During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents formed learning pods — or pandemic pods — to educate their children. These pods are more widely known now, but they aren’t a new phenomenon. They’ve been around for a while and were used by parents who wanted a more customized curriculum for their children. Even now, you may see at-home learning pods stick around in the wake of this heightened wave of remote learning.
What are these pods and how can you start one yourself? You might also wonder about the costs and how to know if this is the right choice for your family. We answer these questions and more within this article.
What Is a Learning Pod?
A learning pod is a small group of K-12 students — typically three to 10 children — who learn together outside the classroom but still meet in person. When pandemic concerns arose, many pods started meeting virtually and in real time. Different kinds of pods exist, and they include various teaching methods. Some families use learning pods to take advantage of their district’s virtual learning programs, while others opt out of public school entirely and function more like a home-schooling approach.
Pods are also sometimes referred to as nano- or micro-schools. This teaching style has been used by online schooling families for years because of its benefits.
Are They Right for Your Family?
It can be hard to know if this education style is right for your family if the concept is still rather new to you. One of the biggest reasons these pods became so popular is because many parents weren’t ready for the challenges of their children learning virtually. So, they utilized pods to keep kids engaged and connected with friends and classmates. Many parents were drawn to the learning pods for the following benefits, which help enhance a student’s learning experience:
- Socialization: Any parent involved in online learning will likely mention socialization. The learning pod format provides social interactions with other like-minded families who have the same values. Because the pods are kept to smaller numbers, each child will get more direct attention and assistance — something that may be lacking in other learning formats that must accommodate many learners at once.
- Schedules: Students thrive with routines. Learning pods tend to keep a fixed daily schedule just like in-classroom education does, which can be beneficial for households where both parents work.
- Field trips: Everyone knows students love going on field trips with their friends. Learning pod families can schedule regular trips to local sites and do mission projects together. These activities offer a group learning experience.
- Enrichment opportunities: Pods can also provide learning enrichment opportunities beyond the standard curriculum. These activities are often specialized to what each pod focuses on and how the parents want it to run. Activities like meeting outside regularly, holding a book club, and doing in-person art lessons are all examples.
Common Learning Pod Costs
Something else to look into when starting or joining a learning pod is the costs. Because there are numerous types of pods, prices can vary. The average range of rates is from $30 to $100 an hour or more.
Some parents who have the means to do so will pull their children from public school and enroll them in a private school pod, which can get costly. For example, elementary pods for grades K through 5 cost up to $68,750 for a five-month semester at Hudson Lab School’s private school pods.
For a pod of three, that works out to just under $23,000 per student. The 2020 academic year ran $125,000 per pod — or almost $42,000 per student in a group of three. However, the cost went down with more children in a pod.
Some parents who want a less expensive learning pod model may hire a babysitter or nanny to run the pod instead of a teacher. Other types of pods can be completely free of charge. Some communities create learning hubs at libraries and other community locations that are free to attend as alternatives to pods. However, scholarships and grants are available to support families who still want to participate in learning pods.
How Do They Relate to Cyber Schooling?
There are various types of learning pods, all relating to cyber school formats. For example, pods may be for private schools, online school support groups, or home-schooling co-ops.
When schools began switching to remote learning, many parents started using learning pods to support their kids during the transition to virtual learning. Once schools welcomed students back for in-person learning, some parents opted to use their district’s virtual learning programs through a learning pod to continue cyber-schooling their kids. In this case, students still pursued their education with the district’s teachers and curriculum — just through the cyber school format.
Other parents take more of a home-schooling approach in which they become responsible for the curriculum, lesson plans, and instruction methods, all while following state laws and regulations. This method is how parents may enroll their kids in a charter school that provides an outlined curriculum that can be used in a learning pod setting.
How Can You Start a Learning Pod?
You may have decided a learning pod is right for your family, but you may not know how to create one or find one near you. If you’re looking for one that already exists, try Facebook parenting groups. Many pods have formed online in this way. Private schools and businesses have also started offering services to create learning pods to connect groups with trained instructors. Other families create pods simply from their connections, such as family friends, neighbors, or their children’s classmates.
If you’re creating your own pod, you’ll need to decide if you want to hire someone to teach, take turns with other parents, or try another approach. Discuss your options with the other families involved. If you want to hire someone, plenty of online services identify and vet potential instructors. You can also look at websites for tutors or ask for recommendations from private schools.
When hiring teachers, ask about their teaching philosophy and background, and inquire about any relevant costs other than their rate before committing. It will likely be best to hire someone with a bachelor’s degree in education who also meets your state’s teaching requirements. Remember to check their references too!
Some online educational companies also offer their services to help you create a virtual learning pod. All these pod types can be designed to supplement the students’ curriculum.
Learn How to Use CCA’s Curriculum Within Your Learning Pod
If you’re looking to create a learning pod for the first time, consider following an outlined curriculum so that your student receives the highest benefit from the experience. At Commonwealth Charter Academy, we offer an educational curriculum you can utilize while participating in a learning pod.
We provide a flexible schedule to best fit your student’s lifestyle and a “Climate of Caring” initiative that will encourage your young learner to get involved in their community. We also occasionally host field trips for families and students to gather face-to-face for fun, educational activities that promote socialization.
Our family mentors will welcome you when you join and help you learn the ropes of online learning. For more information on how it works, you can read our student success stories. Request more information to learn more about how you can become a member of CCA’s online community and start with your learning pod.