Considerations for the 2014 School Year
Hopefully you’ve finished whatever planning you need to get started this school year. My wife and I generally sit down at the end of each month to prepare for next month’s school – but for many, school has already started. The question I was prompted with this morning was simply this – is it really productive or is it time-consuming busy work? What does your child (or if you are a student – what do you) need to learn this year? Some considerations:
1. Everyone needs to learn the basics skills of math, English, writing, and communicating…most of this can be taught to the average person by the time they are in their early teens. Where are you on this process?
2. Character – this is often one of those things you assume is just going to happen along the way. The problem is, this is not realistic thinking. Diligence, thoroughness, responsibility,…(and at least 46 more) are some of the traits that come to mind when someone brings up character. Chances are your school curriculum doesn’t have specific course work on these, but it seems evident that we all need a stronger focus here.
3. Wisdom. Wisdom is creating a worldview that sees things for what they really are – it’s God’s viewpoint. Without wisdom, our decisions will always be wrong. This seems to be paramount, but completely absent from most school plans.
4. Skills needed for the future. Skills that translate into future employment, succesful marriages, parenting, etc…this one is also completely left out of most school curriculums. Most will ignore this until they finish college. Don’t wait. Build this right into your high school program. For example, consider the major areas of business and actually start one – manufacture something or resell something made by someone else – rebrand or white label if you can (meaning, have someone else build it with your brand name on it). Learn the marketing, sales, operational, and financial aspects of running this business, and build some of your other learning into the process – such as communication skills, and character traits.
If you take the average school program – perhaps 20% of it is important, the rest is filler. We’ve been programed to think the day should be filled with textbooks and homework assignments. We should be sitting in the school room all day, reading, writing, watching something educational, or listening to a lecture. The world around us rewards busy people – but gives little credit to the person who produces amazing results in a few minutes. This year, try measuring results vs. activity. Consider stripping out anything that is busy work, stop thinking about learning as an 8 hour process done in a school room, and consider the best ways to really learn the things needed for a successful life. Then, knock out whatever course work your state requires during the pockets of time that happen in between the meaningful experiences. You might find that your school room time can be measured in minutes rather than hours.
© 2013, David Stelzl
I’ve just arrived back from my trip to Singapore – Wednesday night I was privileged to share with some of the fathers homeschooling in Singapore, hosted by Pastor Eddie Yeo and ATI Director for Singapore, Thomas Teh.
Why Do You Homeschool?
Of all the things Christians don’t agree on, 90% of them do agree to send their children to public school – yet there is a growing population of homeschooling families that are catching the vision. In Singapore it’s not as easy as it is in the states – there are more restrictions, more tests, and more government intevention. We started our meeting by asking the questions, “Why do you homeschool?” and “Do your children know why you homeschool?” It is important to know why you do something when it’s not the natural and easy choice.
Through the evening I shared on a number of topics including:
- Vision: The importance of parents having a vision for where each child is headed – do you know what it is your are working to accomplish in each one of your children? Each child is different, has different strengths and weaknesses, and is preparing to do something unique. Our job is to equip them – not just for a job, but for life.
- Wisdom: We talked a lot about wisdom and how to help children gain an understanding of wisdom, make wise choices, and become a wise person. This is likely the most important thing a parent can be doing in a homeschool program. Read Proverbs and you’ll see why. Then start working on this with your family.
- Fathers: Fathers are critical to the process. In so many families, the mother is carrying out this responsibility alone while the father is at work. We’ve made it a priority in our family to work together on school. I spent a great deal of time explaining how fathers can get involved and why they need to. Especially as we are training up young men, it is important that they have a role model – that comes through the father. Fathers, are you really engaged with your children?
- Time: Finally I shared some of my secrets for fitting it all it all in. It’s not secret that I travel for a living…speaking, teaching, and coaching. If I am not traveling, chances are I am not making a living. So how do I balance my time? Well for one thing, I’ve cut out anything that is not really important, but there’s much more to it. As we go along here, I will be posting more and more about time management and how to get the most out or your 24 hour day.
Thanks Thomas and Eddie, for hosting this important meeting!
© 2013, David Stelzl
Joseph, Son of Jacob (called Israel)
There are many things we can learn from Joseph – the son of Jacob (Israel). I was reading this morning as I was getting ready to head to a client’s office, and was again struck by how God worked in this man’s life. A few business lessons we can all take from this man:
- “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man. (Genesis 39:2)” These two comments go hand-in-hand. God was with him, and so he was successful; successful after having been thrown in a pit by his brothers and sold into slavery. Sometimes God’s ways are confusing – He moves his people to where He wants them to be…but there Joseph is, in the Egyptian’s home, and God is causing him to prosper!
