DIY Checklist to Set Up Your In-Home Learning Pod

October 4, 2020
The goal of this checklist is to help organize the considerations and decisions you will need to make when creating an in-home learning pod for either your own family or for a collection of households with a private teacher. We are actively maintaining this list, so please contact us if you there are things you have considered that are not on this list. Finally, please sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on this article and others we publish in the future.

Mission Statement

If you are setting this pod up with other families, you should treat this like a startup or small "business" and establish a mission, culture, and basic governance.

- What is the goal or objective of your learning pod?
- What are your learning pod's priorities?
- Start with something, keep iterating!
  • For some, it's easy to get bogged down here. Just list your priorities and continue to iterate on them as competing priorities arise.
  • Here's an example from a learning pod in NYC: "We are hoping to create a collaborative, positive, strength-based, drama-free community. This school is about making the best plan we can in an impossible situation - trying to take an opportunity to keep our children connected, happy, curious and having fun while learning.  Our hope is to have this be a place of gratitude, staying healthy, and allowing our children to enjoy each other. While we are opening our home, and helping to organize, we are not heads of school or principals. We hope challenges will be directed to [our teacher] and all communications come with the intention of growth oriented feedback."

Learning Pod Governance

- Establish a culture of communication and transparency
  • Transparency and communication upfront will pay off in dividends. In the pod formation process with other families, the goal isn't necessarily to resolve all differences upfront, but understand what they are and what cases may arise. Sometimes things just are not reconcilable, but it's best for those issues to come out early and often. After the pod is set up, we advise scheduling regular calls with all the participating families to discuss issues that arise.
- Prevention is the best medicine
  • Most of the critical terms should be proactively understood and agreed to upfront: expense-sharing (including an approval process for unexpected expenses), health and safety protocol (including any ongoing "social behavior"), working arrangement with the teacher (e.g., class schedule and curriculum). These can be documented in a parents agreement, the contract with the teacher, and a health and safety protocol.
- Define a decision making process (if you can't come to consensus)
  • In pods with multiple families involved, there almost always is one family that has led the effort in setting up the pod (e.g., corralling parents, finding the space, doing research into insurance/liabilities, etc.).
  • That de facto lead family may take the initiative to say they own the final decision OR they outline a clear decision making process not unlike detailing governance of a board of directors. For example, there are many ways to establish governance: simple majority vote (every family gets a vote), subset of the families have a voting right (say 3 of the 5 families in the pod, perhaps the 3 who joined first or those who have shared a greater burden in the startup costs/administration), or simply the aforementioned lead family makes the final decision if all families can't come to consensus. This can be documented in any co-signed agreement by parents if so desired.

Basic Information

- Number of children
- Grade levels of children at the start of engagement (from lowest to highest)
  • Beneficial to cluster children in the same or relatively adjacent grade levels (e.g., a 2nd grader and an 8th grader in the same pod is less ideal than a 2nd grader and 3rd grader)
- Are you a single household or “pod” of multiple households?
- Desired format (in-person, hybrid, virtual)
- Are children staying enrolled in a school?
  • Our data show that majority of families interested in pods are keeping their child enrolled in the same school in the Fall as they were enrolled in the Spring.

Arrangement Structure

- Duration
  • Entire academic year? 3 or 6 months?
  • Our data show that majority of families interested in pods want a duration of at least the first semester, if not the whole academic year.
- Weekly schedule
- Part-time or full-time
  • In other words, are you looking for a part-time (or potentially, full-time) supplement to an existing school curriculum or full-time school replacement
  • 30 hours per week is generally considered "full-time" for a teacher if you take into consideration prep time outside of the "in-classroom" time
- Hours needed per week
  • Expect to include teacher preparation or break time
  • To make it easier to recruit teachers, we suggest offering a retainer for at least 10 hours per week. Consistency and a guarantee of hours matter to teachers and will make your recruitment process easier.

