Learning Business

We have been teaching our kids business. Most school teachers like to interest the kids or at least let them know there is a potential use for this info (whatever it is, such as math or history) in their future employment at their job.

We assume our kids will see that a job is nice, but your employer has too much control over your life and the quality of that life. And so many people think self-employment is risky!

Everything we teach at our homeschool is presented in the context of business, not necessarily working to build someone else’s business.

So our kids learn what profit is and they learn to analyze business activities to determine if they are worthwhile. Not just in terms of profit, but in the area of human compassion and help.

They learn to value and protect an idea, because they know ideas are the raw material from which reality is made.

I am teaching my kids that people are more important than money. Maybe if business owners put some soul into their business activities, we can make the world a better place instead of just taking resources.

So many people seem to think that life is a contest to see who can personally command the most resources. If you can control so much resources that other people have to do without, then you are a success! I have a list of items that I wrote during the economic collapse of 2008. I have been sharing these ideas with my kids and I will share them below. I have been looking for an opportunity to publicize these ideas, and since i have been sharing them with my children, this is the forum for my Namaste Economics lesson.

Business people: Reduce costs, but avoid laying off employees as knee-jerk reaction.

Anyone can cut costs by slashing payroll, but if you think about it, your business is hurting because of a depressed economy. Layoffs make it worse. Like throwing gasoline on the fire. Try to keep your people working, but let them know they need to appreciate their job and work with you to be profitable. This is the time to be honest with your employees. If you are raking in profit and lay off workers so you can enjoy even more profits, you are a greedy scum and deserve to go our of business. Let employees know your financial situation and let them know you care about them and their families. Share the work and keep everyone working. This--not a government stimulus--will trickle down to the economy.

Go for free advertising. Do the Wave. Get a mascot. Use signs. Increased open hours. Friendly service and phone conversations.

Create added value-- Web site. Give your customers freebies. Free information keeps people coming back until they are ready to spend money at your establishment.

Workers: be honest. Dishonesty is grounds for termination. All other things equal, character will win the day.

Be early and not late. Let your boss know you like your job. Do not complain. Look for opportunities to make your boss more money. Your job is contingent on the profitability of the company, so look at things from management perspective and be flexible.
If you just want money for yourself and complain about the boss and policies, you will be a liability to the company. If you are flexible and let your boss know you are available to do whatever it takes to keep the business in profit, you will be an indispensable asset.

The fact is, everybody's time just became worth less. So everyone must be willing to work harder and longer to survive the quicksand economy. Teach this to your kids. High school kids will be hard pressed to find work because retirees are not leaving their jobs 'cause they lost their retirement savings. Teach them work ethic and other good character.

That concludes the notes I wrote in late 2008. Since then, I have put these things into practice, both as a business owner and as an employee at my wedding job. Both opportunities have proved the validity of my advice.

We did a website for driver ed that started as community service and ended up extremely profitable and also makes us very visible and credible. This post is about our homeschool. This is what my kids are learning from their parents. As I have said before:

To those who think I am doing my kids a disservice because they need a “schooling” experience to learn how to get a job and keep one, I respond that we will be OK; your kids can work for mine. At least if they do, they will be working for a fair and moral employer.

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Mock Trials

As you know, my children are very interested in trials and court room proceedings, thanks to Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney games. So when I heard that this week was Law week on Guam and that there would be a series of Mock Trials happening at the court house, I told the kids. All  three or my unschoolers were excited about the opportunity to witness a “real” trial in progress.

The Mock trials are put on by various public and private elementary and middle schools on Guam. And who is on trial? Fairy Tale characters.  Stephanie really wanted to come but tonight was youth group, which she also really looks forward to.

So I took Cassie and Eric to the court house and we went through the metal detector. A poster showed us the various trials taking place and which court room to head to. I gave the kids the choice of cases and they picked The Three Bears vs. Gold E. Locks  - The bear family was suing Golidlocks for having bad manners. Eric felt a better suit would have been for property damage.  I mean, really, how do you sue someone for having bad manners?

This particular trial was put on by 2nd graders from St. Anthony’s Catholic School. The kids did a great job in their trial. Cassie loved watching it, and I'm sure in her mind she was thinking about how well she could have done in the job. She was quick to point out discrepancies in the testimony and Eric and her were both disappointed that the attorneys did not do any cross examinations. Both felt Goldilocks should have been found guilty of the crime of bad manners, but more importantly property damage.

Tomorrow we plan to return and see if we can catch a murder trial. Perhaps the people vs. Dorothy Gale for 2nd degree murder of the wicked witch of the west. Steph will be able to join us.

 Iphone 051 Iphone 062

Mock trial pics from The People vs. Dorothy Gale 

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Cassandra’s Struggle with Reading

Cassie is still working on her reading. Funny how it is such a phenomenon, this reading. So many professionals and programs and innovations and money money money spent on teaching American kids to read. And we are so worried about when they learn to read; as if they will permanently miss out on information if they start late. As if the information will no longer be available.

