Thanks to COVID-19, education has taken on many different forms for children all across the country. While many have returned to school, either in-person or virtually, other families have opted for homeschooling or or other alternative types of “micro schooling”. Some have taken matters into their own hands to form “bubbles” with other families in order to provide for their children’s educational and social needs in ways that the parents are not able to do so by themselves. These bubbles have affectionately been dubbed “pandemic pods” in light of the recent societal changes due to the pandemic. As there is no guarantee when or if life will ever return to the normal that we once knew, for some these pods have become the best option for friendly interactions. As you consider your children’s academic and social wellbeing, here is what you need to know about choosing or forming a pandemic pod, and whether it might be worth the risk for you and your family.
In a nutshell, a pod is a small group of families that come together for limited contact under specific guidelines in order to minimize the risk of being exposed to COVID-19. The purpose of these groups is to provide a place for controlled socialization for parents and children that they would not be able to have at school or staying at home. While restrictive measures for gatherings and public spaces remain in place in numerous states, pods allow for social interaction to continue safely. They also provide an educational outlet for homeschooling families that can ease the burden of solo homeschooling, especially for first-timers. Some pods are even hiring outside instructors into the group to shoulder the bulk of the teaching in a small class or a group tutoring type of setting. Though beneficial, this situation can often be expensive, sometimes over $10,000 dollars for the year.
Your pod members should be first and foremost people you can trust, ideally close friends that you are comfortable with as this is typically a semester or year-long commitment. No matter your relationship with these families, mutual trust is crucial to the pod’s success. For those who don’t know where to start, various online resources, such as the Pandemic Pods Facebook group, have been created to provide information and a platform for connecting with other families. You should all be on the same level of comfort and acceptance of the group’s boundaries and principles and give potential members a questionnaire in order to find out their preferences. Additionally, you should keep your pod small as experts have recommended no more than 12 people to a pod to reduce the risks of exposure. Once you have found others to join your pod, it is a good idea to lay out the rules on paper in the form of a written agreement. This way there is no confusion and if anyone has questions or has violated the rules, they can be directed to the original guidelines. Finally, you might also want to consider a flexible start, in which families have a few weeks to decide if pod is a good fit for them or if they are unable to keep up with the commitments.
It is essential for the pod to have clear boundaries both during meetings and for outside activities. These include guidelines on social interaction in who each family interacts with outside of the pod. Some pods may be more relaxed and allow for social gatherings of close family or friends outside of the pod, while others prefer to only have close contact and conversation within the group. This also extends to weekly activities and habits such as shopping or doctor’s appointments as some might find it acceptable to do these activities in person, while others may be only comfortable with virtual appointments and food delivery. Additionally, you will need to know how the pod plans to interact together such as whether each person will wear masks, whether food gatherings are permitted, or whether you will meet outside or inside. Though each pod can create and maintain their own individual set of rules, they must also abide by whatever state regulations are in place regarding masks, social distancing, and meeting in groups. Lastly, as our knowledge of the virus increases, the rules of the pod may have to adapt to the changes in regulations across the country or state.
Of course there are many aspects to consider before joining a pandemic pod. Something you should confirm with your family before making a decision is your risk threshold. This is how much risk you are willing to tolerate from the behaviors of your own family as well as those of the pod. Depending on your level of acceptance, you may want to implement further practices in order to continue to stay safe in the pod. Finally, look into the current numbers of COVID-19 cases in your state and area. If they are high or you are encountering a spike, you may want to reconsider the risk and not contribute or be affected by the spread.
These days, there will be some risk of contracting or spreading a disease during most points of human contact, but with all pod members following strict COVID-19 and cleanliness guidelines, most of this risk is eliminated. In this way, children get to spend time in-person with their peers, continuing their social relationships and growth. However, if members of your family are vulnerable or immuno-compromised and you are concerned for their safety, it may be better to wait and keep limiting your contact instead of joining a pandemic pod. There are, of course, other factors to consider aside from potential exposure to COVID. Children need social interaction to thrive, and while this more isolated way of living is bound to be temporary it can have effects on their mental and educational well-being. Furthermore, winter will arrive soon enough and with it, a new flu season and fears of another COVID-19 wave with further lockdowns. With this knowledge, pandemic pods are an appealing way for some to stay connected and social with others while taking measures to stay safe. Considering your personal situation and risk tolerance will allow you to make the best choice for your family.
Pandemic pods can be a healthy option for contact and education for you and your kids as you continue to navigate the uncertainties of this year together. As you continue to prioritize their wellbeing and safety, take the next step to protect them for years in the future with life insurance by ensuring financial security if something were to ever happen to you. Our specialists at LifeQuote are dedicated to helping you find a plan that will give you the most protection at the best price. You can even find out how much you will need for your specific situation with our needs calculator. We offer both term and permanent life insurance in addition to policies that have no medical exam requirement, which is an accessible option for those who do not want to risk getting sick through unnecessary or avoidable contact. With unpredictability running rampant, choose financial protection that you can be confident in, and get a free quote for life insurance today.