Mayim Bialik—child star of ’90s show Blossom, Amy Farrah Fowler on nine seasons of The Big Bang Theory, 2007 Ph.D. in neuroscience—is also a vocal advocate of home schooling, garnering millions of views for her YouTube videos on education and parenting. For Bialik, that home-schooling expertise may be the most important line on her résumé. We asked her to share what she’s learned teaching her 11- and 14-year-old sons.
How’d you get into home schooling?
My now ex-husband and I noticed that home-schooled kids had a composed and interesting way about them, and that they were comfortable around adults and around their parents. That’s what interested us—the kind of relationships that we could build with our children.
Were you home-schooled?
No, I went to public school. My parents were public school teachers for a combined 70 years.
Before the pandemic, what was people’s attitude toward your home schooling?
Oh, people thought we were nuts. Our parents thought we were nuts.
What do your friends say now?
“This is crazy!” and “Home-school parents must have special genetics that allow patience!” It doesn’t take a superhero to home-school. But what people are experiencing now is not home schooling—it is schooling children from home while also trying to work.
Don’t you work?
I wasn’t working when I was first home with my kids, and we built a life around my husband being an at-home parent. All of the people in our home-school community have a parent who is home with the child—that’s usually how you do it. I say that with huge compassion for parents: What most are experiencing now is much more challenging and not how any of us who home-school would design it.
What’s your home-schooling schedule?
I’m divorced, so it’s a bit of an unusual situation. My kids have gotten used to schooling primarily with their dad, and I do things with them on the days that I have them. I taught them Hebrew and music and science when they were little, and also neuroscience.
Do you use tutors?
Some people do hire tutors, but we see ourselves as our children’s primary teachers. They do some classes that normally meet in parks and in other people’s homes, which they currently attend online. Now that they’re older and doing more advanced subjects, they have a couple of classes with 5-10 kids with mentors, usually parents in our community who teach.
How much time do your kids normally spend studying?
Two to three hours a day of hard academic work.
How are you approaching lockdown home schooling?
For us, it looks like a lot more video games than anyone is comfortable with. We get to loosen the reins on what normal can look like. It’s important for us all to lower our expectations and be very gentle with ourselves and our children and remember that whatever happens this year is happening to the entire world. It’s very hard to do that in a society that’s so geared toward progress and academic achievement and early independence.
What’s the vibe chez Bialik?
Though the global tragedy is weighing heavily, the introvert hippies among us are feeling pretty comfortable with this adjustment. There’s a lot of peace in feeling comfortable with your kids the way that we do.
Have you changed anything since lockdown?
Our wonderful family therapist has suggested that I back off on feeling like now is the time to teach lessons about discipline.
What difficulties are your friends having that you aren’t?
That their kids are hanging on them and being clingy. Home-schoolers are used to a schedule where they’re around their parents.
Do you see any silver lining in this situation?
I believe strongly in a culture that supports people being with their kids more and understanding their education better. Maybe this will bring us closer to that. And it’s also an opportunity for us to connect with our kids in different ways.
What resources would you recommend for unintentional home-schoolers?
1. The Core Knowledge Series (What Your First Grader Needs to Know, etc.)
3. Adventures in Gentle Discipline, by Hilary Flower
Bialik’s new Fox series, Call Me Kat, was scheduled to debut this fall, but it’s been delayed by the pandemic.