As the back-to-school season looms near, parents nationwide face a COVID related conundrum—how to best support their kids while keeping them safe and maintaining their own sanity. Enter WEEKDAYS, a micro-school connector linking parents with schools in their neighborhood that match their child’s needs, and schools with high-quality educators. The class sizes are small, the kids get excellent, personalized education that caters to their interests, and parents get a little peace of mind so they can focus on their work during school hours.
Tech veteran Shauna Causey founded WEEKDAYS in 2019 after becoming frustrated with the lack of childcare options in her neighborhood and found that there was a quality gap when seeking out care for her son. As she built WEEKDAYS, quality has remained at the forefront of the mission. We spoke to Shauna about how micro-schooling has changed learning for her child, why micro-schooling is beneficial (during a pandemic or not), and the great programs WEEKDAYS is integrating into their schools as they grow.
Why is micro-schooling such a great option during these uncertain times?
Each child learns differently, at their own pace. Micro-schools can really support that, and bring out childrens’ interests and talents simply because of the smaller groups, personalized attention, and less standardization versus a 20-30 child classroom. Parents have a deep fear that their children are going to fall behind, but with these smaller groups, teachers can design their curriculum around how each child learns, and develop activities and ways of learning that work for the children. And the micro-school educators bring their own interests, passion, and domain expertise to the program. We have some that are very focused on outdoor time—one of our half-day programs is a fully outdoor forest school. We have some that are focused on gardening, cooking, arts and crafts, or tech and STEM.
Health concerns are also really important. Even before the pandemic, you’d often hear from parents that their kids who are in daycare or preschool are sick all the time. So there were health benefits before, and now that's turned into the top reason, by far, that parents and educators are interested. That need has skyrocketed.
How has micro-schooling your own child changed things at home?
It's really made a huge difference. He has a very difficult time paying attention in the larger group setting. He started the year with a speech delay and we have him working with a specialist. At the end of the year, the specialist was telling us that she thinks that he's totally caught up. There's a lot of research that says when kids fall behind, especially in the early years, it's really hard for them to catch up. I wanted to make sure we were able to give him all the support that he needed to stay on-track.
What characteristics do you look for in your teachers?
Sir Ken Robinson inspired me (he also has the most watched TED talk of all time). He asserts that fostering creativity and meeting children where and how they learn is just as important (if not more important) as a child's academic performance. This is a core value we look for in our teachers: the importance of supporting each child's interests and passions.
We also run full background checks and personally vet every teacher. We really look at their experience level. Everybody we support has some level of childcare or formal teaching experience. In some cases, it's stay-at-home parents whose own children have grown up and this was really a calling for them. We have teachers who left the profession and have come back now that it's an attractive option because they can have smaller class sizes and still make a good salary. Then we have nannies for whom this is the next career step.
Tell us about the Pacific Science Center partnership.
I grew up going to the Science Center as a little kid, so I've been a fan of the way that they approach tech and science and have innovated in a unique way. When the pandemic hit, they started bringing some of their classes online. We've partnered with them on content and some of our schools have access to these classes, so they can tune in and learn from teachers who're leading a program at the Science Center.
You spoke to Forbes about some of the economic disparities within the micro-schooling system. What are some of the initiatives at Weekdays that work to solve these challenges?
We care deeply about this. Some of our teachers offer scholarship spots and we fully support those by providing our technology, structure, and support at no cost. Some parents are coming together to pool money and make a scholarship spots available. We're working with a couple hospitals where their employees are forming micro-schools and we're helping by placing teachers with them. We’re constantly looking at what's possible, what's safe, what works, and how we can make this more accessible.
Working parents are desperate. Subsidies do exist. There was government funding even before the pandemic, but there's a need right now and funding isn't keeping up. We're forming partnerships to offer subsidies to employees and I've had some city officials and school districts reach out wanting to talk about what options could exist because parents are having a difficult time.
What obstacles have you had to overcome in building Weekdays?
This industry's changed more in the last four months than, arguably, it has in the last hundred years. There's been so many different chapters to the pandemic. We’re constantly trying to learn and figure out what's going to change and building technology around that. We had to navigate how to keep these programs as safe as possible.
What types of pros do you use for Weekdays?
“He’s also the mental skills coach for the Houston Astros. He works with entrepreneurs and teams."
“They have personal support for startups and are really designed to support the startup community.”
“This is where Weekdays got its start."
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