These moms found a way to make virtual preschool work
Founders of BumoBrain speak with CNET's Now What on how to engage the youngest of remote learners.
Bridget CareyPrincipal Video Producer
Bridget Carey is an award-winning reporter who helps you level-up your life -- while having a good time geeking out. Her exclusive CNET videos get you behind the scenes as she covers new trends, experiences and quirky gadgets. Her weekly video show, "One More Thing," explores what's new in the world of Apple and what's to come. She started as a reporter at The Miami Herald with syndicated newspaper columns for product reviews and social media advice. Now she's a mom who also stays on top of toy industry trends and robots. (Kids love robots.)
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Virtual school is a challenge for every age. But for kids in kindergarten and preschool, virtual has become their first and only school experience. Now what?
Learning online isn't always effective. Large Zoom classrooms become overwhelming and frustrating, with everyone talking on top of each other. So how do you help a bunch of ants-in-the-pants kids to focus, communicate and learn -- and do it all remotely?
The creators of BumoBrain -- a specialized virtual preschool that launched in the middle of the pandemic -- seem to be ahead in solving that problem. Co-founders Chriselle Lim and Joan Nguyen launched the company in April after being frustrated that their own kids weren't getting what they needed out of virtual preschool. They chatted with CNET (video embedded above) to explain what they see working in their system and offer advice to struggling parents.
The key: Keep video classes small, short and active. Keep schedules flexible. And keep it super simple for parents with detailed lists of lessons, printouts and activities to follow.
"It is an agenda that tells you literally everything you need to have effective learning for your kids," Lim said. "It brings more of a schedule for parents as well, a routine."
Depending on what you pay for, that routine can come in a few forms. One package is a daily program of pretaped videos, worksheet and craft activities, along with a few live video activities families can tune in to together. The program starts at $49 a month.
BumoBrain also offers something a little lighter: A once-a-week live video class on a specific topic or interest, be it chemistry or ballet. Each class is 30 minutes long, and one teacher is paired with a maximum of six students. Five weeks of classes cost $128.
Parents sign up for the time and topic that fits their schedule and interests. Teachers will ask kids to work with items they may find in their home. Learn physics with monster truck toys. Learn engineering with popsicle sticks and marshmallows. Learn math with Play-Doh.
"Thinking about how to engage offline while you're online is something we're always striving to do better and better, and it's something we feel is super important in online learning," said Nguyen. "There's no way a child can just sit there and be sedentary and not have their hands manipulating something at the same time."
To supplement all of that, there's also the $49 BumoBrain Box. Delivered to a child's door is a box packed with over a dozen crafts and learning activities. Along with colorful fuzz balls and pipe cleaners are books, games and basic lesson materials for parents.
So how did these two moms create such a robust education offering so quickly in the middle of the pandemic? It all came from a clever pivot.
The curriculum was already being crafted for another business Lim and Nguyen were working on for an in-person, licensed, education-based childcare. It's called BumoWork, a space where parents could get work done, while also having childcare under the same roof. The launch of that was bumped to next year.
These online offerings have seen global interest. In the first three weeks, Nguyen said the BumoBrain program had a waiting list of 2,000 families, with customers from 200 countries.
For parents that are feeling the pressure to make sure kids are still getting the lessons they need at home, the team offers this advice: Keep kids playing to keep learning fun.
"I feel like when parents are responsible for their children's education, you forget about play cause you kind of discount it," Nguyen said. "It's so important to learning."
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