our staff often have had the same teachers as some of the students they currently work with. In addition, we sponsor and support our local sports leagues, boy/girl scouts, local school theaters, churches, dance/cheerleading squads and more. We love our community and want to support them as much as they have supported us.
Unlike other tutoring centers, the sessions offered at Homework Helpers are 100% customizable. This means that parents can build their own packages, and our tutors create personalized sessions for each student based on their learning needs – from ABCs to SATs. We’re constantly creating, collaborating and discussing new ways that we can keep students motivated and learning to the best of their abilities. Examples include a prizing system where students in grades K-8 can earn tickets for working hard, and these can eventually be turned in for prizes of different values – ranging from small stuffed animals to larger toys and gift cards. Students in our SAT and ACT programs can also enter our quarterly contests, where winners of certain categories can walk away with TVs, laptops and more great things.
We believe that we’re not just a facility to feed the mind, but also the stomach. Students often come to us after school where they haven’t eaten anything since lunchtime, so we offer daily pizza for everyone and bagels on weekends, a full snack bar stocked with all the foods that kids love – and so much more.
Overall, we don’t want kids to view tutoring as painful or something they dread doing. We’re here to help them in whichever way they need, and that means offering them a comfortable experience where they’ll feel encouraged to reach their fullest potential.
Currently, our focus is on preventing the “COVID Slide.” Every summer, we see people comment on the “Summer Slide” – an 8-week period of time where it’s been shown that many students lose some of the learnings they’ve gained over the school year. Now, COVID-19 has added a new element of concern for many
Families and educators worry how the absence of traditional school settings and summer learning programs will impact students in the fall and the long term. We’re working on creating programs to help kids “brush off the rust,” regain better study habits, refresh skills that may have fallen off during this time, and to give them the confidence and skills they need to be successful in the fall – whether it be virtually, or in-person.
Sample programs include a Math Transition class for kids who are graduating 8th grade and entering high school, helping them understand how to handle the rigors of a new school and different levels of expectations. We’re also offering a new Debate Club to help students stay ahead of current events and learn how to formulate opinions based on research, and even a Home Economics session to teach kids everything from how to write a check to how to do laundry – things that may not be taught in school, but are pivotal for them in terms of life skills. All of these programs are accessible to kids online, and our hope is to bring them back in-person in smaller group settings during the month of July as New Jersey continues to re-open. In addition, We are focused on creating lawn signs for everyone local senior to display their name and the college they are committed to attending. We want to give all seniors the proper recognition they deserve and might not be getting during these abnormal times.
The hit of COVID-19 has certainly been the most interesting time for us as a company, as I’m sure many business owners can relate. When the pandemic first hit New Jersey, students were in the midst of wrapping up their school years, which meant preparing for finals, studying for the SATs and ACTs, and for many high schoolers, determining their college plans. COVID-19 put much of this on hold, and truthfully - stopped our business in its tracks. We were forced to close our doors, and sit down to re-evaluate how we could keep students motivated and learning from the comforts of their homes. From there, we created our first-ever virtual tutoring model – which allowed tutors to continue working with students via video conferencing.
Beyond that, we quickly saw that learning at home is not easy for many kids – and especially can be tough for their parents, who are worried about keeping them engaged. With that in mind, we launched Homework Helpers Happenings – a series of free education workshops each week that help kids get ahead, and stay ahead in their learning. This includes sessions like COVID & College, a weekly Q&A session with a professional college advisor who teaches the ins and outs of college applications, and even daily Story Time for younger kids – where our tutors dress up in fun costumes and read popular children’s books aloud. The best part is that just like our virtual tutoring options, these workshops are accessible to students worldwide – so no matter where you live or what you’re learning, there’s a great session available for you that you can easily tune into.
If there is a silver lining in all of this or a lesson to be learned, it’s that when things are going well it’s hard to step back and recognize areas for growth or improvement. COVID-19, while uncertain and unsettling, gave us a much-needed wake-up call. I was forced to take a moment to become more retrospective and re-evaluate the ways and means that I can further grow my business and expand my services with the goal of helping as many students as possible. I’ve realized that it’s important to think of obstacles as opportunities to get creative. For us, this allowed our company to become even stronger, impact more and ultimately, become even more successful than we were before.