In John Holt’s excellent book, Teach Your Own, he discusses the merits of real learning. He suggests that the most valuable kinds of learning experiences are those based on skills or products we actually need and want, rather than silly busywork. Mary Pride calls these frivolous projects “twaddle.”
If you live on a homestead, you probably have no end of “real learning experiences” for your children. Kids can gather eggs, milk cows, tend a garden, or mend fences. If you live in the city or suburbs though, you might have to search a bit for those valuable learning experiences.
Enter entrepreneurship. Most kids understand the concept of money from an early age and find the idea of earning their own cash highly motivating. Why not harness this natural interest? Operating a home business teaches a myriad of skills, from planning and organization to marketing and communication to money management and basic math skills.
Choose businesses based on interests. Joanne Calderwood, long-time homeschooling mom and author of The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn With Excellence, has several children who run their own businesses.
Her first tip is to choose businesses based on a child’s passions or interests. “Lauren is a 4.0 college graduate. She started BeadBoxBargains while still in high school, and now she clears $1,500 to $2,000 a month doing what she really loves to do: buy and sell beads and jewelry-making supplies. I would hate doing that! But it’s her thing, and she has set it up all by herself, kept it running all by herself, and learned about marketing all by herself.”
Stay out of the way. There’s a natural temptation for parents to jump in and start making decisions. Resist this urge, advises Calderwood. As soon as a project becomes Mom’s or Dad’s, children tend to lose initiative and motivation. Your kids will learn much more if you act as an advisor, rather than an active participant.
Before your child starts a business, think realistically about how independent your child can be. Talk with your child about how much support you’re willing to give and then stick to your original agreement. If a business venture seems to ambitious, help your child scale it down. Start slowly and build up to something bigger. When my daughter wanted to attend an expensive summer camp, I turned the fundraising efforts over to her. She decided to sell cinnamon rolls to raise the money for the camp. I taught her how to make the rolls and she made several dozen one Saturday. She sold the rolls to neighbors and friends, earning over $200 in one weekend. This small project peaked her interest in entrepreneurship and opened the door for other projects.
Learn from challenges. View challenges as opportunities to learn. Recently, my six-year-old wanted to have a toy sale. He sorted and labeled his old toys and we set them up on a table on the sidewalk. As children walked home from school, they stopped to look at my son’s toys. He only made one sale, but many of the children offered ideas for other businesses. “What if you sold cookies after school? We’d buy those, for sure! Or, how about hot cocoa on cold days?” My son’s initial discouragement quickly faded as he considered new ideas for his next business venture.
All business owners face roadblocks eventually. Lack of capital, slow times or disorganization can stall business plans. Use these experiences to learn problem solving and perseverance.
Share Your Interests. If you have a home business, let your child learn from you. You may find that your child can actually help your business grow. Homeschooling mom S.E. Day hired her son as a videographer for her broadcast media business. He filled a real need for her, while launching his own business. Now he does video recording for other companies.
Don’t forget record keeping. Your child’s first business attempts may not yield a huge profit, but any serious business dealings should be recorded. Your child may have to pay taxes if his or her business earns more than $500 per year. Open a checking account for your child and teach her how to balance books and manage money.
In recent years, several states have instituted “lemonade laws,”  which regulate or prohibit kids from operating small businesses. As ridiculous as these laws are, they sometimes come with fines or penalties. Most families take a “try it and see” approach when it comes to a child’s home business. They take the stance that, “It’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission.” If you’re concerned, though, find out about the laws in your area governing kids’ businesses. In some cases, kids are required to obtain a business license or a temporary business permit.
Ideas For Home Businesses
Looking for ideas for a home business? In addition to choosing a business based on your child’s natural interests, look around to identify a need. Homeschooler Danny Trevino started a breakfast burrito business as a teenager. He awoke by 5 a.m. to make the burritos, which he sold at the local high school before school started. Mobs of hungry teenagers lined up to buy the burritos, and Danny quickly earned enough money to buy a truck.
Sarah Kelley didn’t want a long-term business, but she wanted to earn some money for Christmas gifts. She liked working with children, so she organized two craft days for preschoolers in December. Parents dropped off their children to go shopping and the children had a great time playing.
Below are just a few more ideas for business-minded kids:
- Web design
- Yard care
- Frozen meals
- Bake sales
- Vegetable stand
- Online sales
©2012 Off the Grid News