Learn how to Type a Pandemic Pod to Safely Socialize Throughout Quarantine
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended almost every aspect of our daily routine. We’re slowly getting used to wearing masks outside the house, vigilantly washing our hands, and social distancing. However, other safety protocols, such as self-isolation, have been much harder for us to handle emotionally.
Many people are turning to pandemic pods to maintain social connections and regain a sense of normalcy. A “pandemic pod” refers to a group of people who agree to follow the same health and safety protocols when interacting with anyone outside their group. When everyone in the pod follows the same rules, there’s less risk and worry about infection when gathering without distancing from fellow pod members.
CNN reports that seniors are turning to pandemic pods to get through the winter. A July 2020 >Axios-Ipsos poll found that 47% of Americans had formed a pod to minimize the risks of COVID-19. And WebMD reports that many parents are creating pods to help their children socialize while distance learning.
Finding people you can trust with your health is no easy feat, and there are many things to consider before you form a pod. Pandemic pods are not without risk. However, a pandemic pod can help you and your family connect with others during the pandemic and restore a bit of normalcy in these uncertain times. People are turning to pods to fulfill many different kinds of practical and societal needs, and identifying the type of pod you need is critical to its success.
Types of Pandemic Pods
Although they go by many different names, there are two primary types of pods.
Social pandemic pods, also called “quaranteams” and “pandemic bubbles,” are a pod you set up with family members, neighbors, or close friends to socialize. Social pods get together to have dinner in someone’s home, schedule play dates for their children, play games, have drinks, or participate in outdoor activities like hiking or biking.
Some people also use the pod approach to keep older family members safe from the pandemic. Adopting the pod approach can allow families with children to visit grandparents or other higher-risk family members.
Learning pods are small groups of children who gather daily or weekly for home school or distance learning. Some people refer to learning pods as “micro-schools,” “nano schools,” or “learning bubbles.” Learning pods can also double as a social pod for children.
Some pods are led solely by parents who rotate teaching and child care responsibilities with other pod members. These types of learning pods are sometimes called “non-market pods.”
Parents can also hire a nanny or private tutor to lead their learning pod. These are known as “market pods.”
Parents, caregivers, and tutors in a learning pod must clarify and uphold the safety guidelines for everyone in the group. The more families you include, the more challenging that becomes. Parents and pod leaders are also responsible for overseeing the day’s education. For younger children, that likely means one-on-one instruction. For older children, it means guiding them through lessons, answering questions, and ensuring they meet the day’s learning goals.
Pod leaders also have to perform other tasks, such as regularly cleaning and sanitizing the home or learning space, providing snacks or meals, and mediating disagreements between students.
Pandemic Pod Pros
During the COVID-19 pandemic, pods provide a mechanism to satisfy the pressing human need for social interaction. With the right team in place, your pod can give you a safety net of friendships during this challenging time. These pods also provide several other benefits.
1. Combating Loneliness
According to the University of Chicago’s mental health report (based on their September 2020 COVID Response Tracking Survey), 1 in 5 Americans reports suffering from emotional problems like loneliness, anxiety, depression, and irritability “often or always” since the pandemic started. If you’re an essential worker, these numbers are even higher. Kaiser Family Foundation says that 42% of essential workers report symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders.
With infection rates skyrocketing around the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against travel and large indoor gatherings with family and friends.
However, getting together with your pod could provide a safe way to celebrate important milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries, improve your mental health, and help you make it through the rest of the winter without losing your sanity.
2. Stabilizing Distance Learning & Homeschooling
Many parents working at home with kids form pods with other families to offset the burden of homeschooling and distance learning. These learning pods have even begun using “podding” as a verb. And learning pods can provide several benefits.
First, learning pods allow children to have safe social contacts with a group of friends. A 2015 study published in the journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that this regular socialization can positively benefit their mental health and allow for face-to-face group learning activities that aren’t possible with remote learning. That’s especially true with children aged 10 and older. Ronald Dahl, a pediatrician who founded the Center for the Developing Adolescent at UC Berkeley, tells The Atlantic these age groups need to practice their social skills with other children, something that’s difficult to do over Zoom.
