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Checklist & Resources 101 for Pandemic Pods & Micro Schools

What’s an intimacy & relationship platform like Gilly doing writing about microschools and pandemic pods?

Well, for many, stress can stifle intimacy and desire. And the one thing stressing many parents out at the moment is Back to School (we get it, we’re parents too). Ultimately, our mission is to help the relationships of couples with kids thrive. So if that means helping to relieve some of this stress for our fellow parents, we’ll do it!

So we dove in, sifted through resources, online forums (like the amazing Parents, guardians, and teachers of pandemic era nano-schools and Pandemic Pods – Mail facebook groups), articles to pull together the 101 on the topic of pandemic pods and microschools (you’ll soon learn the difference) so that you don’t have to spend countless hours trying to make sense of hundreds of posts (cuz we did that for you).

Before you jump in, we want to acknowledge that the back to school situation in every country, municipality, neighbourhood is different. Heck, every family’s situation is different. The ability to set up pods and microschools is definitely a privilege that not everyone has access to.

So we emphasize this: there is no *should* in this difficult circumstance. You do what works best for your children and your family. This article is here simply to help.

If you are sending your kids to school, good on you! *pat on back*

If you have already set up or joined a pod, good on you! *pat on back*

If you feel like you’re behind the pack, or just starting to get your head around this to make a decision, this article is for you.

Don’t forget about the bonus parts at the end! Your well-being amidst all of this chaos matters too.

1. Know the different models

Pod? Nano school? Micro school? Homeschooling? What is the difference??

Before diving in, we highly suggest checking out this short yet informative article by Lian Chang, a parent and data researcher in San Francisco, outlining different types of pods and their necessary arrangements.

Here is another detailed look at the difference between micro schools and pods.

If, at this point, you’ve decided that private learning pods and groups are not for you or something you can afford the resources for, here are other options to look into: 

  • Check with your local Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs of America for learning hubs or after school support being set up in your community
  • Check with your school district for their plans to support remote and/or in person learning hubs

2. Grab the appropriate checklist

Once you’re clear on which path you want to take, grab a checklist so you know what’s coming. Here are a few we found helpful:

Checklists for Learning Pods

A detailed checklist from Selected Families 

This article by Modulo also gives a great overview of the necessary steps in creating a pod

Checklists for Micro Schools

While this article by Nolo focuses on the legalities of a DIY micro school, it still provides a detailed list of questions to ask yourself as preparation.

3. Decide Who Will Teach

This is the tricky part: who will teach the kids?

Some parents are doing the teaching themselves, while others are hiring teachers or tutors directly, and some are going through existing organizations and agencies to find suitable teachers.

We will focus this section on hiring directly versus via an agency.

From multiple threads, it seems that the main difference between these two options is around liability and set up. If you plan to hire teachers directly, do take the time to understand the regulations that you need to meet, as well as work with a lawyer to set up the appropriate legal documentation. Here are some tips to help you hire and interview a teacher.

And lawyers can get expensive! Some parents are sharing or purchasing legal templates then going through platforms such as Legal Shield as an affordable way to get legal review.

DIY in finding & hiring for in person classes

Tutorhunt
Find a tutor in person or online

Care.com
Find a tutor, someone for child childcare, senior care, housekeeping, pet care or special needs services

Selected for Families
A platform that was originally created to help K-12 schools find and hire qualified teachers, they’ve now opened their service to help families as well. Matches are made based on preferences such as years of experience, grade levels and certification

Also try local Facebook groups such as: 

HPTAT (Homeschool parents looking for teachers and tutors)
Facebook group focused on helping parents and teachers to find each other

Agencies who handle set up and administration of a pod

Selected for Families
Their full-service offering will find, screen, and interview select professional teachers for you and run background checks on them — hired teachers can be for in-person learning pods, or supporting remote learning needs, or virtual needs as well.

Learning-pods.com
Specialized on learning pods for preschool and elementary school they organise just about anything for you. They even have classes for parents on multiple topics, if you feel like being a student again. 🙂

Get schoolhouse
This agency is particularly strict on their criteria for recruiting teachers. They offer personalized curriculums and teaching at your house as well in storefront or religious centers. 

Ectutoring
Do you need test prep? Ectutoring offers it along with in home tutoring and virtual tutoring.

If you opt out of the local school curriculum, you’ll also need to choose a curriculum.

If you’re headed down this vortex, here is an overview of the 7 main approaches.

4. Recruit families to join your group

A great way to find other students for your pod is through a Facebook group in your local area (search for Pandemic Pod Chapters or this list). You can also post a request in larger facebook groups such as Parents, guardians, and teachers of pandemic era nano-schools and Pandemic Pods – Main.

