Entrepreneurs in The School of Real Life

Most of us have been raised in the school system, where our learning was mainly from text books, workbooks and the black board. We were bored and unmotivated most of the time. We  wished we didn’t have to be stuck in the classroom doing those contrived activities…and yet, when we start homeschooling, by default, this is the model of learning that most parents implement, well, at least at first.

After a while we learn that there are more fun, effective and creative ways for children to learn.

In the fake environment of a classroom, be it at school or at home, we have to invent imaginary situations to help children learn about the real world. For example, “If Johnny has ten rand and the drink he buys cost R6.75, how much change will he get? Can he also buy a chocolate that costs R4.00?”

A child standing at the check-out counter with a ten rand note in her hand, will be far more motivated to do this maths calculation than one sitting at a desk with a workbook.

The same applies for writing or any other skill you want your child to learn.

When it’s needed for a real situation, there is a real reason to do it.

My 10 year old son is always trying to think of ways to make money.

[We believe that pocket money is the childhood equivalent of social welfare, so we don’t give any. Our kids have to earn money – but that’s another topic!]


age 8 – selling zen magnets


age 10 – selling African animal playing cards

At age 8, he came up with the idea of importing zen magnets from China and he sold them online. For various reasons, we decided to discontinue that venture, although he did make a considerable profit.

At last we have found another product that he can sell and earn himself some cash.


These are the skills he is developing and improving in the school of life as he pursues this new venture:

  • Maths – working out the cost of the product, the selling price and postage and most importantly, his profit. Counting how many to order and multiplying to see what it will cost him in total. Working out how he will repay his sponsor (me)!
  • Writing – email etiquette, where to use capital letters and other punctuation marks, spelling, formal writing style, how to handle enquiries and negotiate business with clients (adults)
  • Typing skills – using his touch typing skills that he practices for REAL business
  • Online banking – how EFTs work and how to check that you get paid for your product
  • How to use Excel spreadsheets – he is creating a list of names of clients, their email addresses, the products they wish to order and their postal addresses
  • Handwriting – addressing packages and writing postage slips. Indistinct handwriting could cost him dearly if the packages don’t reach the clients.
  • How the postal track and trace system works –  emailing clients their tracking numbers
  • Marketing – he is seeing the value of relationships that his mom and dad have in their networks and interest groups such as homeschooling and motor-biking.
  • He has learned about the need for an online sales page.
  • He is thinking about other outlets where the product could be sold and how to approach them.
  • Photography – taking pics to show how the product looks
  • The importance of mentors – he still needs someone to help and guide him (mom and dad, at this stage).
  • Production of the product – he is thinking about suggesting that the suppliers have the product created locally and how he could possibly help promote it to other potential clients.

No text book could ever inspire him to do all this. Fake activities and pointless book work bore him, but a real life scenario, with the potential to make money, has given him the motivation to do what it takes to succeed.

Whether it is selling a service or a product, pursuing an entrepreneurial venture will give your children a REAL opportunity to develop a range of different skills, which they will be able to use throughout their lives.

Whether it is a long-term venture or once-off is not that important. Whether the business is ultimately a success or not is also not that important at this stage.You should consider any losses as ‘school fees’ and help your children to learn from their mistakes.

Make it real. Your kids don’t have to be stuck in a ‘fake’ (homeschool) classroom, instead they can learn in the school of REAL LIFE.

How do you start?

To help you to

  • mentor your children and teens into starting a business with minimal cost and no risk,
  • to help you find ideas to pursue when you have none,
  • to give you the tools to first test the ideas before launching the business…

Some entrepreneurship tools for your parenting tool-box:

  1. The Ka-Ching! Business Parenting Course is a great product that will give you a step-by-step strategy to help children between ages 6-14 to learn how to
  • earn money
  • manage their money
  • start a business
  • overcome the challenges of running a business
  • develop the leadership skills to succeed as a business owner


2. For teens and adults, I recommend the online courses,  How to Start Your Own Business – a short course in 6 hour long segments and then How to Build a Lifetime Business Online, by Peter Carruthers. Peter has helped me and my children to succeed – and countless others!

(My 17 year old daughter started her online mail-order business at age 13 and my 15 year old son is starting an online service.)

We have followed his advice in our ventures, both online and offline, over the past 10 years.

A business gives children motivation for developing the skills and most importantly, helps to build the confidence and experience that they need to succeed in life.

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