A learning pod can provide stability throughout the school year. As infection rates increase, many private and public schools — and even entire school districts — will have to close periodically to stem transmission. However, a learning pod can ensure your child’s routine stays the same.
Learning pods might also provide more support to children with learning disabilities or those who need extra help. Jenny Radesky, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician with C.S. Mott’s Children Hospital, told parents during a September 2020 back-to-school Q&A that kids with ADHD or autism might find screen learning especially challenging, and these children can benefit from one-on-one learning with a teacher.
The learning pods’ smaller class size might also benefit kids, especially those with special needs. For example, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders found that kids with ADHD were better able to stay on task when learning in a small group compared to learning in a larger group or independently. And in an article for The School Superintendents Association, Eastern Michigan University professor of educational administration Charles M. Achilles writes that children in special education benefit from smaller class sizes.
Matthew Lynch, a special education teacher writing for The Edvocate, notes he could always spot the classrooms where he would get the highest number of child referrals for special ed. It wasn’t the smaller classrooms where teachers had more time to work one-on-one with struggling learners. In the larger classrooms with 25 or 30 students, overworked teachers assumed kids who fell behind needed special education.
However, not all children benefit from learning in this type of setting. It’s crucial you think carefully about your child’s needs and learning style and weigh the benefits with the potential drawbacks.
3. Providing Job Security
When the pandemic hit and schools closed nationwide, parents had the impossible task of trying to balance their family’s work, health, and educational needs all at once. And now that we’re experiencing another surge of COVID-19, this balancing act will likely continue for the foreseeable future. However, a learning pod might be the answer many working parents need.
When several families split child care and teaching responsibilities, it can provide working parents more time and flexibility to do their jobs. Some parents have had to quit their job or reduce working hours to supervise their children’s education, and sharing these tasks with other families can help some parents get back to work or increase their income by working more.
Pandemic Pod Cons
One of the goals of a pandemic pod is to reduce the harm from social isolation. However, there’s still a risk of infection, especially if someone in the pod doesn’t follow the agreed-upon rules. So it’s vital you understand these potential drawbacks to find the most workable solution.
1. Finding Compatible Pod Members
Setting up a pandemic pod can feel a lot like online dating, especially if you’re building a pod with strangers. You’re scouring Facebook groups, reading profiles, and having Zoom conversations with potential pod mates to find just the right fit.
The search for pod members can be exhausting and all-consuming, especially for parents looking to create a learning pod. Everyone has different risk tolerance levels, so you must find others willing to engage in the same safe practices you are. That’s often easier said than done.
Even when you find some compatible pod mates, you might have to eventually deal with someone who’s not following your pod’s agreed-upon rules. If you set up a pod with close friends or family, that could lead to hurt feelings or even a feud.
2. Relying on Others to Stay Safe
Nicole Herzog, a pediatrician with Cedars-Sinai, says a pod is only as safe as every household contact of every member of the pod. All it takes is one careless social interaction to compromise everyone’s health and safety.
When you’re forming your own pod, make sure you connect with people you trust to be open and honest about their health, social interactions, and behaviors.
3. Spending Additional Money
You might have to spend money to get your home set up to host a pod in some cases.
For example, if you’re forming a social pod, you might need to invest in some gear to facilitate social activities, depending on what your pod wants to do:
- A larger table or additional chairs
- Plates, glasses, or barware
- A larger television
- Additional cleaning supplies
- Additional seating for the living room, porch, or patio
- Digital streaming services like Hulu or Netflix
- Board games or a video game console like Wii so you can play with a group
- An outdoor heater (or two)
- Outdoor games, such as ring toss or cornhole
- Cooking appliances like an Instant Pot or slow cooker to make it easier to cook for a group
- A coffee pot that can produce enough brew for a crowd
If you’re forming a learning pod for your children, you might have other types of additional expenses, such as:
- Additional laptops or tablets
- A private tutor or caregiver to supervise learning if all parents need to work
- Educational games and activities to keep children learning during downtimes
- Daily snacks, drinks, and meals for everyone in the group
Fortunately, for many people, the costs associated with their pod will balance out after several months of not socializing in places like bars and restaurants or spending money on activities like day trips and classes. Plus, they’re upgrades you can continue using once the pandemic is over. But for others, these may represent additional costs, which can be daunting if you’re out of work or have had your hours cut.
