When their school district decided to start the year virtually, the Copley family joined together with friends and neighbors to start a pandemic pod. We talked to Meredith Copley about her plans for the school year.
As masks and social distancing have replaced high-fives and handshakes, many families nationwide have formed pandemic pods. These are small groups of friends and neighbors who have created a little social oasis in the COVID desert. They still agree to social distancing measures outside the pod but within the pods, they can interact more normally.
Whit and I live in Atlanta, GA, and have been married for 13 years. We have four kiddos--three girls and a boy. MH is 11, Clay is 9, Reedy is 7 and McLaine is 5. We love our community here and our church family, we love to be outside!
What gave you the idea for your pandemic pod?
When our school district announced that it would be starting school virtually, with no date as to when it would go back in person, our neighborhood of families knew that we needed to do something. We discussed the idea of a pandemic pod. This could be a way to utilize each parent's gifts to meet the need of kids whose parents feel unequipped to facilitate learning around certain subjects or criteria. There are a few current and former teachers in our neighborhood, as well as a counselor and many gifted in math. We also wanted to provide a needed outlet for social and emotional interaction that we had been greatly missing during COVID-19. We felt like we could assist some parents who needed to work full time, as well as provide a safe gathering with a limited number of kids and families involved.
What will school look like with so many kids in different grades? Will certain kids go to certain homes on different days? Or do families stay together?
We are breaking up by grade, and each group of kids will be meeting in different neighbors basements. We have about 28 kids K-5, and it breaks down to about 4-8 kids per grade in a house.
Do any of the families in the pod have both parents working full-time? If so, how are they making it work?
Yes, Many do. Some are working from home as their place of work hasn't opened full time yet, so that they can assist their kids virtually. They have also offered to "outsource" their volunteering spot in our pandemic pod by paying for tutors or college kids to come in and help since the parents can't be there due to work.
What's the difference between your style of virtual learning and homeschool?
We are utilizing the district's teaching platform online, as well as the live teaching sessions from the teachers, versus coming up with or using another curriculum, and their teachers are technically "teaching" our students just in a shorter time frame and online.
Will you have any outside teachers or tutors help out?
We will, especially for the older kids with math. We have a few tutors lined up to help with that....common core is hard for us parents! There are some other kids who need some extra phonics and reading help, and we will bring in a few teachers and tutors to do some supplemental work on that.
Do you have any guidelines for the families in the group in terms of social distancing outside of the pod?
We have asked families to maintain a very small circle of family friends that they will interact with outside of the pod. We've agreed to wear a mask when out in public when it's not possible to socially distance themselves from others. Thankfully, none of our families are immunocompromised.
Get a group of parents together and talk about what your goals and desires would be for a pod. Then, what are the hindrances? Our goals were other people teaching our kids when we didn't know how to explain something or our kids did better listening to other adults. We also wanted our kids to have social and emotional interaction. Hindrances were working parents not being able to volunteer. So you just have to figure out how to work around or with those issues.
We love the way the Copleys are making the most out of their school year and supplementing virtual school with social interaction. It's wonderful to see how they're utilizing the gifts and skills of so many people from their community to make it work.
Are you part of a pandemic pod? Or are you trying out a new style of learning this year? Let us know on social at #getfamilyapp or #ourschoolstory! And read more about other families' school stories at FamilyApp.com.