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Please Hold

In the springtime, when the weather is nice and bright, I have a heck of a time getting the kids to think about school. As a homeschooling mom, over the years I've learned to give them a little room and take a couple of "days off" to do some spring cleaning and have some outside play. I may not give the kids formal assignments, but I do find other ways to engage them in creative thought, team building, and personal development.

For example, my younger son, Kiserian, is a budding entrepreneur. At age 6, he is convinced that he will soon have a successful business promoting his own products. Last year, he started a paper airplane business that was moderately successful. He made 10, sold six (for $1 each) and the other four met with unforeseen casualties (little sister cut up three of them because she was jealous that he had money and little brother thought paper was a good source of fiber, so he ate it). This year, Kiserian wants to take his business to the next level, so today, we had a marketing meeting — Kiserian, Imani, Kamari, and me. Prior to the meeting, we set some ground rules:

"Honey, this meeting is to give create ideas for you to better your paper airplanes, so that you can earn more money."

"All I have to do is charge more. How about $5?"

"We went over this before. The people who are going to buy your airplanes either don't have $5, or if they do, they are probably not going to spend their $5 on a paper airplane."

"Ahhh, Mommy. You make it hard for a brother to make a buck."

(I've decided to reduce their TV viewing from an hour a day to an hour a week.)

I start the meeting by saying why we are assembled. "Kiserian needs our help in developing his business."

My oldest son couldn't wait to chime in. "Why do I need to be here? He's not sharing his money with me."

I growl at him. "We are a team, and as part of a marketing team, you throw out ideas to help better the product and its position in the marketplace."

"Mommy, are you serious?" my daughter says, slightly puzzled, but not disrespectful.

"Yes. Let's spend five minutes helping Kiserian sell more paper airplanes."

The three of them went at it and I took meticulous notes. I marveled at their suggestions of offering a brightly colored paper series for the spring, adding paper clips to the planes to increase their flight time, and customizing the planes with drawings and/or stickers.

"Oooh, oooh, drawing. I can help do that," chimes Niara, dying to jump into the meeting. She was kinda upset that she hadn't been included.

"That's a great idea, Niara. We can talk about it later. Right now, you're on baby duty."

"Why do I have to be on baby duty? You said he's not a baby anymore."

"You're right. He's not a baby, but he needs a playmate."

"Okay, fine!" she stumps off with her sagging face, looking down at the floor as if she just lost a puppy.

After our very productive meeting, the kids had lunch, and reflected the questions people tend to ask me about homeschooling, and how I track progress with my kids. On this day, in just 30 minutes or so, I taught them skills that they will need in college, in the workplace, in marriages. I used to think that I was overzealous when I pulled together these corporate meetings. No, this isn't the first time we've done this. I took a communications course last summer, which inspired me to try a lot of new ideas, including the marketing meetings, a class I'm developing for my kids on etiquette, and another on networking.

I didn't plan on doing any of these kinds of activities when I started homeschooling three years ago, but I don't think I'm crazy anymore, especially when I get results like this little surprise:

"My mommy's right here. Please hold," Niara says, as she walks into the room and hands me my cell phone.

"Niara, who is this? I didn't even hear it ring."

"It's your friend."

My daughter has an old PDA, a big purse, and a lot of paper in her hands. I'm suspicious.

"Hey girl," says the voice on the phone. It's my friend Lena. "Girl, I'm coming to your house to be homeschooled."

"Why do you say that?"

"Your daughter just told me she was starting her own business and had a meeting by herself because you guys didn't invite her to yours."

Oprah, the Donald, and Mr. Gates...look out.

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