Why Homeschoolers Make Great Entrepreneurs
I’ve noticed over the years that homeschoolers make up many of my most talented entrepreneurship students. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs for over thirty years in many countries worldwide. Each is unique in background and focus. However, they have some things in common.
They’re driven by curiosity and love to learn. They pursue what interests them. They don’t mind going their own way. They look at the world from a different angle. And — perhaps most importantly — they are self-motivated. They don’t need constant pats on the back from others to reach their goals. Homeschooling is optimized for cultivating all these virtues.
The Privilege of Continuing Creation
The Catholic Catechism teaches that through human work we are invited to participate in God’s creative power. Pope St. John Paul II always emphasized this as well. Entrepreneurs have the privilege of continuing the task of creation. This is true whether they are innovators, inventors, visionaries, organizers, motivators, or some combination of these things. We are called to imitate God in his creativity, to participate in His continued creative action on earth. That is an amazing, humbling, and profound opportunity.
Homeschooling: A Great Preparation
My own family’s homeschooling experience has helped me see why it is such great preparation for enterprise.
1) There are many ways to homeschool, but in general, homeschoolers don’t learn just to “get it done.” Rather, they learn to find out something they want to know. This habit has far-reaching consequences in a person’s life. For instance, it tends to form persistence in the face of problems. That makes all the difference.
2) My son, like other homeschooled students I’ve met, is comfortable analyzing, evaluating and even resisting group-think. That’s unlike my own school-aged experience. As a teenager, I defined myself by what I thought the group thought. I had an inner drive to conform. And school, to a large extent, re-enforced that tendency. This may work well in educating a workforce for a factory or a bureaucracy, but it’s not a recipe for forming entrepreneurs. If we want innovators, we need people who can think critically, who are not afraid to be different from everyone else in the room, and who pursue what they believe. In my experience, homeschoolers are more likely to fit that bill.
3) This “outsider” perspective common to many homeschoolers has another benefit. It allows them to observe what’s going on in their environment rather than be absorbed by it. That often allows them to notice and even predict trends and needs better than others do. Entrepreneurs see a pattern where others see chaos. Being a little different gives the typical homeschooled young person a leg up on seeing the world as an entrepreneur might.
4) In addition, initiative and motivation are other keys to success. Compared with traditional schools, homeschooled students are much more encouraged to be self-starters. Many homeschools cultivate independence. It could be to supplement instruction when the parent lacks expertise. It could also be because the parent-teacher is homeschooling other children at different grade levels. This is not without its challenges. When this works, however, it forms the student in habits of self-starting, and independent, motivated work.
A Natural Fit
Enterprise and homeschooling seem like such a natural fit. I lament that so few homeschoolers encourage their students to think about business, let alone entrepreneurship, as a possible vocation. Perhaps that is merely an oversight: The classical liberal curricula that attract so many homeschoolers don’t usually include any business education. Or perhaps parents themselves, lacking business experience, can’t think of good ideas of how to integrate enterprise into home learning. Or perhaps parents fear to steer their kids towards business as a profession because they can’t easily think of business figures they admire. They fear sending their kids into a field they imagine is heartless.
But do we want to leave a sector of society with such enormous capacity to influence lives for good or ill in the hands of those for whom money alone is always the bottom line? Wouldn’t we rather have the tone for business set by people with sound moral character and a vision of the dignity of the human person? Considering the good to be done by holy men and women in the marketplace, it would be a shame for a God-given talent to go unexplored.
Ideas for Homeschooling Curriculum
If this interests you, here are some ideas for how you can introduce enterprise in your homeschooling curriculum and activities.
- Ask your children to do the basic chores of the home as part of their being a member of the family. But offer certain extraordinary tasks or work with a monetary incentive. Have kids save for a goal. Ideally this would be an investment into something that they will then use to make their work-activity easier or more efficient, so they can earn more. The goal here is to teach delayed gratification, re-investment and productivity.
- Nothing beats a good old-fashioned lemonade or hot cocoa stand. Make sure they pay you for the ingredients. Have them think through the pricing and value proposition needed to sell their product.
- Do projects with your children where the result can be sold. Start the project by figuring out what project could actually result in solving someone else’s problem or fulfill a desire so they will pay for what we sell. Make a list of all the costs and calculate profit into the sale price.
- Your homeschool coop could start its own Children’s Business Fair and invite others in your community to participate.
- Try starting a marketing affiliate blog with your family or a team of kids. It’s a business that literally does not need a cent of up front investment.
- Send your high school homeschooler to Catholic University of America’s Summer Business Institute, where they spend a week training in entrepreneurship.
- We all need role-models to imagine our future selves. Make sure not to limit your reading of biographies and history to religious and political personalities. Include great inventors, entrepreneurs and business leaders so that your student has real examples they can relate to.
- Media often portray businessmen negatively (think of Scrooge, Lord Business in The Lego Movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, Office Space … you know the kind). I’m not saying there are no bad people in business; but they’re a minority. And other professions do not lack for similarly immoral and unethical people as well Please make sure your kids know that. Expose them to movies and TV that show them business is a noble vocation. Try a few episodes of Undercover Boss, especially the ones about Republic Airways and The Dwyer Group, or documentaries like The Call of the Entrepreneur or Poverty Inc.
And if your children are interested in business and enterprise, encourage them! Remember … business is a noble vocation!
Andreas Widmer may be contacted at [email protected].