Interestingly enough, we also had "professionals" tell us that it was no good for Kevin to read so early (he started to read at age two!). So...if a kid starts later or earlier than her peers, there are all sorts of negative consequenses. At least that's what we are led to believe. If it weren't for that fear, everyone would know they can teach their own kids to read. And we couldn't have that, could we? So the system makes itself indespensible by filling us with a fear of teaching our own kids. But...Uh...if the public school is so good, why can't the average parent, who is public-schooled, feel confident in his/her ability to teach a six-year-old how to read? Thats worth thinking about for a  minute.

So, back to Cassie. She cuddled with me as I read a book to her. At first, I started on page one and asked her to start reading. She was pretty disgusted--this is a story that mom reads TO me, not one I read! But before I complied and took my turn as reader, I had her read a paragraph. She read the three sentences perfectly, although clearly irked about it. She mumbled and slurred, but SHE CAN READ!

We talked about it for a bit. She agreed that she can read words and sentences, but pages full of words intimidate her. That's what's been the hold-up all this time. Colleen taught her phonics and letter names and sounds long ago at school. She just never found the confidence to dive in and start swimming. She continues to want to stay in only up to her ankles. I am not sure where to go from here. She likes TV and video games. She insists that reading will be "boring". Steph and Eric are right on top of that one! They exclaim how much fun it is to read and write. They show her books she will love. They tell her about stories that are super-interesting. She asks what the story is about, and they say, "You have to read it to find out. I am not going to explain the whole story to you."

And writing is part of reading, at least to Eric and Stephanie. They both write as voraciously as they read. How can you make a cartoon and express your hilarious idea in art if you cannot even write the words or dialogue? I hope the bigger kids will solve the problem from here. Cassie can read, but she is intimidated by pages of text. That is the assessment. We take it from there.

If you are reading this, you are witnessing homeschooling at work. The confidence that even though we do not know exactly what the deal is, we are not worried because we do know that:

-Kids want to learn.

-Reading is simple decoding and is not that mysterious.

-Comprehension is not separate from reading.

-Each child can learn at her own pace and will turn out just fine. The only reason it is a problem in schools is the teachers need all the kids on the same page for their own convenience and for crowd control. You just can't have kids of all reading levels in the same classroom, but it's no problem in a homeschool environment.

We do not know exactly what to do next with Cassie; this is uncharted waters for us. All of our other kids read early, not late. But we know it will all work out fine.

How can we admit we don't know what to do next at the same time as we brag that we know it will all be good, and it will be good very soon? Each child is different. Each family is different. Each child grows up in an age of the family. Kevin was in kindrgarten when I was about 24 years old. Cassie was in K when I was 45. Big difference. Kevin did not have older siblings, Cassie has a houseful of older helpers, mentors and tormentors. So it really is case-by-case and what worked for one kid (or was a hassle), will be irrelevant for another child.

Maybe Cassie will not be much of a reader, maybe she will be our biggest reader. Either way, the decision will be hers, and external forces will not determine her level of literacy and her level of enjoyment in reading. And certainly, no professional with a program will be judging her, medicating her, grading her or comparing her. How and when she learned to read will be a matter for the history books, an academic exercise with no practical value except at family gatherings when we periodically review each child's history. That is the only context in which Cassie's late entry into the ranks of the readers and writers will ever matter--a family joke!

But what is next? Got to get her into fun books. Easy books are too young for her, so it may be a challenge to find easy readers at her interest level. That is the biggest challenge I see for late readers. She can read parts of the Wild, Wild World book about animals. She can read some stories on her DSi. I guess I will update this journal with her reading development. But today I get to announce that Cassie can read!

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Dad praises Steph

Yesterday Colleen reported Stephanie's credit toward industrial education.

She was quite impressed with the fact that Steph did the work so mom did not have to. I am impressed for a different reason.

A few weeks ago, I predicted that we would see a new confidence in Stephanie as her dive shop mentors teach and encourage her to do physical and mechanical things such as:

-Fill and repair scuba air tanks

-Change or jump a battery in a truck or van.

-change or tighten a belt on an engine or electric motor

-clean an engine part with special equipment and cleaning solution.

This is not a complete list by any means, but it is indicative of the kind of things she is learning. More important than the specific tasks she is learning is the confidence she now enjoys.

Just a couple of weeks ago, if I asked her to open the hood of my truck and check the battery connections to be sure they are tight enough, she would have given me an incredulous look like,"you actually expect me to figure out how to open a dirty greasy truck hood?!"

