Every kid needs a guide

I am so excited to read that Albert Wenger, from Union Square Ventures is going to homeschool his kids. His firm invested in Twitter, Tumblr and Kickstarter and they are known for their ability to peg trends with a stroke of genius. So I am thrilled to read that Wenger’s wife, Susan Danzinger, announced that she is planning to hire guides for their kids, who are 13, 13, and 11.

The kids will leave their expensive New York City private school in order to find their passions. She is hiring three people – one for each kid – and she’s calling them guides. The guide’s responsibilities are:

1. Explore one or more areas of the child’s interests (this includes finding and coordinating time with skilled experts)

2. Build and strengthen basic skills in reading, writing, presenting, researching, analyzing in pursuit of those interests

3. Overcome obstacles and challenge themselves

I don’t think she needs to hire guides—both parents are capable of guiding the kids themselves. But both Danzinger and Wenger have big jobs in the tech startup world, so it makes sense that their approach to homeschooling would be to hire people to help.

Danzinger’s announcement makes me so happy because I feel like this is how I homeschool already. I look for ways for my kids to follow their interests. It’s a long process, though. There is the interest and then there’s the way to investigate the interest.

My older son loves paleontology, so of course we spent a day at the Museum of Natural History last time we were in the city. But it had been a couple of years since we’d been there, and I realized that the acoustics of that museum are insane for someone with sensory integration dysfunction (very common for people with autism).

So we had to pick a place we wanted to go in the museum, get the quietest route to the place, take a look, and then go back to the member’s lounge to recouperate. Then we’d go out again. (Note to parents of kids with autism: we got to the front of every line at the museum by explaining the problem.)

It turned out that the part of paleontology that my son liked best was sitting in the member’s lounge, reading.

Danzinger’s job description for guides is intentionally vague. She undertands that helping a kid to find their passion and learn most effectively is completely personal, and requires lots of adjustments along the way. A parent can do it or a guide can do it, but the one-to-one attention is so necessary for helping a kid to become their most engaged and passionate self.


28 replies
  1. laurie
    laurie says:

    It is an interesting first reaction to read this post tonight! My first thought was “they could hire me to be a guide” :). Then my reaction was “wow, they can afford a private school for THREE kids in NYC…” (have you seen the cost of a NYC private school?). Then I looked at the parents…highly drive, smart, educated, cutting edge thinking, and they choose to homeschool/guide school their kids! I find this to be (I think) the most powerful post I have ever read in terms of how even technology game-changers are forward thinking about education. I am convinced that parents/homeschoolers are really onto “something” and it is an uneasy feeling because we don’t know and can’t fully define that “something”…..After all this time thinking and pondering and questioning….I’ve come to my own decision! Thank you!

  2. Lizarino
    Lizarino says:

    Ha! I love this. How do you find all this information? I never even heard of this couple until I read your blog just now. Then I clicked on the links and they are this brilliant, wealthy couple… I agree with you about the tutors, perhaps they will come to this conclusion on their own, or reduce the “guide” to part time hours… who knows, I just know that I celebrate their decision to homeschool. And NYC has very strict homeschool laws so maybe this is one way to get around it.

  3. Ru
    Ru says:

    Penelope, you must love those boots, i see them in almost all pictures of yourself that includes feet. I hope you dont wear that in the summer in nyc

  4. Kris
    Kris says:

    Love this. We are on the fence with homeschooling, but the idea of hiring a guide may have just pushed me off the fence. Now…where to find one?

  5. Jen
    Jen says:

    “Guiding” could be an interesting vocation. You are one part researcher working to source the absolute best learning experiences. And you are part marketer/mentor learning to pitch the student to the source and training that student on how to best sell themselves.

    Maybe I should try virtual guiding from Italy? It could be a fascinating way to fill the day.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s an interesting offshoot of the homeschool movement that maybe all those college grads who are underemployed can get a really interesting job learning along side a kid they are paid to guide.


  6. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Penelope, I think you and your older son will find this link interesting ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tylerkeillor/digital-dinosaur-dryptosaurus/posts/535450 ) as Tyler Keillor, paleo-artist and dinosaur expert, is using Kickstarter to fund this project. It came to my attention since he’s giving a virtual presentation at Dunham Public Library ( a local library) today at 2:30 P.M. from the University of Chicago. As he says from the link above – “This is actually one of the rewards I offered during my Kickstarter project, and I’m so happy that a Dunham librarian saw my project, and thought this presentation would make a good summer program for the local community.”

