“Pods”, “pandemic pods”, “Micro-schools” “nano-schools” — in the past few months you’ve probably heard or read about one of these. So, what is this new form of education? While they may sound different, all of those terms refer to the concept of Learning Pods

As many schools remain partially closed, learning pods are the answer for families’ seeking alternatives to the changing education environment. Whether you’re thinking about joining a pod, searching for pod programming, or just have more questions about them, we put together answers to the most commonly asked questions.

What are learning pods?

Learning pods are a small group of students, typically consisting of three to 10 kids, who join a group to learn outside of a traditional classroom. Pods are gaining popularity due to the pandemic, and parents are choosing pods for their children to foster socialization and group learning. 

What do pod curriculums look like?

Learning pods take a variety of different forms. Some are support groups for online schools, others are private micro-schools, and some may just build off of an existing homeschool curriculum! Regardless of the format, learning pods seek to fill the gaps left by an incomplete school curriculum.

When surveying the pod landscape, we’ve seen a range of options. Groups like the Portfolio School mimic a school day in their micro-school, offering programming that typically runs from 9am to 2pm. Others may build off existing school curriculums by using other platforms to discover, book, and filter in-person and online extracurricular pod activities. 

How do I start a learning pod?

Starting a learning pod can feel overwhelming. A quick look into parent forums and listservs can take the shape of a marketplace….or even a sports draft. Parents asking questions about pod curriculums, participants, different locations and more fill discussion boards. To keep things simple, we put together the steps you can take to filter out the best options for you: 

Step 1: What type of pod are you searching for?

Decide whether you’re searching for a self-directed option or learning support

  • If you’re taking the self-directed approach you’re un-enrolling your children from their existing school and implementing your own lesson plan and methods of instruction. Possible routes in this path would include homeschooling and hiring tutors or teachers.  
  • The other form is through learning support. Children engage in distance learning through their current institution (local public, private, or charter schools), but with the opportunity to engage in distance learning for their school with other students. 

Step 2: How do you choose who is in your pod?

We find it’s best to filter your pod decisions based on one of the following criterias:

  • Based on your school: Many learning pods are developed by groups of students enrolled in the same class in school. In addition to their core school curriculum, children can elect to take extra-curricular classes and activities after school together through Sawyer. 
  • Based on your neighborhood: Another way to select your pod is with other families in your neighborhood. Families don’t necessarily need to be enrolled in the same school and children don’t necessarily need to be the same age to be a part of the same pod! In fact, kids put in multi-age pods will learn from each other. 
  • Based on similar interests. As long as goals and interests align, location is not important for this option and is a great way to gather virtually.

Step 3: Align on curriculum

With any curriculum, the goal should be a balance of learning and enrichment activities. When searching for the best options, platforms like Sawyer can help you filter between categories like STEM, language, arts, music, and more. Whether you’re taking the self-directed or learning support approach, pods should help children learn and grow together with instruction from their educator. 

How much do learning pods cost?

Some instructors charge per student, and others may charge for the pod as a whole. Depending on the type of class, how frequently the pod meets, and whether those meetings are virtual or in-person, a learning pod can cost between $10-30 per class

As parents navigate this new education space, we know there’s no shortage of questions. Just know, there is no right or wrong decision for the school year — we’re all doing the best we can. If you’re looking for more help on supplementing your child’s education, we put together some tips here