Homeschooling entrepreneurs

Published by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2011 at 02:23 PM

The title of this post can be read in two ways, both of which are true for my family. One, we are entrepreneurs who are homeschooling. Two, we are homeschooling our children to be entrepreneurs.

I tried writing a post about this but it got overly long, so I’m going to turn it into a series. With eight more posting days this month, I can use the content.

I think this topic is of general interest because we are all entrepreneurs. All of our children will be entrepreneurs — because work life is changing. It’s already changed. Young people today change jobs seven times on average before the age of 30. No matter who signs your paycheck, you are the one in charge of running the business of you. You are the one who cares most about your work experience and your work/life balance. Employers are now more like clients, and statistically, your kids are going to have a lot of them.

So, before we get started...

Who here is running a business — or wants to?

What do you think your child’s work life might look like in 2032? Would you like to make entrepreneurial skills a part of his or her education?


Comment by Tana on November 23, 2011 at 05:52 PM

My husband and I own a web development firm. He is the entrepreneur there, though, and he runs it. (Hiring, accounting, business development, planning the Christmas party, stocking the snack bar, etc.) I do client work (information architecture). I am also a fiction writer and I really need to build some entrepreneurial skills if I want to ever get published in another lit mag or perhaps get a book deal.

My daughter, who is in her first year of university, wants to do any/all of the following: editor, chef, cookbook writer, philosopher, translator, designer. She is going to need all the skills my husband has in spades if she wants to build careers in any of those.

Looking forward to your thoughts, Lori.

Also I am SO EXCITED about your book. Can't wait to read it.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2011 at 06:11 PM

thank you, tana! :D and thank you for telling us about your business!

how does your daughter feel about working for herself — is she interested?

Comment by Maryam on November 23, 2011 at 06:15 PM

My husband has his own carpentry business, and our 7 year old has an art business selling rock sculptures, paintings, etc, to friends and family. I definitely see entrepreneurial skills as a necessity for her future, and a useful part of her homeschooling days now, which is why I don't begrudge our daughter's making more money that I do :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 23, 2011 at 06:30 PM

good point. :^)

has your daughter spent much time around your husband's business? i have the sense that most self-employed people share a lot more of their work lives with their children than traditionally employed people, but i don't really know if it's true.

Comment by Tana on November 23, 2011 at 08:07 PM

I think my daughter likes the idea of working for herself, but has no idea what it entails. And she's had very little practice. She has some of the skills - she's a very self-directed, disciplined, creative person. She makes stuff (drawings, recipes, writing, etc.) all the time but has never tried to find ways to exchange her creations for money. I think that's where the gap lies for her. I think that might be one of the things entrepreneurs are good at - spotting needs and then encouraging people to pay to have them filled. How do you teach/learn that?

Comment by Lynn on November 23, 2011 at 08:26 PM

I have been a self-employed bodyworker for 14 years, and I could NEVER go back to working for The Man. Well, never say never, but... I would love to equip my boys to be similarly independent. So excited about your series -- bring it on! xoxo

Comment by Anne T. on November 23, 2011 at 09:48 PM

My parents have a home business making custom kites, banners, and other fabric sculptural things. They didn't have a dedicated shop space until after I left home. Watching them was definitely part of our education. Things like figuring out material costs, time management, deciding what your labor was worth vs. what people will pay, meeting deadlines. I ran my own business for 5 years before quitting last year when pregnant with my second child. I am currently contemplating what I might be able to do working from home, I don't think I could work for anyone again.
So, I guess whatever I decide to do will be a part of my kids' education.

Comment by Charmaine on November 23, 2011 at 11:36 PM

I ran my own business for a few years before selling it right before the birth of my second child. Before that business, I was a freelance writer/editor. I expect I will go back to freelancing part-time once the baby is older, though do find it hard juggling working from home with homeschooling. I can't imagine ever having a boss again though!

Comment by Maryam on November 24, 2011 at 12:31 AM

Lori, my husband does talk a bit about his jobs and clients, and we've visited him at work. Also, my parents are self-employed artists, and I have sold some of my art as well, so our daughter has absorbed a fair bit about business this way. Her business sense seems to really come naturally to her.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2011 at 12:34 AM

tana, hey. that's what i want to talk about this week. stay tuned. :)

lynn, i had to google bodyworker to see if that meant working on car bodies or people bodies. :D

i think your phrase is perfect — equip them to be independent. not tell them what to do, but prepare them. i think this is going to be good. :)

charmaine, they say we're entering a freelance economy. do you think about your kids' future work life? do you imagine them working or freelancing or...???

