Why families are forming in-home learning pods

Families want students to have face-to-face interactions with teachers and friends
By: | July 31, 2020

A growing number of families are forming “learning pods,” also known as “pandemic pods” or “bubbles,” to partially homeschool groups of students as COVID creates continued uncertainty around the coming school year.

One company, Swing Education, has shifted from providing substitutes to public schools in several states to connecting families with teachers to lead their learning pods, CEO Mike Teng says.

Though learning pods have gotten more attention recently, families and even some businesses began contacting the company about creating pandemic pods soon after schools shut down in the spring. Since then, there has been “a ton of demand,” Teng says.

“There are a lot of parents telling us they don’t know how long they will need us for,” he says. “Districts are pushing plans for in-person instruction back four-to-six weeks. I don’t think that a lot of schools will be open in four-to-six weeks.”

More from DA: How risky are school activities? This chart has answers.

But these substitutes will not homeschool the pandemic pods with their own curriculum or lessons created by the parents.

The idea is to guide students’ through their regular school district’s lessons and keep them engaged in online learning—which educators said was a challenge for some students in the spring, Teng says.

Families who are forming learning pods also want students to have a face-to-face learning experience. “Parents want the teacher to come into their homes to help bring the district’s virtual curriculum to life, and provide that adult social interaction, and interaction between the kids,” he says.

The company has worked with experts to make the process of sending teachers into homes as safe as possible, Teng adds.

Equity concerns around learning pods

Swing Education has also taken on the equity challenge, as concerns have arisen that only more affluent families can afford to form pandemic pods and hire educators, Teng says.

More from DA: How much money is needed to connect how many students?

The company is seeking funding to provide scholarships to help lower-income families—or the families of teachers—to hire educators to form pandemic pods, Teng says.

Some of the families who have retained the company have also asked if they can provide scholarships, he adds.

“We think we can provide district leaders with breathing space to not feel to the pressure to say out loud they’re going to come back in four weeks when it might actually be January,” Teng says. “We can all get behind online learning for six months and turn the ship around on COVID.”

DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.