Every Wednesday night, the Courier, our local (free) paper is delivered to my house. In a recent post (that was subsequently eaten by Blogger when they were trying to "fix" some issues), I talked about one of the articles that appeared in this week's edition of the paper.
The article is about a local family of homeschoolers - and it was because the headline contained the word "homeschool" that I even looked at that paper at all - who have started, what is essentially, a home-based business. The parents purchased an old feed store and remodeled it into their home, but left the original store-front intact with the intention of using it as an office for the dad's business.
Instead, however, the parents decided to teach their children some business skills, and they opened a penny candy store in the old retail space. The kids were involved in every aspect of the business from going to the town to apply for a business license/permit, to designing the layout of the store (including finishing reclaimed boards to be used as shelves), to ordering and pricing the items they planned to sell.
What was so amazing to me about the article, and what (I believe) I tried to convey in my original post (that Blogger ate) was how impressive I thought this venture was. Unlike most of today's youth, these kids are getting a real education, and by the time they are adults, after having operated this store for as many years as it takes to earn a college degree, the oldest of the two (at fifteen) will have more knowledge and more practical business education than a college grad - with no student loans.
In the original article, I said (and thanks to my friend and fellow homeschooler *TJ* for saving at least this one paragraph): Conventional wisdom advises parents to start saving for their children's future in the form of a college savings account. Thirty years ago when the employment prospects were slightly better for college grads, when prices on everything from gasoline to groceries were more stable, and when the value of the dollar wasn't in serious danger of destabilizing making those savings worthless, I would have agreed with that advice, but today I think parents would be better advised to focus on non-conventional ways of securing their children's futures.
The point of my original post was that we spend a lot of time training our kids to do things that have very little value (except in dollars), and we spend a lot of energy moving them in a direction that is (proving to be) a dead end. We would do better taking the example of the parents who gave their kids a candy store, which is a livlihood that could, potentially, see them through some tough times.
Maybe as our economy continues to contract, those two kids will expand on their inventory and become more a general store, just like the famed "Way-Way Store" (an iconic stop on Route 112 in S. Maine) to which they compare themselves in the article I read.
What's certain is that they probably won't become millionnaires, but they will be small business owners, and perhaps have a little more security than the average person has today.
I applaud their parents, who are definitely forward-thinking, and I hope I can find some way to model their example by giving my kids some very important something that will see them through the tough times ahead - something that a mere college education may promise, but can never fulfill.