Thursday, May 12, 2011

Teaching Children Real Lessons

We have several small newspapers in my area - bascially each community has a little "rag" all of which are published by a newspaper conglomerate. the papers are free (wholly advertiser supported), and a copy of my community's paper is delivered to my house each week. But like a good portion of the community, I rarely read it. It often goes from the driveway straight into the recycling bin. In fact, some of the people in my neighborhood get annoyed with the paper owners and have even asked (and been ignored) *not* to have the paper delivered to them. It's funny to see the pulpy remains of last Fall's paper sitting on the edge of my neighbor's driveway after the snow melts.

Occasionally, however, there's a front page headline that catches my eye. This week it was the word *homeschool* in the title of one of the headlines, and so I read the article ... and I was impressed - not with the article itself, but with the parents of the two homeschoolers who were featured in the article.

The story was about a local family who purchased an old feed store building and remodeled it into a home. During the renovations, they left the store front intact with the intention of making it an office for the dad's business. Instead these forward-thinking parents decided to give their two children, ages 15 and 12, a future by turning the storefront into ... well, a store - a penny candy store to be exact. According to the article, the kids have been involved in every aspect of the store from attending planning meetings for obtaining a business permit to designing the interior of the store (and the 15 year old even helped build the shelves out of reclaimed wood) to ordering and pricing merchandise.

In these days of increasing unemployment and ballooning college debt (that graduates can barely hope to repay, because the only jobs many can find are jobs that barely feed and house them), these parents have given their children a future by teaching them some valuable skills and also by giving them this store to run, and perhaps, in the future, take over the operation of.

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.

Instead of opening a college savings account, for instance, how about investing in a piece of land so that the child can build a home and have a place to live - rent free? If that house is off-grid with a working well and a small alternative energy system, even better.

Or, do as the parents featured in the above mentioned article and help the children set-up a business. By the time those kids become adults, they wiil have a better business education than a new college graduate, and also, unlike that college graduate, the kids in the article will already have what is very likely to be a profitable career.

We're heading into a new order of things - not new in the sense that it's never been done, but "new" in the sense that most of us in this country have only minimally experienced the kinds of lifestyle changes we'll be forced to make in the not distant future. Those people who learn to change with the times will successfully weather the storm. Those who cling to the old ways of doing things will, eventually, go down with the ship.

The family featured in that article will be among the lucky ones who sail smoothly along while the storm rages around them.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I couldn't agree more with your thoughts. I have college debt that I cannot hope to ever repay (but I do make bare-minimum attempts when neccessary). I told my oldest that if she wants to go to college, she needs to really consider exactly what her goals are and see if college fits in with those goals. Is college really necessary? Sometimes yes, sometimes no! I like the fact that in Britain, it is a tradition to take a 'gap year' to visit the world before starting college. I have been told that financial aid will wait in most cases (unlike here in the US, where you must go directly to college for scholarships to be applied).

    I think that so much is gleaned from that gap year, according to what I've read. The young adults get a feel for what they truly might want to do. They learn some real-life lessons and skills, and may also work to earn money they can then apply to college the next year.... And some discover they are happier NOT going to college, but rather striking out in their own directions :)