Friday, September 16, 2011

Choosing a career

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.


  1. You got ahead of me today ;) I usually get to your WND column before you post the link here. Well, maybe I am ahead of you!!!


  2. Nice article. I hope your daughter(s) finds whatever job makes her feel fulfilled and content.

    College degrees have been an over-blown "necessity" for a number of years. Why is it easier to find a person with a degree in sociology than to find a master plumber? I need the plumber much more often than I need a sociologist.

    Being a nanny sounds very hard, spoiled brats come to mind, but that may be an unfair stereotype.

    Good luck to Older Daughter, regardless of what she chooses to do after finishing her studies.

    Anonymous Patriot

  3. I feel certain my child would be infinitely safer with Older Daughter NOW than with a disturbing number of college grads I know.

    Once she's been trained by these able folks she'll be unstoppable.

    And oh how needed she is in this world.


    A. McSp

  4. I agree re Trade school v College (I too have several degrees)

    question: how does you daughter's career choice square with your hope/desire that she NOT marry a wealthy man?

    you probably remember I disagreed

    but no poor man can afford a Nanny as aide for his wife

    I have employed several Nanny's for my wife -- especially for my son with Down Syn younger years

    I enjoyed the attention they brought to my children without replacing my wife's essential role as Mother

    so, I wonder how this squares in your mind?


  5. Patrice, you and your husband are outstanding parents. Your children are blessed.

  6. Mary Poppins comes to mind; a good thing.

  7. My two oldest daughters both nannied for families in New York State. The oldest stayed with her family for 2 years. The second, at the end of the first year, was getting ready to return home because she wanted to attend college. The family for whom she worked offered to pay for her college expenses at the local community college if she would only stay with them longer. The deal was that if an adult was needed at home (sick child staying home from school, etc.) that it would be the nanny who stayed home not the parent. So my daughter came home after 2 and a half years with this family with an associate degree all paid for! It was great! When my daughter got married about 8 years after her stint with them the mother and daughter flew out to Arizona for the festivities!
    The nanny job proved to be a priceless experience in exposure to another part of the country, a different family situation, and gave my girls the confidence that they could handle just about any new situation.
    Even though neither daughter wanted to make a career out of it they learned a lot to help them be wonderful mothers with their own children now.

    Jan in Utah

  8. Jake, my mother isn't HORRIBLY OPPOSED to me marrying a rich man- she just wants to make sure I marry someone who values family over money. This means that if I find a wonderful, kind man who happens to be rich, I can most definitely marry him.

    No one really seemed to get the point in that blog post. We don't hate rich people.

    -Older Daughter

  9. As for my two-bits worth, I completely support such a decision based on what has been shared and the general feel I get about how you raise your children.
    We raise our four boys in generally the same way. No TV, home schooled, and of course centered around moral values established by God.
    We have decided that no GED is the right course for us as well. We know best when they have reached the level of knowledge and wisdom they need to walk on their own as adults in this world.
    Oldest Son will be 17 in November and is also considering vocational pursuits apart from college. We left it up to him whether he wanted to go to college or not, no promoting or guilt trips about fantastic paying careers . . . our focus is like Oldest Daughter's . . . it needs to be a calling.

    Your shared efforts are much appreciated. It is comforting to know that some people are still raising their daughters to be virtuous ladies. My sons have often mentioned that they seem to be in short supply!

    (I'm not the other Jake who commented here. I'm Jake from Terlingua, Texas!)

  10. Outstanding career choice! I too was amazed such a school existed. Fantastic! Best of luck to OD and her rosy future. God bless.

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  11. Dear oldest daughter,

    One of my first jobs when I was very young was a nurses aide in a maternity hospital. Oh, how I loved that job! One patient was from England and we got along so well that they asked me to go back to England with them as the baby's nanny.
    What an adventure that would have been! I didn't go because I had just met my future husband (we have been married for 46 years now and have had the joy to nanny our own two boys).
    I wish you luck and happiness in anything you decide to do. You are lucky to have parents that will let you spread your wings and take the path that you are passionate about. Who knows - you may be the nanny to my English friend's great grandchildren!

