Understanding Learning Pods

Several members of our Indiana Network have been faced with the challenges of school re-openings in the time of COVID. As our communities continue to innovate around problems that the Corona Virus is causing for families Learning Pods have emerged as one method to support families with working parents and children who are not yet back in school face-t0-face.


Are you interested in running a learning pod for your friends and neighbors? This is a time where so many families are being creative about childcare and options for school-age children who are in virtual learning situations. While we love the creative initiative of families we are also very cognizant that there are rules. 

So for those of you in Indiana here is what we want to be sure that know… 

  1. If you are taking in school aged children (into your home or organization) to complete e-learning activities you may want to consider having families sign an internet use policy (here is an example that we like) 
  2. Consider testing your internet bandwidth before kids show up (take a peak at the education superhighway for one possible test here
  3. There are expectations for licensing that deal specifically with children under age five. Because a child can enroll in Kindergarten (before turning five) please do your due diligence with licensing. If you have more than five unrelated children in a home, without individual parents of children present, and receiving payment for care you may (and probably do) fall under licensing rules. Please do your due diligence and contact a licensing specialist here
  4. Be cognizant that if anyone in Indiana that has more than five unrelated children (example “my two children and five others”) you will need to be licensed in most cases. 
  5. If a pod or program is running with more than five unrelated children in a home and paying someone (or a business) to provide care that home owner may be responsible for securing a child care license, and meeting licensing expectations. Please do your due diligence and contact a licensing specialist here.
  6. Once you receive funds/payment to provide care for others (in your home or elsewhere) you may be responsible for different components of licensing. 
  7. If you are planning a pod/school age care/in person e-learning support program you may want to consider first aid training and back ground checks (licensing can assist with securing the best possible back ground check for your efforts). This will be required among other elements for licensing, however even if you do not have more than five kids, five days a week in one home with someone being paid to take care of children in the absence of families please be diligent in your search for support staff. 
  8. It is important that those working with school aged children understand the process and needs for abuse and neglect reporting. Find out more here
  9. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has several documents that can help guide you to provide safe opportunities for children. Make sure to follow mask guidance and requirements and please do your part to prepare for limiting contact, mitigation, etc. during this difficult time. 
  • Guidance for if you have a positive COVID here 
  • Guidance for school aged programs here 
  • Mandatory vs. Recommended practice here
  • Learn more under the guidance heading here 

Just My Mask

We are so excited to share the amazing new social story written by the Early Learning Alliance Network’s Instructional Support Specialist. The picture book is intended to help young children understand local mandatory mask wearing at school, preschool, or childcare.

With the help of a local young illustrator the book is friendly, diverse, and sets a tone in child-friendly ways to bridge the mandate with developmentally appropriate language. Grab a copy of Just My Mask to share with your children, students, and staff.

PreK and K Connections

If you are a PreK teacher interested in connecting with a Kindergarten teacher, or if you are a Kindergarten teacher interested in connecting with a PreK teacher let us help! Some great collaborations are already in place… examples include: 

  • Kindergarten kiddos creating a video tour of their school for PreK friends.
  • Kindergartners reading books to their younger friends using Flip Grid.
  • Kindergarten kiddos writing letters to PreK friends to tell them all about Kindergarten.
  • PreK friends sending questions about Kindergarten, and Kindergarteners responding via video, FaceTime/Live Video, text, or even through kid created books.

Week of the Young Child

The National Association for Education of Young Children holds an annual celebration of young children, their families, educators, and other caregivers. We use this opportunity to reflect on and recognize the hard work that is parenting and educating young children. While we provide opportunities throughout participating communities to celebrate the Week of the Young Child each year, our main contributions are in the recognition of educators. Each year we recognize educators through parent, family, community, or peer nominations and share the words of support and thanks.

Educator & Caregiver Recognitions have closed

Educator & Caregiver Recognitions have closed

Leaders in Indiana have supported the Week fo the Young Child since 2018. We are thankful for the contributions of our leaders in recognizing and joining in the celebrations of our young children and their families, educators, and care givers. A special thank you to Mayor Scott Fadness of Fishers, Mayor James Brainard of Carmel, Mayor John Ditslear of Noblesville, and Mayor Joe Hogsett of Indianapolis for officially signing proclamations celebrating the Week of the Young Child with our organization.

What is the Week of the Young Child? Learn more here.

What is the role of the Alliance? We made a commitment to our community to continually seek the proclamations from local mayors, as always we work on behalf of children, their educators, their families, and others who love them.

