Self employment is one of our dreams (like many other home schoolers). We have had some experience, but have encountered enough difficulty to persuade us to improve our business education.
Dad is a skilled mechanic, and for many years he supported our family with this skill. For quite a few of those years he ran his own business, doing on site repair. God has since directed him to a different line of work where he is an employee, but there were some advantages, and we are all more than a little interested in small businesses. Maybe we don't charge enough, but most of our attempts were only marginally worth the effort. We have the 'self-employment' bug so we keep trying our hands at various projects.
Of all our projects, the landscaping and construction were the most profitable.
Despite their poor success, I have caught the ‘self employment’ bug and never completely
Working together as a family has been a very important part of our businesses because we are able to take on much larger projects than if we each worked separately. Taking on a whole project enables us to control the work environment thus making it much more pleasant for all of us. A great example of this is that we get to choose what we listen to, which is mostly classical music or someone reading Scripture. Also, because we are used to working together as a family, it increases our speed and proficiency to take jobs together. The size of our work group varies but we try to incorporate as many of us as possible so it is rare that there are less than two of us on any given job and on some jobs there are all eleven of us.
I personally feel that having been able to watch Dad, Mom and my older siblings work when I was young and to have assisted them where possible, enabled me in more recent years to learn those skills more readily. I am sure, however, that it was more difficult for Dad and Mom to incorporate us into the jobs when we were all younger and thus able to help less, but we have seen the fruit of their labor and patience as we can now take on larger and more complicated projects. The time we have spent together on jobs has not only been very profitable financially and instructionally, but also very enjoyable and we each have many good memories from the different jobs we have worked on together.
On some work projects there just isn't enough work for everyone, or the work requires skill not yet attained by little ones or it may simply be too dangerous at times to have little children under foot. At these times our little ones work by serving their older siblings in various ways. They do household chores, make meals and carry on the seasonal jobs. Sometimes we even pay for these services as they free up more skilled workers to serve at the worksite.
In 2001 Dad and the five older children finished construction of a building on a property near by. Sometimes us younger kids would help Mom prepare a picnic lunch to take to the worksite. We would pack it into a little red wagon which we took turns pulling. There was a long steep hill to go up, it was hard for us to get the wagon up. I think that sometimes at least two or three of us had to work simultaneously before we would finally get the wagon to the top. We were excited to be bringing lunch to the workers. Once we had the picnic tables all set up, we could run and call the workers. We would often bring them fresh, cold water and would use the opportunity to ask them a multitude of questions. We felt very important to be bringing them water and lunch.
Not only did our meal makers feel important but they were important because without fresh water and lunch the work crew wouldn't have gotten much done. We looked forward to the time when our cheerful lunch delivers would arrive on the scene with their questions and helpful hands. After lunch they would assist us by picking up all the garbage, bent nails and shingle scraps that were lying around. We always leave little things like that for them because we remember how much we wanted to make a little money when we were little. Sometimes one of the little children (4-8 years) would stay and help after lunch. We wouldn't usually have more than one child stay that way they weren't tempted to run off and play or get into trouble with the other child. One child tends to stays right there with you and
Over the years, on multiple jobs we have had, Dad and Mom have given us 'character bonuses'. Targeting a specific character quality, these were a form of praise. This was one way they showed us their desire for us to cultivate good character habits. The bonuses were for things like cheerfulness and diligence. Bonuses were not common so they always came as a surprise. While I never really gave much thought to my bonuses, I did at times think that I did not deserve them. At the same time, that character quality was something I really wanted so they did make me rethink how I did my work. Was I just doing the bare minimum, or was I doing my work as unto God? I recall once being praised for faithfulness. All I could think of, however, was my own laziness. Very rarely do I put my full concentration or energy into my work. Then again, I was not praised for diligence, but rather for faithfulness. I also remember taking initiative in a job I liked so I would not be given a different job. So to me, these character bonuses were a rebuke, because I knew that in some ways I did not deserve them.
While a few things I was praised for came somewhat easily to my personality, most were things for which I had been trained (and still needed more training). These bonuses were an expression of appreciation, but they were also a part of my training. I think, however, that the real training had been done earlier; for that, I am truly grateful to Dad, Mom, and my older siblings.
On several of our most recent construction jobs, especially those in 2005, Dad was unable to work with us for certain extended periods of time. He would come with us to the construction site in the morning and explain to us what we needed to do, then two or three times throughout the day he would stop in to see how things were going. It was a really great learning experience for us as we had to listen closely and ask pertinent questions until we grasped the details of what we had to do that day. Nathanael or I was in charge once Dad had left so we had to take command and be the responsible party, make sure things got done right, as well as, being able to explain the day's tasks to any team members who arrived after Dad had left. It was a really great learning opportunity for me in a field that I knew very little about. Of course there were also those times when we didn't ask enough questions and had to redo our work when Dad came back and discovered what a mess we had made. Those were the hard lessons that reminded us to make sure we understood what we had to do instead of just assuming that we understood. A job isn't finished until it's done right.
Again and again throughout the Scriptures the Lord commands that we do good to widows and orphans. He holds a special love in His heart for these defenseless ones, and as His children we aught to, also. During the past six or eight years, as we have been growing up and developing more business abilities, we have come in contact with an increasing number of widows. The world is not kind to the unprotected, so when they find that we will not take advantage of them, that we do good work and that we don't mind staying just to talk after the work is done, these elderly ladies open their hearts to us (and pass on the word to others of their friends!). Their needs range from raking leaves and putting on storm windows in the fall, to roofing sheds, re-glazing old windows, weeding flower beds and packing Christmas decorations. Most of all they need a friend to eat lunch with them and chat about the little things that affect their lives. They love to see the little children working with us and to have men around. Many of our widows are lonely, without children who care, and we have an opportunity to share God's love with them.
Serving widows does not necessarily mean we work for free. Many widows are very secure financially, but they need trustworthy help. Some, of course, do need to be served without financial obligations. We find it best to charge for our services (a flexible rate to meet needs) and then to gift back a portion if it seems appropriate. This helps them be grateful without cultivating an "I deserve this" mentality. We also will at times add an extra load of firewood to an order as a servive opportunity for us (more blessed to give...) and an unexpected blessing for her.
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