Soon it will be summer. Although there are a few hard-core homeschool families who go year-round with their formal studies and others who in an effort to “finish” the curriculum for the year end up working until late July, many families take the summer “off.” And while there may still be a few who need their children working on the farm to feed the family, for many families summer is a season of less structure, more leisure (sometimes too much?), and an opportunity to do special things that require time—something that’s not easy to find during the school year.

Self-employed for most of my adult life, I’ve always had a strong interest in entrepreneurship. I started my first “company” at 16, selling war game supplies to my friends and fellow gamers from the trunk of my old Chevy Nova. Since then, I’ve initiated many start-up enterprises, some more successful than others. Consequently, I’ve encouraged my children to try their hand at starting businesses as well, whether it be a fruit stand, window washing, or online store. Helping with our full-time family business affords them many experiences and has taught them a lot as well.

Starting and operating a micro-business is a superb way for young people to apply the knowledge and ability they acquire through their academic studies, as well as to develop many non-academic but supremely useful life skills, including planning, budgeting, designing, scheduling, presentation, organization, communication—maybe even getting up early! It’s one thing to miscalculate a percentage for a textbook problem, but doing so in a real business is a lesson that hurts and will mean a lot more than a lower score on a math test. Attention to detail cannot be taught (or learned) by lecture or nagging; real consequences are critical. While it’s easy to wish that our children would speak more politely, dress more professionally, and exhibit more poise and maturity, being in business forces it, as successfully marketing and selling a product or service requires all those behaviors. Children who really don’t seem to care about organizing their clothes or possessions will often become extremely careful about organizing their business supplies or inventory.

Additionally, there’s no better way to understand the microeconomics of profit and loss than to try one’s hand at entrepreneurship. I have a great respect for those who can start and manage an enterprise that both contributes a good to the world and provides for a family, and I know how difficult it can be; it’s not easy in today’s circumstances where the twin giants of Mega-mart and Amazon make retailing anything at a profit nigh impossible. However, there’s always room in any market for a new good idea, a valuable service at a reasonable price, and a person of character and perseverance. And the best time to develop business aptitude is during youth, when ambition and resilience are strong, the consequences of failure less serious.

Twenty years ago I began looking for a good course or program to help me teach entrepreneurship to children and teens. Many were just games or simulations; what I wanted was a real-life business planning kit. Not long ago I finally found two programs that really have the potential to energize kids with business ideas and equip them with practical planning tools to help them implement those ideas. Lemonade to Leadership: Nurturing Entrepreneurs by Bonnie Drew is an effective course in entrepreneurship for young people through age 12. I am entirely convinced that students who have been educated in a way that promotes initiative and ingenuity should also have some practical and explicit training in how to apply their talents to starting a business. This program provides exactly that.