How to Form a Pandemic Pod on a Budget
Forming a pandemic pod can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. However, there are several strategies you can use to find compatible members, clarify expectations, and reduce everyone’s risk of exposure.
Before you start looking for pod mates, think about your wants and needs. Why are you forming a pod?
For example, are you looking for people to socialize with? Do you want to find other parents to share child care responsibilities so you all have more time to work at home? Are you more interested in starting a learning pod for homeschooling?
Identifying your goals first can help you form a pod to suit your needs.
Find Potential Pod Mates
The type of pod you need can affect where you look for pod mates. Pod mates are often friends, but you can also meet new people to form a pod with.
Pod With Friends
Many people choose to start a pod with existing friends, family, or colleagues.
If you already have some people in mind, think carefully about their habits, risk tolerance, and communication skills before inviting them to form a pod. Remember, your safety depends on everyone else in the group, so carefully consider who you invite in. You don’t want to destroy an otherwise rewarding relationship over differences in risk tolerance.
Pod With Strangers
If you’ve recently relocated or don’t have friends or family living nearby, you can still form a pod from the ground up. But it’s essential you find members with similar interests or career goals as yourself to make socializing worthwhile.
There are several different ways to find potential pod members.
First, check Meetup for your area. Meetup is a platform that allows people to connect with others in their community who share a similar interest and “meet up” to socialize or learn. Many Meetups are now online-only, and attending some of these virtual events is a smart way to connect with others who share your interests.
You can also use platforms like Bumble BFF to connect. Bumble BFF is like online dating, but instead of a love interest, you’re searching profiles to look for friends, workout partners, or travel buddies.
If you’re looking for fellow dog owners for doggy play dates, Bark Happy can connect you with other dog lovers in your area. Bark Happy also helps you find dog-friendly places in your area, which can help you connect with other dog-lovers.
If you’re a mother, a mother-to-be, or a woman trying to conceive, you can use Peanut to connect with other moms in your area. And if you’re a dad, Dadapp can connect you with other fathers in your area.
Pod With Other Parents
It can be a tedious search to find compatible families for your pod. But you might already know them.
First, think about the families you interact with. These could be families in your neighborhood, at your child’s school, families you know from extracurricular activities, or even extended family members.
If you don’t know any potential pod mates personally, start searching for other families in your community. First, find out if there’s a local homeschooling group or co-op in your area. Try Googling “homeschool group” or “homeschool co-op near me.” You can also check out The Homeschool Mom’s comprehensive list of state-by-state homeschooling groups.
Or you can use the Pandemic Pods Facebook Group to connect with other parents looking to form learning or social pods for their kids. Although the Facebook group is based in San Francisco, there are many local chapters.
You can also turn to social media to find compatible families. Join your city’s group on Facebook or check out Instagram to connect with others using hashtags like “learning pods + your city” or “homeschooling + your city.”
When you’re searching for other families to pod with, the children’s ages don’t have to be close for effective learning to take place. But kids closer in age are better able to play and socialize with one another. If you’re just looking to form a pod to build a support group with other parents so you have more time for work, any age gaps won’t matter.
Pod With Other Adult Caregivers
If you’re a caregiver for someone else, such as an elderly parent or someone who has health problems, you can start a pod with other caregivers in your area. A caregiver pod can be an essential source of social support. But they may also be people you can turn to when you need someone to fill in during an emergency or just to take a break.