- “His (Joseph’s) master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper…Verse 3).” What a testimony! This is evangelism at it’s best! Joseph’s works and the blessing upon him are apparent to this Egyptian, and he gives God the credit.
- In verse 5 we see the Lord blessing the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake, “And the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.” Notice, both his house and field are blessed.
Our success comes from God
His mercy is everlasting, and His blessing is apparent on those who are committed to Him. I have to imagine that Joseph accepted God’s will for where he should be – but then God blessed him in such a way that it was apparent even to a man who did not worship the same god as Joseph. Suddenly Joseph’s testimony is not so hard to share – it speaks for itself as God’s blessing is poured out. But then the Egyptian’s home is also blessed. The work that Joseph is doing in this man’s home is blessed – the Egyptians home and work are both blessed because of Joseph’s faithfulness to God as he serves his master. This is a lesson every Christian business man/entrepreneur needs to learn. It should be taught early on as part of the homeschool entrepreneurship curriculum.
As I read these words I was reminded to commit the works of my hands to the Lord. To ask Him to bless the work of my hands, and to bless those companies I am working with, for my sake, as He did for Joseph. But also, that it would be apparent to those I work with, that it is God’s blessing on me and not my own greatness. I was also reminded that this is one of those lessons everyone of my children must embrace before going off into some full-time venture.
Parallels From Proverbs 1
But wait! If you have not read Proverbs 1 in a while, go back and read it. This passage parallels Joseph’s experience. God is giving him wisdom and success just like Proverbs says. But there are two people Solomon cautions his son about. Two people who will threaten to undo all that Joseph has worked for; the strange woman and the evil man. The next few verses describe the Egyptian’s wife – the strange woman, who threatens to undo Joseph. Joseph’s response lands him in prison, but regardless of where he is, God is still blessing him and all that is around him. Joseph is not questioning where God is directing him, he’s just working unto the Lord and God is blessing him where ever he is at that time. It would be wise to prepare ahead for this encounter…this is what Solomon is saying to his son as he instructs him in wisdom.
© 2013, David Stelzl
Last night I taught a sales training class in Sydney Australia, this morning I am conducting a similar session in India, and later this afternoon I’ll be hosting a meeting in Chicago, but not before having breakfast in Charlotte, NC. How is this all possible? – my company is a micro business, a one person entity. Suddenly going global is possible…in fact, in the digital age we live in, the impossible is suddenly possible. Only one of these meetings will require travel…
The Global Software Company
In our most recent Raising Entrepreneurs Strategic Planning Workshop I met a young man pursuing mobile app development. Ten years ago it would be have been nearly impossible for one person to own a software company – today, the “Company” isn’t really necessary. One person can write, maintain, and support an application – in fact, many applications. And it won’t take investors or millions of dollars in advertising to launch.
Jonathan started building apps in January 2012. BlackBerry had a promotion to send free PlayBooks to anyone who could develop a “qualifying” app. Jonathan was looking to come up with something unique – out of the box. His research started with his own family – interviewing his siblings. His older brother, a real-estate agent, recommended he create a way of calculating Canadian and American mortgages – a sort of mortgage calculator. With the goal of qualifying for the free PlayBook, Jonathan took this idea, and expanded on it to also compare mortgages side-by-side. The entire app took only a couple of weeks to develop and was published for free on the BlackBerry App World. Jonathan was published, and received his free PlayBook.
With this success behind him, Jonathan attended the BlackBerry Jam in Montreal in July 2012. This gave him insight into the newly announced BlackBerry 10 OS (Smart phone operating system) – giving him the tools he needed to begin developing apps for BlackBerry’s latest innovation. As part of the deal, Blackberry provided Jonathan with a free BB10 Alpha smart phone, and him promised a production-level device if he would complete an app for it. By October the app was complete. Today it sells for $0.99 on BlackBerry World, providing end-users with book keeping and related financial management functions. $0.99 may not sound like much, but in the world of digital downloads and mobile apps, a developer with several applications that take off globally, could be a great shape. Once an application is complete – the cost of goods sold (COGS) is zero…Jonathan’s apps are available on these links:
In James McQuivey’s book, Digital Disruption, he explains that, old mindsets and presuppositions about what a company needs to look like, and what investments and resources will be required, are the road blocks that will keep companies from succeeding. He says, “Digital disruption is a mindset that ultimately leads to a way of behavior; a mindset that bypasses traditional analog barriers, eliminating the gaps and boundaries that prevent people and companies from giving customers what they want in the moment that they want it.”
