Parents have been vocal about their back‐to‐school concerns, with growing numbers of them choosing to homeschool this fall rather than contending with remote learning options or confronting viral exposure and dystopian social distancing measures in schools.
But it’s not just parents who have back‐to‐school worries. Many teachers, too, don’t want to go back and are upset at reopening plans.
Teachers’ unions are now battling districts over these plans. In Florida, where schools are scheduled to fully reopen for in‐person learning this month, the state’s largest teachers’ union sued the governor and education commissioner last month. The Florida union is asking for smaller class sizes and more protective gear for teachers.
More parents and teachers are choosing to avoid this bureaucratic mess altogether and are pursuing their own educational solutions.
Entrepreneurial Educators Build a Better Way
Some parents are hiring tutors to augment their homeschooling experience this fall, and entrepreneurial teachers are serving that need and cashing in on the opportunity. One high school English teacher in Illinois, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that she made $49,000 a year teaching 9th grade and AP English, but several families have approached her for private tutoring and she realizes she can make more money as a private tutor, with fewer hours and more flexibility.
In addition to homeschooling, some parents are forming pandemic “pods,” or home‐based microschools that allow a handful of families to take turns teaching their children or pool resources to hire a teacher or college student. The Wall Street Journal reports that these pods are sprouting throughout the country, fueled by parental unrest at school reopening plans and facilitated by informal Facebook groups connecting local families.
Recognizing this mounting demand for schooling alternatives this fall, entrepreneurial educators are helping to create more options for families. In Maryland, longtime educators Steven Eno and Ned Courtemanche created Impact Connections, a microschool enabler connecting educators and parents and providing learning support.
“COVID-19 exposed so many of the shortcomings we already knew about in education but also presented new opportunities to step up and help parents and their kids,” Eno told me in a recent interview.
“Microschools offer a powerful, and largely untapped, opportunity to educate our kids in the COVID era and beyond. The best microschools offer highly‐personalized instruction that is free of curricular red tape for a fraction of the price,” he says.
The legality of these pandemic pods and microschools is sometimes unclear. As a new model that blends features of homeschool co‐ops with small, private schools, regulations in many places haven’t caught up. Additionally, the sheer numbers of parents choosing not to send their kids back to school this fall, and the pandemic’s overall disruption, may make enforcement of any existing regulations more difficult.
This presents an ideal moment for what Adam Thierer calls “evasive entrepreneurship,” where entrepreneurs push boundaries and challenge existing systems. Thierer writes in his book, “Evasive Entrepreneurs“: