Working and Parenting during a pandemic – this has become our new normal. But there’s nothing normal about it!
If you’re struggling with your emotions during this time – and who isn’t!!! – read my post all about it on Stop Agonizing: Working from Home with Kids in a Pandemic.
Most of us had our kids home for most of Spring and had to figure out how to keep them busy during the long Summer (and you still might like some of my Virtual Summer Camp ideas). And now – well now we need to navigate distance learning in a new school year. Or maybe you’re deciding still whether to select distance or in-person (here’s a tool to help). Here’s another guide: eNasco Back to School Solution Guide 2020.
For us, this will be a new experience – my son is just starting Kindergarten. Public school at all is a very new concept, and now we need to figure out how to make a 5-year-old get on the computer and sit there for his classes while I’m working and on conference calls myself.
What is a Pandemic Distance Learning Pod?
Pods are “micro-schools” of small groups of kids, as few as two families or maybe up to a handful. Parents pick neighbors or friends they feel safe with, other families who have been staying home and keeping away from gatherings. These kids could be in the same class, but that isn’t required.
These kids get together and have one person help facilitate their distance learning as assigned by their schools. Pods are a solution for working parents who can’t supervise their child’s learning on their own (because we really can’t be in two places at once will 100% success rate).
A selected adult helps keep kids on task during their distance learning and virtual classroom time. Sometimes the parents in the Pod rotate whose day it is to lead, giving the other parents the ability to keep working. Sometimes these parents join together and hire a nanny or a pod leader to help the kids learn all week.
How do you start a Learning Pod?
Find a local Pod or start one.
I suppose the easiest way to be in a Pod is to join one. Search local listings in your area – maybe there’s a school message board or community group like Nextdoor. Other parents in your area may have already begun the process.
If you don’t have one in your area, start one. If you already know people in your neighborhood, and bonus points if you know your kids’ classmates’ parents, reach out and ask if they would like to join together for a small distance learning pod with you.
If you’re new to the area like we are, you’ll need to find families in a similar situation. Same idea – start looking at your local neighborhood or school message boards to see who may be interested in Pod-ing with you.
Select a Pod leader
To find a nanny or Pod leader, a solution is Nanno StayCare, which is a way for parents to work together and book a single great caregiver to care for the kids in their little pod. You can also book an individual sitter for just your family through them. You can also look for specific subject tutors if you have older children in the Pod.
This will depend on the grade your children are in and their needs. My kindergartener just needs someone to make him do the virtual classrooms and participate and to help lead him in completing his worksheets. Parents of a fifth-grader, for example, may wish to have a math tutor (or get a tutor with Thinkster Math) assist with learning and homework.
You can also have a pod leader help students go through a virtual tutoring program, like ArgoPrep for K-8 math and ELA. They also offer a great variety of free worksheets to help supplement learning.
Your selection for the Pod leader will also depend on your budget. At least you’re no longer paying for daycare! Good news, the cost is shared between the families in the Pod.
Pick Pod Location
Location for the Pod is important as well, something where the kids of different families can remain spread out and have space for desks or tables and their laptops. A well-ventilated room is preferable.
A garage or carport might be a great option since it will be covered and keep kids out of the weather but well ventilated, and have outlets for laptop charging. You could also use a large living room with windows open (and no TV!).
Establish Safe Routines
The more people in a pod, the more risk of coronavirus exposure. So pods are best kept small to a group of families who are on the same page about managing their risks (social distancing, masks, etc.). There also needs to be a plan in place should someone become exposed or test positive.
The Pods must continue to practice good hygiene and keep kids socially distant. Rules for eating, drinking, and mask breaks need to be discussed as well.
Over to you – are you starting or joining a distance learning pod in your area? I’d love to hear about it!