Learning Pods: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly


As more and more school districts announce that the fall school year will continue to be distance learning, parents are scrambling to make it more manageable. Thoughts on the last semester of remote schooling vary but for the most part, parents thought it was a disaster. Looking to avoid that disaster again, parents are taking matters into their own hands to provide their children with a good experience without sacrificing their careers.


One of the most popular ways that have been discussed to do this is with learning pods. With a learning pod, parents find children in the same age group or grade level as their own children and create a mini homeschool. Within that pod, parents either hire a teacher or tutor to educate their children or spread the teaching responsibilities out amongst the parents in the group. 


There is no easy solution when it comes to what to do this fall. There is also no best solution. What works best for each family will depend on that family. There are some pros and cons to learning pods that should be explored however before deciding if it's right for you. 


The good – There is a lot of good that can come from learning pods. Parents want their kids to be able to get the benefits of school but in a safe way. It seems as if schools aren’t really capable of providing this for students. In addition to larger than idea classroom sizes, many school buildings are old and have poor ventilation. With a learning pod, you can better control these factors. You can make your pod as big or as little as you would like it to be.


Another issue with returning to the classroom is that it would have to be done in a way that many parents would feel uncomfortable with. Kids wouldn’t be able to socialize in a way that they’re used to and depending on their ages, may be required to wear masks all day long. A pod that is small enough would eliminate some of these concerns assuming that all the families involved agreed to make their social circles smaller and followed proper safety protocols. A pod could offer an environment for both learning and play that wouldn’t deviate too much from what kids are used to getting in school.


The bad – if you do decide to hire a teacher or tutor, it can get expensive. If you decide to divvy up responsibilities among parents, doing so could be time-consuming. You’ll also need to put some thought into forming your pod which will take time. You’ll want to find families who have the same level of concern about safety protocols. You’ll also want to find families that you feel will be equally responsible for contributing to the pod rather than just people who want to drop off their kids and coast.


You should start this venture by setting up some rules for operating your pod. Those rules would outline responsibilities as well as action steps if someone in the pod becomes sick or is exposed to someone that is sick. Most importantly, you’ll want to understand that while a pod can help to reduce risk, it won’t eliminate it.


The ugly – When schools first started to shut down, a horrible truth was discovered by many people. That truth was that education isn’t the same for everyone. Okay, maybe it wasn’t discovered…on some level we all knew, but when shutdowns happened, it became a prominent conversation and one that couldn’t be ignored. Kids who are already in this disadvantaged group are less likely to be invited into a learning pod. This means that the inefficiencies that you’re trying to avoid from the last semester of school, they’ll still be subject to. Any divides that exist will continue to widen. The longer that schools stay shut, the wider these gaps will become.


Depending on whether or not your child is still enrolled in their local school or not, pods could also affect public schools in general. School funding comes in part from student enrollment. If parents decide to unenroll their kids from school, the schools will receive less funding. Many public schools are already underfunded and a mass exodus from public schooling will only make this issue worse.


Read Next: Should Schools Open This Fall? Here’s What Experts Have To Say.

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