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Homeschooling in small groups to supplement school learning — August 2020


Could you provide research on homeschooling in small groups (“learning pods”) to supplement school learning?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on homeschooling in small groups, also referred to as learning pods, micro-pods, or micro-schools, to supplement school learning. While we identified many articles in the recent news media, there were far fewer examples of research on this particular topic. The sources we searched included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Access to the full articles is free unless indicated otherwise.

Research References

Bhamani, S., Makhdoom, A. Z., Bharuchi, V., Ali, N., Kaleem, S., & Ahmed, D. (2020). Home learning in times of COVID: Experiences of parents. Journal of Education & Educational Development, 7(1), 9–26. Abstract and full text available from

From the abstract: “The widespread prevalence of COVID-19 pandemic has affected academia and parents alike. Due to the sudden closure of schools, students are missing social interaction which is vital for better learning and grooming while most schools have started online classes. This has become a tough routine for the parents working online at home since they have to ensure their children’s education. The study presented was designed to explore the experiences of home learning in times of COVID-19. A descriptive qualitative study was planned to explore the experiences of parents about home learning and management during COVID-19 to get an insight into real-life experiences. Purposive sampling technique was used for data collection. Data were collected from 19 parents falling in the inclusion criteria. Considering the lockdown problem, the data were collected via Google docs form with open-ended questions related to COVID-19 and home learning. Three major themes emerged after the data analysis: impact of COVID on children learning; support given by schools; and strategies used by caregivers at home to support learning. It was analyzed that the entire nation and academicians around the world have come forward to support learning at home offering a wide range of free online avenues to support parents to facilitate home-learning. Furthermore, parents too have adapted quickly to address the learning gap that have emerged in their children’s learning in these challenging times. Measures should be adopted to provide essential learning skills to children at home. Centralized data dashboards and educational technology may be used to keep the students, parents and schools updated.”

Carson, P. (2019). The arts for reading and spelling in different educational contexts. International Journal of Early Childhood Learning, 26(1), 27–45. Full text available from

From the abstract: “This research focuses on the delivery of a multi-sensory literacy program incorporating an arts-based reading and spelling approach delivered in two different educational settings, as well as the development of self-regulation tools by the children. The first setting is a traditional kindergarten, where it was provided as a supplement to reading instruction for a small group of children. The second setting was a small group of home-schooling parents and children. This action research focused on similarities and differences of working with these two groups; and how program delivery was adapted and changed to meet the learning needs and styles of the children.”

Gann, C., & Carpenter, D. (2019). STEM educational activities and the role of the parent in the home education of high school students. Educational Review, 71(2), 166–181. Abstract available from After registration, full text available from

From the abstract: “This qualitative case study examined the homeschool STEM educational activities and the role of the parent in those activities. Twenty-nine homeschooling parents from within a purposefully selected homeschool cooperative learning group in a southern community in the United States participated in the study. Data were collected using an open-ended questionnaire, which was then followed up with observations, interviews, and collection of documents. Analysis of the data pointed to an eclectic mix of STEM educational activities including both curricular activities such as online courses, tutors, and self-study, as well as curriculum extensions such as field trips and local STEM clubs and teams. Parents in this case study depended heavily on community resources available to them to provide these educational activities for their students. Parents played multiple roles in their child’s education including the role of facilitator, the role of counsellor, and the role of presenter or lecturer.”

Muldowney, H. M. (2011). The operation of cooperative education for homeschooled children: The quality homeschool cooperative as a case study. ProQuest LLC. Full text available from

