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School Pods and Micro-Schools: A New Take on Homeschooling

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, few would argue that over the past months of 2020, our needs have changed. This is particularly the case when it comes to parents and the question of educating their kids in micro-schools and school pods.

Prior to 2020, the concept of homeschooling was a fringe idea and one that was misunderstood and often ridiculed. Suddenly, with the “new normal” of this novel year, homeschooling families don’t seem so ridiculous afterall. In fact, perhaps they are really onto something.

And so it goes that homeschooling has become mainstream, seemingly overnight.

Yet the American family structure has largely remained the same. Over 64% of U.S. families have two working parents. The extended family and close-knit neighborhoods of the past are a rarity more often than not. Formal schooling has become a necessity not only for educational needs but also fills an important role in many cases as a form of childcare and activity for kids. The majority of Western families now have no stay-at-home parent. So the question is not just about education, but also about keeping kids safe when parents are working.

And this is where pods and micro-schools come in. 

An education pod or micro-school is a small group of students that meet together and attend classes together. It meets the unique needs of modern working parents because one parent or even a teacher or a neutral location like a church can host the group of students while the parents are at work. Classes are conducted by one or more of the parents, by a hired teacher, through self-study, or online work . . . or via a combination of these methods. 

Since it’s a resource pool, the money contributed by each student goes directly to the cost of the pod, and waste is at a minimum. This means that highly qualified teachers can make very good money (though they sacrifice most employment benefits). And the cost is still less than what it is for a good private education. Therefore pods are providing a higher level of education for parents at lower cost than private education, making them an ideal fit for many working-class families.

In fact, pods are such a great idea, we wonder why they were not thought of before . . . or were they?

It might be a surprise to hear that pods are actually not a new idea at all. While the name “pod” might be a relatively new concept and one that has gained popularity due to the COVID-19 restrictions, homeschooling families have been utilizing the benefits of pods for decades. . . they just call them co-ops.

This is excellent news for the parents who might lack the knowledge, resources, and connections to organize their own pods. Chances are, there is a co-op in your area that is already thriving and which might have barely experienced a blip in the wake of COVID. Some co-ops are depending more on technology such as Zoom or online classes like those found on to compensate for restrictions, but the structure is already there. 

And the most important resource for new pod learners is that if you’re able to find a local co-op, you will be surrounded by families and students who have been doing this for a very long time. That means the co-op is much less likely to encounter some of the bumps that will be the result of learning as you go. 

Portrait of friendly schoolchildren chatting in classroom

Another important benefit to co-ops is that because the parents in the co-op have been homeschooling for years in many cases, they have a lot of solutions for your needs such as curriculum and resources. Many co-ops have exchanges or sales of used curriculum and resources where you can get going for a fraction of the price without the trial-and-error. The reality is, a used curriculum is oftentimes just as good as a new curriculum. You might be able to ask the person you’re acquiring it from about their personal experiences.

You are even likely to find a safe childcare option in a local co-op. This can be similar to an afterschool program where a small group of children is involved in academic or extracurricular activities. 

So as you maneuver these rough waters of homeschooling and come across the concept of pods, don’t be afraid! The long-time homeschool families are there for you and are generally eager to help you out. Before you discard the idea of a pod for your kids, consider reaching out to a local co-op. A simple Google search should do the trick. Just type in “homeschool co-ops near me,” and see what comes up!

Remember, no matter the choice you make, you got this, and Luma Learn is here to help!

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