Local parent organizing pod to support virtual learning

WAUNAKEE, Wis. – As you’re researching different options to help your kids learn this school year, you might have come across the term learning pods. They’re essentially small groups of students who get together with a private teacher in lieu of having in person classes.

This is appealing to parents who want extra academic support and some structure for their kids who might not be getting that with the virtual education. It’s also an option for those who need some extra help with childcare and to fill in some gaps that come with learning online. Not all pods will look the same or will be the same price.

One Waunakee mom believes learning pods could be an answer to her family’s questions. Jennifer Tasker has two teenagers and has been spending the summer connecting with others in that district through Facebook groups to see what families are looking at for the upcoming school year.

“It was simply an easy mechanism within the community to bring parents with the same aged kids together,” Tasker explained.

Tasker knows that isolation earlier this spring was necessary, but she says her two kids, going into 7th and 9th grade this year, are still feeling the effects of that loneliness.

“That isolation in and of itself has actually had harmful consequences the deterioration of my kids’ mental health,” said Tasker.

After doing some research and talking with other parents, Tasker is turning to learning pods.

“The idea of the learning pod is to create that safe and controlled environment for our kids to socialize and interact with their peers,” added Tasker.

She says her family is still in the planning stage as guidelines continue to change.

“We’re looking at maybe four to five kids because we’re running our pod by Dane County health standards,” she explained.

The pods will incorporate other health guidelines, including the use of masks and social distancing, but a lot still needs to be worked out.

“It’s unfortunate that so much is up in the air right now, but I believe that pods and creating that environment for our kids provides a level of certainty which then provides a positive benefit for their mental health during this uncertain time,” Tasker concluded.

Tasker knows that learning pods aren’t the end-all, be-all answer, and she hopes school will be able to fully reopen sooner rather than later. For now, they’re working with what they’ve got.

There are several Facebook groups that are helping parents form pods and find good price ranges at rates that are inclusive to families of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status. Experts also recommend that parents network with other families at your child’s school, ask a tutoring service for help in being placed in a pod, or search around for Facebook groups like this one.