AUSTIN (KXAN) — Being a parent can be a learning experience, and lately, with the pandemic, that experience is more of an experiment of how to keep your kids engaged.
For Austin-based tech entrepreneur Ben Jenkins and his wife Sara, they’ve gained that experience threefold.
Their three kids are their life and they hope, in turn, to keep them learning.
So when COVID-19 hit, the Jenkinses took their “extended Spring Break” and decided to build a startup for them to continue their education from the safety of their home.
Co-founders Ben and Sara created Sessions, an online platform for interactive learning. Each parent took their love of travel and wanted their kids and others’ to share the same experiences.
“‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if our kids could check out the pyramids in Egypt with a live instructor and be able to ask questions?’ Or do a Mexico immersion class where they’re talking to somebody in Mexico that lives there and they’re immersed in that culture.”
They put together all of the needed technology in about a month and a half, then reached out to guides, finding a high level of interest around the world.
The platform experience
Sessions provides kids, ages three to 18, with live, interactive learning and adventures. They are hosted by “guides” from all over the world.
Some examples of what they might experience are:
- Hip-Hop dance classes
- Pyramids of Egypt tours
- Moscow guided tours (hosted by a guide in Russia)
- Yoga sessions (hosted by a guide on the beaches of Mexico)
So far, they’ve calcuated about 557 students have enrolled and taken multiple sessions.
For each parent, it means a lot to provide children such experiences in an online setting.
“Given the environment the world is in today, we’re mostly locked down and protected due to COVID, there are diversity issues across the United States, and so being able to open our children up to different cultures and languages and ways of life…[is important],” Ben said.
“Every mom can relate with the panic of any kind of situation, especially a global pandemic. ‘My kids aren’t in school, they’re gonna fall behind.’ There’s just always that concern. But then you look at it and like, ‘well, who are they gonna fall behind?’ Because we’re all in the same boat, you know?” Sara said.
The launch is currently in beta mode, so all online learning during August 2020 is free.
Next month moving forward, each session will cost $5-10, depending on the session.
Each is a “pod-learning” environment (from 5-10 kids) and has a Sessions employee monitoring the entire class. They are always gonna have some free sessions on the site, but they’re also toying with a pay-what-you-can model for certain classes, like learning a language, to broaden the experiences for families no matter the income.
Overall, they want to help their fellow parents along the journey of learning during a pandemic.
“I keep saying ‘mommas’ and I feel like it’s a tribe and we should all be there to build each other up, and we should be there to pick up where one leaves off or help in any way that we can. If I can buy a mom 40 minutes and her child’s learning and having a great time, at the same time, then that’s a huge success for me,” Sara said.
You can learn more and sign up for free on their website. You just need your name, email address, and your number, if you’d want text updates about class start times.
If you have something you’d want your children to learn, you can request sessions and the Jenkinses will put it together.