I don’t “do school” the way that I do so that my kids can grow up to be self-made millionaires. However, in the process of “doing school” the way that comes naturally to me, I am working purposefully to foster and nurture in my kids the six skills of self-made millionaires that Youngentrepreneur.com founder, Adam Toren, identifies in his article, “6 Skills of Self-Made Millionaires that You Should Be Using Too”. Why? Let’s face it: money doesn’t buy happiness, but it buys you options and freedom. Options and freedom are not inconsequential. Additionally, having plenty of financial resources opens the door wider for radical generosity that has the potential to change lives on a large scale.
Toren identifies six skills that self-made millionaires have and tells you why those skills are important enough for you to develop them yourself. I’ll start with his list and tell you why those skills are important enough for homeschoolers to help their kids develop them too. Really, it isn’t important just for homeschoolers to impart to their children; the information is just as valuable for parents with kids in school. But, generally speaking, my readership is homeschoolers, so I’ll be talking specifically to you.
“Be able to identify fruitful opportunities.” There’s something to be said, especially for the self-directed homeschooler, for paying attention for the opportunities that oftentimes pop up unexpectedly. In the words of Henry J. Kaiser, “Problems are opportunities in work clothes.” In my opinion, average people see the work clothes and never look past them to see the opportunity. Leaders sense the reward waiting on the other side of the problem, don the work clothes, roll up the sleeves, and get to the business of unpacking the gem of opportunity that’s hidden away. That’s not to say, however, that everything that can be done is worth doing or even should be done. Learning to evaluate circumstances and make discriminations that may be subtle is a skill that can be learned.
This situation is actually front and center in my homeschool right now as Jarrod is starting to make academic and career decisions that will have lasting consequences for his life. He has had several offers for internships and employment. While all are certainly flattering, (because how often is a 17 year old actively recruited for positions?), not all were going to keep moving him in the direction he’s wanting to go.
Because I believe that, as renowned author Alfie Kohn says, “Children learn to make good decisions by having the chance to decide what happens to them every day – not by following someone else’s directions,” Jarrod had already had years of experience making decisions that matter before these came up. The enormity of the decisions didn’t paralyze him. He evaluated all of his options and made his choice. I don’t tell him what to do; I ask questions and brainstorm with him. Being a confidant decision-maker empowers him to quickly identify those fruitful opportunities.
Your take-away? Give your kids as much freedom to make important decisions as you possibly can at each stage of development and continue expanding that freedom as they demonstrate the maturity and the responsibility to handle it. Start young. Even my 7 year old is empowered to decide for herself when she will work on something academic or just take a TV break.
“Focus on actions over words.” The driving force behind self-directed homeschooling is action. It’s taking a need or a desire to have, learn, know, be, or do something that you don’t already, and giving it legs. Pursuing it. Making a plan and executing it.
It’s one thing for someone to say, “I want to do this.” It’s another entirely to actually come up with a plan to get it done, and then go out and implement it. I want my kids to be do-ers. And that too starts young. Jillian started asking me to teach her how to read about a year ago. (Now, I know that many unschoolers will tell you unequivocally that children do not need to be taught how to read, but when my kids ask me to teach them something, you can bet that I darn well am going to do it – but that’s a topic for another post on another day.) In any case, together Jillian and I have tried several different learn-to-read programs to varying degrees of success.
I finally caved and went back to a resource I never expected to use because I’d tried it when Jarrod was about this age and found it to be so excruciatingly boring that I quickly gave up on it: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. To my surprise, it’s working well for Jillian. She doesn’t love it, but she so desperately wants to be a good reader and she can tell that she’s improving with every lesson, so she does it. Diligently. On her own accord. Jillian has been chomping at the bit to get those lessons done – so much so that she had me help her figure out how many days it would take her to finish it if she did two, three, and four lessons at a time.
Your take-away? Work with your children to reverse engineer their goals and help them create space in their days to take some action. I don’t make Jillian do her reading lessons, but I offer my time every day that I can to sit with her and go through them. It’s up to her whether or not to take advantage of that.
