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What Is Pod Learning? Parents Search for a Solution to School Year 2020-21

Back in pre-pandemic life, brick-and-mortar and online education were two of the predominantly known forms of education opportunities. We may have taken school choice for granted in the past, but now we’re being forced to take a closer look at our options.

Now, parents across the United States are searching for solutions to protect their families, work in an irregular environment, and, ultimately, accommodate their children’s education.

There is no consensus on what’s right when it comes to school. Some folks don’t feel safe; others do.

I pulled my three-year-old-daughter from her day-care center on March 17, 2020, as a safety precaution. I still wanted her to have social interaction and in-person instruction. She did not have the attention span required for learning, as her virtual dance classes would attest. And as a working mother with a two-month-old daughter and a husband whose essential job requires him to work outside of the home, I did not feel that I could adequately provide her with the preparation, stimulation, and attention she needed.

I have placed my daughter in a learning pod and want to share my experience. I paid close attention to safety measures and learning techniques. But, bear in mind, my experience is just a snapshot of learning pod options.

What Is a “Learning Pod”?

Learning pod is a term used to describe a small group of students (typically 3 to 10 children) who learn together in-person. Beyond that, the details can vary. A learning pod could be hosted by a tutor who teaches the specific school curriculum or a group of parents who share the teaching responsibilities.

Learning pods have also been referred to as “pandemic pods,” micro-schools, or nano-schools.

Our learning pod is more of a homeschool co-op with a purchased curriculum set by the host. They have a basement used as a dedicated learning space and a teacher who has a degree in elementary education.

Learning Pod Benefits

The most obvious benefit of a learning pod is that it limits a family’s exposure to COVID-19. With this teaching method, there is a consensus among families as to the CDC guidelines they will abide by, and they communicate all travel and respectfully limit interaction with friends and family who are not directly associated with the pod.

Essentially, it is a space for learning to commence while all other activities remain limited.

It also allows us to see how our child reacts to a more individualized learning approach. She was accustomed to a classroom of 18 children and is now one of two students. Her teacher can hone in on her strengths, work on developing areas of weakness, and truly connect on a deeper level due to the environment’s intimate nature.

Learning Pod Risks

As with all activities, the learning pod becomes more of a risk with the more kids in attendance. Each teacher and family could potentially create exposure to dozens of people.

Given the limited risk, learning pod participation can be costly. Pod rates can range from $30 an hour to $100 or more. Because of this, they may exacerbate inequalities between those who have the time and resources to identify pods or hire private tutors and those who can’t.

Keep in mind that existing Facebook groups and neighborhood listservs share information frequently. There is also a start-up called Learning Pods, which connects groups with trained instructors.

I discovered our daughter’s learning pod on our neighborhood Facebook page, and, ironically, it is slightly cheaper ($39/week) than what we were previously paying at the child care center.

The Future of Learning Pods

Learning pods are a great solution for these unprecedented times, but it’s still far from the traditional school settings that have dominated the infrastructure for so long.

In the future, though, it’s possible that this type of learning will become more common, possibly even replacing large classroom settings altogether.

As each state opens in phases, we will ultimately see the increase and/or decline of the coronavirus. Only time will tell what the future holds for the future of education.

Overall, our daughter is flourishing! She is excited to learn. She has a teacher who supports and facilitates a stimulating environment. And, she is collaborating with another student her age.

If you think your student would learn well in a less traditional classroom setting, consider a virtual school. Students participating in a K12-powered public school receive a high-quality, personalized education experience online. Your child would learn from home or anywhere they have an internet connection via online lessons, interactive activities, and virtual classroom sessions. Visit K12.com to learn more and find a school in your area.

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Brittany Marklin

Brittany Marklin

Brittany Marklin is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff and a community manager for K12. She coordinates all K12 student contests and connects with families who pursue online education. She attended George Mason University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing, with a minor in tourism and events management. Brittany spent her first five years at K12 on the social media team where she aided with content and strategy for multiple channels, and helped construct K12’s user-generated content site, “What’s Your Story?” When she’s not working, Brittany loves spending time with her husband and daughter in North Carolina.

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