Georgette and I were married on June 15, 1980. A month later, she became pregnant. When she began to feel movement, she started praying, singing, and reading aloud so our unborn son could hear her. After he was born, Georgette continued to pray, sing, and read aloud while she nursed him. She wanted to instill within him a love of God, music, and reading. She followed the same ritual with each of our other children.
Georgette educated all seven of our children at home. At one point during the 1990s, she was homeschooling five of them — each at a different grade level — at the same time. During that time, she was also taking care of our two youngest children who were not yet in school.
Because Georgette was so overwhelmed, we periodically discussed the prospect of putting some or all of our children into the school system. Each time we discussed the matter, I told her, “Don’t worry about teaching a full curriculum. For now, focus on teaching them the faith and how to read. As long as they’re well-grounded in their faith and are good readers, they’ll eventually catch up on everything else.”
We always ended up agreeing that we would keep our children home until they were ready for college. To her credit, Georgette insisted on sticking with a balanced curriculum for each of our children. On most days, the curriculum included a trip to church for Mass and Holy Communion.
Each of our children started piano lessons when they were four years old. By the time our oldest child, Harry, was six years old, Georgette was arranging for him and his sisters to perform for elderly residents at local nursing homes. After each performance, they were encouraged to visit with each of the residents who came to see their show. This was Georgette’s way of performing works of mercy as a family.
In addition to school, our children were assigned specific job duties that had to be performed on a regular basis. Georgette put into place a system that allowed her to periodically reassign job duties so that our children wouldn’t be stuck with the same job for an extended period of time.
Because Georgette and I grew up in families that placed an emphasis on developing a strong work ethic, we also did our best to instill within our children an appreciation for and love of work.
Can a person develop a love of work?
The answer is yes.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had a great appreciation and love for the work that they performed. Why? Because regardless of the difficulty or how grueling the work may have been, their intention was always to give glory to God in every task that they performed.
Research any saint and you will discover that the saint had a great appreciation and love for the work that the saint performed. Saint Teresa of Kolkata is our most recent example of this fact.
In our home, there were certain expectations that Georgette and I had concerning work. Our children were not allowed to cut corners or get sloppy in the completion of their work. They were expected to perform their work with a cheerful disposition. We knew that if they had the right attitude, their work could be rewarding and even fun.
Just as there are beliefs about religion, money, marriage, divorce, sex, and politics, there are also beliefs about work. It was important to us that our children develop the correct beliefs about work.
One of the most common beliefs that you hear from parents today is that their children should not be burdened with a job while they are in high school or college. The parents say that their children will have to work for the rest of their lives, so they should have a chance to study and enjoy themselves during their teens and college years. The parents believe that there’s no need for their children to work until they graduate from college, at which time they will be able to use their college degrees to land good-paying jobs.
In my opinion, this is an extremely dangerous set of beliefs. Parents who have these beliefs and follow through on them risk handicapping their children for the rest of their lives.
If you paid any attention to the summer Olympics, you know about Simone Biles, the 19-year-old American girl who dominated the gymnastics competition and walked away with five gold medals. She was raised by her grandparents. What would have happened if her grandparents had held the belief that because she was only a teenager, she should be allowed to study and enjoy life rather than spend the better part of each day training? Would she have been a champion if she had waited until she was out of high school or college before she started training?
For the past several years, Biles has trained 32 hours a week, spread over six days. While most parents would support the grueling workout schedule that was necessary for her to become an Olympic gold medalist, they would also say that it’s not right to force a teenager to work at a paying job for 32 hours a week, even if it’s during summer “vacation.”
By requiring teenagers to start working for wages (or in their own businesses), you open up a whole new world for them. Their newfound experience of trading their time for money gives them a sense of freedom, self-worth, confidence, and purpose.
When a teenager starts working at the age of 14, he or she has an eight-year competitive advantage over individuals who don’t start working until they graduate from college. The skills, abilities, strategies, and mental toughness developed during those eight years helps them excel in the marketplace.
I’ve been in business for more than 30 years. During that period of time, I’ve noticed a drastic decline in the attitudes, skills, and abilities of employees who are in their early 20s. Most of them don’t know how to work, can’t work, won’t work, or have a disdain for work. They are timid, hypersensitive, confused, distracted, defiant, and easily intimidated.
Over the past 20 years, it has become increasingly more difficult for adults to secure good-paying, long-term jobs. As parents, we have a moral obligation to properly train our children so they can become champions in the marketplace.