A few days ago, I asked her to help me jump-start one of the driving school cars. First, she did not give me a look--not any kind of blonde-chick look. Then, without being asked to, she went to the neighboring shop and borrowed jumper cables. Then she opened the hood of my truck and the car. I hooked up the cables to the truck and she helped with the other end. She learned how to jump a car, but more importantly, she attacked the task with absolute confidence and no hesitation.

This is happening in all kinds of ways. She is no longer intimidated by things that require tools and manipulation.

And I predicted this result. I keep carrying on about "self-imposed limitations" and I maintain that these unnecessary limitations are counterproductive and totally useless. I do believe Stephanie is beginning to realize I am right and it is better to be confident and competent than hesitant and fearful.

This new confidence in my daughter is far more impressive and important than the mere task of hooking up the stove; it is indicative of a much larger and more exciting trend. My beautiful delicate strawberry-blonde baby is becoming an industrial powerhouse!

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Stephanie the Mechanic

I was blessed today with a brand new stove. What a sweetie my hubby is. Actually, he’s also very practical as our current stove is a fire hazard waiting to happen. We’ve already had two electric fires on the stove and burned out two burners. I often get zapped while cooking on the front top burner if I’m using a metal fork on a metal pot. I learned quickly to use wooden spoons or silicone rubber ones.

So today i’m the proud owner of a new smooth top electric range. I remember my mom had one of the first ever of these types of stoves, back in the ‘70s. We were so retro I thought.

These stoves have come along way since the 70s. Ours is a cool speckled grey black cook top.

When Dad brought it home, we had to hook up the power cord so that we could plug it in. It didn’t come pre-installed. Stephanie, who recently has learned several new mechanical skills, promptly took charge and figured out how to hook the wires up. I was so proud of her. And thankful since I really didn’t want to be the one on the floor trying to put it together. I’m just getting too old for that.

But Steph came through for us and did so in a cheerful manner. My vegetarian chili was finished on our new stove (I had to start cooking it on the old one, then had it on pause while we made the transfer).

So now I can cook. Thanks Steph! She’s well onto earning herself some credits in Industrial Education. (Shop class) – back in Canada when i was in high school the girls took Home Ec and the boys took Industrial Ed. No gender stereotyping in our family!

Bugspray the Cat

I do not know where to draw the line between education, life and just plain fun. In our house, the lines are even blurrier than in most. We do what we do and look for ways to enrich whatever experiences come our way and to encourage the children in what they are most interested in and what they do best.

For Eric, it is definitely creative pursuits. He also enjoys pure learning and trying something difficult and getting it right. But his greatest strength is his imagination. His comics are getting better and a few have actually made me laugh out loud. The ability to do that could be worth a lifetime of income. So we encourage his art. He participates in some online forums where people share their art. One of them is Flipnote Hatena. Flipnotes are a game that comes with the Nintendo DSi. It’s like when you draw a cartoon on the corner of a notebook and on each page the character moves a bit. Flipping the pages creates a moving animation. This is done electronically and is a tool for kids to use to make their own animated cartoons.

Eric recently has been very interested in getting random people to comment. I guess he wants to see what it takes to get people to comment. It’s not easy to get readers to look at what you do and be bothered to write something. It is an inexact science and I don’t know the secret. In some forums, you just go around saying nice things to people and they come back and say nice things to you. I saw that on one writing site. Someone had a Thanksgiving poem with each line starting with a  letter in the word Thanksgiving. I can never remember what those are called, but I did them in second grade. So I was less than impressed when I saw this author had dozens of comments after only a few hours. “T” is for the niceness of the day. “H” is for how am I gonna thaw this bird in only four hours. “A” is for and I don’t even like turkey, and on like that…

So Eric has been trying to involve his readers. He has tried a couple of strategies, but his most successful is Bugspray the Cat. Bugspray is not even an animated cat. He has one page with a very nice pic of a splotchy cat and the words wrap around the cat: “Here is Bugspray the cat. You can send him toys, water and food. If he does not get enough, he will die.”

So those who want to participate can not just write comments, but can participate. I thought for sure he copied the idea from somewhere. But he says no. And one of his commenters said, “cute and original! Here is some stuff for Bugspray.” And there was a painstakingly hand-drawn picture of a water bottle labeled H2O and a bowl of food decorated with little fishes. Also a mouse toy and what looked like fish crackers.

He has nine comments after two days. He has collected for Bugspray: one smashed bug (with the comment “here you go”), a dumptruck load of cat food (“by all means, Bugspray will  never die!”), a personalized food bowl with built-in water dish and a couple of toys, and many other nice items, each drawn by hand by people who took time to play Eric’s game he made up. This kind of creativity floors me. I can’t believe he built a game that people like to play and they invest quite a bit of time in drawing stuff for Bugspray the cat.

Eric told me last night that he just likes to make other people write the word Bugspray. He laughs when he sees he made someone write bugspray. Now I laugh too. If I were given an assignment to get random strangers to write the word bugspray in a public forum, I don’t know if I could. But Eric assigned it to himself and it’s working!

