I had breakfast this morning with Nathalie Kunin from Team Tutors. Nathalie founded the company in 2000, after leaving her post teaching fourth grade at The Center for Early Education, and currently has a thriving business with five employees and an impressive set of services to offer LA parents. Nathalie has two sons, age 16 and 10 which makes her a nice match for Carrie Lieberman, a close colleague who also came to breakfast. Carrie has a matching set of two sons, but younger: ages 6 and 10 months. The two women finish each others sentences and appear to be having a blast, at work and at home. Their company is a trusted resource for parents seeking school selection consulting, tutoring assistance and counseling with learning styles. As Nathalie puts it, “a child’s success in the classroom depends on a healthy balance of the social, emotional and academic. When one of those three elements goes off kilter, we can help to put everything back on track again”. With Carrie’s background as a lawyer, and Nathalie’s expertise as an educator, the two make a perfect team.
Nathalie’s tried-and-true methodology is to assess a child’s learning style and help parents to cultivate that style for success in the classroom and life. Her own son is a visual-spatial learner, who does best when information is presented to him visually. His bedroom is full of various collections, and Nathalie offers that while her first instinct as an order-loving parent might want to clear out the clutter, she knows that being able to find a certain touchstone when he’s writing a paper, for instance, is going to help him feel most confident getting the assignment done. Every child is different. If you have one of those kids that comes home with long, detailed stories about what happened at school, chances are you have a inter-personal learner… one who is going to do best working at the kitchen table in the middle of the action. Knowing how each person in the family learns is key to success in academics, (and can really help with communication in the family, too!).
Once we nailed down each of our own children’s learning styles, I posed these questions to Nathalie:
What’s a typical day like for you? I get up at 5:30 and, with a cup of coffee, start through the 100-odd emails that need to be handled before the work day begins. Team Tutors employs 80 tutors, and matching families with the correct tutor is important to me. I handle everything from parent questions to requests for speaking engagements at local schools, all before breakfast!
Making lunch for my boys lets me show a little love for them while I’m at work. Hey – if my teenager still wants to take a lunchbox, I’m not missing out on that! My little secret is that I always allow myself a 15 minute yoga session while catching up with the Today Show. Then, it’s breakfast with the family and a shower before I walk the dog and head off to school with my 10 year-old. Some days I might be on the road, consulting with a private school or meeting a new client. Other days I am just in the office, working on new curriculum for one of my programs. I consult with parents who are relocating and want to choose schools, and really love helping special needs kids get school applications done.
By 3:00 I’m in the carpool lane, schlepping kids around to sports and after-school activities, working remotely by email and cellphone. I keep in touch with my teenager by texting; that way, I know that he’s on track. The work day doesn’t really end before 8:00 PM, and I’m emailing and taking calls throughout dinner and the homework hours. I admit that watching a television show is a good way for us all to relax together once in a while. We all really liked the new show, Touch, (as did 12 million other viewers in the show’s debut this week). And, I’m a huge Parenthood fan.
Can you describe a successful family outing in the last year? The boys tend to resist museums as a rule so we try to take a rather unorthodox approach. We headed to LACMA recently and spent at least half the visit sampling the wares from the many Food Trucks lined up on Wilshire Boulevard in the afternoon. And, when we visited the Hammer, we spent all our time playing ping-pong in the atrium. I’m not sure if those tables are always set up, but it was a great boy distraction! And, we’re on a hunt for the ultimate Burger so… recently headed to Long Beach for Volcano Burgers.
What about a recent date with your husband? We usually just do dinner and a movie, and have been obsessed lately with Pinches Tacos, a great Mexican spot across from Chateau Marmot (also in Culver City). Hint: don’t translate this word into Spanish in front of the kids. My husband is a psychologist who works exclusively with kids, so we always have a lot to talk about from work.
And, finally… how do you weigh in on the work-life balance? Being super-organized helps me tremendously, and I’m also very compartmentalized. But the truth is, that I couldn’t do it without Carrie. We have a virtual office, which is key and we try not to sweat the small stuff. Being a working mom has forced my boys to be more independent than they might otherwise be, but I am convinced that it makes them sturdier people. Of course, having my 16 year-old be able to walk to Beverly Hills High School is a huge plus, as well.