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Two Pathways to a Learning Pod

How You Build a Fun, Fair, Positive Learning Pod

My last blog addressed parents who were “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Today, I not only write to those parents, but to the parents who aren’t ready to give up on the traditional school system but are ready to explore the newest innovation inside the education game – the Learning Pod.

Learning Pods are a form of “microschool” (short video on microschools) where small groups of learners coming together to work on learning goals. They are usually way smaller in number than an average American classroom, with most ranging between 2 to 12. Some pods hire an adult learning leader to facilitate learning. Others employ parent power to support the pod’s learning activities. During these special COVID-19 times, these learning pods need to be safe places for learning, so it’s important families take the necessary steps to form a “learning bubble” according to their state health department’s COVID guidelines. 

Learning Pods aren’t new. 

Before public schools became the norm for this country (all states had tax-subsidized elementary schools by 1870, with secondary schools becoming the norm by the end of the 19th century), small learning pods (with 5-7 children being members) was the way kids learned in this country. Parents were the adult learning leaders for the pods, and the young learners either came from the same household or from neighboring homes. Sometimes, households shared the responsibilities for the learning week, inviting kids to one home on Monday and other homes through the week to participate in learning activities.

OPTION 1: For the “Sick and Tireds”

Ok, so if you are a parent “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” here is how to build a Learning Pod:

  1. Try to find other families who are “kindred spirits” when it comes to defining, planning, executing, and evaluating learning goals focused on reading, written and oral communication, problem-solving in math, science, and social studies, and character-building skills.
  2. Schedule an appointment with the principal of your child’s school. See if that principal is willing to negotiate time with you, meaning will the school allow you to build some of their services into your learning pod plan without demanding your kids attend Monday thru Friday from the beginning of the school day to dismissal? If your principal agrees, you can build the best of what your school has to offer into your learning pod plan. Sadly, chances are your principal will not agree to this, which leads us to Step #3
  3. Check your child out of public school. Now I understand this will take a big dose of courage, but here’s the deal. You won’t be able to achieve the learning goals important to your child and your family if you continue to invest time in a system that has led you to be “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” More than likely, if you are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” then your school is not only failing to meet your needs, but failing to meet the needs of a considerable number of children and their families on an on-going basis.
  4. Once you have been liberated from school, begin assessing where your child currently is with their learning by using The Education Game (TEG) Scouting Report, a tool designed to capture where learners are with important skills like reading, written and oral communication, problem-solving in math, science, and social studies, and character building.
  5. After completing the TEG Scouting Report, move on to our Game Plan, along with the Learning Whiteboard, to map out what learning will look like for your child over the next several weeks. Compare your learning plan inside your pod to see if there might be common learning experiences to share with others.
  6. The learning pod experience is a cycle of family planning, doing, and feedback. The Game Plan changes whenever the learner learns their goal and is ready to move one to another goal, or the learner needs some type of intervention (extra time and support) to learn a current goal. The beauty of the pod is that everyone is learning inside their own plan, but also enjoys the social interaction of others inside the pod.
  7. Parents! Don’t suffer from paralysis of analysis trying to complete the perfect learning plan. Be prepared to say “Ready, Fire, Aim,” instead of “Ready, Ready, Ready!” meaning it’s more important to get goals, activities, and evaluations ideas down on paper for skills like reading, writing, problem-solving, and character development to start the work. Mistakes will be made. No blame, no shame. Work the process, and you and your young learner(s) will become better skilled at the process of definition, planning, execution, and evaluation (including intervention). 

One day, not only will you see a smarter and stronger young learner, but that young learner will start to own their own learning in a way not possible for most who spend most of their time in places called schools.

OPTION 2: For Everybody Else 

let me suggest the formation of an “Affinity Learning Pod.” An affinity learning pod combines youngsters interested in working on similar learning goals, whether they be academic, athletic, artistic, etc. Think of a soccer team, a small choir group, a water-color class, or a book club. These are only a few examples of affinity learning pods, and they can be formed by following these simple steps:

  1. Find other families interested in whatever topic your family would like to form an affinity learning pod around.
  2. Instead of The Education Game Scouting Report, ask the following questions to those young learners and their families:
    • Is your young learner a novice, a mid-level learner, or an expert at the agreed-upon group affinity? And why would the young learner describe themselves this way?
    • How much time has the young learner spent working on this affinity?
    • Who are the young learner’s current adult learning leaders (coaches) supporting them with this affinity?
    • Has the young learner received any type of evaluation regarding this affinity? If so, please describe the evaluation and judge how effective the evaluation was to the learner?
    • Has the young learner received any type of intervention for something they did not learn when working on this affinity?
  3. After establishing a performance base-line by addressing the questions above, answer the following questions to begin your affinity group’s Game Plan:
    • What do we want each individual learner to learn within the group, and what do we want the group to learn as a cohort (think skills)?
    • How will we know the individual and group learn what we want them to learn (think evaluation)?
    • What will we do if the individual or group doesn’t learn what we want them to learn (think intervention)?
  4. See #6 above.
  5. See #7 above.

As Always

If you have any questions, reach out to either Matt Barnes or me (Dr. Scott) at The Education Game by emailing us ( or, or give us a call at 832-210-1200 (ext. 1200 ENGLISH or ext. 1202 SPANISH). The Education Game is here to help you make your kids into smarter and stronger learners.

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Quick Start Guide

If you made it this far then don’t stop now. The Quick Start Guide delivers a week’s worth of curated and highly practical resources to grow your learning leadership for the next 5 days. This is only the beginning! 

What’s included:

  • Key podcasts
  • Questions to ask your child
  • Blog posts
  • Interviews & videos