“The digital disruptor’s mindset is one in which the default answer is yes, This isn’t the result of sheer optimism. It’s an optimism born out of facts. And it’s based on exploiting three elements of today’s innovation infrastructure: cheap or free tools, digital platforms, and digital consumers.” Suddenly the homeschooler has the home advantage – our kids have access to some of the most powerful development, marketing, and selling tools the world has to offer. And much of it is nearly free as long as you have a computer and reasonable Internet access.
© 2013, David Stelzl
In the movie Courageous, Adam Mitchell (Played by Alex Kendrick) asked a group of co-workers, “When did you first become a man?” It’s a great question – and the answer among the group is unclear. This leads to a ceremony where these men commit to raise their sons to be men of Character.
Five years ago my son David and I headed off to the Adirondack mountains for six days. David was thirteen and my wife and I had agreed that this would be a great time for me to spend some extended time with my oldest son to get him thinking less like a boy and more like a man. To create a point of transition much like the ceremony proposed in Courageous. I’ve referred to this trip often in our Raising Entrepreneurs Seminars to encourage fathers to get more involved in the process of raising their sons. So recently a father wrote asking me exactly what we talked about for six days…it’s a great question so I thought I would provide a summary here.
Getting the Idea – Raising Modern Day Knights
The idea originated after reading Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood, by Robert Lewis. In this book he encourages fathers to consider three aspects:
- a vision
- a code of conduct
- a cause
This is basically what we did.
I chose the Adirondacks because that is where I learned a lot about my relationship with God and observed men leading young men. As a boy I would attend camp sessions at Northern Frontier Camp, and later I became a counselor over several summers, following in the footsteps of some of my mentors. When I was 16 I participated in a 5 day backpacking trip through the high-peaks region, and later at age 18 attempted to climb the highest peak (Mt. Marcy) in January. We came close but some of our team experienced frostbite and a case of hypothermia, forcing us to retreat back to our base camp. The decision to turn back was a testimony to the maturity of the men leading this trip.
I wanted my son to share the experiences I had in the high-peaks. It was a way to share a memory of something very special to me. But it also took us a long way from anything we’ve experienced living in the south. It took us away from people, distractions, friends, and even the safety of being in more familiar surroundings. It pushed both of us to our limits, and required us to work together without any outside help – other than God himself.
This trip required more than a simple packing of our gear. We trained together for two months, running, working out, and mountain biking together, with great anticipation. We pulled out maps and books, researched the latest laws, purchased special equipment, and talked a lot about what to expect. There’s no way to predict all of the challenges – so instead we committed our time to prayer, took what precautions we could, and trusted that God would watch over us. We did take a satellite phone with us in case of emergency. Our learning experiences included:
- Our packs were heavy – 6 days is a long trip when you’re 13 years old. Think of it this way, 13 year olds eat like men but are half the size. We took little in the way of clothing, but made sure we had enough to eat. You can see David’s pack in the picture above. This is a man-sized pack.
- The Adirondacks are rugged. I’ve gotten soft living in the south. We’ve hiked extensively in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, but there is just nothing here that seems to compare to the High-Peaks in the Adirondacks. We learned to not complain, but rather to keep a pace good for both of us and to share the load.
- We learned to serve each other – cooking together, doing the camp chores, and watching out for each other.
- One night we sat up in a major storm – up on the side of a mountain in severe thunder storms and massive down-pour. Some the tents around us washed out – praise God ours did not. In the morning we had to make our way over Mount Marcy in what might turn into another thunder storm. We brought this matter to the Lord, wondering what kind of sign he might provide – how would we know for sure? We were fearful. An amazing thing happened, and we believed it was confirmation to go- we did and it worked out to be the right decision. David saw God answering prayers.
- At one point we could not find a place to camp due to flooding – it was late in the day and we were exhausted. We had to push on two more miles, nearly at the end of our own strength (David was so exhausted he fell face first several times, fighting to keep going). We cried out to God for help and he miraculously provided a site for us. Again, we saw something that only God could have done.
- There were other events – but working together through these situations with much prayer and discernment served as a powerful lesson in what it means to lead and take responsibility, and most importantly what it means to trust God when in need.
Taking Time to Talk
I came to this trip prepared to talk to my son. The three areas above served as an outline, for which I prepared before going. This was not a “Birds and Bees” discussion – it was about vision, conduct, and cause. What does it mean to be a man – a man of God and a man of character?
Vision – vision is a long range goal. We often talk about this in business, but how often do fathers really work on the long range goal with their sons? I think most fathers think their job is to get their children through high-school and into college. And then its over. We talked about what it means to be successful in God’s eyes and what disciplines and character must be built over the coming years to get there. Success means walking in victory with Christ, having a successful marriage one day, successful family – children walking with the Lord, success in providing for every aspect of your family’s needs, and becoming a light to the World as we carry out the special callings God puts on our lives.
