- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2007

Home-schoolers generally are an employer’s delight, from my observation.

My father, who worked most of his life as a public school teacher or administrator, recently needed someone to deal with some complicated computer issues. When asking around, he heard the same name mentioned repeatedly, that of a young man who does computer networking and installation.

My father hired him. The young man completed the job beautifully in 1 hours and then charged a surprisingly reasonable amount. It turned out he is a home-school graduate attending a university, and he already has many business clients for his computer services.

This experience impressed my father regarding how home-schooling prepares one for college and professional life.

As home-school families reach the point when the children take on jobs whether walking a neighbor’s dog, cutting someone’s lawn or working at a local eatery important life skills are involved. As parents, we need to guide our children through these lessons as well as the academic ones.

Being on time, following the dress code or uniform requirements, learning the information needed for the job, carrying out the tasks and arranging transportation there and back are just part of their responsibilities. The young people also may have to communicate with others in a certain way: on a timecard, in computerized reports, by phone or by some other means.

I have always found, however, that parents must be involved, if unobtrusive, in the employment situation. Young people may not know labor law or the kinds of breaks or safety procedures to which they are entitled. The employer needs to know that these young people have attentive parents as active presences in their lives.

At the same time, part of developing financial responsibility and independence is learning habits of success in one’s job life. As a child faces new challenges, parents can explain how learning this particular skill will be important in all future activities.

“Of course your boss needs to know exactly how much was sold each day,” you might say. “When you have your own business, you’ll have to know this, too.” Or, “You may feel that being five minutes late is not important, but for the customer, that may mean frustration and canceling an order. Lost time equals lost sales.”

It’s also important to teach your child that family, not the job, must always come first.

“I know your boss would like for you to work on Sundays, but that is our day for church and our family time together. Tell your boss that you cannot work on Sundays, and he will understand.”

This actually helps the young person learn how to set boundaries on the job and create areas of “no trespassing” on one’s family life. If you have a tendency to be a workaholic, it’s very likely that your children have absorbed your work ethic. The good news is that employers love workaholics. The bad news is that you may see your children heading for trouble by taking on more than they can handle.

You can help both your child and the workplace by setting some reasonable restrictions.

“This is a part-time job, and you’re too tired to fulfill your school and other responsibilities. If you can’t cut back to the agreed-upon hours, it’s time to leave the job.”

Getting that first paycheck usually gives the young worker a sudden shock in terms of the amount of taxes and Social Security payments that come with employment. When children see that a big chunk of their pay goes to the government, it’s a good time to educate them about what taxes pay for and which things we think are worthy to support.

Civic involvement and choosing whom we support with our vote takes on new dimensions once young people feel that they are paying for the programs under discussion.

Managing one’s earnings is the most crucial lesson of all. Helping your children learn the value of saving, of weighing expenditures and of setting core financial principles, is the bedrock for their future economic stability.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer living in Maryland.

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