To find other caregivers in your area, look for a local support group that deals with your specific type of care.
You can also use an online support group to find other caregivers in your area. Care.com has a list of 23 online and in-person support groups tailored to many different caregiving situations.
Interview Potential Pod Members
Everyone has a different idea of what’s safe and what isn’t. When forming a pod, all members of the pod must agree to follow the same rules. Otherwise, you may as well gather at the local pub with a group of casual friends.
When you’re assessing potential pod mates, it’s helpful to have a list of rules and expectations written down so you can determine whether someone is a good fit. What those rules look like depends on your personal risk tolerance level. The laxer the rules, the higher the risk for all pod members. Some things you and your pod mates should be on the same page about include:
- Work Requirements. What is your work situation? Do you work at home, in a private office setting, or in front of the public? Are you a front-line or essential worker? Ideally, you will interview potential pod members whose work situations mirror the risk of your own. For instance, if you work from home, find others who also work at home. If you work with the public, look for pod mates in a similar situation taking the same safety precautions.
- Mask Preferences. Do you have strong preferences about what types of masks people wear? For example, do you prefer group members all invest in KN95 masks, or are homemade face coverings or store-bought cloth masks OK? When should group members wear masks? Only in public indoor areas, or are they also required outdoors? What about face shields? Are they an acceptable substitute for masks, or do you prefer people wear them along with masks? Everyone must abide by the same minimum masking standards.
- Hand Hygiene. Do you always wash your hands when you return home and use hand sanitizer when out in public? How vigilant are you about making sure you have a way to clean your hands? For example, do you carry sanitizer in your glovebox and purse or pocket just to ensure you have it at all times? Or are you comfortable just waiting until you get home if you forget? Hand hygiene is hard to monitor, so it’s best if all group members are already on the same page about it (or live with someone who’s already reminding them).
- Running Errands. Do you have strong feelings about in-person shopping? What shopping options are you utilizing right now: in-store shopping, curbside pickup, or delivery? Do you have to do any shopping or errands for someone else, such as an elderly relative? If so, what kind of contact do you have with them when you make drop-offs? Does the person you shop for have contact with anyone besides you? The group should have rules about what type of shopping behavior is acceptable and what to do if you have no choice but to take a riskier route (for example, some stores only allow you to buy certain products inside).
- Dining Habits. Are you dining indoors at restaurants, getting takeout or drive-thru only, getting food delivered, or exclusively eating meals prepared at home? If you’re patronizing restaurants, what are the masking and contact guidelines associated with that? For example, when can you remove your mask in the restaurant, must you mask up for drive-thru, and do you utilize only no-contact delivery options? Choose pod mates whose dining habits mirror everyone else in the group.
- Exercise Routine. Do you exercise at a gym? If so, do you wear a mask? Do you do outdoor exercises like jogging, walking, or biking? Is your outdoor exercise in a public space where you might come into close contact with other people? Do you wear a mask when you exercise outdoors? If not, do you carry one in case you need it?
- Professional Services. Do you use services that put you in close contact with others, such as hairstylists, house cleaners, home repair professionals, or dentists? Will the group allow any of these services without consulting your pod mates? Which will require a two-week quarantine if you use them, like an emergency dental procedure or vital home repair?
- School Requirements. If you have children, are they attending school in person or remote-learning at home? Do they play or visit with other children outside your immediate household? If so, what safety protocols are you following?
- Spiritual and Personal Commitments. Do you attend in-person religious services? If so, what safety protocols are you and the organization following? Are you and the rest of the group willing to attend the same religious or spiritual organization to minimize the risk? What about volunteering and activism commitments? What safety protocols do you follow for these engagements?
- House Rules. How do you interact with neighbors or delivery professionals? Do you put on a mask if you have to sign for a package? Are you comfortable setting boundaries with neighbors, such as asking them to put on a mask if they want to talk outdoors?
