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Parents turn to 'learning pods' instead of traditional school

It's a creative way to make sure students are getting what they need if they're learning from home.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — As parents struggle with what to do about school this fall, they face the ultimate question of how to keep their family safe and yet give their child the best opportunity to learn. 

Teachers are also facing the same dilemma. For some, going back to the traditional classroom is just not an option at this time, so they are getting creative.

A quick check of social media will likely show you the struggle parents and teachers are facing with virtual learning. And, you will see how parents are getting creative.

Something called 'learning pods' are popping up all over the country to create a unique learning opportunity for a small group of kids. The learning pods are small groups of kids who are "in class" together at home. 

Kim Gourley is the mom of a Hillsborough County first grader. She is teaming up with her sister in law, Ranee Schafer, who's a certified teacher. Schafer was willing to help her nephew and a few other families by opening up her home for a small group of kids. 

Gourley's son, Daxton, is an active 5-year-old who would normally be gearing up for heading back to traditional school. But for a number of reasons, Gourley has chosen E-learning. 

"First grade should be joyful and it should be fun and interactive and I was really just upset about him having to sit in front of a computer again and go through modules and be accountable to be on these Zoom calls where he doesn't necessarily engage like he should."

Schafer is a certified Florida teacher who is choosing not to teach this year. They came up with the idea to open up her home to a small group of kids, maybe 4-6 total, to get that hands-on learning and socialization they need.

"My intention is to not completely do their whole academics, but to support their virtual learning."

Here's what they envision:

  • 2-3 hours each morning
  • Group reading time
  • Writing
  • Science/math
  • Arts/crafts
  • Playtime (which will give Schafer the chance to work with each child one-on-one for a few minutes)

Schafer says she looks forward to getting back to whatever normal is. 

"It's hard to believe this is where we are." Kim agrees and laughs, "And until then, we're just flying by the seat of our pants."

Schafer says hand washing and sanitizing are a top priority to keep things safe. The key to safety, though, will be keeping the groups small.

Schafer says she is going to charge a fee for each student but hasn't decided what yet.  

The idea of 'learning pods' is really picking up steam across the country as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact back to school plans. 

RELATED: What happens if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19?

RELATED: E-learning vs. brick and mortar: Families struggle to decide what's best for children

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