By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

This fall, as schools across Snohomish County began the academic year in full remote learning, parents are forming learning pods for their children, allowing small groups to learn together at home.

Pandemic pods have become immensely popular during distance learning models, with small cohorts of students learning together while completing their separate online virtual schoolwork. In some instances, pods will hire a tutor or licensed teacher to support student learning needs.

An anonymous mother of an Edmonds School District student, is one of those parents. Anticipating balancing running a business and working as a part time accountant with a husband working full time, and having a younger child home and in preschool part time, while sufficiently supporting her 1st grader’s distance learning needs, would be near impossible, Ficker decided that her eldest would join a pandemic pod.

“It has been wonderful so far,” she said. “She has turned in all her assignments, has become independent knowing what she needs to do, and listens very well to her pod teacher as well as her public school teacher. She is also getting plenty of social time with her pod friends.”

A hired teacher proctors the virtual public school learning at her home for her child and three other children three days a week from three different districts. On Wednesdays, when there is only a half-day schedule of asynchronous learning, learning tasks that students complete on their own, the four students spend the rest of the day reading and engaging in play-based learning.

“We have a great relationship with the families and have been in summer camp together with each other and the teacher, so the risk was low for us to team up,” she said. “This is an added cost but we all work or own businesses and needed something that worked with our lifestyles.”

Her student’s experience with distance learning in the spring, when school districts initially went remote, and encouraged interest in exploring in-person learning options come fall.

In the spring, when her student was enrolled as a kindergartener, she says there wasn’t much curriculum accommodatable to distance learning, leaving it up to her to supplement her child’s education. However, her daughter did not want to be taught by her mother, who was already having a hard time fitting in work. She says that ultimately this led to frustration on both ends, driving them both to tears.

“It wasn’t easy given I have no idea how to teach or what to teach for her age level. I knew I couldn’t be in that role again,” she explained. “This time around I realized I just wanted to be Mom… not mom who has to help her with remote learning, but mom who she gets to share what she learned while remote learning. It has been a game-changer.”

To keep all involved healthy and safe, the pod student’s families are in constant communication with one another to ensure that they all remain comfortable with the situation. If anyone were to fall sick, they’ve agreed to keep their children home and not bring them to the pod even for the common colds. The pod teacher also sanitizes counters often and has the students regularly wash their hands.

“I don’t think I could get through this time without our pod,” she said. “Most of the time, the pod is at our home, so I’m close by working but don’t have to be the helicopter mom to ensure my daughter is getting all her work done.”

Erin Freeman

I graduated from Washington State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in rhetoric and professional writing. I also received a minor in political science. I joined the Lynnwood Times in February of 2020. To me, community newspapers affirm a sense of community by connecting people through the coverage of local stories and current events.

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