  12. You see ads for families seeking nannies all the time on otherwise known as the caretaker gazette.

  13. Nanny school? Who'd'a thought it!

    But, when you think about it, having someone to vet both the employer and the employee is a great idea.

    My 14-year-old daughter's best girlfriend (another homeschooler) wants to be a nanny. She is ideally suited for it, as she has been babysitting since she was real little. I'll tell her about this school.

    About your comment in your column,"... but there's not a big job market for professional travelers."

    Actually, there is, although it wouldn't be appropriate for your daughter.

    I'm making a late-in-life career change to become an over-the-road big rig truck driver. My travels will take me to 48 states, plus Canada. I read recently that there is a shortage of drivers ... a need for 130,000 new drivers this year.

    And there actually are a lot of women drivers these days, including younger women just starting out in their careers. I wouldn't recommend it for your daughter, however, as the truck driving culture can be a pretty rough trade at times.

    Kudos to you and her for knowing what she wants to do and doing all your research to get her there.

    By the way, also, sometimes there is no option but to get that college degree. My son is in an early commissioning program at a military college. He wants to be an Army officer, and you just plain can't do it without college.


  14. good for your daughter that she opted out of the ged...not only is the ged looked at for those who dropped out, but it is so watered down that an 8th grader could do well on it...and no employer really wants to hire someone for any job knowing that they can only perform at the 8th grade level. it is all a part of that conspiracy to throw as much money at a problem as you can, and it will go away.

  15. Older daughter, I am very impressed with how well you handle adults making comments on your career choice. You show more maturity than most your age. If I may make a suggestion on the foreign language, I recommend German. A year ago our daughter asked to learn a foreign language so I started researching which one would be the best and most career advantageous. We learn in an area that is over 50% Hispanic so people kept telling me to have her learn Spanish. After researching I found that German is considered that business language second only to English. German translated are paid the most, almost double of other languages. (please don't ask me the website where I found this information. Like I said it was a year ago) Most importantly, many of the great literary writers were German and so their original work is in German. Just my two cents :-). We are using Rosetta Stone homeschool version. It is expensive, but wait for a sale. I was able to get ours at half price through a homeschool buyers co-op. Our daughter was 7yr and in second grade last year when she started. Now after 7 months native Germans tell us she sounds like a native German when she speaks to them.
    Good luck and God Bless You.
    Stuck in CA

  16. I am also working in a career completely different than what I went to school for.

    Congratulations on Older Daughter knowing her career path!
    If I might so kindly add one suggestion - that she find a specialized skill to teach children as well. At some point she might want to not "live-in" someone elses home, and it would be great to have a skill to continue to work with kids and earning an income. Even teaching riding, or for instance, working with disabled kids in riding therapy would be a option. Anything like that she enjoys could help diversify her employment/income options

    Just a thought.

  17. It only makes sense that accredited schools would exist for the nanny profession. I didn't know they were out there.

    ("The Sound of Music" is playing in my head. It's one of my favorite stories of all time. It gets better and better every time I see it. Just thinking of Mother Superior singing "Climb Every Mountain" gives me goose bumps.)

    I can tell that there is great excitement in the Lewis household about this. I have a saying: "People are usually pretty good at what they love to do." I've been living by it for so long, I can't remember if I need to credit anyone for it. Seems to fit here.

    Just Me

  18. My daughter was home schooled and just graduated this past May. I used a software program (no affliation) called Transcripts Pro. It helped me make a very nice professional looking transcript. I also used a nice quality paper to print it on. I also ordered the custom raised embosser seal thing to put on the transcript. (home school diploma dot com no affliation) She had no problems with her acceptance to college. She also had her ACT scores sent to the college as well. Just passing it along!

