Learning from kids when we take them to work

WeGrow’s Rebekah Neumann: ‘Children have amazing ideas, and maybe they’ll come up with your next career’

At WeWork, Rebekah Neumann takes her kids to work with her almost every day. So when it comes to Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, she says children can learn a lot from accompanying a parent to the office.

“From the child’s perspective,” says Neumann, the founder of a new school called WeGrow, “I think it’s really important for them to have insight into the kind of other world that their parent exists in and to feel somehow part of it.”

But parents might just end up learning more from the experience.

“Adults can grow from the fact that children are completely present and curious,” says Neumann. “So when you bring a child into a workspace, you see their ability to be present in the moment and really open and curious. It really reminds you that that is the state that we as adults should be existing in, whether we’re on a hike or at the office.”

It’s more than just their positive attitude. “I think all children are natural creators and really have perspectives that are just as valuable as any grownup,” she says.

Nurturing these qualities is part of the mission at WeGrow, a new “conscious entrepreneurial school” set to open in the fall. Started by WeWork, the school is intended to inspire a new approach to education that focuses on supporting growth in children’s bodies and souls as much as their minds.

Neumann was inspired when she and her husband, WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann, were looking for the right school for their oldest daughter. Along the way, she noticed that her children were excited about coming with her to WeWork.

“The kids are so inspired by being at WeWork,” she says. “There’s an energy of creation when you’re in WeWork buildings that I did not feel present at other schools. I couldn’t figure out why children wouldn’t also thrive in an environment like that. So we decided to start a school that would embody the same values as WeWork and the same energy of togetherness and creation that permeates these walls.”

Neumann says children in the school’s pilot program are constantly teaching her things. When the kids, all of them between 5 and 9, organized a farm stand to sell produce they had grown themselves, they needed almost no help from adults.

“I learned that they are all natural entrepreneurs, and that if we let them start exploring their life’s work at a young age I think we’re going to be breaking a lot of ceilings in terms of human potential,” she says.

They’ve also been instrumental in shaping the curriculum at WeGrow.

“Let’s say I want to try something like integrating Ayurveda into the curriculum, or farm-to-table cooking, or studying virtual reality,” Neumann says. “I bring it to the kids and we do workshops with them and they’re part of the conversations in terms of does this work for children. The idea that a grownup has an idea of what’s good for a child but a child does not—that just does not resonate with me.”

On Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, Neumann says it’s important for parents to show their kids that work can be fulfilling.

“If parents are doing what they love and are connected to their passions and are doing something meaningful for the world, I think it’s really important for a child to see that,” she says.

And if you aren’t in a dream job, kids can help you discover what you’d rather be doing.

“I would suggest just being present with them and asking them a lot of questions,” Neumann says. “Children have amazing ideas, and maybe they’ll come up with your next career.”

She adds that kids are very good at identifying their own “superpowers”—qualities like empathy or intuition or tenacity—and can help adults understand theirs as well.

“Love is a much better teacher than duty,” says Neumann. “If you’re passionate about something, you’re going to be way more committed to learning about it—and as an adult, using it in your work—than if you’re operating from a sense of obligation.”

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