X-Culture Kids: A Parent’s Reflections After Week 5

It is Week 5 of the Practical Training Phase for my children in the X-Culture Academy program (affectionately known as “X-Culture Kids”).

As you know, X-Culture is experimenting with allowing children ages 9-17 to take part in its international collaboration project. In addition to 5,000 university students, 100 kids ages 9-17 passed the four-week Theory Training and selection and were placed in international teams.

A toy maker Innospark and a private school network The Finnish Schools International asked children for help with designing and marketing new toys and designing and marketing schools of their dreams. Age-appropriate, interesting, yet serious and important challenges.

More from me as a project founder and coordinator soon. Here, my observations and reflections as a parent.

Just like Jonas Salk who tested the effects of his polio vaccine on himself and his family, I had to enroll my own kids in X-Culture Kids to better understand what children and their parents would go through in the program.

Sofia (10) and Maxym (13) are on teams with kids from several countries. One is trying to design and market a Dream School, and the other one is trying to design and market toys for Innospark.

The Good:

  • My kids truly enjoy interacting with their peers from other countries.
  • Despite some challenges, they don’t seem to struggle much due to cultural differences.
  • Often, especially on weekends, they wake up at 7 am for a Skype meeting with their international team members (and wake me up, which is annoying, but cool).
  • They have developed close friendships with some of the team members. For example, my daughter spends sometimes hours talking to her new friends about things that are not related to the project at all.
  • They have developed a great interest in the toy making business and in school administration, and actually have ideas for how to improve the existing business/administration models.

The Unexpected:

  • You know how they say that the kids these days are comfortable with the technology? How they are natives in the world of computers and gadgets? No! They are not!
    They may be native with apps like Instagram and Snapchat, but turns out they had no clue how to use more business oriented software, such as …. DRUMROLL …. Email!
    I literally had to sit down and teach my children how to use email. They both had had email accounts for years, but had no skills in managing them. Their email boxes where stuffed with hundreds of old spam messages, making it impossible to find the emails that are actually important.
    When the time came to write emails, they didn’t quite know how to do it right. They seemed almost incapable of writing more than 3 words and 2 emojis.
    When you’re working on a business project and have to discuss serious business ideas, a like and a smiley face are not enough.
    They needed to be taught to engage in a discussion that is more than liking someone’s comment and adding “LOL”.
    So I had to sit down with each kid and help them clean up their email accounts, teach them how to Reply All and write an email that actually contains useful information. If this is the only skill they will have learned from X-Culture, it has been worth it.
  • Work ethics. Same thing. My kids, turns out, had no clue how to work in a team on a long-term project. The first few weeks, I had to remind them every day to check their emails, reply to their team members, write at least something for this week’s deliverables. By week 5, it seems, I don’t have to remind them anymore. They have now (almost) developed the habit of checking their email regularly, replying to the messages promptly, and writing at least a little bit every day. I still have to check with them every day and remind to do things from time to time, but they have made a huge progress from a primitive “check you Instagram for likes every 10 minutes and make short meaningless emoji comments” to “it is a serious long-term work project that requires my attention every day.” Again, if this is the only thing they will have learned, the X-Culture experience has been totally worth it.
  • Working in international virtual teams. I had to teach them some tricks that even older people don’t know. For example, they now know that Doodle can help find a time for a meeting that works for all team members. That Google Docs is a convenient way to co-edit documents when you’re working with people who are dispersed all around the planet. That Slack is a great tool for managing a project. That a team Skype call is more effective than 20 emails. And that it is better to have a team leader, even if it is not you.

Still needs work:

  • My kids still struggle with business writing. They already can write a proper email, but I still need to help them a lot with writing a business plan. I have to help them develop a proper report structure, teach them how to write an executive summary, cite sources, and use bullet-lists and charts instead of plain text.
  • I have also realized that to be useful, parents must participate in X-Culture alongside their kids. The older kids, 16 and 17, seem to be ready to work on their own. But the younger kids need a teacher or a parent by their side at most times.
  • But it is a great experience. I can’t remember when, before X-Culture, my kids would say “Wow! I didn’t know! Thank you for showing me that!”
    They have said it at least 10 times each in the past 5 weeks to me. Kind of nice to be a hero who teaches the kid how to use Doodle or shows them how to clear formatting in a Google Docs file, or how to unsubscribe from the annoying spam messages in Gmail, or how to share screen in a Skype call. When was the last time you kid told you “Wow! Thank you for teaching me that!”?


  • I thought my kids were smart. You should see Advey, Harsh, Gemma or Aelita! They are 10 to 13 years old, but the way they talk, ask questions, lead their teams – I am telling you, some of our MBA students are not even close. These kids are going places!


More about the X-Culture Kids program here.


P.S. As always, spending time on checking grammar and spelling was not a priority. So sorry for the errors and misspellings.



By Vas Taras

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