Have You Heard About Learning Pods and Microschools?


A September poll by EdChoice shows parents are most concerned about two things: their children being exposed to the coronavirus at school and their children falling behind in their studies. This leaves parents who value in-person instruction and peer interaction between a rock and hard place, especially if they need to get back to work or don’t feel equipped to provide the support their child needs.

Enter learning pods and microschools.

These small school environments are typically formed by “small clusters of families that pool resources and collaborate to educate their children.” Pods – also known as “pandemic pods” – and microschools can look a little different, but both aim to offer a small, in-person, customizable environment and can do so without the distancing measures required of large classrooms or the isolation of virtual only instruction.

In pods, parents may take on teaching roles to serve a handful of students while microschools may employ a small teaching staff to serve more students – as few as 5 and as many as 150. Depending on the model, staff, curriculum, and enrollment, these learning communities could be classified as homeschool groups, private schools, or support for public school students learning online. Pods are also marked by their sudden rise to prominence in 2020 while microschools have been gaining popularity for several years.

How interested are parents in small school environments?

Enrollment in microschools has jumped since the beginning of the year. Pods are more decentralized and thus harder to track, but there is clear interest in joining or forming pods. The only question now is whether this trend will continue.

At the end of July, a majority of parents said they were considering a change or had already made a change in their children’s education, signifying an important shift in mindset.

It’s undeniable that the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on schools have upended educational norms in unprecedented ways as families increasingly expect customer service from their education providers and desire customization for both convenience and safety’s sake. Shifting attitudes toward education the longer the coronavirus influences school schedules may mean smaller, independent learning environments become a more prominent fixture of the education landscape.

The concept of small schools is nothing new – from the one-room schoolhouse of Laura Ingalls Wilder to homeschooling co-ops today, settings fueled by the vision and needs of close-knit communities remain an important part of American education. In 2020, these models also have the potential to address parents’ most pressing concerns.

Teachers may also find themselves drawn into this developing world if they want to skip the glass desk partitions and focus on fewer students with the possibility of earning more.

Is this a good option for you and your family? That largely depends on your location, circumstances, concerns, values, and lifestyle. Fortunately, the resources available to interested parents are only growing more robust.

To Mississippi’s credit, most schools have reopened for full or part-time traditional instruction, so the search for in-person education options may not be as urgent here as in some other states. But if you’re in a school offering virtual instruction only, you’re unable to get the services or individualized instruction your child needs, or you simply believe a smaller environment would better serve your child, a pod or microschool may be worth considering.

For more information on forming a pod or microschool, check out National School Choice Week’s “How to” Guide. To find out what types of school options are around you, go to the Mississippi School Finder. If you and your family are already experiencing podding or microschooling, tell us about it!