You may have heard of learning or “pandemic” pods. But maybe you aren’t quite sure what they are. Families doing remote and hybrid learning are forming small groups, or pods, so their kids can learn together from home.
Some choose to rotate homes, if they can do it safely. And some are turning their groups into “micro-schools” by hiring tutors or even teachers.
But you don’t need to pay for outside teacher help to make a pod helpful to kids. Just being together during learning can have lots of benefits, especially for kids who learn and think differently. (This may not be an option for families with underlying health issues that put them at risk.)
During the COVID shutdowns, families have gotten an idea of what distance learning is like for their child. Some kids do fine or even thrive learning alone at home. But others do better learning in small groups — even in the classroom. For them, having a group to learn with during at-home schooling can be a plus.
Pods can benefit families, too. Rotating homes lets parents and caregivers go to work without worrying about childcare every day. And it can relieve some of the pressure that comes from not being there to support their child’s learning.
Pods aren’t right for all kids or families. But being in a group that’s a good fit can be a great experience for some kids who learn and think differently. Here are five potential benefits of joining or forming a pod.
1. Kids help each other learn.
When kids are in a small group, especially a group with a mix of abilities and ages, they can help each other learn and build skills. That’s good for the kids doing the “teaching” and for the ones doing the learning.
2. Kids can practice social skills.
For kids who struggle with social skills, pods provide built-in practice. If your child is comfortable with the other kids in the group, the pod can be a safe place to work on skills and form friendships.
It may also eliminate bullying your child might normally get at school. Make sure you and your child know the other kids before signing up. And set ground rules to keep bullying from happening in the group.
3. It gives kids a chance to shine.
If your child has specific strengths, they may not come through in a large class — or when doing distance learning alone at home. Being in a pod can let your child share their ideas, passions, or creativity with others who can notice and appreciate them.
4. It helps kids stay motivated.
It’s one thing for you to cheer your child on — and you can still do that after school. But having other kids and adults there to celebrate successes can make a huge difference in your child’s self-esteem and motivation. Being with other kids can also create some healthy competition that gives your child more of a reason to put effort into schoolwork.
5. Kids who get services support each other.
Their services may not be exactly the same. But kids can support each other as they do their individualized work. Let’s say two kids get speech therapy. They may be able to do their exercises together. But even if they can’t, just having the support of another child who “gets it” can be a big help.
Whether or not your child joins a pod, there are things you can do to make remote and hybrid learning more successful.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.