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2011 at 12:38 AM

anne, your parents' business sounds so fun. :)

i'm curious about how much of their business our self-employed readers share with their kids — i don't feel like everyone does. i think that entire process of *figuring out* what to do would be so great to share as well. you're really modeling so many things — examining your interests and the marketplace, considering options, etc.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2011 at 01:33 AM

maryam, thank you for sharing. interesting that your parents are self-employed, too. did you grow up with a strong opinion about being self-employed yourself? (pro or con!)

i have a friend whose parents were self-employed who was adamant she would never choose that life; just lately she's said she's considering it more.

Comment by Dawn Suzette on November 24, 2011 at 01:54 AM

We have talked about opening our own shop. We see a need for what we want to do... it is just taking that risky leap.
This is another aspect of life in which I feel my kids will benefit by being homeschooled the way we do. They are always ready to jump into projects and we let them go with it... sometimes with a tad bit of hesitation (Dylan and War) but for the most part they dive right in. I can't help but think this will carry over to the way they approach adulthood projects... Project: Make money doing something you enjoy and care about. Go!

I see work ethic, self-motivation, self-direction and creativity being huge for their future working life. Things I don't feel would be nourished in a school setting.

Fionna wants to be a scientist and run her own musuem (suprise). She makes up mini-musuems all the time here at the house (she is currently working on converting her doll house into a museum) and we work on the skills she needs to make exhibits, etc...
We have talked about how her musuem would make money because she said she wants to make it free for everyone (She said it would have a gift shop and that she would "discover" things to make money) I had never thought about her idea to have a museum in terms of an entrepreneurial venture but that is what it would be. Wonderful!

I am looking forward to this series!

Comment by Tracy on November 24, 2011 at 11:45 PM

Ooooh, great conversation!

We have survived two economy-driven layoffs in the past 8 years thanks to my husband's talents and abilities to freelance (he's a web design/user experience architect). It's also given us a healthy distrust of ever becoming too dependent on a corporate job for our livelihood. He's much happier now as an independent contractor...he gets paid well and he sets the terms for his employment. Would he ever take another company job? Sure--there are some great companies out there--but he'd never stop doing freelance on the side to keep his skills sharp and his portfolio current.

Both of our daughters (11 and 8) have seen firsthand how important it is to have a varied set of marketable skills and the ability to position them well. My husband and I talk about work and clients frequently and my husband has often been very open to listening to the girls' ideas on usability and design in his work. They're a free-thinking pair who already know they have great thoughts to contribute.

This dovetails with the sorts of discussions we've been having about university not being the only option to an amazing and fulfilling life (and how fascinating it is to me that it's becoming quite a hot topic these days!). I did the whole graduate school/corporate grind for years, so I know that route intimately, and the thing that has struck me in all the years since was how poorly I listened to myself. I'm a huge advocate of bringing back more guilds and apprenticeships and making far greater use of mentors in our chosen fields. Know what you need, and seek out those who can help you learn it. There are very few professions that TRULY need a four-year degree (and fewer still that require an MA or higher). More of us need to set our own course and custom-design our own educations.

As homeschoolers in one of the largest cities in the US, my girls are being exposed to so many possibilities and being encouraged to get good at what they love and pursue it with all their heart. One seems pretty set on a career with the ballet but is a very talented young violinist who isn't counting that path out just yet. Her older sister is quite likely going to pursue a career with horses and can't wait to spend her days at the stables working alongside the trainers, farriers, vets and others who can help her chart her course. She talks about becoming a trainer on her own farm who teaches piano to children on the side. She also talks about being a Loch Ness Monster researcher, so who knows? We've had great conversations with their various teachers about how such an independent path has its challenges, but that the freedom is worth it all.

Our biggest message is that only they can define what success means to them, but having a heap of debt and few choices is a bad way to begin. They can shop a thrift store and spot bargains like pros, and already know how to sew and knit and cook/bake from scratch. They've already learned that it's a lot easier to pursue your passions if you've learned how to keep a careful watch over expenses!

Wow, didn't mean to write an essay :-)

Comment by Charmaine on November 25, 2011 at 03:05 AM

Lori - well, it's hard to imagine my oldest ever listening to a boss or wanting a 9-5 job so from that perspective I wouldn't be surprised if freelancing or running his own business was something he'd want to do at some point! He's already shown some of the spirit - he started a toy shop a couple of years ago (The Train Table Top Shop) that he made toys for along with selling some of his old toys and he has made heaps of books for a library he made to loan to friends (though no money involved in that exchange). Now he's talking about setting up a museum or an art gallery which he'll charge admission to! I guess it's in his blood! :)

Comment by meg- grow and resist on November 25, 2011 at 04:21 AM

I am so excited for the series! I have always struggled with sustaining belief that I can branch out on my own and start a business. I am in the midst of it, having quit my "sensible- it's just what people do" job. We are working to instill the skills and confidence in our 4 year old.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 25, 2011 at 10:27 PM

dawn, “I can't help but think this will carry over to the way they approach adulthood projects... Project: Make money doing something you enjoy and care about. Go!” exactly, because why else are we doing this? and i don’t mean “so they will use it to make a living” — i mean “so they will use it to make a life”.

fionna as docent — no surprise. :) and yes, it is an entrepreneurial venture. maybe a funded, nonprofit one since admittance is free. so work on grant writing! :)

tracy, love your point that your husband’s ability to freelance helped you ride out the troubled economy. and i love that he listens to and encourages your daughters’ ideas.

