I’m pleased to report that Older Daughter has chosen her career – to be a live-in nanny!
As with most career choices, this decision wasn’t easy. For some time now, Older Daughter has known she wanted to work with kids, so our family began floundering through the usual college-track suggestions: teaching, child psychology, pediatric nurse practitioner, etc. But none of those fields appealed to her. She just wanted to work with children.
And not in a daycare situation, either. “Daycare” has been a four-letter word in our house since our girls were born. When the girls were young, we moved heaven and earth to avoid utilizing that option, including living in poverty, working alternate hours, etc. Our oldest had no interest in entering what she saw as an unacceptable field, even if it did involve children.
But working within a family...ahh, that was a different kettle of fish.
What led to her decision to become a nanny? Believe it or not, it started with a discussion between my husband and me about the merits of trade schools vs. college. The older we’ve become, the more we’re realizing that a college degree isn’t all it’s cracked up to be -– and both of us speak from the position of having master’s degrees in the sciences. Not incidentally, both of us also speak from the position of having a home business which does not utilize in any size, shape, or form what we learned in college or graduate school. We’ve come to believe that trade schools are an excellent alternative to college.
Since Older Daughter has such a strong interest in working with children, one day during the summer my husband commented, “It’s a pity there’s not a trade school for child care.”
“But there is,” I replied. “Nanny school.”
Suddenly the pieces clicked into place. Up to this point our daughter had no idea such a school existed, and she was wildly enthusiastic about attending an institute that wouldn’t fiddle and fuss around for four years, teaching her unimportant stuff. Instead, she could attend a four-month highly-intensive training course and emerge both qualified and credentialed.
There are several accredited nanny schools in the country, but the one she chose is located in Ohio and is called English Nanny & Governess School. The focus of this school is training live-in nannies (as opposed to live-out nannies). The coursework includes such breadth requirements as self-defense, etiquette, and horsemanship, in addition to the more important necessities as pediatric first aid and CPR, child behavior and development, cultural enrichment, nutrition, etc. What impressed Older Daughter about this particular school is the emphasis on professionalism. The nanny graduates wear uniforms and are expected to comport themselves with the highest standards of ethics and behavior. Her kind of school.
So I emailed the school and received an application packet, which Older Daughter devoured. We assembled a list of additional questions, and then I called the school get some more information.
Quite by accident, the woman who answered the phone was a woman named Sheilah Roth, the founder of the school. We had a delightful chat. I told Ms. Roth that because our daughter is homeschooled, we are in a position to tailor her education toward what the school requires in its applicants, and inquired what subjects she prefers. She replied that they would like to see her make a special study of literature and a foreign language, and of course to obtain all the childcare experience she can.
Most families around us have full-time stay-at-home moms, so babysitting opportunities are rare. But, I told Ms. Roth, there is a Head Start program in the nearest town. Would volunteering there be considered suitable experience?
“Yes,” Ms. Roth said. Then almost immediately, she contradicted herself. “No.” She explained that the dynamics of working with children in groups is very different than working within a family dynamic, so it would be better to do lots of babysitting.
(Oddly enough, I was relating this conversation with the friends with whom I stay when I visit Portland. These friends have an adopted seven-year-old daughter. “It’s a pity Older Daughter isn’t local,” joked Wendy. “I could use a nanny for the summer!” Well you guessed it, one thing led to another and now Older Daughter is scheduled to spend a couple of months next summer acting as a live-in nanny for our friend’s daughter. You might call it an internship.)
But back to the nanny school. Another question I had was about the school’s admissions requirement for a high school diploma. Idaho’s homeschooling laws are minimal, so parents select the coursework their children study, and they must determine when their child has met those requirements –- but it’s not documented or “approved” by an outside accredited source, such as a public school district. (In addition, our local school district is such a joke, and I mean a BAD joke, that I wouldn’t want it “qualifying” my daughter’s education anyway.)
