As many of you know, our children attend a second-language school on the weekends, and the new academic year started for them last week. We are passionate about teaching our children more than one language. Research shows that this helps them not only with language learning in general, but also with science, math, music, sports, and social skills. So far, this seems to have had a positive impact on our children as well; they are very good students in their weekly (English language) school as well. While our kids do complain about having one more day of school when they could be sleeping in, we have found an unexpected way that has been addressed as well.
Like sports, music lessons, and art classes, language instruction also isn't inexpensive. Frankly, on a public sector salary and my wife’s teaching income, this is a bit of a burden. However, we see it as a good investment in our children's future. As with everything we come across that presents a struggle, we also wanted this to be a teaching opportunity for our children to learn something new. So we put the question to them: how could they help?
They had some suggestions, but most of these would require some careful planning and implementation (& time) to set up in a way that they would make a real difference. This is where a small mistake dawned on us that would have quite a trickle down-effect. We shouldn't have put the question to them in that way. The question should have been: how can we all work together to address this? It’s a subtle change, but one that changes the entire concept. The fact is that as adults we have the experience, discipline and hard skills to teach them the necessary planning and implementation they need.
Working together we can be much more effective.
We set out to teach our children how to set up their own small side-businesses (they would become Gigsters!). Our son decided to sell Plumerias and other plants he could grow on his own in pots, while our daughter, being an excellent reader, decided to start an editing business. Now we made it clear that these were not get-rich-overnight projects, but it was more about teaching our children the basics of setting up a business: writing a business plan, tracking tasks, advertising, recording revenues & expenses in a spreadsheet, and planning what to do with the revenue. These were skills that would serve them well throughout their lives.
The psychological aspect of this bears mentioning too: children want to interact with their parents. The worst experience for them is to be shut out of family life. For most of us, our own fondest childhood memories are of spending quality time learning from caring fathers, mothers, and grandparents. Our children are no different. While the thought of waking up early on vacation days, planning a marketing strategy or creating expense reports wasn't exactly thrilling, working with mom & dad was actually enjoyable to them - it made the hard tasks easier to bear.
There was another side-benefit to this. Our children were learning how to set up a home-business, which was something we have been working on very hard ourselves. It helped them understand our motivations, our concerns, and why we were “still working even if we were at home”. Not only did they learn important hard skills like editing photos and projecting expenses on a spreadsheet, but they also learned why these things were important, and how these seemingly boring tasks were crucial to the bigger goal of running a business.
Now here is where this all comes full circle. Not only did they learn these important things from us, but because the money was used for their language school, they found a new appreciation for getting up on Saturday mornings, going to school one more day in the week, and being more engaged in the learning process. Because they were personally invested, they actually learned to enjoy school more. Our son actually wants to continue on after graduating to because an assistant in the classroom and I’m sure our daughter would be great at grading papers.
Yes, it took some extra time for us to do this with our children, but there were so many benefits that we considered it an excellent investment of our time. Not only do our children understand our home-business a bit better now, but they can actually help out with things in case one of us is at a conference or doesn’t feel well. The more we thought about this, the more the benefits added up.
Everyone experiences financial struggles throughout their lives, but many of those can also become learning experiences. For us, it ultimately reminded us that our children will one day need to take care of us and the world we live in. The better we prepare them for this, the better off we will all be. More importantly, we are teaching them that solutions to large problems come easier through collaboration with others.
This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at colegasgroup.com.