Additionally, you could ask your children’s classmates or within your community if someone would like to join. The website, Learning Pods, also sets your pod up with other students if requested. Selected platform is for free and can help you to communicate with other families to find podmates.

5. Discuss and finalize protocols

Besides academic level, it would also help to align with families who are joining together on:

Level of safety and exposure

Different families have different tolerances and expectations around managing their exposure to health risks. This framework by Rachel Walker, a parent from Washington State, is a helpful framework to help guide your discussion.

Once you are aligned on safety and risk expectations, you can refer to example protocols such as this one from care.com.

You may also want to take a sneak peek on your schools guidelines as well as guidelines from  the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.

Scheduling

Some families may need non academic hours to cover the need of childcare while the parents are working. Discuss and align on whether your pod will include these “before school” and “after school” hours and activities. 

Code of conduct

Ground rules for students and code of conducts can be copied from your own school or from this pdf.

Addressing access and equality

While forming your group, consider including families who may not be as fortunate to be able to devote the required resources to create, set up and maintain a pod or nanoschool for their child. Some parents have pointed out possibilities of pooling resources so that children can participate on a sliding scale fee or for free.

You can take one step further and contribute to efforts such as this GoFundme page set up by Myra Margolin, a psychologist and mother of two in Washington, to subsidize learning pods for lower-income students in Washington. 

If there are organisations that are working specifically to cover these inequalities, please let us know so that we can highlight them here!

6. Set up the learning environment

Many parents are sharing photos in Facebook groups to help share tips and learning.

For younger children, these desks from Amazon have been popular. Chairs from Costco are also often mentioned.

For potentially cheaper options, consider checking ebay, facebook marketplace or similar websites. Sometimes you can get tables and chairs for free if you pick them up yourself.

For classroom supplies, here is a checklist for reference.

7. Have a back up plan

What happens if your child has a runny nose and can’t go to their pods? It’s not a great thing to think about after all the hard work you’ve put into just getting your pod up. While this may not be an immediate concern, brainstorm and line up some options to save yourself the future headache.

Below are some potential options to explore and set up emergency arrangements ahead of time:

  • an university student who is remote learning from home
  • an older kid from your community
  • an aunt or uncle
  • a neighbour

Or maybe even:

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 Still with us? Great!

Bonus #1: For your child’s well-being

All this change has and will likely continue to feel stressful for some children. Our children’s social and mental well-being are also paramount.

Here are some suggestions to consider: 

  • Head outside — vitamin D is important!
  • Socialize — Let them see their friends outsides of the pods to stay socially connected — through zoom, skype, in real life (within safe distance, with masks, whatever is safe from your point of view)
  • Create space for feelings — Create space and opportunity to talk about how they feel if they’d like — maybe even print out a feeling wheel as a way to start the conversation
  • Acknowledge their achievements (if age appropriate) — acknowledge the wins! School work done, washing their hands thoroughly, wearing their masks properly
  • Rest — Let them take enough breaks
  • Even just focusing on the essential basics can help — Help them get enough sleep, move their bodies, eat healthy

Bonus #2: For your own well-being

Yes, amidst all of this chaos — remember your own well-being!

A good friend of ours and fellow mama coach, Marisa Sim, puts it so elegantly, “Don’t forget to mother yourself.”

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And yes, we know there isn’t much time in a day that we can dedicate to ourselves. So we’ve put together a list below for you — everything takes less than 10 minutes to do!

  • Take a break — even if it’s just 5 minutes to be alone with a cup of coffee, in the bathroom. Savour the coffee or scroll social media. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you had time alone
  • Breathe — Feeling like your head is super noisy with thoughts? Take 5 minutes to get present to the moment and breathe (also: great to do with kids!)
  • Meditate — You could even start to meditate. Helpful apps are for example InsideTimer or Meditation & Relaxation
  • Split the work — Discuss and review split of labour with your partner and help each other feel balanced
  • Find support — Stay in touch and find support in local Facebook groups
  • Drink water — Do your best to remember this fundamental basic!
  • Try to move your body — Go for a walk, dance around in the living room — whatever is possible is already great! There is no need to train for a marathon. Even just walking around the block can help get the endorphins coming
  • Do your best to eat well
  • Do your best to get enough sleep (for those with young kiddos, we know this is the dream…)
  • Check in on your friends — Try to mind your social connections and check in on friends when you can. We find voice notes a great way to feel connected without the challenges of scheduling calls to fit into already hectic days
  • Create moments to connect and be playful with your partner  Our romantic relationships can be a great source of joy and calm, especially during stressful and uncertain times. Try our two week free Gilly journey for short and playful treats designed to deepen intimacy for you and for your partner!

Do you know of a resource that should be included in this post? If yes, please drop us a note at hello[at]getgilly[dot]com or add to the comments below!

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