Many parents don't know about these small group teaching methods for remote learning

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A few months ago, few people in the Tri-State area knew about microschools or learning pods, but the coronavirus pandemic is prompting parents in our area to consider the small group instruction method.

Abby Brody is one of them. She has hired a teacher through online service SchoolHouse to teach her two children and two children from her neighborhood at her home in Westhampton.

"My pod is pretty exciting. We have a lot of science kids. We're going to be incubating chickens in our backyard in our pod," Brody said.

Brody felt uncomfortable sending her two young children back to the traditional school setting because her son just recovered from a rare pediatric cancer.

"Even the plans in the private sector do not feel safe to me. That's why we are really drawn to the microschool movement," Brody said.

SchoolHouse is an online service which pairs families with a certified teacher and provides curriculum materials and assistance.

Brody's teacher, for example, is leaving the New York City school system and will teach the children, who are in grades first through third, at the same time, similar to a traditional school house setting.

Brody is the head of marketing for SchoolHouse.

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Joseph Connor, the Chief Operating Officer of SchoolHouse, said the group has been receiving lots of inquiries from families, as well as teachers, in the Tri-state.

"For teachers, it's a great option if they're concerned about going back into a classroom because of health concerns. We also have a number of teachers who are joining us because they are excited about the freedom and autonomy that we give them," Connor said.

Connor said SchoolHouse launched last January as a way to offer families and teachers more independence and freedom in education. He said people were interested in the microschool movement pre-pandemic, but business has picked up speed due to the changes in schools during the pandemic.

"We've certainly seen an incredible amount of demand," he said. "We've probably hit, I'd say, our five-year business goals in the first five months of the business."

Learning pods are popping up across our area, like the one Erin and Davin Aebisher are starting in Huntington.

The couple, both of them teachers, is offering small group classes for pre-school children at an office on East Main Street.

"I've noticed there are a number of parents that are nervous about sending their children to school five days a week in a larger setting," Erin Aebisher said. "So we figured if we were to offer a small group that would be consistent with those same children on a weekly basis that maybe that would be a bit more comfortable for those families."

Aebisher Learning Center will also offer tutoring for elementary school children and additional remote learning instruction for middle and high school students. It will be staffed with certified teachers.

"We were able to see as teachers how there were gaps being formed due to online learning, especially the last three months of the school year," Davin Aebisher said.

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Parents are also looking for ways for their remote learners to have physical education class or recess during the school day.

Tiffany Rex with TC Diamond Arts is offering small group dance and yoga classes at Casamento Park in Bay Shore. She also can come to people's homes to instruct small groups of children.

She said parents are eager to create their own gym or exercise pods for their children.

"They're looking for stuff to do with their kids during the day, specifically here like the kindergarten age group, because that's like the core socialization age," she said.

For more information about Aebisher Learning Center, contact Davin Aebisher at daebisher@gmail.com.

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