Learning about Learning Pods

Feb 07, 2022 | Posted by Jennifer

In the past few years, a unique educational option has received increasing attention, partially driven by the COVID-19 virus. Because many schools were forced to online formats or were shut down altogether, bands of parents came together to create small “microschools” for their children. People call them different names: pandemic pods, learning pods, and micro or nano schools are just a few of them. They are not truly new; learning pods have been around for some time. At their essence, though, these small learning environments afford children the opportunity to enjoy an in-person educational experience complete with a teacher and fellow classmates.

Each pod is unique, but one element that unites them all is that they are small. Some only have two or three families; others have a few more. Some pods hire a licensed teacher to handle the instruction. Others function more like a homeschool co-op, having each parent contribute to the overall teaching load. For example, a parent who received a degree in English might teach all of the English language arts, while another parent who loves math tackles that subject. Additionally some pods meet daily, but others meet only two or three times a week.

Regulation of educational pods varies state by state. Oftentimes learning pods fall under a state’s homeschooling laws, but it is important to check with the state to know for sure. Depending upon how the pod is constructed, it might instead be considered a private school and therefore subject to different laws than state homeschooling laws.

What benefits do learning pods offer to students and their families? For many families who participated in them over the past few years, the benefits included reduced risk of exposure to illness, personalized and in-person instruction, and a ready-made small group of friends for their children. Other families have found they enjoy having more time with their children and being able to teach to their children’s strengths and interests. Still others value being able to have their special needs students learn in a manner that works for them. Andrew Pudewa has spoken extensively about the benefits of individualized instruction. His presentation Mastery Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education describes how you can create pathways of success for students by addressing each student’s individualized needs.

Pods aren’t just benefiting students. Many educators have migrated to teaching in these specialized learning environments and find they also love them because they are better able to meet their students’ needs. Additionally teachers who have left their larger classrooms to teach in learning pods say they appreciate that they are able to really get to know their students. They enjoy not having to teach overwhelmingly large groups of students as well as not having to work with a preselected curriculum. They have fuller autonomy to teach in a way that works for their students.

One thing is clear though. Learning pods are here to stay. Even though there are more and more schools that have gone back to in-person instruction, there are still significant numbers of families and educators who have embraced this instructional format. Are you one of those? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. Email us at Blog@IEW.com, and we may share your story in a future blog post.

Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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