3 Tips for Starting Your Own Learning Pod

Setting Up a Learning Pod Can Be Enriching for Both You and Your Kids with a Little Planning

Are you ready to enter a brave, new world of education? COVID-19 has certainly meant challenges — that’s a given — but for many parents, it also presents opportunities for creative problem-solving!

Whether you’re looking to replace or supplement your kids’ school curriculum or after-school care, one popular solution is the pandemic pod. It means different things to different people (more on that later!), but pods are an increasingly popular solution to parents’ homeschooling and babysitting woes. Depending on how they are set up, pods can provide a safe way for kids to learn and play — and for parents to regain their sanity!

And you don’t need to shell out thousands — there are plenty of cost-effective, DIY ways to set one up yourself.  Despite pods’ bad rap as a privilege for the wealthy, they can actually help address learning inequities. For example, by splitting the cost of a tutor or nanny among several children, you could bring the cost down to as low as $8/hour per child, while still giving your kids quality care and help in a safe, contained environment.

Here at Apiari, we’ve been setting up and working with pods of all types and sizes for months — from outdoor play to virtual tutoring to in-person enrichment pods. Now, we’d love to help you create your own!

So, how do you build your own pod and reap the rewards of this small-group experience? Here are three key steps to get started.

1. Find the right pod mates.

What interests do you want your kids to explore? What are the group dynamics you have in mind? Before you start looking for a provider to lead your pod, think about how to bring other families into the fold. Consider communities from listservs, Facebook, neighborhood apps, and other resources. Having trouble? We’re also here to help you find those like-minded potential pod mates through our free family match program.

As you start collaborating with other parents to put your pod together, make sure you discuss the following questions to find the right blend of interests and personalities:

(a)  What are you looking for in a pod? (e.g. Homeschooling, learning support or tutoring, nannying or childcare, or afterschool activities, or a mix of these)

(b)  Which days and times are participants available?

(c) Are there any special needs or academic challenges that pod members should be aware of?

(d)  Are there any pet or food allergies you should account for?

(e)  What rules should pod participants follow? (e.g. Wearing masks at all times, social distancing guidelines, and illness disclosures)

(f)  Are parents working from home?

(g)  What precautions are families taking against COVID in and out of the house?

(h)  How large should the pod be? (NB: many of our clients have found 3-5 kids to be the ideal size that balances social interaction, cost-effective learning, and safety.)

2. Find the right location.

Location, location, location. That’s something that’s on your mind — and everyone’s — as we navigate COVID-19. Right now, parks and other outdoor spaces are a great option. But it won’t be warm and sunny forever. As fall approaches, we’ll have to face the inevitable: indoor settings will have to become a norm.

Think of this as an opportunity to exercise some creative problem-solving. Work together with your group to grapple with these challenges.

Consider rotating homes so no one family has to shoulder the whole burden. You might also explore unconventional spaces for work and play, such as event and community spaces, restaurants that are closed during the day (assuming restaurants are able to open their doors), and even hotels, many of which have lowered the prices substantially in the wake of the pandemic.

And always remember to verify that any space you’re considering is following local health regulations — and that everyone in the pod is comfortable with the solution.

3. Find the right provider.

Are you looking for a certified teacher? A tutor for a particular skill or range of skills and subjects? A sitter? Figure out what you’re looking for as a group.

As you embark on your search, keep prices in mind. A certified teacher can run the gamut from about $30-150/hour. Meanwhile, a tutor can be less expensive, ranging from around $16-30 for younger students (up to 2nd grade); tutoring for older students, which usually requires more experience, is more in the $20-150 range. A specialist or sitter who facilitates STEAM and other afterschool activities are in the range of $18-100.

These prices are based on New York City rates. Keep in mind that the larger the pod, the lower the rate will be per participant, and prices can varying significantly based on factors like the facilitator’s experience and qualifications.

Consider virtual equivalents, too. These are often more cost-effective and eliminate safety concerns, while still allowing kids to connect and participate in a community during quarantine. If you do go the in-person pod route, though, make sure you ask the provider the same questions you’re asking fellow pod mates and parents and that they follow your pod’s social-distancing rules.

Ready to tackle the DIY pod yourself? If you’re looking for a provider to lead your kids’ pod activities, whether you’re in need of a tutor, sitter, or another professional, Apiari is here to help. We’ll match you to the perfect experienced and vetted pod leader to meet your kids’ needs. Get started today!

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