- House Cleaning. How often do you clean and disinfect the surfaces in your home? Do you take off your shoes when you enter your home? Do you remove and immediately wash clothing if you’ve been in close contact with others? How often are you prepared to clean and disinfect when the group is there?
- Underlying Health Factors. Do you have any health conditions that put you at higher risk from COVID-19? Are you willing to be in a pod with those who don’t share similar health concerns? Are you willing to discuss your health with others in the pod so they understand the importance of disclosing every possible exposure?
- Current COVID-19 Status. Have you been tested for COVID-19? Are you willing and able to get tested before joining the pod or quarantine for two weeks before the first meeting?
Agree on Cleaning Protocols
Everyone in your pod needs to be on the same page when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing. That’s especially crucial if you’re forming a learning pod since children will be in someone’s home for several hours or the entire day.
Karina Eastman, another pediatrician with Cedars-Sinai, says learning-pod families need to agree on strict cleaning and disinfection protocols during the day. And it’s best to follow CDC guidelines for household cleaning:
- Put on disposable gloves before cleaning surfaces.
- Clean the surface first with soap and water, then disinfect with an Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectant.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, hard-backed chairs, tables, light switches, phones, electronics, keyboards, remote controls, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.
The CDC doesn’t specify how often you should clean surfaces, so all pod members must agree on cleaning frequency.
Agree on Public Protocols
Your group also needs to be on the same page regarding any and all interactions with the public.
While it’s impossible to plan for every possible scenario, you can over the most likely interactions and discuss what’s allowed, what isn’t, and what you’ll do if one of you needs to violate the rules.
For instance, let’s say you agree to stay out of grocery stores and instead rely on curbside pickup or delivery. If someone needs to go inside for a last-minute pickup, you agree to wear a K95 mask and limit your shopping to 20 minutes or less.
If you need an emergency home repair, you all agree to insist the repair professional and all household members wear a KN95 mask (your group agrees to keep extra masks to provide in-home workers in emergencies). If weather permits, you’ll keep windows open during the home repair and clean and disinfect all surfaces after the technician leaves.
When you’re outdoors, you agree to carry (at minimum) a well-fitted two-layer mask with you at all times (if not the group’s standard agreed-upon KN95) in case you end up in a situation in which you’re in close contact with someone else.
If someone in the group wants to engage in a higher-risk activity, such as dining in a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion or getting a haircut, they can do so without prior permission from the group. But they must quarantine for two weeks afterward before rejoining the group.
You can’t plan for every situation in advance. But if everyone in the group thinks through their daily routines and household needs, there’s a good chance your plan will cover most of them. You also need to decide whether to tighten or loosen these guidelines as your area’s infection rates.
Make a Plan for a Positive COVID-19 Test
Consider what to do if a pod member tests positive for COVID-19, shows symptoms, or has a potential exposure.
- How will they contact the group (phone call, text, social media, email)?
- Under what circumstances will this person or the entire group need to quarantine?
- If the breach resulted from the pod member not following pod safety protocols, what are the consequences for repeat offenders to the agreement?
- How many chances will an offender get before you ask them (and their family, if applicable) to leave the pod?
It’s imperative you create a safe environment for members to report symptoms or admit they participated in unsafe activities. If pod members feel like they’ll be kicked out, shamed, or judged for falling ill or being careless, chances are higher they’ll keep the information private. And that puts the entire group at risk.
You should also encourage everyone in your pod to get a flu shot this year. A flu shot helps protect everyone from the influenza virus and reduces potential strain on the health care system.
Outline Protocols to Follow Before Your First Meeting
Whether you’re meeting pod friends for happy hour at home or organizing a potluck dinner, you need to agree to a protocol to follow before your first meeting to lower the risk of transmission.
For example, you can all agree to quarantine for two weeks before your first meeting or get tested beforehand. Or you can socially distance for the first or first few sessions and then relax the rules once you’ve all followed the pod agreement for a couple of weeks.
These aren’t easy decisions to make, and everyone will have a different opinion on how best to navigate such an uncertain situation. But discussing it openly so you all feel comfortable is essential. And once you’ve made all these tough decisions, you’re one step closer to launching your pod.
