There are many great benefits to starting or joining a learning pod (also known as a micro-school) both for children and their parents. Socialization, educational support, structure and safety, just to name a few. Going into it without asking yourself and others the right questions first, can make the difference between an amazing experience and a health and legal nightmare.
To help you get started on track for learning pod success, we’ve put together 5 key questions to ask yourself and your potential pod-mates before joining or starting a pod.
1. What is your “Play / Learn Philosophy” ?
Every family is unique, and in turn, the learning style of each child in a pod will vary. It’s important to consider the way your child most successfully learns, and what you value as a parent in regards to their education, when considering families to work with.
While some parents may value the structure of a traditional classroom environment, others may appreciate a different learning approach (e.g., Montessori, Waldorf, or Project-Based Learning). Additionally, solidifying what you want your pod’s overall curriculum to look like will help to streamline your search. You may find families that want to strictly focus on the school’s given curriculum, and others that are more interested in a STEM, STEAM, or Common Core approach.
Overall, knowing your child’s “Play/Learn Philosophy” in regards to both learning style & curriculum, will greatly help you match up with other families that share similar values and educational goals.
2. What is your COVID safety level?
Similar to when we make the decision to broaden our individual friend & family pods, families coming together to form a learning pod must also have a shared set of values and expectations when it comes to their personal safety & COVID precautions.
Assessing your own family’s behaviors, and calculating your “COVID Safety Number” through tools like our COVID Safety Level Quiz will give you a clear number to use as a reference when vetting potential pods.
Likewise, encouraging other families to assess their own safety precautions through simple and succinct tests such as the one above, will help to focus your search & ensure that the families you’re connecting with are on the same page when it comes to COVID safety.
3. How are you going to pay a teacher?
When considering how to pay a potential teacher, it’s important to first solidify whether that teacher will be a 1099 Contractor, a W2 employee or someone from a tutoring service, a pod teacher staffing service or similar agency. The set of expectations for each of these circumstances varies greatly and will influence both your ability to set work hours, the type of work performed, and the location & time at which that work is completed.
In turn, your responsibilities as an employer will vary in regards to insurance, payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, etc., depending on which direction you choose to go.
3a. How are we handling liability?
No matter where you’re hosting your pod and what precautions you take, accidents happen. And when it comes to COVID, having coverage for potential medical bills and lost wages should your teacher fall ill, is something you need to discuss and be prepared for.
Whether it’s accident protection, ensuring COVID coverage, or legal obligations and payroll processing, protecting yourself, your children and your teacher should be a top priority.
To cover all of your bases, we highly recommend professional liability insurance and workers compensation in order to protect your teacher and your assets.
To help navigate some of the “legal stuff” check out our Podskool Guide To Finding A Teacher For Your Pod here:
4. How many hours per week is this pod going to meet, and where?
Knowing how often you want your learning pod to meet and where you intend to hold your school-from-home sessions is an important part of the pod search.
While some families may be comfortable hosting school at their homes, others may prefer a neutral commercial space for the learning environment. While one learning pod may stick to a strict Monday-Friday 9am-2pm schedule, another may desire a more lax twice-weekly commitment.
Determining your child’s needs and your preferences as a parent will help narrow down your search and ensure that you are only seeking out families that share similar school hours and location preferences.
5. Who is responsible for non-academic activities?
A school environment is made successful by much more than just test-taking and strict book learning. In addition to the core curriculum, it’s important to consider extracurricular activities & learning projects, and the materials needed in order to solidify who will be responsible for their execution.
For example, if you’ll be including art in your pod’s activities,who will be in charge of supplies? If a science experiment comes up, is each family responsible for their own materials or will the teacher be expected to provide them? What about sports, music, etc.? Considering these activities & how you’ll handle them as a pod, will help potential families and teachers be on the same page.