For parents stuck at home trying to figure out how to educate their children amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mayim Bialik is here to help. The Big Bang Theory star is partnering with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform, to host free virtual classes for kids and parents during the month of May. Bialik, who also happens to be a real-life neuroscientist, will be teaching kids about the human brain.
Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Bialik over the phone on Wednesday from Los Angeles where she’s isolating with her two boys, Miles, 14, and Frederick, 12. “We’re pretty bored!” she laughs, but says they are all “OK.”
“You know, we've been pretty conservative from the get go and continue to be, so it's a little monotonous,” she admits. “It's a little tedious and me and my younger son are introverts and even the introverts among us are antsy. In order to appreciate your alone time you need to have not alone time so you can remember why you like to be alone!”
When it comes to her children’s current education routine, not too much has changed. Bialik’s sons are homeschooled and the actress is a big advocate for at home learning with her parenting videos on YouTube garnering millions of views. However, she wants parents to cut themselves some slack as they adjust to their new normal.
“Here’s the thing — and I keep saying this as a way for people to be gentle on themselves,” Bialik begins. “What people are being asked to do right now — what working parents in particular are being asked to do right now is not homeschooling. It is schooling your children while also trying to have a full-time or even part-time job. It is unnatural in the most loving way I can say it. It is virtually impossible and I feel bad for parents who are, like, ‘How do those homeschoolers do it?!’”
Bialik explains the way homeschooling typically works is that the parent whose not working is “in charge of schooling.” She calls what’s happening now in terms of home education due to COVID-19 “not natural.”
“It is very, very stressful for both parents and children alike,” Bialik says.
That’s why she has teamed up with Varsity Tutors for its celebrity-led “StarCourse.” Before playing a neurobiologist on television, Bialik got her Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2007.
“I taught for about five years before I was a regular on the Big Bang Theory after getting my doctorate. So I'm trained as a science educator and in particular, a neuroscientist,” she shares. Bialik taught undergraduates at UCLA as part of her training and she has taught junior high and high schoolers in the homeschool community in L.A., including her sons.
“This is not that exact same curriculum, but the idea is to teach neuroscience in a fun and approachable way for middle school and high school,” she adds. “This is part of [Varsity Tutors] virtual school day program, which is remote learning and includes live classes and resources to try and help parents fill their children’s days as we’re all just trying to figure this out.”
Unknowingly, Bialik was quite prepared for how to educate her kids during a pandemic as they’ve “never been in a traditional school setting.”
“They do take classes typically in groups, which homeschooled kids tend to when they get older,” but she saysher boys “are used to doing their own thing while adults are around.”
“They definitely already have a concept of ‘I know it doesn’t take six hours to do my schooling in a day.’ So, we already have a structure of doing our academics one to three hours a day depending on the day, and then we get to have a life and explore, play — all those things,” she says.
Bialik, who co-parents with ex-husband Michael Stone, is usually in the “working parent” role.
“I’m typically working in the week — which I still am even though I’m home — so they’re typically at their dads, just like they have been during work weeks for me,” she notes. “We split our weeks, so then I get them for homework and all that other stuff. I’m also in charge of piano and I’m in charge of Hebrew, so I do some stuff here as well.”
When asked if her boys are interested in science, Bialik excitedly tells Yahoo they are.
“My older son’s really interested in engineering and building, but really does love neuroscience in particular,” she shares. “I taught a class for some of our homeschool community that he got to be a part of last year. My younger son is very, very artistic but also really likes science and retains information really well. He took a class that I taught last year at 11. They also have a lot of other interests. My older son plays piano and violin, but we kind of are trying to raise Renaissance children, you know, give them a little bit of everything.”
As for whether that “little bit of everything” includes acting, it seems Bialik’s boys got the creative gene — but she’s not eager for them to follow in her Hollywood footsteps.
“Both of our boys actually like Shakespeare very much and have taken Shakespeare for several years,” she shares. “What we’ve told them is they’re allowed to be interested in acting all they want, but we are not turning our lives inside out taking them to auditions. So they can do Shakespeare, they can do all these other great things we do that are artistic, but we really want them to have the ability to test out a lot of different things. I would love for them to follow in my footsteps and become a neuroscientist — I’d rather that than an actor I think!”
The award-winning actress wants her boys to stay creative as they isolate. “I’ve tried to institute what I’m calling ‘art hour’ where I encourage the boys to do something artistic,” she reveals. “Just to kind of force them to do something different with their brains.”
To pass the time they’re also trying to do “neighborhood family walks” — with masks — and like most parents, she has been battling screen time as the boys like to play video games.
“Especially during the quarantine, I think everybody’s kids are playing more than we’d like them to,” she laughs. “I really try and encourage some form of powering down on Shabbat, which for us is Friday night and Saturday night. I’m cool with reading and stuff like that, but I’d like them to also have a powered down feeling, so even if that means writing homework happens on Sundays or Friday afternoons, that’s what we do.”
Enrollment for Bialik’s virtual class is open. She’ll be teaching two 30-minute sessions on May 14 and May 21, best for grades 5 through 10. (Adults are welcome, too.)
“My younger son is 12 and I think even a child who is 10 or 11 will get something out of it and enjoy a lot of the visuals. ... I’m sure many adults will enjoy it,” she says. “You know, the brain’s really cool!”
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