SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Michelle Houghton’s seven-year-old son Elias will soon start second-grade at Pershing Elementary, but not physically at the school.

“We’re not willing to put our family at additional risk, so that’s why we wanted to choose the online full-virtual option,” said Houghton.

Houghton works part-time and says her family got their first taste of online learning when schools closed earlier this year.

“The first like three weeks we did well, we did all the assignments and got everything done,” said Houghton.

However, Houghton says it wasn’t always easy.

“As things progressed he got tired of it he felt like he didn’t want to listen to mom be the teacher,” said Houghton.

She, like many parents, are finding their own ‘outside of school’ solutions.

One solution is a Facebook page called Springfield Learning Pods, created by SPS retiree Denise Kelly. “Because of last spring, we learned from there that students often need somebody in person to help them stay on track and keep them encouraged,” said Kelly.  

Kelly says the page comes in handy to help connect families.

“I’m letting the teachers or the parents or the people find each other like a grassroots effort,” said Kelly.

Once the families connect, they agree on a place to get together and share the learning load.

Houghton says the small groups provide even more support during this time when everything feels different.

“Whenever he can work alongside other students,  he is more engaged and apt to do it,” said Kelly.

The kind of experience Houghton says she wants for her son.

“Every parent wants what’s best for their kiddo,” said Houghton.

SPS will provide the curriculum for its students.

Kelly says the learning pods allow families to complete online learning in an atmosphere that works best for them. And that atmosphere can be anywhere – a living room, a park, where-ever families feel comfortable.