Career 24 September 2019
Get an education... then get a job.
It's a familiar process and has always seemed like pretty solid advice to score a secure career. However, this age of innovation may call for a process that is less linear. Instead of the classic—go to college first then join the workforce after graduating—we must consider education and work together. You know, both actually happening at the same time. Augmenting the learning process with the experiential component of working can promote deeper engagement and the development of practical skills from a young age, which may become necessary given how quickly the job market is shifting in the modern era. Think about it, over 90% of the world's data was created in the last two years. Can the education system possibly keep up when these big changes are happening so quickly? As an education technology entrepreneur, I cannot get away from the headlines and panel discussions of "futureproofing" students. But how do you "futureproof" students for a workplace that might not even exist yet?
To answer this and more, I was excited to sit down with Tiffany Sorya, founder & CEO of Novel Education Group. With the rise of digital careers and the lucrative influencer market, teens now have a lot more options than a plain-old part-time job. With clients like Kylie Jenner, who Forbes Magazine recently named the "youngest self-made billionaire," Tiffany is modernizing the education process and changing the perception of homeschooling by implementing an effective curriculum to bridge the gap between unconventional lifestyles and successful education.
In a time where change is the only constant and the roles of technology and social media are growing exponentially, the core principles that Novel Education Group promote can be relevant to learners from every background.
What is Novel Education Group and what inspired you to start it?
Novel Education Group is a full-service homeschooling and academic agency that specializes in flexible, accredited customized curriculum and enrichment programs for students of all ages (K-12). We are able to provide a tailored educational experience for any student whether they are pursuing a career outside of school or reaching to get accepted to their dream Ivy League university. My inspiration for starting this business was twofold.
- My unexpected love for teaching, which emerged in college when I was a Biology and French major trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Many believe that education is increasingly less relevant in a world of growing entrepreneurs and social media stars. However, I have been able to change the way young people think about education by expanding beyond the academic and showing them how it can impact every avenue of their lives and arm them with life-long skills that will carry them far beyond their degrees.
- My desire to fill a huge gap in the market for private, personalized education. After working with several agencies, schools, and curricula, I had first-hand experience about what worked and what didn't. My goal was to consolidate the successful components of my experience and bring all of my best practices together in one business.
What Novel Education Group provides is a comprehensive education experience that caters to the needs of each student individually. Students are able to achieve high academic success while being creative and pursuing hobbies and career goals that complement their schooling. Education is another way of enriching the mind rather than conforming to traditional structures of a top-down delegated curriculum.
Among all the agencies, we seek to provide something unique and fulfilling by making smart stylish again.
What are the benefits of this model as opposed to the traditional education program?
Young people in school today feel confined by the rigid curriculum that traditional schooling mandates. The traditional model is stagnant. Considering the modernization of literally every other aspect of our society, the educational system needs to reflect that growth. Novel's framework can seamlessly integrate students' interests and passions into their curriculum, allowing them to finish their core classes early if they want so they can focus on extracurriculars. There's an overarching theme of learning life skills alongside the high-achieving scholastic nature of our schooling model. These life skills and the foundation of their education are things that will be forever applicable to any lifestyle they choose. One of our core pillars is learning how to learn, not just what. We've helped students blossom simply because of the one-on-one work that we do coupled with a curriculum that is focused on honing their strengths.
You have worked with incredible clients—how did you identify the opportunity to bridge the gap between "unconventional lifestyles and a successful education"?
Early in my career, I became a private tutor for many high profile students, some of whom had flourishing careers themselves. I started noticing that there was a huge gap between the educational, entertainment and alternative lifestyle worlds. That void was a reliable, legitimate, and accredited education (including an actual high school diploma versus a GED) for people who didn't have the time or typical day-to-day lifestyle to be sending their kids to school 5 days a week for 7 hours a day. Since we handle extracurricular and leadership opportunities outside of traditional schooling as well, students truly get a fully comprehensive experience, academically and socially, if that's what they want. When I saw that a lot of these kids were having to choose between a good education and pursuing an early career, I didn't want to be the norm anymore. I wanted people to have quality, personalized education that could fit into their lifestyle, whether they had careers or simply wanted a superior educational experience. So, I created Novel.
What is personalized learning and what role do you see it playing in the future of education?
Personalized learning is recognizing that every student learns and retains material and skills differently. Attempting to put a variety of learning styles in one classroom is not conducive to all students reaching their full potential. I think the future of education is allowing students to have more control over what they're learning as well as seeing more online learning options with greater flexibility. I think more people will want to incorporate "real-life skills" into their curriculum so that students will see more purpose in their education. Rather than focusing on facts alone, students will learn critical thinking, transferable skills, emotional intelligence, and practical problem solving. This involves more electives and extracurricular work. More and more, we're seeing universities select students who have turned their passions into tangible opportunities—not necessarily those with perfect GPAs and test scores.
