There is lots of talk (and hand-wringing) these days in parenting circles about what to do this fall. As COVID cases spike in many parts of the country, how is it possible that schools could go back into session, especially as a not-so-small percentage of parents and teachers do not even feel safe? In many areas, virtual school seems inevitable. This raises the question of how we working parents are expected to juggle supervising our kids’ distance learning assignments with our jobs.
Many families have started thinking about forming school pods. This means getting a group of kids together for a few hours a day or week to support distance learning. If this is your family, here are some tips to make sure that the process of setting up your school pod is effective and drama-free (and legal!):
Do you want your child to simply be supervised while completing their school assignments? Or do you want them to be taught in a more proactive, engaged way? The answer to these questions means the difference between sharing supervision duties with other working parents throughout the week, or handing all of the responsibilities to one interested (and hopefully qualified) parent.
If your child is enrolled at public school, strongly consider keeping them enrolled in the virtual portion and using a school pod to supplement their distance learning. There are a number of reasons why this is an excellent idea. For one, teachers are uniquely qualified through their years of education, training, and experience to create and administer lesson plans, ensure that students stay on track, address any personal or developmental challenges, and so on. Our public schools need our support, more than ever! We need to invest in our schools to ensure that they are resilient throughout COVID and, equally as important, after this crisis ends.
Finally, homeschooling networks have years of experience to successfully and seamlessly administer homeschooling to participating families. Temporary school pods, on the other hand, are bound to run into many issues in the beginning, and the quality of learning may suffer. Having the option of a school pod to reinforce existing virtual learning is the best of both worlds.
If you are looking to form a school pod with one dedicated teacher or tutor, that teacher will likely need to be paid. Make sure that you are up to date on your state’s laws regarding whether this arrangement constitutes child care and/or running a child care center, both of which are surely subject to many financial and safety regulations.
School pods based on your family’s existing social and socio-economic circles runs the risk of mirroring larger divisions and inequities. Think about whether your school pod is accessible to kids from different backgrounds. If payment is involved, try to find a way to include kids whose families cannot afford extra tutoring or support. When done right, school pods can be a powerful tool for making sure education is equitable and that diversity wins!
You want to make sure that the families in your pod have similarly-aged children (to make supervision easier), similar home environments, and similar schedules. You might also want to think about whether they are in the same COVID risk category as your family. (Is someone in their household an essential worker? Do they wear masks? Is someone immuno-compromised?). This process is best done slowly, finding matching families and building up the pod one family at a time until the pod reaches your desired size. If you fill out the form on FamilyPodMatch.com, we can help you find matching families based on all these criteria!
Parents know that most kids do well with schedules. Set out a daily schedule (making sure to incorporate downtime too!). This can also help the parents in your pod stay in the loop on what was accomplished that day.
Explicitly carve out a time, whether once a day or once a week, to share honest feedback and tackle problems. Try not take issues personally, which is difficult when it comes to your child. Your pod members are all trying their best, just like you!
A school pod is not only an excellent way of proactively planning for the short term, but can also help you in a post-COVID world by serving as a source for tutoring support, emergency childcare, and more. School pods are one way of building community, something that we all desperately need in these times.