My new company is Quistic. We provide online learning for people who want to have a fun, interesting career without giving up the rest of their personal life.

If you’re looking for the ultimate secret for how to launch a company while you homeschool, here is what I know: I didn’t write on this blog for a week and my sons spent way too much time playing video games in bank lobbies while I dealt with transferring money from investors. And we have an employee in the Ukraine, and you’d probably be shocked to learn how hard it is to pay someone in the Ukraine without having to bribe everyone.

So anyway, the trick to launching a company while you homeschool is to not do anything else. My kids ate pancakes three meals in a row. The first time I was a great homeschooler, having patience to let flour spill on the floor while my son helped. The second time I was on the phone with my co-founder screaming that of course we have to launch with a discount system and I forgot the eggs so I had to dump the batter from the pan back into the bowl and add an egg and probably the pancakes sucked but I wouldn’t know because I spent all of lunch yelling about why giving $45 off is more exciting than giving 23% off. “Percentage discounts will not work. Fix the system! Fuck!”

I was not going to add the fuck. The whole world tells me that when I use swear words on my homeschool blog I lose half my readers. But I think maybe I already lost those readers. And I have to use fuck to show you how difficult the launch was. I did not have good days leading up to the launch or after the launch. I left a violin lesson to talk with the designer. In cello lessons when I was supposed to be taking notes I was making lists to remind myself why I wanted to do another startup.

Are you wondering about the third time in a row my kids ate pancakes? It was for dinner when I noticed that no one ate them for lunch, so I just served them again. My younger son said, “Is your company launched yet so we can have real food again?”

This is my fourth startup, so we’re getting press right away. My favorite article is from Venture Beat, a publication that caters to Silicon Valley startup types. You know how kids ignore you until they can sense when you’re on an important phone call and then they won’t leave you alone? Well, the writer did the whole interview while I was telling my kids to be quiet, and then he wrote about it, here.

Also I wrote an article that’s in MORE Magazine this month. It’s about how I succeeded at work even though I have Aspergers.

I flipped through the magazine to see who else was there and I found a series of gorgeous photos of women who are executives in the perfume industry. They were all beautifully draped in gorgeous, fancy clothes. I looked for tidbits about their kids. Surely some of them are moms – they are all my age. But all I found was a quote from one who said her go-to accessory is a $2000 Louis Vuitton bag that is great for travel and doubles as a diaper bag.

How is it that I feel so incredibly different from them even though I’m in the same magazine as they are, for the same topic: career success?

It’s because I homeschool. It makes having a career completely different. I have had a huge career for the last twenty years, but I am not confident and practiced at having a huge career while tethered to kids 100% of my day. It’s all new to me.


17 replies
  1. Sheela Clary
    Sheela Clary says:

    Your kids can eat pancakes for a day, they’ll survive. Keep on being the kicks businesswoman whose kids are integrated into, and not separate from, her creative life. I really should reciprocate for the inspiration you gave me to homeschool…can you send frozen soups in the mail?

  2. sarah
    sarah says:

    I dont mind when people swear and it fits. I hate it when they swear and it does not belong in the sentence. I have heard guys say f~ck 5 times in a sentence, and to me their intelligence level drops. To lazy to think of a big word. Like 5 letters instead of 4? Is there grammar so limited to only 4 letter words? I rarely meet intelligent people who swear all the time. I dont mean just book smart, but people smart. There are times and places when a swear word shouls be used, but it takes intelligence to pull it off.

    Also, I checked out your company, and even though we are different as night and day, I do like your way of thinkibg and seeing trends. And have read your book. But being a full time homeschooler to 5 and helping my husband run his company, I have to wonder how the videos would apply to me, or would they just make me wish I was someone else who didnt have kids and home school? (As your book did).

    And you are right, saying $45 off is way better than 23%. Most people dont do mental math to figure it out. :)

  3. karelys
    karelys says:

    If you too buy a $2K Louis Vuitton to put organic snacks in everyone else will be distracted enough to think you’re the epitome of put-together and success.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. Why not just lie about your accessories? Like that woman actually carries diapers, wipes, and a pack of formula in her $2K bag. That’s what the *Nanny’s* bag is for.

      This is the moment to mention you fly to L.A. for haircuts. Top that, Bag Lady.

  4. Emma
    Emma says:

    As an operations manager, I am highly entertained that the person in your company with likely the worst executive function is also the person trying to figure out international wire transfers. Administrating international wires is worse than the DMV. I hope your new company is successful and fulfilling so that you can hire someone to handle these kinds of logistics in the future.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Emma, you’re right! It was absurdly difficult to transfer money. I felt like I was in the Middle Ages trading goat milk for cheese or something. And after an hour at the bank, they flagged the wire transfer as suspicious two days laster and then cancelled it.


  5. Kathy Donchak
    Kathy Donchak says:

    I think leaving your real words in shows who you are in a way that editing cannot. That and it makes me smile since my kids are so young I am constantly editing myself. I was knee deep in projects the last few weeks, and I was feeling guilty the boys are on their tablets so much. Well at least they are in their own house while we are doing it. I had a call that I took at the wrong time this week, Cheers to you – love the new business!

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the article the interviewer wrote about you and your start up was unflattering and condescending.

