Alternative Learning: What Model is Right for you?

Alternative Learning: What Model is Right for you?

banner image with abstract illustration of three students in class

Are you overwhelmed by all the new buzzwords that are popping up about the new school year? How is homeschooling different from remote learning? What exactly is a learning pod anyway? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Whether you’re considering separating from your school district completely and homeschooling your children, or are just looking for something to supplement your child’s virtual school day, we’ve broken down four of the most popular learning options for you.

mom and daughter pointing at computer screen for virtual learning


Homeschooling is not a part-time solution. With homeschooling, you are the teacher. You must select a curriculum, lesson plan, and most importantly, instruct your children. With this responsibility, comes a great deal of freedom. You can control what your child is learning, how they learn, and when they have structured lessons. Since you don’t have to follow the school’s curriculum, you can focus on subject areas and teaching styles that suit your child’s individual needs. And if normal school hours don’t work for your family, you can choose a different time for your kids sit down for class that is compatible with your schedule.

Homeschooling is a great option for families looking for a complete alternative to the school curriculum. Because it’s an established learning method, there are countless resources available for new homeschooling parents. However, homeschooling is also a huge commitment. Families must commit to the new way of learning full-time, and parents should be prepared for the challenges that teaching presents.

Learning Pods

Learning Pods, also known as micro-schools, are formed by several families who study a chosen curriculum together. Learning Pods can take several forms, but are often supervised and led by a certified teacher or tutor. Many learning pods teach the school’s curriculum, providing an alternative to students who would otherwise have to learn the material alone at home. Students in these learning pods complete the assignments that their school teacher gives them, under the guidance of the pod’s teacher.  This allows students to benefit from in-person instruction and social interaction with their learning pod classmates. Less commonly, learning pods may follow an independent program instead of the school curriculum, similar to homeschooling, but with the added benefit of everyday social interaction for the students.

Learning pods are an ideal option for families who are concerned about their children missing the guidance of a teacher when they continue with virtual learning in the fall. Students benefit from working with their peers as they would in a normal school environment, while being guided by a qualified teacher or tutor. Most learning pods also require families to agree to social distancing rules for everyday life to ensure the health and safety of all the students in the pod. One negative about learning pods, however, can be the cost.  As attendees must pay the teacher’s salary, learning pods can be quite expensive.

Student working on Kumon Worksheets with pouch on the left and juice and cookie on the right

Supplemental Programs

Supplemental programs like Kumon are not a replacement or alternative to a school curriculum. As the name implies, they’re instead meant to supplement the school curriculum. Kumon, in particular, offers an independent curriculum that takes children from counting through calculus and from pre-reading skills to advanced reading comprehension. Kumon Students develop confidence, determination, and the ability to self-learn in the program, all skills that will help them excel in school—whether school is held virtually or in-person. Students fill in any gaps in their learning and advance at their own pace, allowing many students to study above their school grade level.

Supplemental programs are a good option for families who are concerned their children missed material due to remote learning, or who are looking for their children to get ahead before they return to the classroom. Programs like Kumon can be completed in as little as 15-30 minutes a day (per subject,) so they’re also great for families who want to fit some extra learning in their kids’ days without overwhelming them. They’re also a more affordable option than full-time programs. However, if you’re looking for a complete replacement to your school curriculum or a childcare option for your kids, these programs may not be right for you on their own.

Distance Learning Camps

Distance learning camps offer virtual learning support for families during the school day. They’re run by small businesses, community centers, or daycares, and offer childcare for families whose children are learning remotely. Children visit the camp during the day, where they complete their normal schoolwork under adult supervision. When run by small businesses like karate or dance studios, students can also choose to take additional classes that are offered by the studio.

This is a great option for families who need childcare during the day due to work or other obligations. Parents can be assured that their children will complete their schoolwork under the guidance of an adult. They may also have the opportunity to benefit from extracurricular activities, like karate or dance classes. However, not all camps are run by experienced tutors or teachers, which may be a concern for some parents.