I think it is inevitable that this was going to happen in this house but it is certainly not unique. Over the years I’ve watched remarkably young early teens develop a keen awareness of their ability to take control of their life from within their own family. Of course, my experience of purely schooled teens is limited, except for my own self (and I suppose I was similar) but it does seem to be something that HE teens do particularly well.
Given we are a family with our own business, and given that all the girls have watched that grow from a single phone conversation and a single crate of goods to a business that employs 5 people and supports us from 3000sq ft of unit, I think being tempted into business was inevitable. All of them, when we were setting up our wills, were truly horrified at the chaps suggestion they should be barred from running it, if we died, until they were 25. They all pointed out very definitely, that they are part of it and if they were adults, they’d expect and want to decide what happened to it.
I think enterprise is an essential part of an upbringing, personally. I didn’t take part in our school version of Young Enterprise, because my teachers said I needed to give all my time to my lessons, but I went back to my school and helped a 6th form with their project a few years later. By that time, I’d been running my own tiny business for 5 years, enjoying the creativity that had the end point of someone valuing my work enough to buy it. One thing I struggled with though, and still do, was valuing my skill and time and charging people for that. It was the business skill I failed to learn, along with accounting (!) and clearly an essential one.
Fran has less of a creative urge on the face of it than I did, but perhaps she is driven in the same way by the joy of people wanting something you have made. Her foray into bracelet making has been hugely exciting for her and in the last two weeks she has not only sold lots of bracelets but improved a number of other skills. She’s more dexterous, more thoughtful about design, cleverer with colour and more able at putting together a collection of things to appeal to a variety of people.
She’s learned other more valuable skills too. Max has taught her how to adapt an Excel template to a profit and loss account and she’s spent time valuing the start up stock I gave her, putting a price on her time, working out real and virtual profit. She’s learned to use Flickr and Picnik to create display images that look good and her plan for next week is to not only take the pictures herself but also to learn to use Etsy for listing. She’s had to think out the real cost of a bracelet, not just the beads but also the fees and the time and the elastic and the amount of effort marketing takes. She’s an admin for the Facebook page and is learning about responsible ownership and how to network. She’s able to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
As a business owner, it seems to me the world is polarising into massive business and tiny business. With the upheaval in our higher education system, I suspect many kids from families like ours will simply not be able to go to university through cost implications or will, as I did, choose not to. They may find it just as hard to get a job working for someone else and self-employment may well be something people will have to fall back on, if they can. I don’t see this as a bad thing particularly and I think home educated children, with their tendency to think outside the box, their expectations of utilising educational opportunities that are not pre-packed and their flexibility in learning, will excel at that.
For the last couple of years, Fran has been totting up the skills she is achieving that might get her through early life when she needs to make her own money. She already knows her gym and dancing skills will give her an ability to coach and teach if she now sticks at it and gets some qualifications and she knows that sticking with music to grade 8 will give her a saleable skill as well as an enjoyable one. It seems to me that developing business skills to support any creative urge or teachable ability are essential and probably one of the best lessons we can teach her just now. Fran has fairly strong ideas of what she would like to do, she’d like to work in a zoo, and she hasn’t written off university at all but she knows that we can’t support 4 daughters through a university education for the sake of it and she, and all the others, need to be prepared to do that for themselves.
I didn’t go to university, as I’ve said – I did a year of a vocational course that was spectacularly hard work, before getting ill and having to leave. My boyfriend at the time was at uni and I spent most weekends with him though and then 2 years with Max while he was at uni. I’m a bit boring, admittedly, but the idea of people spending parental and grant money to drink for 3 years seemed a bit of a waste and now, with the country in the state it is, I can see why that doesn’t exactly sit well with anyone paying the fees. I’m hoping that by the time my girls are ready to embark on that stage of their life they will be capable of working hard enough and earning well enough to at least partially support themselves through it. It seems to me that if they have to work hard for the opportunity and take responsibility for it, they will value it more and hopefully get more out of it.
Of course, I’m aware that has a risk. Max, for example, worked through uni and it was a small part of the reason for failing a year (beer was a bigger reason!) I would be sorry if my girls turned away from education purely due to cost, though I couldn’t argue if they decided against it for some of the reasons I did. I’d be sorry if they felt unsupported, but I hope they are all smart enough to know we have not a chance in hell of £9000 a year each for 4 of them. So I think that bracelet sales this week is part of a grander plan – it is partly, I hope, about equipping my biggest girl for life and helping her see she can make her own opportunities if she chooses to.
I’d love to know what other home educators think these days. Is uni still the be all and end all? Are we turning more to it or more away from it?