Keeping your kid content has proven to be one of the trickiest challenges throughout this quarantine. Fortunately enough, a longtime Scotts Valley resident and business owner is stepping up, to help keep your kiddos safely occupied at no cost. Ryan Teves, the founder of Brainstorms Learning Center, has decided to waive the fee on his latest startup, Nextbooks.
Teves explained his newest business, “We offer online middle school and high school classes…. They’re 100% video-based, so your mom and dad don’t have to know math. [Students] go in, and with no help, they can start videos and take quizzes.”
Nextbooks was created about a year and a half ago, according to Teves. After graduating from UCSC, Teves taught for years in public and private schools. He then started tutoring, which inspired his big idea. “You’re one on one with students for quite some time and you realize, they all have the same complaint. There’s a lack of relevance in curriculum… Kids learn what they have to in school and then they go home and learn more about what they’re actually interested in, but we don’t give them credit for it. We’re trying to merge the two.”
Teves has experienced this gap between curriculum and desire many times in his life. “When I was in school, we had two electives to choose from! What if you didn’t like either? They’d tell you, ‘Be quiet! You won’t graduate unless you take an elective.’” As a tutor, he recalled speaking to an awful counselor, who thought a particular student didn’t want to learn. However, Ryan knew more and believed in that student. “At home, he was taking apart an old Chevy motor and putting it back together with his bare hands. He wanted to learn, absolutely! He just didn’t want to learn algebra two.”
Ultimately, Nextbooks will, “offer a vast and expansive list of electives, because school isn’t always relevant. We want to develop ‘How to Adult,’ to ‘Auto Care’. We’re still building a lot, so I wish this had happened a year out, but the math people have already been swooping up courses. We’re basically using the Dummies Guide model, where there’s no end. We’ll have courses on programming: Python, Java, C+. We’re not going to stop. There will be languages, Japanese, Hebrew, German, Mandarin. An ever-expanding list.”
As of now, the online program offers middle school math (grades 6,7, & 8) and algebra 1, as well as “Intro to Drums” and “Kid Business Owner.” I paused at the latter course and Teves helpfully described the program, “It teaches teenagers how to start their own businesses. They don’t have to wait to own a business.”
After the quarantine is behind us, Teves predicts major changes to our educational system after this crisis. “People are reluctant to change. Now that they’re getting a taste of online courses, they’re going to see the value. After the crisis, you’ll see a hybrid educational format. We’ll have brick and mortar schools, but period three is called ‘Elective Period’. Everyone is taking a different course from a computer, from reptiles and amphibians to intro to French. Now one adult can monitor 20 kids all taking different electives.”
Aside from helping Nextbooks grow, Teves keeps busy at Brainstorms and raising his two daughters. “My whole life is kid based. It’s really rewarding. I love getting to know kids and families. No one is involved in Brainstorms who isn’t a family friend. It’s pretty awesome. That’s why we’re doing this. We’re giving the courses to people we know.” I asked him about Brainstorms and he immediately chuckled, “I’d bet about a third of your readers, have been through Brainstorms Learning Center… It’s basically a homework club, with a wildlife summer camp.”
Due to his kid based lifestyle, I thought Teves was qualified to give us more advice about keeping our kids busy. He responded, “The reason kids like our camps, is because they’re 100% outdoors. Parents can do that with their kids now. I would encourage families to get outside now more than ever, a la Brainstorms. It doesn’t violate the quarantine and it’s so valuable now.
Scotts Valley is quite lucky to have people like Teves in it, especially now. But he asserts that our appreciation is a two-way street. “I’m proud of Scotts Valley from what I’ve seen so far. It’s been revealing. People are good and we’re not the only ones helping the community. You never wish for a crisis, but it’s heartwarming to see.”