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Homeschool Learning Pods

 

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Today, every family is facing a new reality. Schools across the country are turning to virtual learning, companies are going remote and children are spending most, if not all, their day at home. For many, adjusting to this new reality can be a challenge. There are a number of concerns and questions that come with virtual learning, such as: “How do working parents juggle their job and assist their children with virtual learning? Will their child’s social skills suffer from a lack of in-person human interaction? What happens if a child doesn’t understand the material and the parents don’t know how to help them?”

At TeacherCare, we want to help ease the anxiety that so many families are facing. That’s why we are consulting with some of our country’s most innovative parents and teachers so that we can best navigate today’s most challenging issues for our kids while discovering new opportunities for learning that will bring the whole family joy. There’s never been a more important time to TeacherCare.

What are Homeschool Learning Pods?

During this time when virtual learning is so common, Learning Pods, or “Pandemic Pods” have become a popular choice for many families. A Learning Pod is a small group of students that meets in-person with a tutor or teacher in order to receive in-person instruction or get help with school work. The allure of Learning Pods is that it can help recreate the educational environment that allows children to learn and socialize while presenting far fewer health risks or safety concerns. Plus, the smaller student-to-teacher ratio allows for more opportunities for personalization and individualized instruction. 

How are learning pods structured?

When it comes to the structure of a Learning Pod, families have two distinct options: They can choose to do a Self-Directed Pod or a Learning Support Pod. The more common choice amongst families is the Learning Support model, which utilizes the curriculum provided by their child’s school while the tutor/teacher provides assistance, supervision, and feedback as the students are learning. Our TeacherCaregivers are an excellent fit for this role as they are educated in child-related fields, including infant programs, Montessori, child psychology, special needs, and gifted education. 

Self Directed Pods, on the other hand, are for families who have chosen to withdraw their children from their existing traditional school. Therefore, members of the Self Directed Pod are responsible for selecting and providing the materials, lessons, and curriculum. 

Most Learning Pods utilize the curriculum provided by their child’s school while the tutor/teacher provides assistance, supervision, and feedback as the students are learning. Our TeacherCaregivers are an excellent fit for this role as they are educated in child-related fields, including infant programs, Montessori, child psychology, special needs, and gifted education. Learning Pods can help recreate the educational environment that allows children to learn and socialize, and it presents far fewer health and safety concerns. Plus, the smaller student-to-teacher ratio allows for more opportunities for personalization and individualized instruction. 

What to consider when choosing pod mates

One of the most important considerations when building a learning pod is determining which people will be in your pod. Most pods are typically comprised of two to four families, with the notion that fewer people present fewer health risks. It is important that you choose pod-members who share the same goals and safety expectations. It is important to have a discussion with all potential pod members prior to starting to ensure everyone has the same expectations in terms of learning and safety. Some questions you might ask are:

  • What is your comfort level with families in your pod interacting with others outside of their immediate family?  
  • Who will host the learning pod or be the leader of the pod?
  • What will the daily schooling schedule look like?
  • What will the learning space look like?
  • What is the preferred number of people you are comfortable having in the pod?
  • What are the expectations for masks while learning or interacting with others within the pod?
  • Will you require a formal agreement amongst pod members? 

3 Things to Know About Hiring a Pod Teacher

  1. Hiring a pod teacher is an excellent solution for working parents who cannot commit to educating or supervising their child’s learning pod.
  2. When looking for a pod teacher, make sure to look for someone who specializes or has experience in your child’s grade-level or content area.
  3. If needed, make sure your teacher is also willing to perform other tasks outside of their content area, such as preparing meals and providing additional enrichment activities.

When it comes to teachers, one size does not fit all. If your child is in early elementary school and you can only get one specialty tutor, consider a trained reading specialist. Dr. Jenny Pieratt says, “starting in third grade, much of the academic content (science, math, etc.) is accessed through reading and writing, so literacy is a good investment.

 3 Things to Know about Running a Parent-led Pod

  1.  This is a cost-effective option for parents who have the skills, time, and desire to engage in their child’s education.

Using the school’s provided lessons and curriculum can eliminate the expenses of costly curriculum packages or resources from online providers. Being a Parent Pod Teacher will also give parents a firsthand look into what their child is learning and doing each day during school. This will save parents from those dinner-time interrogations when they’re begging for just a little insight about what their child has been up to. For parent help, Marcia Ward-Mitchell, mother of Kimana, a seventh-grader, recommends signing up for the virtual seminars from the United Federation of Teachers. “It has so much information for parents in different programs, academic and extracurricular.”

    2.  Communication is key

Most parents aren’t educators, so it’s important they communicate with their child’s school or the organization that is providing the curriculum. It’s best to collaborate with the children’s teachers wherever possible.

    3.  Providing routine and structure sets students up for success.

Students do best when they have a routine and clear expectations. Establish those routines early and stick to them. Make sure to incorporate movement and screen breaks to avoid burnout.


How to Get Your Pod Started

Step 1: Create a Designated Learning Space

Once the members and location of the pod have been established, the next step is to set up the learning space. It’s important to create a designated learning space for students. This will promote productivity and organization. While the couch may be cozy, being too comfortable can be problematic and cause your child to lose focus and motivation.

In an article for The Washington Post, Sal Khan, the founder, and CEO of Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational organization that offers free lessons in math, sciences, and humanities, said,  “If you are in a position to have a designated desk or table where ‘school happens,’ that is ideal. Ideally, it’s in a different place from where kids sleep or play video games or watch TV. And when they use that space, they pretend like they are going to school.”

Step 2: Display a Learning Schedule or Wall Calendar

Having a visual reminder of what the students are supposed to be working on will help them stay on track. It will also help parents maintain their sanity since they won’t have to repeatedly remind students of what exactly it is they should be working on.  Khan states, “the calendar should have not only what [the children] need to be doing from a learning and school point of view, but it should also have breaks, and some things that are healthy for them and some things that they really like to do.” 

Detra Price-Dennis, associate professor of education at Columbia University’s Teachers College reminds parents to make sure to schedule a time for your kids to connect with their friends or socialize as their social well-being is important to their overall well-being. Scheduled time for free play or socialization breaks can also help keep students from burning out. 

Step 3: Create a supply station or supply boxes for easy access to school materials

Most classrooms are stocked with bins of extra supplies that students can borrow when needed. Having an organized supply of pencils, lined paper, highlighters, pens, and coloring utensils will help eliminate the need for students to get up and search for materials and allow them to stay engaged in their lessons and not lose precious learning time. Repurposing old plastic cups or mason jars is an easy and cost-effective way to organize materials, or if parents are looking for a more traditional classroom feel, places like Dollar Tree or Target are great for stocking up on colorful bins and organizational tools. If parents need a little inspiration for the setup or design of their learning spaces, Pinterest is always filled with tips and tricks.


References:

Learning Pods. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.learning-pods.com/

Mayhew, E. (2020, August 07). Tips for creating a good learning environment at home. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/tips-for-creating-a-good-learning-environment-at-home/2020/08/04/b7339fec-cb7b-11ea-bc6a-6841b28d9093_story.html

Pandemic Pods Are Here, Are You In? (2020, August 28). Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://schoolchoiceweek.com/learning-pods/

Platzer, B. (2020, August 13). Are Learning Pods the Solution to Parents’ Woes? Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/08/are-learning-pods-solution-parents-woes/615175/

Project-Based Learning: CraftED Curriculum. (2020, August 17). Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://craftedcurriculum.com/