school and childcare

Four Types of Childcare and Schooling Pods, Explained

Terms such as pods and quaranteams are suddenly part of our daily language, but what do these words mean? And what do pods mean in the context of in-person, hybrid, or virtual schooling? This post breaks down the most common options in terms of the overall types of childcare and schooling pods that we’re seeing people use, how they relate to regular schools, and how they function in terms of staffing and administration.

TYPES OF PODS

These are the most common strategies and typologies of childcare and educational pods.

  • Remote Learning Pod
    • The focus is on creating a physical setting to complement virtual instruction from schools, including supervision, technical support, and socialization for grade-school aged children and youth while they attend virtual meetings and complete work.
    • Children could be all in the same class or school, or a mix.
  • Nanny Share
    • Particularly for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, with a setup similar to pre-pandemic nanny shares, operating out of one or more family homes.
    • Caregiver could be a nanny, a preschool teacher, or a stay-at-home parent caring for their own child plus one or more others.
  • Microschool
    • A more formal and often somewhat larger group, with curriculum being delivered by an in-person teacher(s). For younger children, these may look similar to pre-pandemic preschools or daycares located in a home or meeting outdoors in nature.
    • These programs likely require a license, depending on what state you live in, the children’s ages, and the number of children.
  • Playdate Pod
    • Pod families get together at each other’s homes or in parks for playdates, which are typically limited to a few hours each day or week.
  • Hybrid Pod
    • Not really a unique type, but a pod could include aspects of multiple pod types, for example, by having time for remote learning during the day, with playdate time together with parents later in the afternoon; or by having elements of a Microschool with a part-time teacher providing some tutoring, while parents take turns to cover supervision.

RELATIONSHIP TO REGULAR SCHOOLS

This is how the pod types can relate to chidlrens’ pre-pandemic schools

  • Remote Learning Pod
    • Works TOGETHER with virtual or the virtual part of hybrid (part in-person, part virtual) participation in a regular grade school.
    • Could alternatively be coupled with a stand-alone online learning platform or similar solution that families arrange, and used INSTEAD of a regular grade school.
  • Nanny share 
    • Usually INSTEAD of a normal daycare or preschool program, or 
    • Can be used TOGETHER with a school’s virtual offerings, such as Zoom circle time meetings with the childrens’ regular classmates, or
    • ALONGSIDE daycare or preschool, in the case of a part-time nanny share complemented by part-time participation at in-person preschool.
  • Microschool
    • Could be used INSTEAD of participation in a regular school.
    • Could also be used by families who choose to participate in their school’s virtual offerings to help keep the child’s enrollment and school’s community and funding intact, while supplementing ALONGSIDE with in-person learning through a Microschool-type arrangement.
  • Playdate Pod
    • Since these pods are by definition limited in time and scope, they likely exist ALONGSIDE other strategies for childcare and education.

STAFFING ARRANGEMENTS 

These options for adult presence can each work with various pod types

  • Parent Co-op 
    • Parents trade off duties without exchanging money
  • Paid Parent
    • Typically a stay-at-home or homeschooling parent who agrees to take on one or more children in addition to their own
  • Paid Teacher 
    • Skills and responsibilities could range from babysitter to accredited teacher
  • Hybrid Staffed 
    • Any mix of the above
  • Unstaffed 
    • For a Remote Learning Pod for students old enough to safely and legally be on their own, or a Playdate Pod where parents stay 

POD SETUP AND ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS 

Who is organizing and taking on the administrative load? 

  • Family-led
    • Families connect with each other and make arrangements. If hiring a teacher, this may entail drafting a contract, getting an employer ID number, running employee payroll, meeting insurance and other legal requirements, and withholding taxes.
    • Families choose which other families join. Families may establish their own agreement for health protocols, including things like family and teacher social distancing practices during out of school time.
  • Teacher-led
    • Acting as the director of their own small program, the teacher establishes a curriculum and policies and invites families to enroll at rates and with a contract that the teacher establishes. The teacher likely needs to register as a business with their own insurance, license, and legal structure.
    • Families do not get to choose which other families join. Health protocols and agreements are more likely to be limited to local public health recommendations for schools, and to not address families’ social distancing practices during out of school time.
  • Hybrid-led
    • In reality, many arrangements aren’t purely Family- or Teacher-led.
    • For example, one or more families may connect with a teacher and then search together for an additional family or families, while working together towards agreements on how to operate. 
    • Conversely, teacher-led pods may respond to family needs and preferences on a range of issues based on mutual agreement with families.

I hope that knowing and using these terms will make it easier to define your needs, communicate what you’re looking for, and build shared understandings with potential podmates. If you’re looking to connect with families and teachers for pod formation, or want to join in on our discussion, please join the Pandemic Pods and Microschools main group and your local chapter on Facebook.

Please note that this post is not meant to provide legal, health, or any other advice for your individual situation. Each arrangement has its own legal requirements, which may include licensure, business registration, and/or insurance, which I hope to describe in future posts. Also, if you read this far to find out what a quaranteam is, it’s the same as a pod as far as we can tell, but sometimes with more social connotations.

About Littldata: Littldata’s goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing tools such as maps, calendars, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. If you have suggestions about these pod categories or ideas for future content that you’d like to see, or any questions, please contact Lian at Littldata.com!

Reach out to us anytime at littldata@gmail.com. Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.

The photo for this post is by Steve Slater and is being used under a Creative Commons License.

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