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What is a pandemic pod and should you start or join a microschool?

Are you wondering: what is a pandemic pod? Do you want to know how to start or join a microschool? In this guide we explain more about pods, homeschooling, remote learning, and microschools. 

By Jeanell Birk, contributing writer

A new term has been buzzing amongst parents of school-aged children this summer, and it’s called “pod”. No, we’re not talking about cute vegetables here. 

You may have heard this term referenced as a pandemic pod, COVID-19 pod, homeschooling group, learning pod, or even microschool. 

But, perhaps you still want to know: What is a pandemic pod and should you start or join one in your community?

To answer your question, a pandemic pod is not exactly a private school, nor is it technically considered homeschooling. A pandemic pod is a small group, which usually consists of three to six students, who meet in person anywhere from two to five days per week. Some pods will hire a credentialed teacher or tutor; other pandemic pods choose to work together like a traditional homeschool co-op, taking turns teaching or supervising the students. Other pods fill in the days when their schools are not meeting – either in person or remotely. Still others run more akin to a microschool for a full 5 days a week. 

Regardless of which type of pod you choose, most of them are hosted in families’ homes or backyards, local parks or even urban green spaces if the weather cooperates. 

Why pods?

Since COVID-19 forced many U.S. schools to switch to distance learning last spring, parents have been trying to figure out how to make this coming fall semester run a tad smoother. 

Remote learning last spring proved to be difficult for both children and parents. As a result, mental health issues became front and center once lockdown began. And, parents and kids turned to yoga and mindfulness to help them get through this stressful time. In fact, to help fill this void, Pretzel Kids offers yoga classes to pandemic pods

For many families, choosing to form or join a pandemic pod helps them fill in some gaps found in their local school’s remote learning plan. For example, you might feel that you need to offer more in the way of academics, social-emotional learning, the arts, or physical education. 

Furthermore, you might not feel comfortable sending your children back to school just yet, as coronavirus is still active across the country. Or, perhaps you work full-time, and need childcare for your children. 

Should I join or start a pandemic pod? 

You may still be wondering if starting or joining a pandemic pod is a good option for your family this school year. 

This isn’t an easy decision as there are many pros and cons to joining a pod or microschool. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of possible pros and cons to help you determine the best alternative for your family. 

Cons:

  • Lack of space. Many families don’t have extra space to host multiple families in their homes. A possible solution for some families is to set up school in their backyard or even use public spaces like parks. Unfortunately, the weather may not always agree. 
  • It’s too expensive. It’s simple math. Many families can’t afford to hire a private teacher for the school year. A possible solution is for parents to work together and take turns teaching subjects they feel confident in, or guiding the students with their school’s remote curriculum. There are also many inexpensive or free online offerings that are popping up everywhere nowadays. For example, you can learn more here on how to add kids yoga to your pandemic pod. You can also consider enrolling your child in a virtual kids yoga class. This will get them moving without being glued to their computer screen! 
  • Different learning styles. Even in a public school setting, one student may not learn in the exact same way as another. Forming a pandemic pod with students who have different learning styles may not make for the most successful learning environment. A possible solution is to speak with other parents and find families that have like-minded learners and goals for the school year. 
  • It can negatively affect other students in your community

This brings up another harsh reality: Some students who join a pandemic pod may gain more academic support than their peers who don’t have this option. For instance,  many families are not able to join a pandemic pod due to finances or available time. Therefore, they have to send their children to school either remotely or in person. 

Some fear that this situation may widen the education gap. If possible, a solution might be to stay enrolled in your designated public school, and supplement with an in-person pod for group projects and enrichment activities, like kids yoga. 

Pros:

  • Socialization. A pandemic pod gives your child consistent social interaction on a weekly basis. Yes, kids are resilient, however, when schools switched to remote learning this past spring, many parents witnessed an increase in their children’s stress levels. While adults recognize that this current situation is temporary, many children don’t have the capacity to understand this concept. Seeing their pod classmates on a weekly basis, however, gives kids the much-needed social outlet that they’ve been craving since the coronavirus pandemic began. And here’s an added perk: Spending weekly time with other pod parents offers YOU much needed socialization as well!
  • Keeping routine. It is common knowledge that children thrive in a consistent environment. Joining a pandemic pod ensures that your child will have a daily routine.  And while this school year is looking different than in past years, keeping a daily schedule will help your children transition back to school – whenever that time comes. Plus, having some sense of normalcy is what many families are seeking at the moment.
  • Childcare. This is a biggie for working parents as remote learning means you simply can’t get as much done during your workday. Whether you’ve hired a credentialed teacher, or are helping with the actual learning process, a pod will give you some time to work. You can think of a pod as a semi-private tutor session. Juggling work and kidsl is not easy but with a bit of creativity, you may be able to do it! 
  • It’s a new adventure. We get it: This is a stressful time for all. So why not try to put a positive spin on things and consider your pod an adventure? Think of it this way: This alternative learning environment gives kids an opportunity to pursue their interests and passions in a no-pressure learning environment. Do you have a budding engineer? Or perhaps an aspiring chef? Does your child love yoga? Why not take this time to teach valuable life skills that will benefit your children, such as entrepreneurial skills or mindfulness and yoga. Besides, teaching kids yoga and mindfulness can help children cope with the anxiety and uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic.

Are you ready to form or join a pod?

By now you’re hopefully familiar with the many ins and outs of a pandemic pod. You’ve also learned about the possible pros and cons of joining a pandemic pod. 

If you follow our guide here, you will hopefully find the best fit for your kids this school year. Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all option here. Regardless of what you choose for your kids’ educational path, we wish your children a successful back to school season! 

About Jeanell: Jeanell lives with her husband and three sons in New York City. Once upon a time, she was a dancer and a children’s ballet instructor, but these days she can be found homeschooling her boys while exploring all that The Big Apple has to offer. She loves learning about and practicing a life of health and wellness, and is thrilled to be able to contribute to the Pretzel Kids blog!

source: Read More, Pretzel Prose

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