Child's Needs and Curriculum

- What is the primary priority and the secondary priority of the teacher
  • Some options to choose from: academic progress, enrichment activities, socialization, social-emotional support, executive function, and/or childcare
- Will the curriculum be school-provided or teacher-designed?
  • If the child is enrolled in school and the primary role of the learning pod is to supplement and support remote learning (which based on our data is the primary use case), the curriculum is school-provided.
- Are there preferred content expertise or language requirements?
  • Some examples: hobbies, specific pedagogical skills or fluency (e.g., Montessori, Reggio-Emilia, Singapore Math), sports or athletic experience, artistic or musical skill
- Special education, related services, or learning disability needs?
- Non-academic supports or needs?
  • Social-emotional, cross-cultural diversity, kinesthetic, multi-lingual support
- Child(ren)’s strengths?
- Child(ren)’s areas of growth?
- Other considerations
  • Allergies
  • Pets

Learning Environment

- Will the location of the learning environment rotate among host families?
- If not all households will be hosting, will the ones who do host get a discount?
- Location of primary learning environment
- Is teaching outdoors an option (and/or encouraged)?
- If teaching outdoors, what are contingency plans for poor weather?
- Will parent/guardian be present in the “classroom”?
- Will parent/guardian be in the home?
- Will every child have access to a computer or tablet?
- What, if any, resources will be provided for the teacher? (e.g., whiteboard, projector, etc.)
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Is there a budget for necessary instructional resources?

Health and Safety / COVID Risk Tolerance

- Establish a health and safety protocol for all parties involved
- Design a health and safety protocol for use during learning pod operations
- If someone gets ill
  • At minimum, affected person stays home until cleared by a negative COVID test for return
  • At most, shut down in-person component of the pod for an extended period of time
  • Intermediate option: shut down in-person component for a few days, clean, and reopen. Infected person remains out of school, the rest of class monitors closely for symptoms
  • CDC guidelines on what to when a person gets sick and what type of cleaning should be done
  • Who will conduct the cleaning in case of an outbreak? A hired service?
- Are children willing/able to wear masks?
- Verify vaccination records of all participants?
- Do all participants have health insurance?

Compensation and Benefits

- Teacher compensation
  • If full-time, salary
  • If part-time, hourly rate
  • If full-time, is health care coverage offered?
- Deciding the compensation rate
  • Depends on the role of the teacher
  • Varies depending on the region in which you live
  • The longer the arrangement and more hours (i.e., the greater the consistency), the lower the hourly rate / salary
  • The more flexibility you demand and ask of the teacher, the higher the hourly rate / salary
  • At minimum, expect to pay a premium (potentially a significant one due to the high demand and limited supply of teachers) to the average teacher salary in the region
- Additional benefits or perks offered
  • Paid leave
  • Sick days
  • Food / refreshments
  • Possible room and board
  • Transportation costs
  • Academic year recesses

Defining Your Ideal Teacher

- Describe your ideal teacher in a few sentences
- Define requirements / non-negotiables
  • Some examples: teacher certification, Master’s degree in Education (or other relevant subject), prior classroom experience, Spanish fluency
- What consequences or disciplinary measures do you expect the teacher to be comfortable managing?
- What other intersections that would help the teacher relate to the student(s) or families)?
  • For example, speech & debate, sports, theatre; first generation college graduate, etc)
- Other preferences

Finding and Hiring a Teacher

- Are you looking for a nanny, tutor, or professional, qualified (and state-certified) teacher?
- Create an ideal candidate profile
- Create a job description
  • Post the opportunity on job boards or use services to connect you directly to qualified teachers, such as Selected for Families
- Begin interviewing teachers

- If you need help to interview teacher candidates and/or run background checks, feel free to inquire within at families@getselected.com

Safety, Insurance, Taxes

- Background and sex offender checks for your teacher
  • Any public school employee needs to undergo background checks and fingerprinting. Therefore, if the teacher is certified and has recently worked at a public school, they have cleared checks
  • However, depending on the state, most background checks are point-in-time checks, meaning they cover the time period up to but not after the time of the background check. So, you may elect to do another background check at a reasonable interval
- Accident / personal liability / umbrella insurance for your home or premises where the learning takes place
- Consult with an accountant in regards to the employee classification of the teacher
  • Classifying your teacher as a 1099 or W-2 employee has payroll tax and liability implications.
  • According to Care.com, most in-home caregivers and nannies are considered household employees under the law (aka "Nanny Tax").
  • The definition of "household employee" may include your arrangement with your teacher, however varies based on the arrangement and state. In general, if the teacher is working full time for one pod and/or is dependent on one pod for income, the teacher is more likely to be an employee. It's more likely an independent contractor relationship if the teacher is taking on more than one pod, designing curriculum, or otherwise in business for him or herself.
  • The good news is that if you are a W-2 employer of your teacher, you can potentially take advantage of federal tax credits related to childcare to substantially offset the cost of workers' compensation and payroll expense.
  • Workers' compensation is required in most states if you are a household employer. Workers compensation insurance protects you from any ongoing expenses related to injuries or illnesses suffered by your employee.
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