“Maintain a clear vision of success.” It seems obvious, but if you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know what to do to get there. You won’t know how to get there. You won’t know if you actually even really want to get there. You won’t know how to identify if or when you’ve gotten there.
Erica has expressed dissatisfaction with her command of mathematics several times over the years. Each time, I’ve been there, ready to work with her to fill in the gaps in her mathematical understanding. And until recently, she’s been unwilling to walk her talk. The dissatisfaction just wasn’t quite big enough to motivate her. So I waited, knowing that one day the scale would tip and she’d sink some time and energy into it. Sure enough, that happened…and she has given her pursuit some legs. Erica logs onto Khan Academy regularly and works diligently toward her goal.
Your take-away? When your child says, “Mom, I want to focus more on math,” you don’t let it go at that. You ask her what focusing more on math means to her. You ask her why focusing on math is important to her right now and what she hopes to gain from it. You ask her to imagine what it will look like and feel like once she’s as good at math as she wants to be. Get your kids into the practice of clearly identifying what success looks like for them and creating compelling enough visions of success to keep them going through adversity.
“Never stop learning.” Since part of my vision of success as a self-directed homeschooler is that my children will grow up to be lifelong learners, I encourage them now to explore new ideas and keep diving deeper into existing passions. I make sure that they see me learning new things and stretching myself outside of my comfort zone. We go to the library a lot. We discuss current events. We go on field trips. I ask them philosophical questions just to stimulate an intelligent, sophisticated discussion. I make sure that they have the freedom and the flexibility to focus on what they believe is important right now.
Your take-away? Do the same. Keep lots of books around. Subscribe to a streaming video service. Have art and craft supplies around. Find engaging, fun games. Remember that learning takes all sorts of forms and try not to deem one as somehow inherently better than the other. Whenever you do something in your homeschool, ask yourself if the activity encourages your children to love to learn or if it hinders their love of learning. If it hinders their love of learning, stop doing it!
“Get the job done.” If you’re not careful, you can easily end up with a house full of your children’s unfinished projects. I think that part of my job as a homeschooling mother is to help my kids figure out how to walk that fine line between not continuing to pursue a project that isn’t worth continuing and quitting a project that is actually worth continuing but has gotten difficult or frustrating enough that they feel like quitting. It’s my job to make sure they have the framework and support in place to both do the hard things and release the projects that no longer matter.
A few years ago, Erica saw this creative writing curriculum called The One Year Adventure Novel and much to my astonishment, she wanted it. I eventually bought it. She started it, and quickly grew overwhelmed. By and large, it has sat on her shelf gathering dust since then. Rather than telling her she needed to finish it, I told her that I thought she should set it aside for the time being. There are other things that she needs to know first that will make it significantly easier for her to continue the course. We discussed what those things were, and made a plan for what she needed to do to acquire the background knowledge that will help her write her adventure novel. Erica will be ready to do that in another year or two.
Your take-away? Make sure that your own work ethic is rock solid, and then instill the same in your children. When they reach a crossroads of whether to quit or continue, have the discussion about why they’re feeling that tug to quit. Help them examine the pros and cons of quitting versus continuing. Give them permission to quit when quitting is the appropriate thing to do, the wisdom to alter the course or make tweaks to the project when necessary, and the encouragement to persist when they just need to dig down deep for the fortitude to keep going.
“Only hire rock stars.” Well, your kids probably aren’t hiring anybody while they’re still children, so my take on this one is a little different. To me, this means both encouraging my children to be that “rock star” and to choose their friends wisely.
We have this saying in our family…I know my parents said it to me and my brother while we were growing up, and it would surprise me very much if their parents hadn’t said it to them as well. That saying is, “Don’t do a half-assed job.” Doing a “half-assed job” won’t save you any time in the long run, because you’ll have to do the whole thing all over again until it’s done right. Better to just do it right the first time, and I think that’s really what the message is here. Do it right. Go above and beyond.
Your take-away? Make sure that you’re approaching your life the same way. Be a “rock star” mom or dad as much as possible. Be a “rock star” wife, girlfriend, husband, or boyfriend as much as possible. Be a “rock star” friend as much as possible. Let your kids see you find something you love to do and then give it your all. Create that culture in your family.