Lately, I’m seeing a lot of chatter in social media about this new thing called “homeschool pods.” For those of you who have just pulled your kids out of the public school system to homeschool, this is a new term not usually associated with traditional homeschooling. I thought I would take a few minutes to explain what is meant by this term, why it came about, and help you figure out if it’s something you need to consider for your family.
In the world of homeschooling, we know exactly what homeschool pods are. To us they’re the homeschool equivalent to co-ops, where students from different families gather are are taught different subjects, usually by the parents. Sometimes core classes are taught, sometimes just enrichment classes, but the basic premise is homeschool families joining together for the children to be together ( because everyone knows socialization is the big controversy surrounding homeschooling) and the parents to do the teaching. The curriculum is usually chosen and agreed upon by the parents participating. Homeschool co-ops are generally free or low-cost (mostly just the cost of whatever curriculum and other resources are required).
To parents who are having to choose the school at home option, this newly surfaced term takes on an entirely new meaning. Homeschool pods are not the same as the traditional homeschool co-op.
Homeschool Pods: What Are They and How Do They Work?
Because I’ve had a influx of new families reading the blog, some who aren’t quite ready to dive into traditional homeschooling and are concerned about their children’s new lack of social interaction, I wanted to share the idea of homeschool pods with you.
What are homeschool pods?
Also known as microschools, pandemic pods, micro-school pods, micropods, and copods – homeschool pods are best described as a small group of students of similar age and grade who group together and plan to study in one specific home, using the public school ascribed standards and curriculum.
Even further, these gatherings are not necessarily free and can cost parents a fee that matches private school tuition. I’ve seen prices as low as $200 per student a week up to $1,500 per student/week. These groups are usually run by one parent, who is able to stay at home, giving the other parents who have to work the ability to do so without much worry. Generally speaking, teachers are being hired to do the teaching. Or in some cases, students are doing virtual school with one parent there to supervise their learning.
What do homeschool pods supply?
Homeschool pods are meant to mimic a public school classroom, but for a small group of students. They help provide the social aspect of the classroom, keeping in line with the structure of learning a specific concept for a particular grade and completing assignments as an attempt to show lessons learned.
Homeschool pods also give concerned parents somewhat of a choice in how their kids learn. For example, some pods are choosing to abide by social distancing mandates with little to no contact with others outside of the group, while some groups incorporate modern networking tools such as Facebook groups, Google classrooms, and Nextdoor.
They also give retired teachers – or those deciding to not return to the classroom – an opportunity to still teach in some capacity. Pods can be hosted in their home and bring parents comfort knowing their child will continue to be taught by an educational professional. Degrees aside though, parents are also finding their willingness to help in this capacity just as important and needed, especially in the case of supervised virtual public school.
Pros and Cons of Homeschool Pods
As with any new trendy thing, it can look good on the surface. However, with time and critical thinking, you may begin to see that there are downfalls (which can be expected). When it comes to the pros of homeschool pods, you’re looking at:
- A direct supplement to public school education
- Support for your child’s education
- Education experiences continuing as close to normal as possible
- Help for working parents
- Easy to be socially distant
And then the cons:
- Can be an expensive option
- Not as beneficial for low income families (due to lack of resources)
- Not as beneficial for students with learning differences who might require more one-on-one or personal attention
How to Find a Homeschool Pod
Many entrepreneurs have stepped up and found ways to capitalize on this unprecedented time in our nation. Alice Locatelli, founder of CoPod, has figured out a way to provide parents with the capabilities to search for local pods with requirements down to if masks are required and meeting frequency.
With her background in education, Alice could see the need of parents desperately looking for an educational supplement for their student(s). Through her site, you can fill out a form and get immediate results.
How to Start a Homeschool Pod
As with the homeschooling community, starting any kind of group related program – in this case, a homeschool pod – can be started by word of mouth. Once you have developed an interest, it’s time to establish a plan that includes the maximum/minimum number of children you accept in your group, as well as the ages and grades.
You’ll also want to decide how often your pod will meet, and if you’ll want to bring in a teacher to assist with lessons. Programs like Bubbles, started by Swing Education, have been put in place to make locating an educational professional one click away.
Once these ducks are in a row, all there’s left to do is start!
Are homeschool pods considered homeschooling?
I know many people will have this question as these homeschool pods evolve, and the answer is no. Homeschool pods are not and should not ever be considered homeschooling. Instead, they should be identified as a school at home option.
Why is that? Well, for several important and distinct reasons.
For starters, homeschooling has its own set of laws and standards put in place by each individual state. For most states, these laws and standards provide freedom for homeschoolers from the oversight of the public school. These freedoms are hard fought for and sacred to any homeschool family who understands what the pioneers of homeschooling went through to achieve them.
Homeschooling is also free from common core standards put in place for public school students. While some of the resources can look the same – textbooks, workbooks, science labs, etc. – there is still a different type of liberty when it comes to curriculum that can be used. For most homeschool families, the choices in what to teach and how is given solely to the parents.
Overall, homeschooling runs a different course. This is not to say that homeschool pods couldn’t turn into homeschooling, because they can. Once parents see that their children are thriving more from the kind of educational experiences homeschool pods offer, they may see that choosing to homeschool would be even more beneficial.
I can certainly see how these small groups can be used to bring more children “home” to learn versus continuing with the school system that seems to be a bit out of control at the moment. Especially for those of you who have children who may be at increased risk health-wise. The truth of the matter is that homeschooling itself isn’t perfect. There are setbacks, roadblocks, and speed bumps that must be navigated. However, the biggest difference is choosing to take your child’s education into your own hands versus leaving it up to a government system to decide what and how to teach your child. When choosing the system, you are initially signing your child’s educational rights into the hands of what the government deems as necessary and appropriate to learn.
With homeschooling, those rights are shifted back into your hands (where I believe they should be anyways). So I end with this…
Homeschool pods are something families should consider, weigh, and ultimately decide if it’s the best decision for their family. If they are, go with it. If not, look into other options and don’t stop until you find what’s right for you and your family. If ever I can be of assistance as you navigate your options, please feel free to reach out though the contact form at the top of this page.