From the abstract: “Homeschooling is a growing trend in America. Studies on homeschooling in the past three decades have focused on the reasons why parents choose to homeschool, the academic and social quality of homeschooling, and the perceptions of public and private school officials towards homeschooling, as well as homeschooling parents’ perceptions of public and private schools. The literature on homeschool cooperatives is scarce. A homeschool cooperative (co-op) is a group of homeschooling parents who have gathered to collectively teach their children. Co-ops might teach core subjects, electives, athletics, or just serve as an opportunity for homeschooling families to gather for fellowship and social time. This dissertation is a study of a homeschool co-op in San Antonio, Texas. The researcher for this study attempted to answer two questions: 1) What is a history of the co-op, and 2) What are the daily operations of the co-op? This researcher observed the selected co-op in action, reviewed documents supplied by co-op members, and interviewed four members of the co-op who have varying degrees of participation in the co-op. Through triangulation of interviews, observations, and documents, this researcher has described a history of the selected co-op, including its founding and daily operations. The co-op, formed in 2005, is a large, Catholic-affiliated co-op that meets weekly for twelve weeks each semester. The teachers, all paid, are either parents of co-op students or individuals hired from outside the co-op. Students in the co-op have twenty to twenty-five courses from which to choose each semester. The participants in the study are satisfied with their experiences in the Quality Homeschool Co-op. The participants state that the co-op is providing quality academic classes that supplement the curricula used at home. The participants are also pleased with the positive socialization that their children receive while attending the co-op. This study adds to the literature on homeschooling cooperatives. Although further research on this study is possible based on different research questions, this researcher has presented a history of Quality Homeschool Co-op and has documented the co-op’s daily operations.”

REL West note: This is a dissertation. Given that its subject is relevant to the request, we included it here for your information.

Sabol, J. M. (2018). Homeschool parents’ perspective of the learning environment: A multiple-case study of homeschool partnerships. ProQuest LLC. Abstract and full text available from

From the abstract: “Homeschool families have the freedom to uniquely structure the learning environment to meet the needs of their children. Many homeschool parents increasingly rely on digital devices and the Internet to provide alternatives to traditional and private schools. Cooperatives (co-ops), charter school partnerships, virtual academies, online tutors, digitized instructional programs, and individualized curricula can be utilized to provide or supplement the learning environment. This research presents a multiple-case study exploring the variety of learning environments that homeschool parents utilize to teach their children. The participants in this research were homeschool parents who share teaching responsibilities with other homeschool parent educators, charter school organizations, or online instructional programs. In essence, the study examined the perceived effectiveness, efficiency, and efficacy of online, blended, and traditional face-to-face learning environments from the parents’ perspective. Data collection involved the combined responses from an online survey and participant interviews with ten homeschool parents. Each of the parents shared teaching responsibilities with a homeschool cooperative, a charter school organization, or both. Profiles of each participant include demographic information, homeschooling style, and the rationale for homeschooling their children. Three main themes emerged from the analysis of the homeschool parents’ perceptions: A Flexible Learning Environment Structure, Quality Time with Family, and Support from Like-Minded Others. The findings from this study can be utilized to advise future families of optimal practices for cultivating academic success and social development of the homeschooled child. The findings indicate homeschool parents perceive the academic and social learning environments as flexible and sufficient for their children’s education. From the study participants’ perspective, integrating technology into the homeschool structure positively impacted their children’s mathematics and literacy development. While partnering with homeschool cooperatives and charter schools, study participants were encouraged to continue educating their children, establishing close familial bonds, and providing opportunities for their children to interact with many people of different age-groups.”

REL West note: This is a dissertation. Given that its subject is relevant to the request, we included it here for your information.

Additional Organizations to Consult

Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) –

From the website: “The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) is a nonpartisan research center. We have always believed inequities are hard-wired into our public education system in both obvious and subtle ways. Our core business is studying efforts to rewire the system for school coherence, ongoing improvement, and excellence for every student—moving from the classroom, to the school, to policy implications. We envision a public education system that truly prepares every student for the challenges of the future. The question is, how must adult practices and systems shift to make sure this happens?”

REL West note: CRPE has one resource that is relevant to this request:

Hirsh, A. (2019). The changing landscape of homeschooling in the United States. Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE). Full text retrieved from

From the Introduction: “Educating children at home is a growing practice in the United States: the homeschool movement—frequently left out of the conversation about education—has much to teach us about creating more customized and effective school systems aimed at producing better outcomes for students. Homeschool families are hyper-autonomous units with tremendous freedom to create curriculum, redesign typical learning pathways, and build innovative partnerships. Homeschooling is not a monolith and it is not static. These diverse homeschooling families are taking several innovative approaches to redesigning education—forming partnerships with districts, organizing themselves into collaboratives, and finding ways to promote equity. Homeschooling has been legal in every state since the 1990s. While only 3 percent of K–12 students in the United States are homeschooled, this percentage has grown since 1999 and shows signs of continuing to increase. Homeschooling impacts the lives of millions of children and yet is understudied compared to other sectors of U.S. education. This brief describes the state of homeschooling in the U.S. in 2019. Section I explores the changing demographics of homeschoolers. Section II gives an overview of new forms of homeschooling, including hybrid models. Section III outlines the variety of state policies that govern homeschooling.”