  19. Eldest Daughter of the Lewis',
    Congratulations and Thanks to God for your clarity in hearing your calling!
    Thank Him for your wisdom in taking action to answer His choice for you!
    Thank God he chose your individual soul to be delivered unto the Lewis prodigy!
    You are a Blessed Young Woman, given many special gifts and talents.
    You will succeed and become an awesome Nanny!
    Mazel Tov!


  20. Hi Older Daughter--

    I agree with what someone else said as well...find something that you will be able to teach the kids in addition to being a nanny. =) It makes you a much more valuable employee and if you decide you don't want to be a nanny anymore then you will have something else that you can possibly fall back on.

    Also, just another little suggestion--don't totally discount the idea of SOMEDAY possibly opening your own day care or child care facility--there are parents out there who would desperately love to have someone with your values to take care of their children and you could make a difference...Just something else to think about for someday when you get older.

    I wanted to work with children when I was younger...that changed when I became a waitress and discovered that I'm actually good at it. I also discovered that I can make a difference in people's lives just by being friendly and listening to them for a few minutes. =) Most people just want someone to listen. I find that a lot of times even when they are surrounded by people, a lot of people feel lonely and overlooked...that's one of the worst feelings in the world. =( And of course I've also learned how to cook and we now have a restaurant. I made the right decision for me--I would have ended up hating working with kids. I love THEM, but not their parents so much--LOL.

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I am sure that you will make a wonderful nanny and I wish you nothing but the best.

    Now--Younger Daughter? What are you up to lately? =)

  21. Another excellent article! I can relate to a college degree being a waste of time, as well as a pain in the backside. I am currently having a great deal of difficulty with the university I attend, and will be looking for an alternative. As I told one of my professors, I feel I can learn the subject (Spanish) better on my own, especially after she told the class that she wouldn't actually be teaching us any Spanish. Silly me, I expected to be taught the language and to deal with problem areas, but apparently the new trend, at least at my university, is to play children's games and let the students do the teaching so the professors won't have to.

    I think you are doing the right thing for your children, and I applaud you all the way. If I had a child, there is no way I would let them attend government schools, and I would certainly do everything I could to encourage them to learn something important such as a trade, rather than go thousands of dollars in debt for a piece of paper earned by playing games.

  22. I think Older Daughter has made a wonderful choice and finding a school - outstanding.

    Is there such a thing as a nanny forum? To get an idea of how nannies feel about their jobs? What skill sets are best, what families look for that is out of the ordinary? Would the nanny be also homeschooling in any areas? What other duties would be required - cooking, cleaning, driving? Would extensive travel be part of the job, both in and out of the US? Just getting an idea would make preparing for this fabulous opportunity easier.

  23. Patrice- As someone who has walked a similar path, I have some insights for your daughter, but I'd rather not have them published on your blog. Is it possible for me to post a comment and you not publish it?


  24. Anon 8:00, why don't you email me privately at ?

    - Patrice

  25. Very cool. Congrats to Older Daughter.

  26. Oldest Daughter,

    I agree that having something special to teach the children could be a benefit to you. BUT I temper that with the idea that the foreign language could give you tutoring powers later on if you wish to do something on the side when you're older, married, etc.

    I was a child raised in public school who has opted to home school my own kids and to live a simpler lifestyle. Since I'm a reforming latchkey kid who wasn't taught to do anything well except clean a house, I'm teaching myself things like canning and sewing...and finding I'm not really very good at the sewing. My plan is to hire someone to tutor my daughters in this area (and maybe even me as well). Keep in mind some of the things the simpler lifestyle offers are not everyday options for many people and might also prove to be a "special skill".

    If you do opt for a little something extra do it prayerfully and have fun with it.

    Best of luck to you and congratulations on your calling Dear.

    God Bless.

  27. How fascinating. Seems as if your nanny college is modelled on the English Norland College, which provides nannies to the British aristocracy.

  28. I read this post and laughed. The school that Older Daughter has chosen is 4 miles from my house and right next door to the preschool that my son attends. I hope that she enjoys it!