Education Options Unpacked

The pandemic rages on, and kids are heading back to school soon. Parents are concerned about safety, work schedules, and kids falling behind. New options are popping up for families – but how is a parent to choose?

At Micro-School Builders we have created a new guide to educational options for parents, teachers and concerned citizens – to help you better understand the terms that are being used and what kinds of options are available for families in the face of the pandemic and beyond. 

You’ve probably been hearing about something called remote learning. This is what many of our schools, both public and private, have done, to help students learn while at home. It usually involves an online learning management system, and potentially a remote video call with your child’s teacher. But more often than not, remote learning describes a method to bring content and instruction from a traditional classroom to your child while they’re at home.

This fall, many school districts are going to be offering remote learning – either online or through paper-based activities. The options may include full-time or part-time remote learning, or a hybrid mix of some remote learning and some face to face learning. When you hear the term remote learning, just remember that the primary goal is to have your child be at home, where they are potentially safer, with lower exposure to the virus while still being able to receive support that directs your child’s education and learning processes. As far as costs, if you’re getting remote learning from your school district, it will likely be free. There are many public, charter, and online charter schools out there, where you can enroll your child full time at no cost to you. To provide a full time remote learning experience, many of our private schools and microschools are offering remote learning options in addition to their face to face services.

Another term you’ve probably heard is homeschooling. There has been some confusion around this term because, what many parents have been forced to do with their children at home to support their child’s instruction, is not the classic definition of homeschool. 

Homeschooling tends to be an option for families who choose to remove their child from their formal school, whether they sign them out or send a letter of intent to do that (depending on which state they live in) to the school district. Homeschooling ranges from very traditional curricular kinds of activities to parents taking their children out on the road to learn (that’s where the term road-schooling comes from) and to have the travel be part of the experience. Many families actually travel the world, allowing the world to become their child’s classroom. This is more like the traditional definition of homeschooling, not the kind of “school from home” that so many parents have been asked to do during the pandemic. 

What’s typical of homeschooling is that students are learning primarily what they’re interested in, often supported with curricular materials.They can do these kind of experiences alone or as part of a homeschooling co-operative (led by the child’s parents generally) or sometimes they use a tutor (if that’s legally available in the stat). And the cost here varies. It can be close to free, although homeschooling requires one of the parents in the family to give up other work sometimes (in exchange for becoming the child’s instructor) so it’s not technically free. It can range towards higher prices, depending on whether or not you are participating in a co-op with more services or  purchasing curriculum – either online or a paper based that you use at home. Homeschooling is different from schooling at home – which is just replicating what happens in the traditional classroom setting at home. Homeschooling tends to be quite a different experience and it really ranges from family to family. 

Another term that you’ve probably been hearing are learning pods or pandemic pods. These are a direct response to the covid-19 pandemic. This is an attempt by parents to take more responsibility for their child’s learning – especially this coming fall. It is a way in which parents are grouping together, small groups of kids, to be socially isolated as a pod – so that the children are able to have friendships, community support, and collaboration with other kids. These families who are choosing to create learning or pandemic pods can be using materials that are provided by the school district or they may be choosing to use other materials. In some cases, there is a rotational process where each parent takes responsibility for the instruction each day. In some cases, parents are choosing to hire a teacher for the pandemic pod learning. In this case cost will really vary. It’s lower cost if the parents are sharing the instructional or childcare responsibilities and more expensive if families are hiring a teacher. This pod learning is not isolated to the pandemic but it’s certainly incredibly popular and powerful alternative during the pandemic

The final term that I would like to share is the term microschool. It’s something that Microschool Builders has been working to support and promote over the last few years. It’s not just a pandemic response – microschools are students working together in a multi-aged community of learners, with a strong focus on self-directed, hands on, project based and inquiry learning. We at Microschool Builders help parents and teachers to open and run (legally), small schools in a community. We do that by having them review the school code to determine how best to do that. The cost of attending a micro school or open a microschool really depends on focus, the vision and mission and the content area expertise of owner. They can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars a year upwards to prices that are competitive with more common or traditional private schools. What microschools really are doing is providing a longer term demonstration of student centered learning. The kinds of experiences the students have in microschools are different from what typically happens in a public or private school. Because of the smaller class size, each child is getting more individualized attention.

Well there you have it, today’s families have many more choices available to them. If you would like more information, we welcome you to join our free facebook groups. You can find those by looking for the @micro-school builders or you can visit our website at:


  1. Nicole Miller on May 20, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    I’m currently a licensed daycare provider in mn and I would like to turn my daycare into a micro school in some shape or form. I’m wondering if that is possible. Thanks

    • Mara Linaberger, EdD on July 26, 2021 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Nicole, it is possible – please reach out to chat with us about your ideas!

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