Collaborative Classroom –

From the website: “Collaborative Classroom understands the need for intentional and specific planning, particularly during times of uncertainty and change. Ensuring that students feel calm, competent, and a part of the community is more important than ever. Supporting student academic trajectories, while maintaining strong pedagogy, is essential. We have developed the following guidance documents for Collaborative Classroom programs to assist you and your students as you navigate forward, together.”

REL West note: Collaborative Classroom has one resource that is relevant to this request:

Collaborative Classroom. (2020). Acceleration of learning: What do our students need now? Author. Full text available from

Excerpt: “While educators have always worried about the summer slide, this year we are grappling with a whole new level of concern. Many students have not been in a school building since March, and although educators worked hard last spring to provide consistent and high-quality remote learning experiences, our efforts were not the same as the in-school instruction that students would have received in normal, pre-COVID circumstances. 

Our students’ schooling experiences have varied. Some connected with their teachers and students in a video format, with clear and engaging assignments to complete at home. Others received packets of worksheets with no way to connect with peers or their teachers. And these examples do not take into account parental support, internet access, or the economic impact that our children have experienced.

While many educators still face uncertainty about the way in which we will start the 2020–21 school year, we already understand one crucial fact: this year we must address our students’ needs in a very different way and intentionally, strategically accelerate their learning.” 

Global Education Innovation Initiative (GEII) –

From the website: “The Global Education Innovation Initiative (GEII) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is a multi-country research-policy-practice collaborative examining relevant, powerful, and effective education in the 21st century for all students, including marginalized youth. We support the development of global education leadership for 21st century education by conducting research on effective policy, practices, and programs; co-creating with education leaders and practitioners helpful learning opportunities, tools and protocols to advance engaging, effective, and empowering teaching and learning; and creating a dynamic learning network of global partners.”

REL West note: GEII has one resource that is relevant to this request:

Reimers, F., Schleicher, A., Saavedra, J., & Tuominen, S. (2020). Supporting the continuation of teaching and learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Annotated resources for online learning. Global Education Innovation Initiative, Harvard University. Full text available from

Excerpt: “As the COVID-19 Pandemic runs its course, many governments are implementing measures that limit the number of people congregating in public places. Such measures have disrupted the normal functioning of schools and universities. Because the duration of such measures has been extensive—and is likely to continue in some countries for a certain time until a vaccine becomes available—leaders of public and private education institutions have put in place alternative methods for students and teachers to continue with their lessons when attending school is not possible and are working on methods that will make schools fit for working in a safe environment… 

This annotated selection is based on the March 2020 survey responses from 333 participants in 99 countries. We asked a range of stakeholders to identify online educational resources that they had found helpful in supporting education continuity up to that point… 

The resources are grouped into three broad sections, according to their purpose: 1) Curriculum Resources: These include lessons, videos, interactive learning modules and any other resources that directly support students in acquiring knowledge and skills; 2) Professional Development Resources: These are resources which can support teachers or parents in supporting learners, guiding them to content, developing their skills to teach remotely, or more generally augmenting their capacity to support learners now learning more independently and at home, rather than at school; and 3) Tools: These include tools that can help manage teaching and learning, such as communication tools, learning management systems or other tools that teachers, parents or students can use to create or access educational content.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used:

[Homeschool AND (“small group” OR “learning pod”)]; (“micro-school” or “micro-pod”); [homeschool AND (supplement OR supplementary) AND (“school learning” OR “virtual learning” OR “distance learning”)]

Databases and Resources

We searched Google Scholar and ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published within the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.