Conduct – the Bible is full of cause and effect. Good choices and bad choices, and the results. People try to dismiss this as Old Testament thinking, but the Bible doesn’t read like that. We talked about the need for Godly character and making commitments. We talked about what God demands His people to be like and how Christ empowers us to be like Himself. We talked about freedom in Christ and the grace given to us as believers – and we talked about the need to remain pure – to confess our sins and steer clear of hidden sin.
Cause – we talked about life purpose and seeking out the calling God has prepared for us – our gifts and talents and how they are to be used by God. We talked about having something worth living for and worth dying for. Our cause is Christ and the more we understand about who God is, and who we are in Christ, the more victorious we will be when we hit a challenge.
We talked about moving away from all play and taking on the challenge of building for the future – Godliness, Godly Character, and equipping for the future – vocation, marriage, family, and service.
Taking on the Challenge
I wanted to challenge my son physically and spiritually. I wanted him to act like a man in the face of hardship and fear. I wanted us to learn to work as a team and to be in prayer. I wanted him to learn to carry his burden without complaining and to work hard. He rose to the occasion. There were times when I was hurting and he offered to carry more. Often he would cook our meals after a long day of hiking. I wanted him to prove to himself that he had more endurance than he thought…and he did. I also wanted to express to him my gratefulness for him and all that he did for me on this trip…I wanted him to know that I really love him and am willing to lay down my life for him.
This is a memory…we often look back on the pictures and video we took. There are times when his peers are going off to some activity that we don’t feel is wise. In most cases a young man would feel left out, and perhaps dwell on missing out on all the fun stuff. We’ve continued to take trips into the mountains, biking and backpacking – winter and summer. These memories are a constant reminder that, while we may not participate in some of the local activities, we do participate in some amazing things that others will never get to do. This trip was one of those amazing experiences, and David often refers to it as one of the most memorable experiences.
The Good News
This September, my second son Jonathan and I will be trekking through the Adirondacks! Stay tuned for some great pictures this fall.
© 2013, David Stelzl
Is it age 25 or maybe 15? How young is too young?
We completed our final day on Saturday…it was exciting to see how God brought together just the right group of fathers and sons this month – several were just getting started with their business plans and so we were able to put some focus on how to get started on the right foot. Half of our group traveled all the way from Canada, and the rest from the southeast. My oldest daughter and son also joined us for parts of the workshop to refine their own plans. And of course we catered our food from Something Gourmet – David and Sarah’s (son and daughter) Sugar Nook, now operating under a new name as a Sole Proprietor owned by David, who works closely with Sarah. (Our guests commented numerous times of the wonderful meals David and Sarah put together for this event!)
Start Your Business Early
I encourage young people to get started early. Our college systems would have you believe that you need several degrees and years of experience before you can do anything meaningful…that is not the case. Another deception is that it takes years of entry-level work experience before you can do anything significant for a client, or create a brand of expertise in any area. If we look to the world’s ways, that is probably right – but God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).
How Long Does It Take To Get Wisdom?
How long did it take Solomon to get wisdom? (II Chron. 1:12) Did he spend years in school to gain that wisdom? No. When I read his story in scripture, it would seem that God granted this wisdom quickly as he demonstrated faithfulness to God. God can do that same miracle in our lives too. But notice, Solomon is not seeking to be smart in order to be the smartest guy around – he’s seeking wisdom to carry out God’s calling (II Chron. 1:10). When God asks him what he would like, he does not seek to be rich like many of us would probably do. His heart is set up doing things God’s ways, and so God is pleased with his request (II Chron. 1:11) and does honor him with both wisdom and understanding. The scripture then adds that God granted him prosperity in addition to his wisdom (II Chron. 1:12).
In the end, God wants us to know that His is the Lord of Hosts – that He is God (Stated over 60 times in the Major Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel).
Developing the Business Plan
Saturday’s goals were to build on the work we did around mission statements and people groups on Thursday and Friday. We looked at identifying the needs of the people – this is the key to developing what business owners refer to as adjacent markets, offerings that parallel what might be your core offering. We also looked at the capabilities needed for each business, with a goal of developing them over the next 3 to 5 years. From there, we looked at developing the value proposition – divergence and focus, and a brand.
The second half of our day focused on specific goals and target numbers – metrics by which a business owner measures progress and success. Then moving to specifics using our planning templates, we developed 90 day goals. If you are considering starting a business, this type of exercise provides a simple way to explore business planning to create a bridge from text book learning to practical business development. It’s a great step from high school and college level learning… Our next workshop will likely be late summer – stay tuned for specific dates, I hope to see you there.