“Our biggest message is that only they can define what success means to them, but having a heap of debt and few choices is a bad way to begin.” great message! we put the same emphasis on saving and living frugally — telling our boys that a frugal and financially smart lifestyle will allow them the freedom to do what they want in life.

thanks for your “essay” — it was great! :)

charmaine, lol. i suppose some kids come this way naturally — but maybe others are encouraged by the homeschooling lifestyle. :)

meg, congratulations on starting your own business! was your (extended) family supportive?

think of all you’ll have to share with your 4yo about your experience. :)

Comment by Kari on November 26, 2011 at 08:19 AM

I am SO on the same page as you! Can't wait to read more of your thoughts.

Dh and I both have small (tiny!) businesses on the side. They don't earn a lot, but every bit helps. The kids have a little bit of the bug, but I think they are too young (5 and 7) to really follow through. My 7 year old has a costume store on etsy and sold one costume (that I had made earlier). He designed another and helped me sew it, but that one hasn't sold.

We've also had discussions about Trademark. He recently had the idea to make a game called "Dungeons and Dragons" and sell it. We had a talk about how companies own names and how you have to come up with a unique name if you are going to sell something.

My 5 year old daughter had the idea to sell her drawings. So far I'm the only customer she has marketed to, however. ;)

Comment by nancy on November 26, 2011 at 11:19 AM

my husband has worked as a contractor in web development from home off and on for the past 8 years. He is currently employed, but wants to go back to contracting so he can have more control over his hours and have more time to dedicate to other projects, one is writing a book.
I am currently trying to start a business as an artist and sewing instructor with a partner. We have moved our studio to my house and plan on holding classes here and involving the kids. My husband and I are always discussing new business ideas and dreams. The kids usually are around and involved in the discussions.
I would love it if my children ran their own businesses or worked as freelancers in 2032. Yes,i would like to teach them entrepreneral skills. I think I could benefit as well.

Comment by John Hitchcock on November 28, 2011 at 09:33 PM

What a logical concept! And one I applaud you for taking. I am a career classroom teacher (49 years and still at it), but with many homeschooling friends. My daughter also homeschools her daughters, and has also started an Emergency Preparedness business to help supplement their income. I am also developing a web-based business (education oriented), a part of which is providing homeschoolers with two curricular components. One is designed as a training program to become a high school entrepreneur and the other how to use golf to integrate sports, art, reading, writing, science and scripture into a great family time.

Finally, high commendations to you who have undertaken the task of teaching your kids at home. You have my greatest admiration. By the way, I am also an adjunct professor at a four-year university where several of my students have been taught at home. Almost without exception, they are near the top of the class in academic knowledge, writing creativity and the ability to carry on meaningful dialogue and discussion.

Fight the fight... keep the faith!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 29, 2011 at 01:50 AM

kari, awesome! :)

that is fantastic that your 7yo has an etsy store! :) my just-turned-12yo is planning on opening an etsy store to sell his comics and drawings; he’s been working on the idea for awhile and building up his stock. :)

fantastic, too, that you treat his ideas seriously and take the time to explain trademarks to him - *this* is definitely part of the entrepreneurial curriculum. we’ve had the same conversations here as well talking about writing books and how you can’t just write your own harry potter stories, for example, and sell them. :)

looking forward to hearing more about you & your family!

hi nancy :)

i’m impressed your husband could go back to employment after working at home - i think working at home ruined us for regular jobs! :)

that is exciting news about your business, and it’s wonderful you are going to involve the kids.

i think it’s a big mindset switch if parents just start encouraging their kids to think about starting their own businesses rather than telling them to work hard to get a good job. just planting that seed of possibility is important!

thank you, john. congratulations on a long teaching career. :) and on your business enterprises!

Comment by nancy on November 29, 2011 at 02:23 PM

Actually, my husband is still at home, but he works remotely as an employee. No, he could not go back to an office, he hates getting up early and would not want to waste all that time traveling and missing out. He's too much of a homebody as well. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 29, 2011 at 03:47 PM

nice. :)

i really think working at home ruins you for office life!

(or maybe i just think that because *i'm* such a homebody! :^D)

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