These guidelines help form learning pods.

Learning pods have been a hot topic lately among parents and educators. This speculation follows the release of the updated guidelines for safety protocol from the DESE and the CDC on how schools should resume in-person learning in the fall. Many states and school districts have yet to solidify their plans. Parents are getting anxious and understandably starting to take matters into their own hands.

These learning groups came about because some families felt there were too many gaps in their child’s remote learning. They also may have been wary of sending their child back to the classroom for in-person learning. It has been especially fraught for parents of high-risk kids or who are in frequent contact with someone whose health may be more delicate, such as older or immunocompromised relatives.

What Are Learning Pods?

A learning pod or educational pod is a group of 3-9 students taught in a family home. Instructions is lead by either a homeschool parent, a privately hired teacher, or another qualified adult. Sometimes these are referred to as “homeschool pods.” Students in the pod typically participate in small group instruction for half of their day. This supplements their school’s remote learning program.

Homeschool pods can present a safer and more academically supportive option for school this fall. However, they’re highly variable, and aren’t the right choice for every family. They also come with their own health risks you should be aware of. Finally, they may widen educational inequity within communities, which is something we should all be working together to address.

Steps for Creating a Homeschool Pod

If you’re thinking about creating a pod for your child(ren), here are some steps you should take:

  1. Decide what type of pod you want to create. You’ll have to make some important decisions regarding how you envision the pod running and what you’d like your child(ren) to get out of the experience. What type of learning do you want your child(ren) participating in — hands-on, project-based, or mastery focused? What do you want the schedule to be? Whose home will host the pod, and will learning take place indoors or outside? What will your protocol be if someone gets sick? These are just a few questions to think about before moving forward.
  2. Choose a curriculum. You’ll need materials and guidance for the instructor of the pod, and below you’ll find a few options you could use:
  1. Find an instructor. Ideally, you’ll want someone who will be available to teach during the day. Either hire a certified educator or find a parent/tutor/or another qualified adult. Care.com may be a good place to start if you don’t already have someone in mind.
  2. Find another family (or families) to join your pod. You’ll want to have another family join who also has children in the same grade level as yours so the curriculum is consistent and manageable. In addition, you’ll want to make sure you choose families who match both your level of risk in terms of pandemic precautions/safety, as well as the vision you’ve established for your pod in step 1.  This will help ensure the pod runs smoothly and can minimize major disagreements or conflicts along the way.

Finalize It

Once you’ve solidified all of these details, then the final step is to have your community sign off on it. You can go to your state or town website to further pursue the homeschool pod approval process. Regulations vary widely by state. It’s important to keep in mind that educational pods may not be for everyone. We’re all trying to find the best method to meet the needs of our children. Whether that’s remote learning, pandemic pods, or in-person school this year, remember to keep the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students at the top of our list no matter what model we choose.