As the U.S. adjusts to the dynamics of remote schooling, I asked Swing Education co-founder and CEO Mike Teng for tips on creating positive homeschool environments that work for kids and their families. Swing matches substitute teachers with districts and schools. With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing many schools from opening this fall, the company has pivoted to help parents hire teachers for private learning pods: small, in-person groups of students learning together.

"There's a need here," Mike explains. "The teachers want to work, and they can't necessarily do that right now. Friends of mine asked me, 'Hey, don't you have teachers? We're creating a pod. Can you give us a teacher who has worked in our local school district before?'"

Within three days of introducing a new service for parents, Swing saw thousands of families approach them for help hiring teachers. In addition to being an investor, I'm one of the parents using Swing to support my children's education this fall. My third-grade daughter is in a pod with two other families, and a Swing teacher helps the kids navigate our school's remote setup.

In this segment, Mike and I offer our best advice for parents tackling distance learning. Here are our top five tips for creating and maintaining education pods:

  1. Know which COVID safety precautions are most important to you, and agree on these within the pod.

  2. Create a line of open communication with your teacher, and make sure you're on the same page about safety protocols.

  3. As a group, be clear about your expectations for the educator, especially about both play time and academic enrichment.

  4. Aim for an ideal pod size --- between two and six children. Anything bigger increases the risk of COVID.

  5. Try to stay flexible. With fluctuating guidelines and rates of COVID in communities, wildfire smoke, and weather, outdoor pods aren't always predictable.

"The common themes we see are communication and transparency," says Mike. "Very few things will go back to where they were before. But we've proven that teachers can do distance learning, and these kids are resilient."