Create a Pod Agreement
Many people opt to write a pod agreement. A pod agreement is a formal list of rules and safety protocols everyone agrees to follow. You should base these safety protocols on current CDC guidelines and guidelines issued by your state, city, township, or tribe.
With those in mind, your agreement should outline all the guidelines your pod has agreed to.
For example, some pods agree not to meet with any close contacts outside the pod, while others agree that social meetups are fine as long as everyone wears a mask and maintains at least 6 feet of distance. Others may allow social interactions outdoors without masks so long as everyone maintains proper distance. There are multiple varying rules people have to follow. And some group members may find that some restrictions don’t typically apply to them — then suddenly need to know what they are if that changes. It can be beneficial to have the guidelines written down so they can refer to it.
It’s also crucial you outline how you will handle someone who has to (or accidentally does) break the rules or participate in an activity that falls outside the group’s agreed-upon guidelines. For example, imagine someone in your pod needs to travel for business or attend a family wedding. How and when will they be allowed to reenter the pod once they return? What if they forget to put on their mask at the drive-thru? You have to decide if they’ll have to quarantine for two weeks or if it’s enough to just wear their mask while around the pod for that same period.
It’s essential to talk as a group and be honest about the rules and behaviors you’re willing to follow. Pods have to address myriad situations, so good communication is essential.
It also helps to set a timeline for your pod. Is this a temporary arrangement designed to get through the winter, or will you be bound to the pod rules for the foreseeable future?
Check In Frequently
As you meet with your pod in the weeks and months to come, check in with each other frequently about what’s working and what isn’t. Having open and honest conversations about rules and managing risks keeps everyone on the same page and ensures you air and deal with any grievances promptly.
Additional Considerations for Forming a Learning Pod on a Budget
Forming a learning pod is just like forming a social pod in most respects. But there are some additional considerations for those whose pods will also function as educational groups. Specifically, you must determine what type of instruction your kids will have.
School-Provided Remote Learning
Children following a school district’s virtual learning curriculum may need an adult to help with some tasks, monitor the group, or troubleshoot technology problems. For example, some districts require children to stay logged in for a certain number of hours per day. In other cases, kids need to log in at specific times to watch a live class from their teacher or complete an assignment. For younger kids, adults may also need to help scan paper assignments or take digital photos of projects to submit to instructors.
Fortunately, school-provided remote learning doesn’t cost anything. But that’s still a lot of work for working parents. The pod approach allows parents to divide the labor so they can get more done each week.
If you and your pod are homeschooling, you might have to juggle several different types of curricula, depending on what each family chooses to teach for the year. That means you must spend time reviewing these curricula so you’re prepared to teach from various texts or learning platforms.
But you can also use this time to expose your children to multiple topics and experiences they wouldn’t otherwise encounter in a traditional school setting. Parents and caregivers can be a wealth of information here. For example, if someone in your pod is a chef, they can host a cooking class for school once per week. A pod member who’s a writer can take over English classes for the group, while a programmer can teach coding. Someone who’s lived in England can teach a lesson on that country, while a senior caregiver can discuss a major historical event they lived through.
You also might need to purchase a home-school curriculum. These can vary widely in price. For example, Timberdoodle’s year-long home-school curriculum starts at around $300 and goes up to $1,200 or more. Build Your Library, another popular home-school curriculum, starts at $29.95 for the curriculum itself. However, when researching Build Your Library for my kids, I found I’d need to purchase $500 or more in books to go with it, though you can save money by using your library or buying used books.
The flexibility of homeschooling allows you to make up a curriculum as you see fit, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box. And that’s the big difference when you compare homeschooling with remote learning. With remote learning, children have to follow a school district’s curriculum and complete assignments that help meet a teacher’s learning goals. Although you can certainly add lessons and experiences to expand your child’s education, you still have to fulfill the school’s learning requirements first, which leaves you little time at the end of the day for enrichment activities.
