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Resources for Finding or Building a Pod or Microschool

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Start with the question, "What are my kids going to do all day?" Then add, "What are they going to learn?" and then "Who will teach them?" (And, of course, "How much will this cost?")

Our public education system was built over decades but dismantled in a matter of months. Leaving we the parents to rebuild it on a micro-level, in our own neighborhoods, for our own kids.

If you're looking to form a "pandemic pod" or "microschool," many resources have come together to help. Below are just a few.

But before you dive in, here are some ground rules we've gleaned over the past few weeks of watching and learning.

Educator or Caregiver? We've noticed that a lot of parents are looking for pod leaders with professional teaching certification. And there are a LOT of professional teachers out there looking to offer their services. But the going rate for a professional teacher to lead your pod ranges anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour. Some charge by the child ($20-35 per hour per child) and some charge by the pod. If your child NEEDS the focused attention of a professional teacher, or you're planning a large pod and need someone skilled in crowd control tactics, it might make sense. But if you're just looking for someone to essentially provide babysitting with some tutoring and tech help (and maybe even some light cleaning), you're probably better off with someone who thinks of themselves as more of a nanny/babysitter. (At Nanno, many of our sitters have education backgrounds or are pursuing degrees in education or early childhood.)

Employee or Independent Contractor? If you're hiring someone to teach and otherwise care for your kids, you will need to make the call on whether they're an employee or an independent contractor. Lots of factors go into this decision – and it's very much a case-by-case determination. Here's a comprehensive rundown of factors you should consider. Most important is to get it straight with your pod leader as part of the hiring process. Also, if you're going to have the pod meet in your home, call your homeowners' insurance carrier and ask to add workers' comp for household employees. Most will do it for relatively little additional expense. (You might want to discuss other aspects of liability insurance while you're at it.)

COVID Precautions. This probably goes without saying, but one of the most important things to do when you're forming a pod / hiring a pod leader is to make sure you're all aligned on social distancing protocols, both in and out of the classroom. As the pandemic has evolved, so have personal protocols around social distancing, mask-wearing, travel, etc. Make sure you're comfortable with the level of precaution taken by your podmates and pod leaders – and that they're comfortable with yours.

As you'll see, all of this (and more) are discussed in depth on the various groups and boards.

So, without further ado, here is our running list of pandemic pod and microschool resources:

Pandemic Pod and Microschool Resources

Pandemic Pods

Summary: With over 35,000 members, this Facebook group is the largest online resource we've found for those in need of pandemic pods. In addition to the main group, the group administrators have encouraged local leaders to form their own regional FB groups to connect families on a more local level. The full running list of local chapters can be found here (and is also linked off the main group).

Michigan Pandemic Pods & Microschools

Summary: A place Michigan families can discuss education options for their children during the Pandemic.

NW Austin Learning Pods

Summary: A group of families sharing non-socially distanced learning led by a paid adult who facilitates the online instruction provided by a school district

Los Angeles Pandemic Pods and Microschools

Summary: A group for parents in LA seeking communication about all school/childcare/socialization options with other families amid the pandemic.

Irvine Pandemic Pods

Summary: For Irvine (and nearby) parents wanting to create a learning pod for their children for the 2020-2021 school year.

Washington DC Area Homeschool/Playgroup Pods

Summary: This is a group to help families in the DC region to form and run parent-led homeschool co-ops for their littles or to share homeschooling resources. Families can use this group to connect to others nearby and to share ideas, resources and experiences across groups/families.

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