OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Going back to school looks pretty different this year, and that's why some parents are teaming up to manage the stress.
Rachel Coldanghise and Nathalie Cabansag both have first-graders in the Shawnee Mission School District.
"They're best friends for sure," Coldanghise said of Emmy and Audriana, the two little girls.
They were in the same kindergarten class — that is, until COVID-19 canceled in-person learning.
"As a working parent, it was really hard to suddenly get that notification of hey, there's no school next week, and we don't know when it will be back," Cabansag said.
For both moms, virtual learning proved difficult.
"I am not a teacher. I do not have that gift," Coldanghise said.
With a new school year looming, the two families are tackling it together.
The girls will go to Cabansag's house on Monday and Thursday, when she is able to work from home. Then they will learn from Coldanghise on Tuesday and Friday, leaving just one day of solo learning with the SMSD curriculum.
"We kind of came up with the idea before we knew it had a name," Cabansag said.
It's called a "pandemic pod" or "microschooling."
Parents create a small classroom with just a few children in the "pod." The kids either follow a district's virtual learning plan or a homeschooling curriculum.
Some families are even hiring tutors or retired teachers to come to their homes for professional instruction. Of course, that raises equity concerns as it isn't an option for many parents.
"I can't imagine how much of a burden that would be to try to imagine also paying an educator on top of just paying your bills," Cabansag said.
The two Overland Park moms shied away from the expense of hiring a facilitator, leaning instead on each other.
"At this time of remote learning, parents do need to band together, especially those who do have to work," Coldanghise said.
They hope there's a benefit for their girls as well.
"They develop those milestones that they'll need later in life. Learning how to work with others, learning how to collaborate, how to share," Cabansag said, "And they don't get that if it's just one parent and one child."
A Facebook group called "Pandemic Pods" has more than 30,000 members. If you want to join or start a pod, you can search the group for your city to find other parents who are interested.
Having discussions with other families in your school district is another way to find people for a microschooling group.
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