  7. Kelsey
    Kelsey says:

    As a parent who is struggling to make ends meet, but dedicated to homeschooling, I find this very interesting. I feel like I have the challenge of somehow finding meaningful work that will pay our bills while keeping homeschooling/parenting as my number 1 job. It would be so interesting to take on another child in my care but be more than a daycare service- and paid as such. Very interesting.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think a governess is more like a nanny. Making sure the kids are healthy and fed. And I think a tutor is curriculum based. A guide, at least the way this couple is hiring, is someone who helps the kid find a passion. This is a very modern take on the idea of care taking (our wellbeing is tied to becoming our best, most engaged self) and curriculum (passion is more important than well-roundedness). I like this family’s subtle undermining of the tropes of upper class education.


  8. Jen
    Jen says:

    I think those of you looking at this as a tutor, governess, nanny, etc. are missing the point. I’d actually argue that Penelope has already done something similar in an unofficial capacity when Melissa worked to set up the fashion shoot opportunity in NY. Hugely beneficial real-world development that can only happen when someone is focused on building (or just happens to already have) the right professional connections. That is completely different than a tutor or a nanny helping through homework, curriculum or perhaps making sure bedtime is observed.

  9. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I like this “guide” thing. For now since my kids are so young I can be their guide. But when they get older, say middle school, I can see how having some sort of mentor or guide that specializes in what their passions are can help them with networking etc etc. But I wouldn’t be so dependent on the guides, they say 2-3 hours a day 4 days a week plus field trip Fridays. I could see maybe once a week for a few hours but more than that would be overkill. Unless it’s truly a governess sort of situation…but it doesn’t sound full time. I’m sure they’ll figure it out on their own as time goes by. Then I can learn from their mistakes LOL.

  10. Kate Gibson
    Kate Gibson says:

    Guides = governess. Again. How How is this trend new? Rich people hiring a private governess for their kids’ education is pretty old news.

  11. redrock
    redrock says:

    So, why is sending kids to school considered babysitting at a high level, but hiring a governess is not? THe governess/tutor/nanny is paid to take care of the kid so the parents can go and work to pay for their services. It is farming out the education of the kids, and I would not consider it homeschooling any more. And, by the way, it does just numerically not work out – three kids, two people working to provide the means, three tutors… that is five adults for three kids. And what about the kids of the tutors? One-to-one ratio of educators to kid simply don’t pan and it is not a sustainable model for the masses.

  12. kristen
    kristen says:

    This!!! This is why I come here and read your rants against public schools. Every so often you link to something that will actually HELP me homeschool. Once we agree to drink the kool-aid it’s nice to know how to make the stuff.

  13. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    I agree that every kids needs a guide, but that isn’t the most important part of this post. The most important part is the combination of the visual of YOU and YOUR SON in an embrace as you walk, coupled with the storyline that shows YOU embracing YOUR SON’s need for a guide–you. Well done.

  14. Bill McNeely (@billmcneely)
    Bill McNeely (@billmcneely) says:

    I actually had some interaction with Albert Wenger in the comments section of post. It sounds like he is not doing from a cost savings perspective (he expects to pay the same) but he just believes his children’s education needs will be better met.

  15. Linda
    Linda says:

    The difference between guide and governess is the focus — a governess is telling the child what to learn and apparently a guide is letting the kid lead the way and acting as a facilitator. I think this sounds like a great way to learn, and a potentially fun job.

    By the way, the work of paleontology isn’t like being a visitor at a museum, it’s usually pretty quiet in the collection and prep areas. Have you tried to contact the collections manager to see if a “back of the house” tour could be arranged? Their contact information should be available on the museum website.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s such a great idea! Thank you. And you make a lot of sense – of course if my son wants a job that is quiet and solitary he is going to want to learn about it in a quiet and solitary setting.


  16. Liz
    Liz says:

    I love this picture. And I love this post. In so many ways, and yet for reasons I can’t fully explain. Thank you, Penelope.

  17. Courtney Surigao
    Courtney Surigao says:

    Oh wow. I am a huge new fan Penelope. I am thrilled at your voice in this world. The direct confrontation of establishment is refreshing!