I was going to write about naming animals. We have always had fun naming animals.  Now we got mamma cat named Pillage (her littermates were Pirate, Pilfer, Plague, oh, and Plunder). Her kittens are Pumpkin, Pandemic (guess who thought that one up) Parachute, and Popcorn. Sometimes we fight over the names. Our previous litter, now grown, was Applesauce (destroyer of iphones), Pineapple, Soy Sauce and Efflie, short for efflorescence.

It’s all lots of fun and we think of names for animals we don’t have. Like Ginger and Sesame. Or Namikuji.

The little kids are reading the Wild Wild World book with hundreds of paragraphs about animals. Eric says Cassie wants to learn to read so she can read that book. And she can read many of the articles now. Sometimes our most fun times are also our most productive times.

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What We’ve been up to this week

This last week has been very educational for both children and parents.
Cassie and Eric have been to Underwater World twice in 3 days. They are looking in books to learn more about some of the fish and sharks they saw and also research about sharks they do not get to see at the aquarium, such as Great Whites.

Eric is teaching Cassie to use Wikipedia, of all things.
Eric says, "I should use Wikipedia more to find out things instead of always asking you, dad."
Cassie said,"I will be using Wikipedia a lot when I learn how to read.”

She spends time reading with her mommy, but still lacks confidence in reading. The two little kids have been caught together reading a book about animals. There are lots of pictures and a series of Q & A about the animals. When they are in the mood, they retain just about everything they read in this book. Eric reads to Cassie and it's so cute!

Eric has been asking me a lot of questions about history and science. He is learning a lot, but it's useless to try to recount it all. That would be more work than answering all the questions the kids ask! He uses Stephanie as a resource. She helps him look things up, answers some of his questions and gives him her editorial commentary on things. They all help each other, but to them, they are not sharing resources, they are just having fun. (Shouldn't that be illegal? Having fun while learning?)


Steph earned her PADI open water scuba diving certification this week. She has completed 5 dives and will begin advanced training this weekend. She is also learning to run the business, which is a dive shop and spear fishing shop. PICT0853
In addition, the instructors there are acting as mentors and tutors for her. Dr. Richard is a Vietnam combat veteran and Navy Seal as well as a Medical Doctor. Winnie is a certified teacher who would rather dive than waste time trying to teach school. Both of these teachers are serious about their role in Steph's education. She had fun playing chess and dominos with her dive instructors in between dives and customers and filling tanks with compressed air. We are thrilled with this opportunity for her to learn from these people, both of whom are global people with tons of life experiences and immense stores of knowledge.

Dr. Richard showed us his dog tag with a bullet hole right through it. It is on a chain with the smashed bullet that tumbled through his flesh when he got shot three times during his last day in the jungle. You can read about those things, but you cannot see the real thing and hear it from the mouth of the wounded veteran if you are stuck in a classroom with 29 kids your age and a certified teacher, or even at the kitchen table doing math worksheets with your homeschooled siblings. Too many activities, instigated for the purpose of making sure everyone knows you are out there being socialized, can preclude the possibility of taking time to fully enjoy and learn from this kind of impromptu meeting. Combat veterans do not always want to talk; you cannot just make an appointment for them to open up. It must be the right timing and the right people. They will not expose their inner demons and scarring memories to someone who is not interested or to someone who is morbidly interested.

When I meet a combat veteran, I listen respectfully and let them know I am open. They often take advantage of this openness and I am sure it is therapeutic for them. I know it is a uniquely powerful experience for me and, sometimes, my kids.

Can you imagine inviting this guy to speak to a classroom of kids about his experiences in battle? Nope. Ain't gonna happen. Unschooling may have weaknesses; I am certain our critics are keeping score, but  I know our style of education opens doors of opportunity other can only dream of. And if they do not dream of it, that's too bad; it means the ability to even think of possibilities has been crushed by a slavish adherence to a school mentality.

I have listened to several veterans from various wars tell their tales. I could write a book about these men. I am honored to know them, to hear their stories, and to perhaps help them release a little of the pressure.

Hey, I am still getting an education, too. When I stop learning, how am I going to tell my kids to keep learning?

So there is some info about our week of unschooling. Good luck matching that with a program or curriculum!

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We have decided to start this journal to keep track of our children's life lessons learned in our homeschool journey. We believe that as parents we are accountable for our own children's education. It is up to us to make sure we prepare them to be active and responsible citizens, not a drain on society. So this blog will be a place where we can share our daily lessons and activities that we incorporate into our homeschool.

About Me

Mother to 9 children, 5 on earth and 4 in heaven.
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Christian Unschoolers
Unschooling is learning as you live life. All of life involves learning. This is what we "teach" our children.


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