How can I celebrate my child’s teachers during the Week of the Young Child? We are SUPER excited that our educator and caregiver recognitions continue to shed light on the wonderful human network that supports and love our youngest children. Interested in sharing your thanks? Complete the form online here

Helping Families Get Ready For Kindergarten

Kindergarten Tips From Educators

  • Wondering what you should see in your child’s elementary classroom? Here are some suggestions from a local educational leader. [Download the PDF]
  • Want the poster with our walkaway from our latest Kindergarten Transition Conversation? Here it is in PDF

Examples from Hamilton County, Indiana

  • Looking for the HSE Kindergarten Transition Packet? UPDATED VERSION COMING SOON 
  • Looking for the Carmel Clay Kindergarten Transition Packet? UPDATED VERSION COMING SOON 

Questions All Families Need Answers To

Our work a diverse group of school districts, communities, and families allows us to learn from and with so many who are considered stakeholders in education. If you are a parent review these questions and find answers. If you are a school or district, you may want to think about how you are responding to these questions so that families can equitable access supports and information. See the top 20 questions families need to know for Kindergarten Transition here.

Kindergarten Conversations

Our kindergarten conversations have quickly become a community favorite. Join us as we talk, laugh, and hear directly from local educators and leaders about what kindergarten is today. This is open to families in our community and provided at no cost. You will walk away knowing what a typical kindergarten day is like for kids, how lunch and snacks are handled, what typical communication looks like between families and schools, best practice for technology inclusion in the classroom, what it means to be “ready for kindergarten,” and much more.

Due to COVID-19 closures and state at home orders we are not holding face to face conversations this year. Please see the video below, for a panel discussion with local educators about sending your kiddos off to Kindergarten!

Social Resources for Equity

As a team we are committed to continually learning and advancing our own understanding of equity. There are specific accounts on social media and podcasts from which we find inspiration, resources, and solid reviews.

Podcasts that support racial equity

Social Media accounts that support racial equity

Noticing Equity in Classrooms

The work of equity is ongoing, individuals nor organizations reach a point of perfection with equity. The work is ongoing and must be intentional. The following are resources for parents/families. If the care/education providers that you are sending your children to are paying attention and active in their quest for equitable practice here are a few things you should see.

Looking for Evidence of Equity

Over the past five years we have witnessed a greater attention to and discussion of equity as a cornerstone of education and care for children. As with most everything our organization does, we are forward thinking focusing not only on the development of human capital but also observing actions that uphold the promises and growth we are making among staff, educators, communities, etc.

Our new resource provides a research-based overview of evidence you may see (and more than likely should see) in every classroom and learning environment for your children. We encourage you to use this list to ask questions, engage in dialogue, and advocate for your own children and their peers. Equity does not happen without champions. Be a champion.

Be a champion for equity

When you are a champion for equity you:

  • Ask
  • Pay attention
  • Look for evidence
  • Have hard conversations
  • Set expectations
  • Follow through
  • Seek support
  • Connect
  • Collaborate
  • Learn with and f rom others
  • Practice and support equity at home

Racial Equity Books for Adults

Thank you to our team for curating this starter list of books for families and other stakeholders to educate themselves on race, racism, and racial equity.

At ELAN we firmly believe that learning is life long. We encourage everyone to take the time to reflect, learn, and grow. We are living in a unique moment in our nation’s history. If we make the most of that moment we will walk away stronger and better.

Make the most of this time.

Black Lives Matter

Dean ELAN community,

The impact of race, inequity, and injustice in our world is real. As hard as it is to talk with my children about racial prejudice I have to. Why? Because they are observant humans that learn from those around them; and sadly some of the ideas they come into contact with are not ones that promote equity and productive racial dialogue.

Today more than ever, parents, we have to talk with our kids about race and equity! Because we live in a world that demands understanding not just of our own bias, but how to address issues of bias that we encounter in our lives. We live in a world that demands us to be better and to stand up for others and to leverage any privilege we have to fight for those with none. At ELAN we live by a creed, that creed is founded in the words of Maya Angelou: 

When we know better we do better.

Maya Angelou

Today we are launching this resource page specifically for race and equity for families and early childhood care/education providers in an effort to support our community as they begin and/or are continually active in their individual journey towards action. This is in the beginning stages and will grow and improve as our team continues to dive deep into best practice and seek guidance from our national network of equity champions.

These resources have been vetted by parents, educators, and leaders. Please do more than talk right now, please do more than wish and cry. Please do the hard work, have the hard conversations, and make every moment possible matter with your children as they develop into our next generation of powerful equity leaders.

As science suggests, children are never born racist. Let us be sure that we aren’t teaching them to hold prejudice in our practices (intentional or otherwise). It is time friends to do more than talk and read and think. It is time for action, and the action starts with you.

Please let us know if you need support during this time. Thank you to every equity champion within our larger ELAN community, your work will continue to be important and critical in the months and years to come.

Be well, be bold, be active. 

Dr. Jody Britten
Founder of ELAN

Empowering Educators

One of our favorite things to do is empower educators of young children. Take a peak at some of the things we have for educators. When we think about empowering educators, we use evidence to design and spark conversations. Read our summary of What preK-12 educators want in professional learning opportunities here.