Pod Helps Those… – Learning Pods on a Budget

Welp…there’s A LOT of chatter about pod learning out there now. And in some cases, despite the current resurgence of COVID-19 and the necessity to provide a safe and distraction-free learning environment, it’s getting a bad rap. Each new day has yet another story about rich parents dropping $25K a year each to form their bougie pods. But, those stories are more the exception than the rule. 

The rising popularity of the “pod” tells us a lot about the craziness of our current situation. It tells us that our traditional schools aren’t living up to their promise right now. It tells us that parents are thinking innovatively about what education ought to look like. And, it tells us that we’re in a moment that prompts us to promote varied and diverse solutions. One group in Oakland is trying their best to help bolster pods in low-income neighborhoods by handing out technology and supporting the effort. Lakisha Young, the executive director of the group (Oakland REACH) was quick to defend pods as one of many important solutions on the table today.

“The parents creating pods obviously see a problem and they are designing a solution in the best way they know how,” she told The Oaklandside. “I think what’s important is not whether or not a pod is right or wrong, it’s about understanding that there can be multiple models for serving different communities.”

While we endure this traumatic global event together (accounting for the “what-ifs”) it’s counterproductive to be poohpoohing the benefits of pod learning. Moms and dads, educators and administrators, are simply looking for a solution to keep our kids safe while adjusting to the “new normal.”

Pod learning allows moms and dads the ability to modify traditional schooling (that for most of the country has converted solely to virtual learning) to give their kids the best opportunity to succeed. 

I think what’s important is not whether or not a pod is right or wrong, it’s about understanding that there can be multiple models for serving different communities.

Wanna Set Up Your Own Pod, But Think It’ll Cost a Fortune? Think Again. 

Ready to remortgage the house for that $25,000 tuition bill? Think again. Learning pods don’t have to be bougie. You can establish your own uniquely perfect pandemic pod for significantly less money than you think.

For Adele Ray, a Californian pod mom, the experience was built around what value each member could bring to the table. Maybe it was a meal, an experience, or transportation. 

“When we think about value, it’s not just monetary. If a family doesn’t have a monetary aspect, they can bring other things to the table. It’s about sharing resources and being a co-op and a community.”  

Dollars Making Sense: $100 a week?

  1. Are you interested in hiring a private teacher? If so, they need to be paid. Determine the “all-in” monetary contribution others are willing to pitch in with, but also consider substitutions. Maybe a parent has offered an amazingly safe and productive space for the kids to set up shop rent-free? Maybe a family friend would make an excellent stand-in for a typical classroom teacher.
  1. Oh, the budget seems small? Consider this: The average teacher in the Midwest brings home about $40,000 per year. A pod with 8 students at just $100 per week pays a teacher more than $40K. That’s far lower than the average daycare, babysitter, nanny, etc. 
  1. Do you need supplies? Will you provide lunch? Do you really need to hire a professional violinist to provide music lessons (I mean, if it’s in the budget, by all means—get to fiddling!)? These are all things to openly discuss with your new set of like-minded, pod-schooling cohorts.  

More Than Money: Resources

If you’re considering a Learning Pod because you’re concerned about your kid’s safety or ability to adapt to virtual learning expectations, take comfort in knowing that parents across the world are with you—and also trying to figure it out. And you will too. Your time, effort, and creativity are all valuable pod learning resources. 

Between dissecting the socioeconomic disparities and organizing Learning Pod Facebook groups, pandemic pod parents are thinking with both dollars and sense. They are quickly discovering that a hefty bank account does not automatically make for a good pod-learning environment. Rather, a good learning pod is any well-planned and safe environment where the collective time, talent, and treasure of the group is put to use building the right-fit education experience. It just makes sense.