So I contacted the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (of which we’re members), explained the situation, and asked if there was some way to certify that our daughter has met her high school educational requirements. Once it was determined that this nanny school was NOT hostile toward homeschooled applicants (quite the contrary, they welcome homeschoolers with open arms), the HSLDA representative said they could provide a diploma which we could sign when the time came, certifying that our daughter has met our educational goals.
The nanny school said this would be acceptable.
(By the way, some of you may ask why we don’t have our daughter take the GED test and call it good. Most homeschoolers prefer not to take this option because of the “drop out” stigma associated with a GED. Since homeschoolers patently are NOT dropouts, we do not consider this an acceptable option.)
At the time we spoke, Ms. Roth mentioned that a television crew would soon be filming a short piece about the school, and that we must be sure to catch the program on television.
“We can’t,” I said, “because we don’t get television reception.”
“Do you mean your daughter has been raised without television?” asked Ms. Roth.
“That’s right.” I explained we have been without television reception since we left California in 1993, so both our girls have been raised without that medium.
“You MUST be sure to include that information on her application!” enthused Ms. Roth. I wasn’t aware that a lack of television would be a qualifying factor, but it seems it is.
Ms. Roth asked about Older Daughter’s interests and hobbies. It turns out that her interests in swimming, gymnastics, and piano are precisely the sort of skills many employers seek. Many people employing live-in nannies have swimming pools and pianos and their children take lessons in those areas; and having a nanny who enjoys active sports such as gymnastics is a plus.
Better and better.
I asked Ms. Roth about a particular concern of mine. “I worry that she’ll be placed with a family where the parents don’t actually like their own kids,” I said. (Anyone who’s read The Nanny Diaries will know what I mean.) “She’s been raised in a close-knit, loving family, so she hopes to find parents who love their kids.”
Again, Ms. Roth said to be sure to indicate that Older Daughter came from a secure family on her school application because that sort of background is an advantage when seeking placement. As for finding a family who is closely bonded, Ms. Roth assured me there are many such families from which to choose.
The school’s website is fascinating. It covers coursework, history, faculty listings, campus info, and – not incidentally – a list of prospective employers, people who are looking for qualified, certified nannies. Older Daughter’s chances for employment are excellent once she has her certification. In fact, there’s a far greater demand for certified nannies than there are nannies to fill the demand. Not a bad position in this economy -– if you’re a certified nanny.
One thing to point out is the placement procedures for this school which, I can assure you, are time-tested. Most families are looking for a particular type of nanny, someone who will fit in well with their lifestyle, parenting style, childraising philosophy, etc. But just as importantly, the nannies themselves are looking for a particular type of family with whom they will be compatible. The school carefully works with both parties to make sure every possible criterion is met so both nanny and family are happy. In addition, there is a two-month trial period during which either party can sever ties with no penalties.
The school also carefully instructs both its students AND its employer candidates about ethical behavior and expectations. In other words, no hanky-panky will be tolerated by either party. From a mom’s perspective, that makes me feel better.
All in all it was a very satisfying conversation, and I came away convinced this school is exactly what Older Daughter needs to attain her career ambitions.
Naturally Older Daughter is still a few years away from attending this school, since she won’t be 16 until December and she probably won’t apply to the school until she’s 18 or 19. During that time we can start saving up the tuition costs for the school.
We are delighted by our daughter’s career choice and will do whatever is necessary to make sure she achieves her goals.
By the way, this weekend's WorldNetDaily column addresses the same subject from a slightly different angle. (I did NOT choose the title they gave the column, however. My original title was "The Holy Grail of Financial Success.")
UPDATE: Older Daughter has been noting some of the negative reactions to her career choice. "I think wanting to work with children is a calling," she said wisely. I entirely agree. Not everyone has the temperament, patience, and skills to work with children, and those that don't tend to get snarky and punitive about those that do. Older Daughter recognizes that her abilities are God-given and beautiful.