MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It turns out there may have been an upside to all of that virtual schooling.

It seems parents and kids have figured out some new ways of learning with video game-like apps, and they want to keep going.

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A new study found that with regular digital learning apps usage, students were able to catch up to their higher-skilled peers by closing the gap by up to 87%.

Paco Bawar learned early about life’s uncertainties. Halfway through his kindergarten year in Mahtomedi, his parents — who are nurses — suddenly became educators.

“It was kind of crazy,” mom Katherine Bawar said. “My husband I, like we’re just not natural teachers, that’s just not our thing.”

The timing couldn’t have been worse for Paco. He was getting extra help with reading and just was starting to progress when school stopped. Katherine shared the anxieties of other parents.

“Just so worried about what’s gonna be next, what’s gonna happen next, where’s his reading gonna go, is he gonna fall behind,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

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So the family decided to make the most of screen time and use an online learning app that acts like a video game.

Paco started spending an hour a day using ABCmouse, a program that coaches kids through reading while coaxing them with fun, as we learned from Nika Fabienke, senior director of curriculum at Age of Learning.

“Our players are meant to just see fun, to see bright colors and ABC and songs and games, but if you look under the hood, everything is designed by educators,” Nina said.

And now, in second grade, Paco is excelling and thriving, reading fluently and confidently.

“Nothing will take the place of like worksheets and handwriting and all those things, but if it feels like a game then it doesn’t feel like work,” Katherine said.

The company who makes ABCmouse says computer game learning has skyrocketed since the pandemic, and the hope is it will help bridge the learning loss gap and give parents some relief.

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Click here and here for more information on free educational apps.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield