Families are looking into microschooling amid the coronavirus pandemic.By Meghan Schiller

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An old concept is finding new popularity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We didn’t have a big system of education 100 years ago,” said Dr. Mara Linaberger, founder of Microschool Builders. “We were working in one-room schoolhouses.”

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It’s called microschooling.

“Like the one-room schoolhouse of the past, microschools are usually a small number of kids, multi-aged, so you might have a kindergartener with a fifth-grader,” said Dr. Linaberger.

It is a new solution for parents desperate for a better option this fall. Dr. Linaberger started building microschools years ago but credits the pandemic to the recent spike in interest.

“A lot of families have found that the remote learning really didn’t work out that well for their kids,” the doctor said. “So we’ve seen this push for pandemic pods.”

One of Pittsburgh’s first pods was in a North Hills cul de sac, with kids ranging from age 3 to 18.

(Photo Credit: Provided)

“They did STEM learning activities. They made robots, and volcanoes and tie-dye shirts,” said Jennifer Penrod.

Penrod offered up her backyard. Her pod minimizes exposure between the families and creates social stimulation for the kids.

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Linaberger says pods are attractive to teachers, both retired and brand new. They’re taking the leap into the pods to focus on a small group of children and do more hands-on-learning.

“So we started out very….as a social, family set up and now we’re incorporating the school aspect,” said Penrod.

The kids will start of the school year online, but the parents will take turns supervising to make sure the kids stay on task. Some are even hiring teachers.

“Some people are forming pods to create safe, stable, nurturing child care. Some are creating them to actually bring in a teacher to do something different for their kids,” Dr. Linaberger said.

A different outlook for the kids and their parents.

“I feel even more productive during the workday,” Penrod said. “And we know that our son is safe so that worry is gone”

One concern, especially for low-income families, is cost. Depending on the area, pods can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month per family.

“If you have the resources to create this kind of an option for your children this fall, especially while they’re learning at a distance, it would be great if you could connect and involve some families who don’t have the means to do that,” Dr. Linaberger said.

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Meghan Schiller