For most students and parents across the country, the new school year brings a lot of questions. With local school districts either going fully remote or implementing blended learning options, some parents wonder how they can further support their children, especially now that hands-on instruction will be limited. And that is where pod learning comes in.
We previously wrote about what pod learning is and why many parents find this method appealing. Learning pods refer to small groups of families whose children gather in a shared space or online. Most of the time, pods supplement the school curriculum. But in other cases, pods offer full-time education for students.
Learning pods are typically conducted in one of the participating family’s homes. Instruction often comes in the form of a private tutor, hired teacher, or the parents themselves. For many families, pod learning is the best way to ensure their children’s safety during this pandemic. It allows kids to develop social skills, have fun, and learn in a more controlled environment.
And while learning pods are not entirely new, it is uncharted territory for many parents thrust into homeschooling or remote learning for the first time. To help you decide if pod learning is right for you and your child, we spoke with Nicole, Brooklyn Letters and Themba Tutors Director and homeschooling mom of four, about the benefits of learning pods and how to prepare your family for it.
Who are learning pods for?
The great thing about learning pods, Nicole says, is that it is designed to fit the shared goals of participating families and students.
Nicole: “For our family, we wanted to learn with friends. It wasn’t really about socialization. With homeschoolers, that’s a whole other topic for another day. But the socialization sure didn’t hurt. It was more about the learning process and sharing ideas and doing peer activities.
“Learning pods can be for all ages and can look different for each group. That’s what is so great about them. You can customize your learning to a small group of children instead of following a script created for large groups with children of varied learning styles and abilities.
“Small group learning, or learning pods, are fun, or I think they should be. It gives parents, teachers, and tutors the opportunity to be creative in their learning and really engage the students. It is a time to think outside the box.”
How does pod learning benefit students and parents?
Nicole: “Learning pods allow children to receive more customized instruction with peers in a more creative way. Parents might be involved in the learning process, or they might not. Perhaps an upcoming pod will be four families that meet four mornings a week for two hours. And each day, a different parent is in charge of the lessons. Or maybe the four families will hire a private tutor and rent a private space. That tutor can take the school’s curriculum and work with it and supplement it with enrichment activities. The sky’s the limit!”
How do you know which pod is right for you?
Nicole: “It depends on the goals of the parents. Some families will be looking for opportunities for their children to be involved with a diverse group of students. Other families will be looking for other children who are like-minded in their learning abilities and personalities. Some families will want to only work with families they know well, while others will want their children to meet new peers. I think each family needs to sit down and determine their goals and expectations from a pod learning situation and then build it from there.”
How do you prepare your family when joining a learning pod for the first time?
Nicole: “Communication, schedule, and space. Talk to other parents and your children about the expectations for the time spent in the learning pod, and make sure you are all on the same page. Look at your schedules to determine when the pod should meet. And really consider the space you will need for the learning pod. Will it be outside or inside? Are social distancing guidelines met? There are many considerations.
“Make sure your children understand the goals of the pod and the expectations you have for them.”
What pod learning challenges do families commonly encounter? How do you address them?
Nicole: “Like with any relationship, finding children and families that work and play well together will be a challenge. It might take some trial and error. This is why communication on the front end is so important.
“Locating appropriate space, especially in light of the Covid-19 issues, may be particularly challenging. Safety protocols will need to be discussed and followed. And families need to understand going in that this will not be a perfect solution to the many problems they are facing in their children’s education.
“Lastly, finding appropriate educators and tutors will be a challenge as the need may be much larger than the availability of individuals. Private tutors who are not working for the DOE will be the best option, but those will go fast. And it will not be cheap.
“Families need to start working on their schedules now, even though it is still uncertain what the school year will look like for students.”
To overcome these challenges, Nicole stresses the importance of communication and early preparation. “Start talking. Start reaching out to potential families. And definitely start reaching out to potential teachers or tutors and those who own space you might be interested in using,” she adds.
Flexibility is also crucial, says Nicole. She adds, “Even in a small group or pod, it is not likely that there will be a 100 percent meeting of the minds at all times. Families and educators will need to be flexible.”
How do you choose the best learning option for your child?
With all the new learning options available for the coming school year, most parents are understandably overwhelmed by all the decisions they have to make. As such, Nicole says it is important to consider your child’s specific needs and learning style before making a choice.
Nicole: “Look at your child as an individual and ask yourself what that one child needs. Do not even get in the habit of thinking that your own children all have the same needs. They are each individual, and this is a beautiful time to address and celebrate that fact. Maybe one child needs extra help with literacy, and another needs help with math. Maybe one just needs someone to help organize assignments for the week.
“And, lastly, when all else fails, just read. If you do not know where to start, start a learning pod with literacy as the main goal. Our family home education motto was, ‘If you can read it, you can learn it.’ If we were having a tough day, we concentrated on reading. If we were tackling a tough topic, we read about it first and then branched off from there. Every single subject studied in school can be learned by reading (except math—sorry kids, you just gotta do those math facts). Make literacy your focus, and you cannot go wrong.”
How to Best Support Your Child
Whether it is pod learning, homeschooling, remote classes, or blended learning, your child’s success relies on the kind of support you can provide as a parent. Understandably, it can be particularly challenging for some parents to take a more active role in their child’s education. But Nicole feels this is a great opportunity that families can take advantage of.
“We are in a very unique time in history where we have been forced to shut down and are being required to take back control of at least some of our children’s education. This is a privilege. And I hope more families will get a kick out of getting to spend this extra time with their children and being a direct part of their education,” she explains.
One way to ensure your child’s academic growth during these extraordinary times is by finding the right learning pod that shares your goals and expectations. And once you do, it is just as crucial to provide your children with the best guidance and support.
Fortunately, Themba Tutors and Brooklyn Letters are prepared to offer you tutoring services for all your pod learning needs. We provide in-home and live online pods as well as one-on-one in-home and online tutoring sessions.
Themba Tutors is a New York-based private tutoring company that offers fun, individualized, and dynamic tutoring and coaching services for children and teens. We work one-on-one with students of all ages and provide multidisciplinary, personalized services.
Composed of traveling learning specialists, academic tutors, and executive functioning coaches, Themba Tutors provides in-home and online services in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Long Island, Westchester County, Fairfield County, Connecticut, and sections of New Jersey.
Our services include:
- Math: Elementary, Middle, High School
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- College: Math, Science, Literature, Writing
- Executive Functioning: All Ages, including Study skills
- Test Prep: SAT, GRE, SHSAT, ISEE/SSAT
- Writing: Elementary, Middle, High School
Brooklyn Letters offers in-home and online literacy (Orton-Gillingham Approach) and math tutoring services and speech, language, and feeding therapies in the New York City metro area seven days a week.
Our private-pay online and doorstep speech-language feeding therapy, reading services (Orton Gillingham, Wilson, etc.), and math tutoring for all ages and all skills are individualized and adapted based on your child’s and peers’ needs.
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