When AISD announced that they will not open for in-person learning in the fall, I panicked. I knew that my kindergarten-aged children cannot learn the things that they need to learn virtually. They would need full-time adult supervision and peers to do the academic and social learning needed for their age group.
I called my dad and I was crying. Like other parents, we’ve been “figuring stuff out” since March and unlike popular opinion, navigating two full-time jobs (parenting and working) has not become any easier. My dad (being dad) first listened and showed sympathy and then came up with an action plan for me. The plan was simple: “find a solution that is going to work for your family for the entire 20/21 school year”. This way if schools open back up then great and if not then you have a plan!
That’s when I decided to start my own learning pod. Many parents have asked my advice on how to start a pod so I decided to write an article to help you navigate your way if you’d like to start your own pod.
1. The education and safety of our children are personal and emotional topics.
My friend Jenny was crying when she called me. Things were falling apart with the pod that she’d joined. We talked for a long time about why this is so complicated and came to the conclusion that it’s because you’re talking about the education and safety of people’s children. Even under normal circumstances, talking about education can lead to heated debate. Now thanks to Covid we’ve also thrown safety into that equation. Not a simple task.
2. Things tend to fall apart in group discussions.
The one thing I’m really happy I did which saved me from breaking any relationships is this: I never held group discussions with either parents or caregivers until our pod was finalized. This allowed me to understand on an individual level where people were at and who would and would not be able to pod together. I could mediate between people about their needs without having heated group discussions. If you want to start your own pod, I would strongly advise you to take leadership and leave few decisions open to group discussions.
3. Know the 3 “deal-breakers” for parents
You’re not going to be able to “pod” with anyone. In setting up our pod, I’ve talked to more than 10 families and some of them were simply not a match for us. I spent hours of my life talking to other parents about non-important things. Whether you need to bring your own lunch or not is probably not going to be a deal breaker. I’m not going to give up a great group of people because somebody wants ice cream on Fridays and I don’t. Here are the things that are critical:
- Covid-19 requirements. People deal differently with risk. One family might sanitize every item that enters their home while another has an essential worker or a sibling in daycare and cannot quarantine in the same way. Figure out what your own requirements are and find other families who are willing and able to adhere to the same standards.
- Finances and time. Some families are able and others are not to pay for childcare. Some parents are able and others are not to free up time to care for children. Figure out what your situation is and find other parents who are in the same boat.
- School district & age of children. It’s hard to navigate children of different ages or who need to follow the virtual learning of different schools. Try to pod with families whose children are the same ages as yours and ideally attend the same school as your kids.
If you are up front about the three deal-breakers, it makes life a lot easier. You might be one of my best friends, but our kids go to different schools so we cannot “pod” together. No hard feelings!
What breaks my heart most about what Covid is doing to our country is the impact it will have on inequality. Rich families are able to hire teachers to come to their homes while poor families simply cannot afford that. This means that their children will have a poorer quality of education which would increase socio-economic inequality. If we do nothing, we might end up with a whole “covid-generation” in which the difference between the have’s and the have-not’s is amplified.
I wanted to help. I wanted to show people that these pods are not only for the rich. If families are not able to afford care, they can still pod together. The burden becomes much lower when you are not doing this alone. If (for example) 5 families pod together, this can mean up to 10 parents. It’s not ideal, but if each parent takes one day off work every other week, you can have full-time adult supervision for your children!
This is how we came up with the idea of building findyourpod.today. The goal of the site is to show people that pods are not only for the rich and help parents connect with similar families. So far we’ve helped many families find pods. I hope that we can also help you:
Take care fellow parents and good luck!