Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Motivated to Work

There's a big milestone coming in our home this summer. My son is applying for a job. If all goes well the "unemployment rate" in our household will drop to 75%. He's a hard worker and done very well at a few businesses he's started in the last few years. But he wants a "real job". He's applying to be a bagger at the local grocery store. It's convenient; you don't have to be 16, and best of all he can walk to work. The main reason he wants to work is that he has a need. He wants to take a few college classes next year and he needs a way to pay for them. Can't argue with that logic.

Teaching children the value of hard work isn't easy. Here's two basic principles we've taught our children that have helped make that life lesson a little more real and understandable.

If a man doesn't work he doesn't eat.
We never paid an allowance to our children. Nor did we pay them for work around the house. We figured they're part of the family and this is what family's do. They work together. Slackers went hungry. We never starved them but missing a meal now and again was a great reminder of how important work really is. Children catch on quick when their tummy rumbles. Hunger drives a man to do great things. Hunger drives a child to do great things too - like clean their room and mop the floor.

Now that they're older their hunger isn't just for food. They need/want other things - like computers and college. This brings me to the second principle.

Without a vision my people perish.
We've taught our children to set goals for themselves and their money. My 13 year old son began saving for his full size violin nearly 2 years before he needed it. It was a tough going at different times. He had to sacrifice impulse purchases because he knew what his long term goal was. And he made it. He was able to purchase a beautiful full size violin with a price tag of just over $1200 all on his own. Now he's set his sights on a computer. He's already passed out lawn flyers and knocked on doors for his lawn business. That along with a paper route should put him at his goal by the end of summer. But he's not taking any chances. He watches his spending just as he did with the violin.

I have to admit, there were times it would have been easy to just pull out my wallet and buy him something he passed on. But that would not have served either of us well in the long term. That's hard to handle in our "buy it now" consumer culture.

Homeschooling Let's the Creativity Out
Homeschooling has helped in this area tremendously. They have more time to do various jobs and can be more creative in their efforts. When my oldest was learning to type, she needed a way to practice her skills. We solicited recipes from friends at church. She typed them all into the computer, and bound the book very nicely with a durable plastic cover. She sold the books back to the ladies for $5 each. Many bought multiple copies to give as Christmas gifts. She made nearly $200. That's a pretty decent profit for just learning to type.

However, the biggest advantage is they are not bombarded by friends on a daily basis with all the latest "gotta have it" gadgets. I mean really, do most 10 year olds really need a cell phone or an iPod? I managed to live most of my life without either one. But more importantly, if they decide they want or need it, they don't automatically expect we're going to provide it for them either. Even when my children expressed a desire for one of the latest fads, by the time they saved up the cash the desire was usually gone.

Recently, the Washington Post ran a story by Leonard Sax, "What's Happening to Boys" about how young men lack any sort of plan or motivation to work. He's also working on a book about "Boys Adrift: What's Really Behind the Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys".

We've got our share of problems over here, but thankfully a lack of motivation to work isn't one of them. I don't share that to boast about my own children but to show that our children will rise to the challenge if we give them the chance.

Don't forget the Carnival of Homeschooling is up at About Homeschooling.

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