If you’re not following your school district’s distance-learning curriculum, your learning pod still has to comply with your state’s homeschooling laws. You can find your state’s laws through the Home School Legal Defense Association.
For more information, see our article on homeschooling on a budget.
Many online learning platforms, such as Time4Learning and Outschool, provide children with a quality education at a much lower price than hiring a private teacher. For example, Time4Learning’s monthly membership starts at $19.95 for the first student and $14.95 for each additional student. Outschool classes vary widely in price, depending on the topic and frequency of instruction. Some one-time-only classes cost $10 per hour, while a class that meets three hours per week for eight weeks might cost $400 or more.
Although they can add convenience at a lower cost, virtual learning platforms still require the presence of an adult, especially if there are younger children in the group. An adult must start or stop lessons, ensure children stay focused and on-track with classes, oversee tests, and troubleshoot any technical problems.
Some parents choose to use virtual learning platforms in conjunction with a homeschool curriculum. If there are several families in the pod, the pod leader might have to get some children started with a virtual learning class, then teach other children with face-to-face instruction.
For more information, see our list of virtual educational resources for parents and teachers.
Hire a Caregiver
Another option is to hire a nanny or other caregiver to supervise your children’s distance learning. A nanny can also provide a second pair of hands to help each parent in charge of that day’s education. Or you can just hire someone to help out after lessons are over so parents can get back to work.
The cost for a nanny or caregiver varies widely, depending on their level of experience and your location. According to placement service Nanny Lane, a nanny’s average pay is $19 per hour.
For more information, read our article on hiring a nanny or caregiver.
Parents looking to form a professionally taught learning pod might be shocked at how much they can cost.
PBS reports that some educators have left public schools to teach pods privately. And it’s not hard to understand why. Some teachers are earning a higher salary and teaching fewer kids in a safer environment.
The price of hiring a private tutor for a learning pod varies widely. CNBC reports that costs for private tutors range from $75 to $100 per hour or more.
However, costs go down when there are more children in the pod. For example, a tutor charging $75 per hour averages to $18.75 per hour per child if four children are in the pod. Use the free resources at Selected for Families or Schoolhouse to find a tutor who suits your pod’s needs.
Note that anyone you hire, be it a professional tutor or college student, is another potential point of transmission. They must agree to the same guidelines you’ve established with other pod members.
Be aware that many private educators ask for a contract to teach for a full semester or the entire school year. And you should make sure each parent signs the teacher’s contract so you’re all responsible for that financial obligation. If that’s not possible, draw up your own agreement. It might be a good idea to get a lawyer involved.
But you also need to have a plan if things don’t go as anticipated. What happens if one family in the pod decides the arrangement isn’t working for them and decides to leave? What if one family repeatedly violates the pod agreement and you have to end the pod relationship? Will you and the other families still be able to meet the financial obligations of your contract? What if one of the children is exposed to the virus and can’t attend school for two weeks. Will they still have to pay for the tutor?
These situations will likely come up at some point, so work with your pod mates to create a financial plan for these scenarios.
You also need to think about any liability issues. For instance, what if a parent or child is exposed to the virus while in your home? Can they sue or hold you liable for any medical bills? You may need to create a liability waiver to protect yourself in this scenario. A lawyer will come in handy here too.
University of California-Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine says pandemic pods are a way to keep society going during the pandemic. As authors Jeremy Adam Smith and William Winters write, there’s a reason punishments like isolation and exile are some of the worst human beings have to face.
Our social interactions affect our mental and physical health and can even play a role in how long we live. And right now, we can all benefit from being with others regularly.
A pod can be a solution to the isolation many of us face during this pandemic. However, you must choose pod mates you can trust. Remember: A pandemic pod isn’t just a group of casual friendships. It’s an alliance you’re making with other people to navigate this uncertain time with some small degree of normalcy. It’s not easy to do, but with good communication and a clear set of guidelines, you can form a successful and safe social group.