  18. kaz
    kaz says:

    I am so glad to have found this blog. We started home schooling our 14yo son 5 months ago here in Australia where we are definitely in the minority. I never thought this would be our path but it has changed all our lives forever. … all positive. We are definitely not the sandals and lentil hippies people think of here as home schoolers. We are tertiary educated professionals with busy jobs and lives. it still works for us. Our other son only has 4 months left of his schooling in a private Christian School and he has loved his traditional school. We have learnt that being happy and living with joy and purpose means far more than grades and conforming to the norm. I have become anti establishment and view learning so differently now. We guide our boys to follow their passion, be kind and stay true to themselves. We travel,enjoy so much family time and are winging it big time and it feels great. I have written a curriculum but our son learns and grows every day far more than his curriculum dictates. I see a real growth for home schooling here in Australia as more people discover what actually goes on at school!

  19. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    First – thanks for all you do to advance alternative schooling. I have been my daughter’s guide for the past year. Over a year ago my youngest child asked to be home schooled again but this time to do a more creative curriculum – one that fit who she was and what she was passionate about in life. I sought out some great mentors – an international blogger, a magazine editor, an author for teen girls and a NY stylist. The result? You can see it here at timelesscait.com. Using ideas from your blog and others I simply created a learning environment where my daughter could explore various subjects and interests. Funny thing – the school year never ended this year – her choice. This summer, she keeps logging in hours each week on her own as she explores new interests. My only regret – I didn’t have the wisdom to do this for my two older children.

    So once again thank you – for your inspiration, your passion and loving your boys by breaking them loose from standard educational chains. Well done!

  20. Sabrina
    Sabrina says:

    I am coming to this late but I want to be sure other people who live in NY state aren’t going to attempt this without first obtaining legal counsel and registering HSLDA. This scenario works for wealthy people, not the rest of us. We ourselves have had a horrific month. Our daughter was an honor roll student all of 6th grade, but like typical nerds was frequently harassed. (Been there done that myself as a kid). We had the opportunity to move to a nicer area in May, so we approached the school and had an hour long meeting with the principal saying we intended to homeschool for 7th grade in the new school district we were moving into. All we were asked to do was provide a letter stating her last day to her teacher. We did, they have a party for her with cards and even gave her, her yearbook early on May 10th.
    We think we are doing the best thing for her as parents. My husband is in the Army (18 years) and we had our son do online school his senior year when we moved to a state which had different graduation requirements than the previous state. It worked out great, he graduated on time and everything was peachy.
    We move, start working with K12.com on her curriculum for 7th grade, file the LOI and IHIP with the new school district and meantime are contacted by CPS on June 25th for a truancy violation from the last school. The woman comes to our home 1 time, June 27th for about 15 mins. She leaves WE NEVER HEAR FROM HER AGAIN.
    July 16th the Army’s version of CPS, Family Advocacy calls us from Ft Drum…NY State CPS is putting our names on a central registry for child abuse and neglect for “education neglect”. So the Army had to do its own investigation.
    Fast forward to today, our CPS case is pending closure, they never came back and said we have nothing to do to comply with them and both them and our gaining school district have accepted our LOI and IHIP. They tell us we will get a letter in 2 weeks explaining how we appeal the central registry decision.
    The Army will have a command board mid August on my husband…an E7, with 5 combat deployments for these two wars, and 18 years of military service…with never so much as a hiccup in his career…has to go to a command board over 4 weeks of 6th grade. I who have a Masters degree , have been married nearing 18 years, and have never had more than a driving ticket in my life now have to appeal my name being taken off a central registry for child abusers.
    DO NOT under any circumstances in NY state, just pull your kids out of school even if you think you have done everything necessary to withdraw them. If we were anyone other than ourselves, this could have went very badly. They could have found something wrong and taken our child at the home visit. If we hadn’t paid for the expensive K12 curriculum, they could have decided it wasn’t adequate education and pulled her for education neglect. NY state has one of the strictest homeschooling laws in the country. When you get your IHIP paperwork in NY state you cant unschool…each subject that must be taught has a section you must put your curriculum and each child MUST BE tested to standard every year.
    I just don’t want to see anyone else read this and think…oh I will just be my kid’s guide in NY state. No you will not unless you are a millionaire or fancy your kids living in foster care.

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