What is a learning pod?
A learning pod is a small number of families grouped together—often geographically proximate and with existing relationships (schoolmates, neighbors, scouts, little league, show choir, church, etc.)—to share in learning support, costs, enrichment and social experiences.
Why would I want to start one?
Many school districts are offering virtual only or hybrid instruction during the pandemic and there is significant uncertainty about the future of how students will be attending school. Polls also show many parents would prefer waiting until school reopenings can be more streamlined or until a vaccine is discovered. Numerous families are now exploring learning pods as a safe option, fearing learning loss and wanting socialization and in-person teaching for their children.
How will it help my child?
Learning pods offer children a structured, social learning environment, while also allowing teachers and children to stay safe by keeping interaction with others to a minimum. In addition, forming a learning pod will allow working parents to trust their children are completing their coursework without direct parental supervision.
How do you set up/join a learning pod/what will you need?
First, you need to decide whether you want to join a pre-existing learning pod or create your own. If you would rather join an existing pod, you can find one through Facebook searches or a neighborhood listserv, such as Nextdoor. You might also want to check out the Pandemic Pods Facebook group for useful information about finding a learning pod that will be appropriate for your family. If you choose to start your own learning pod, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:
How much will my learning pod cost? Can I join one through my school?
Pods range from $30 to $100 per hour – sometimes more. For example, a pod of four preschool-aged children runs about $2,100 per child for one semester. The cost of your learning pod will depend on such things at the teacher hired, materials used and location of the pod.
If you find that you can’t afford starting or attending a learning pod or it’s simply not in your budget at the moment, many districts and states are recognizing that pods are a great way to keep kids safe and maintain learning and are providing resources or infrastructure to make them happen at no cost or provide resources for you to make arrangements.
If that isn’t the case in your state or district, do not hesitate to be an advocate for your child. Policymakers need to be flexible so that every child is in an environment where they can thrive and there is no one size fits all answer to education. Parent advocacy is what we do. Please email us or visit our website so we can help.
- What will my learning pod look like?
- How many children will be in your pod?
- Are you a single household or a “pod” of multiple households?
- What is your desired format (hybrid, in-person, virtual)?
- How long are you thinking about having a pod?
- The start of the year? The whole year? A full-time replacement for school or a part-time supplement to what a district or local school offers?
- How many hours a day will your children be spending at their learning pods? Some parents are choosing an 8-hour option, while other parents are choosing a 4-hour option.
- What does your child need?
- What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses? Would you like a teacher to work on one specific thing or a wide range of things with your child?
- Do you want the teacher to design a curriculum, do you have one already, or has one been provided to you?
- How will you handle special education or learning disability needs?
- How do I find a teacher?
- Sites like Learning Pods, Selected for Families: Learning Pods and Private Teachers and Varsity Tutors, to name a few. PrendaSchool.com can also help you find or become a “guide” for a local pod or your own pod.
- The Pandemic Pods Facebook Group, which was mentioned briefly above, is a hub for parents looking to form and gain more information about learning pods. In addition to this main chapter, there are local Facebook groups for particular cities and counties.
- Safety, Insurance, Taxes
- How will you conduct background and sex offender checks for your teacher? Some teacher matching services will do this for you.
- Have you done research on insurance and taxes for your teacher?
How do I keep my family safe while we participate in a learning pod?
It is recommended that families avoid socializing with people outside of their learning pod – if it must be done, wear masks and practice socially distancing. It also might be beneficial to discuss with other families within your pod rules and guidelines to keep each other safe – will there be mandates about wearing masks? Will families within the pod be tested regularly? What will you do if someone tests positive?
Where should I hold my learning pod?
The answer to this question partly depends on where you live. If you live someplace warm and dry, you might want to consider holding your learning pod outside – in someone’s backyard or at a park, for example. If you live someplace where the weather might not be conducive to holding your pod outdoors, your best option will be to find an indoor location with adequate ventilation and the ability for students and teachers to space out during lessons, when necessary. Many non-profits and community centers are making their spaces available. School districts facilitating pods are making physical space available as well.