In this social media age, students are inundated with information and instant gratification; we see a disconnect with this environment and the traditional education system. Novel Education Group has been filling that void. How?
With Novel's approach to education, students can see applicable results while still understanding that achievements are the result of hard work. We want to teach the younger generation that instant gratification regarding all things is not a realistic expectation. However, when they rise to any challenge with preparation and hard work, they will see faster results.
What advice would you give to students and parents who are considering homeschooling?
Novel is changing the way people perceive homeschooling. Because we are full-service and comprehensive in our approach, the typical worries about socializing and extracurricular activities don't apply. We handle the whole experience, in a way that caters to you, specifically. I would reassure them that homeschooling a highly legitimate alternative to traditional schooling, and it will allow your kids to explore their passions and have a more worldly approach to education and life in general.
Furthermore, we recently secured a global partnership with premier college consulting firm, Command Education, to bring high level skills and enrichment programs to students around the world by helping them stand out for college entry, especially for top tier and Ivy League schools. With this partnership, we're able to help students and families start earlier to guide them into making the right academic and extracurricular opportunities. We want students to focus on what they WANT to do, not what they feel they HAVE to do to bolster resumes for admission. You don't need to be valedictorian and have perfect SAT scores to get admitted to the best schools. Plus, minimizing the stresses of this process and helping students discover their passion and superpower along the way is the reason we do this.
What are some common misconceptions about homeschooling?
Homeschooling used to and still occasionally carries a specific connotation. Some see homeschool as an alternative option to traditional because something was amiss with a student's schooling experience. However, we're seeing a seismic shift in that notion. Parents are now choosing homeschooling over regular school to provide their children with the best possible educational experience. Homeschooling is also a fantastic supplement. Taking accredited courses—AP-level, creative classes, tailored coursework, all of your choosing—that your high school may not provide and that fits your schedule makes people realize that the framework of homeschooling has really changed through Novel Education.
What would you change about the current education system?
I would love to see the current system become more modernized and teach kids how to succeed in life and problem solve. I'd like to see a focus on reading comprehension, writing, and applicable math. I would also like to see teachers get the respect they deserve and empower them to take control of their classrooms. If kids see teachers understanding the power they have to influence a classroom, I think students will respond to their teachers much more positively.
With the rising popularity of working remotely, how does this trend translate to students learning remotely?
Students will really start to embrace the idea of being able to attend school and classes at the location of their choice. No longer are the days where students are not able to take a demanding internship, play a sport or pursue a hobby because of the obligation to be physically present at school. I'm excited for future students having the possibility to learn from anywhere. This translates so well to international students! Now, families from all over the world are able to access American curriculum—and American students are able to travel the world without compromising their education.
Something really exciting about the Novel Education Group is the customized programs for each student. How do you design balance in their workload that also enables them to be creative and pursue other hobbies and even careers during their academic journey?
Well first, a homeschool day goes by much quicker than a regular school day. Even without customization, seat time between student and teacher can be as little as 2-3 hours a day and that includes homework. This leaves so much time for the student to fill their afternoon with extra-curricular activities, start a business venture, play sports or develop a non-profit. We also have a "design your own elective" option for all of our students. In this course students can earn high school credit by choosing course content of their own. This not only drives a student's passion but also gives them the power to choose what they are learning both in and outside of school.
To put it simply, learning never stops.
In order to best equip our students for the future of work, we need to instill the importance of lifelong learning. Through Novel Education Group's emphasis on personalization, students are able to excel in their customized curriculum while balancing their jobs, hobbies, and personal lives. Education should be another way of enriching the mind rather than just conforming to traditional structures without question.
We can all agree that receiving a quality education is vital. However, how a student earns their education can vary. Do not wait to "finish learning" in order to work. Who decided that they needed to be so separate? Get real-life experience, and you'll always be learning along the way.
Tiffany Sorya, founder of Novel Education Group and education influencer, is on a mission: #MakingSmartStylishAgain. The elite homeschooling agency-to-the-stars is expanding its global presence and offerings after recently partnering with premier college consultant, Command Education. This collaboration is just the beginning of The Newest Wave of Education; by providing customized courses and specialized enrichment programs at any age, students achieve academic success and stand out from other applicants at top schools and universities, all while doing what they love and emphasizing their individual strengths. In an ever increasingly customized and curated world, its time the educational system finally follows suit.
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.