© 2013, David Stelzl
Eight years ago when my oldest son was just ten years old, my wife was out with him at a Physical Therapy appointment. While waiting on the appointment, my wife saw a wooden stretching platform for ankles – something that looked fairly simple to make, however the craftsmanship was not that great. She asked the Therapist about it – it turns out they were buying them locally and reselling them to patients with ankle problems.
After some discussion the Therapist agreed to let David try his hand at supplying them. For eight years now David has been supplying that therapist with “Wedges” or what we call “foot boards”. With his higher-quality product, the other therapist working in that office began ordering, and David began to take his idea to other therapy offices around the Charlotte area. Over the past 2 years he has created brochures and placed them in running stores and other athletic stores, selling direct to the public.
It’s a fairly simple piece of equipment, built at 30 degrees to help stretch the calves and ankles. He builds them out of cabinet grade plywood, adds a reinforcement bar under the platform you stand on, and uses an abrasive tape to keep you from slipping down the board. Occasionally people request different angles – which he will do for a slight up charge. He’s also started making two sizes, a standard size which is about 15 inches long, and a compact version for easy storage.
Just recently my therapist recommended I get one after experiencing some ankle problems on a recent backpacking trip. Lucky me, I know someone who can get me a good deal on one.
© 2013, David Stelzl
I’ve posted some more pictures on my business blog – these are from my stay in Sydney…today I’ll be headed back to Melbourne, Australia for the weekend Raising Entrepreneurs Conference…if you live out this way, I hope to see you there. Check out events page for more details. If you’re in the US, be sure to check out the dates and locations for our spring events in NH, OH, and NC coming up.
© 2013, David Stelzl
I’m just beginning my work week here in Melbourne, Australia, after a restful weekend of site seeing and adjusting to the local time. You can see more pictures of the city here: http://davidstelzl.com/2013/04/07/melbourne-australia-day-2/
As I travel around there are always opportunities to meet people – which is something i come to really enjoy…Just yesterday I met a couple from Boston and we got to talking about and family – and of course, homeschooling came up.
Are You Really Homeschooling?
Do you get asked about your homeschooling? I really believe homeschooling is the best way. So when someone starts asking about homeschooling, I like to have answers – good answers. If homeschooling really is the best thing for my kids, I don’t want to be on the defensive. Rather, I’d like to leave those I am talking with, questioning their own values and belief system. My program should sound better than theirs if they’ve simply followed the state run education program…
One of the first questions this couple asked me was, “Do you teach them yourself?” Well, if you homeschool, the answer should be “Yes!” – this goes for fathers as well as mothers. Fathers, please don’t say, “My wife does the teaching.” If that’s your answer, your homeschool needs some re-engineering.
This couple mentioned that they have some friends in Boston who some homeschool – however their friends, along with several other families, all send their kids to a man who is a “Trained” teacher, and he teaches them. This is not homeschooling – it’s a small private school.
I know the state would not recognize this family’s “private school” as such, but it is in almost all respects. Homeschooling happens within the family, so I explained the difference. With prepared answers we have an opportunity to share Biblical principles and Christ with others…when people hear that our approach makes sense, it causes them to question their own philosophies. It also provides a way to share Christ as we share the wisdom of Biblical principles.
Are You A Trained Teacher?
My favorite part of the conversation was when they asked, “Are you a teacher?”. If you homeschool, you are a teacher – or a discipler and mentor of your children. I have 20 years of teaching experience.
But that’s not what they meant. They wanted to know if I have been trained as a teacher…formally trained as a teacher. But since they didn’t ask if I had a degree in teaching, I was able to say “Yes!” In fact, I’ve been formally trained to disciple people through various discipleship oriented organizations I’ve been involved in such as Intervarsity, and the homeschool organization we’ve been involved in from the start. And as I explained what we are doing in our program to equip our children to function in this world, both the husband and wife started to agree that this was far superior than the average public school education. It got them thinking about the disaster our society is reaping from our local school system.
We’ll be covering some of this in our upcoming Raising Entrepreneurs conferences – check out the events page – I hope you will join us.
Questions Present Opportunities
When we have great answers, and are able to share them, not in a flippant or arrogant way, but rather in a way that allows people to a glimpse of God’s wisdom, it opens doors. Make sure you have well thought out answers – and make sure your homeschool program really is all that it can be. We have a tremendous opportunity to bring lasting change to this country as we raise up sons and daughters that have real wisdom and understanding, and who are not indoctrinated by worldly thinking.
© 2013, David Stelzl