What My Paper Route Taught Me

Hands-on learning helps our children think and grow in ways that books and teachers can’t. That’s why I encourage families to take on a weekly neighborhood paper route as an integral part of their children’s education. A paper route provides opportunities to develop character, attend to details, learn to negotiate, use creativity, work as a team, manage money, take responsibility, plan ahead, and practice decision-making.

A paper route will stir your children to figure out answers to questions like these:
When will I collate the papers? Will I use rubber bands or plastic bags? What will the weather be like when I plan to deliver? (The answer to this question may influence the answer to the previous one). How do I want to deliver the papers—walking, with the wagon, on my bike, or on rollerblades? Will I zigzag across the street or go up one side and down the other?

A paper route develops practical math skills. How many papers can I carry at once?
What’s the shortest distance for delivery? How many papers should be dropped off at that street? How fast can I do the route? How much money will I earn each month? How much extra will I earn this week with the insert that pays 1.5 cents per paper? Your children will be doing relevant story problems. “It’s 3 p.m. If I have a baseball game at 7 p.m. and have to be there 30 minutes early, how soon will I need to start my route to get to the field on time?”

A paper route teaches responsibility. The contract clearly states what the carrier commits to do. As a independent contractor, the carrier is responsible to deliver the papers by the company deadline, in every kind of weather, whether he feels like it or not, whether she’s healthy or sick. The carrier agrees to find (and train) a substitute to cover the route if he’s going to be out of town. Can you really expect your children to do all these things? Watch them rise to the challenge! Someone has said, “We learn responsibility by taking responsibility.”

Our family didn’t plan to have a once-a-week paper route. The opportunity came to us. My older son Timothy helped his friend deliver a route for several months. When that friend decided to give up his route, we gladly took it. I recognized its innate teaching potential (plus it yielded outside income). From the start, my three children (ages 6, 9, and 11) got involved. Jonathan and Rachel folded and bagged the 80 papers, and Timothy delivered them. Soon they each wanted their own routes. Over several years they took over all the routes in our neighborhood. As the older children found jobs with more hours, they gave up their routes. Jonathan, the youngest, eagerly ‘inherited’ them. For several years he delivered 500 papers each Wednesday.

Still not convinced that a once-a-week paper route is worth the time and energy involved? Still wondering what your children would really learn? Listen to Jonathan’s response after working in our paper route home business for 10 years:

“My paper route taught me discipline and the value of hard work. It taught me that sometimes you have to do something you don't necessarily want to do, but you made a commitment, and it's worth it in the long run. My paper route taught me the importance of budgeting (on a large scale). It taught me creativity, because I wanted to find new ways to do the route to make it fun. It taught me also that other peoples' dogs cannot be trusted; that when they say the dog doesn't bite, they mean that it doesn't bite them. It also taught me that when you have multiple people doing the route, it makes it go faster and it's more fun. I also learned that it is not a good idea to ride a bike on ice, nor to jump over embankments of snow that you can't see the other side of, because you may wipe out on ice. The paper route gave me pinpoint accuracy with throwing a newspaper....”

Linda Joyce Heaner is a veteran home educator who looks for opportunities to share practical learning tips with other homeschool families. Watch for additional articles on paper routes as a creative teaching tool. You can contact her at