    With regards to the “F” word. This is where I rely on my husband to help me out. Remember with aspergers you aren’t really aware of how other people are reacting because of the impaired ability to read other people correctly. I’ve been accused of smiling at inappropriate times!!! Basically the advise he gives me is to do the opposite of what I think in that context. So if I think it’s ok to say the F word five times when I talk to someone, then I probably shouldn’t say it at all. It’s helpful to have someone who can tell you when things are inappropriate like the farmer does, because how else would we know!?

    When I was a stock broker, everyone swore and it was completely appropriate to swear all the time. Now that I’m swim team mom… not so much. But it is mentally challenging because I “think” it is appropriate, but to most everyone else it just isn’t. At least that is how it’s been explained to me by my husband and members of my family.

    Also, don’t worry about LV Bag lady, what a “douche”. You are way more normal than she is. Did she also say she blows her nose with $100 bills, has five chefs, and three nannies…. this is information that normal wealthy people keep to themselves because they have an ounce of humility. Shallow people… don’t try to be like them.

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “I didn’t write on this blog for a week and my sons spent way too much time playing video games in bank lobbies while I dealt with transferring money from investors.”

    Writer’s guilt and homeschooler’s guilt.
    Guilt squared. Way too much guilt.
    I’m just glad to see this post and that you’re hanging in there. If I didn’t comment, I’d have reader’s guilt. :)

  8. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    It’s all new to me too! And I couldn’t handle it, which is why I quit two days ago. I never felt professional enough — couldn’t switch gears well enough. Or maybe I just didn’t love it enough to put up with it. You must love what you do very much to keep going like you do.

  9. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    Your interview is featured in the Lifestyle section in Venture beat. Interesting. Could have been in Entrepreneur or Business sections

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, Sadya. I have trained myself to ignore stuff like that, but it is not very nice.

      Actually, there are some other really offensive things about the post on Venture Beat as well. For example, my company is funded, and Venture Beat always asks who is funding but for me, they didn’t ask because they assume a mom at home is not capable of getting funding. And another thing they assumed is that I have no co-founders. It seems like an innocuous assumption, but in the startup world, almost everyone has a co-founder. It’s a way to let people know that the founder is not crazy and the idea is not crazy – because two people are doing it. But they didn’t even ask me if I have co-founders – they just wrote that I don’t. So basically, they assumed my company is like my little hobby.

      The thing is that I can’t spend my time being offended by things like this. I have to overlook it or I could never be in the startup world. Even when I was 28 and I had already sold a company and I had no kids, the offensiveness was outrageous — like when I was the only woman in a meeting once, an investor assumed I was someone’s girlfriend and asked me to leave.

      This is all to say, actually, that this homeschooling blog is a really safe place for me. I will never be looked down on here for staying home with my kids.


  10. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    I have been the financial intermediary between a Kentucky university and a website development company I use in Bratislava, Slovakia, so I feel your pain.

    That said, this development crew FAR EXCEEDS any I’ve found in a decade–they can do anything I ask. So, I put up with the frustrations. Plus, Skype makes them feel near.

    On a sidenote, the week I worked around the clock to launch my new website consumed all my time and attention. I prepared my family, and having years of experience rallying to help me meet my deadlines, the girls cooked & grocery shopped, my husband dealt with evening questions, and my parents even took the kids out for frozen yogurt while my mom provided a cooked dinner or two. Everything extracurricular/periphery was DROPPED; including my mind, I daresay.

    Of course, that didn’t include fundraising (blech) and employees, but it was ENOUGH!

  11. tamara
    tamara says:

    I have been a home educator now for going on five years and I am so happy to read this article. I hear of others who have their own biz plus homeschool and I wonder how they do it.

    If I have to edit images (photographer) and don’t let the boys play the wii or watch a video I don’t get enough uninterrupted time before child hunger kicks in or they get bored of reading or what not to get anything done. Then I feel guilty for letting them play video games etc. I can’t stand it and would rather spend the time with my kids then leave them with this type of ‘entertainment’.

    This is one of the main reasons why I don’t work full-time. I love my kids too much and gave up trying to do full-time while falling into serious depression due to the guilt and craziness I’d stacked up on myself. When my doctor said I should send them to school to help alleviate things I quit working on my business instead. Now it’s very very part-time and for only families I already know. Even then it can be difficult to fit in.

    That being said, I am an artist at heart and am determined to somehow make a living creating my art, but that can be more in my own time, I hope.

  12. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    What a great post. I started homeschooling one kid two months ago, (the other loves formal school.)

    Laughing and shaking my head at you being asked to leave a meeting because he thought “you were someone’s girlfriend.” That must have been a good lesson for that dude.

    Thanks for being real.

  13. John
    John says:

    “The whole world tells me that when I use swear words on my homeschool blog I lose half my readers. But I think maybe I already lost those readers.”

    After I read that I thought, “So who’s left when you cut loose the people who don’t like to read the word ‘fuck’? I’m curious to read the comments.”

    I’m new to Penelope’s blog, so I’m working from a very small sample here, but it looks like sprinkling in a few F-bombs has actually raised the quality of the discussion. I know this isn’t the result you’d get under all conditions but that’s what I see here.

    I rarely read comments anymore because they’re so consistently filled with people who are more interested in judging than contributing. For a subject that could easily devolve into a lot of people telling each other they’re doing it wrong, this is a remarkably thoughtful and supportive comment string.

    The whole authentic voice thing has been a big hang up for me in trying to create a blog. I guess I should just go ahead and write the fucking thing.

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