How a Lifestyle of Learning Turned into Entrepreneurial Education

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I never imagined that my son, who was so “different” and allergic to standardized “book-learning,” would become a real estate investor selling houses on eBay™ and hosting conferences to teach adults how to create passive income. In fact, I gave up on him when he was 14. Although I have a degree in education, I am still learning how to help my young people discover their life’s work. I want them to be able to employ their specific gifts and abilities to contribute well to their society and learn to live financially free. What we’ve experienced in the past few years has turned into an annual conference and a new family business.

A Glimpse of Our Life

In 1996, I could no longer deal with the overwhelming stress I had created for our ever-increasing family because of the flurry of activity that hindered us from focusing on mastering the essentials. We had homeschooled for 9 years and only had 6 children at the time. I knew not to consider putting them back in school, but I was caving under the pressure. Then I read Dr. Richard Swenson’s book Margin. That breath of fresh air, plus a month my oldest son spent with a mentor in Idaho, changed our family’s life and led us to discover what we now call Entrepreneurial Education.

“Margin,” says Dr. Swenson, “is having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.” I wanted that for my family, so we left our society and moved to The Country.

Life at The Backside of Nowhere, which is what we named our farm in southern Tennessee, was incredibly peaceful. But most of all, we regained a sense of control in our lives that had somehow escaped. Besides the basics, we studied gardening, alternative forms of energy, and raising animals. My rule for the children was, “You can raise anything you want but you have to pay for it and care for it yourself.” That one rule, I soon learned, created a sense of responsibility that would reap tremendous rewards.

So my oldest son Drew started with goats. The day we brought them home, he began repairing fences because it didn’t take ten minutes for them to discover the holes they could slip through to get to the neighbor’s barn. So Drew bought a blind bull at the local sale barn for $36 and trained him to voice commands. He built a wagon and a yoke so Red (that’s short for “Red Cow”) could haul his T posts, wire, and tools as Drew worked his way around our 44 acres. After a few months, he ordered a 2,000-pound water buffalo from Texas hoping he could be trained to plow. We loved our pet Bully, but he was just a bit too old to train, so we sold him to the neighbors.

Now, all this buying and selling led us to become regulars at a flea market called Dog Days. The children and I would spend the night in the back of the truck, join the trading early in the morning, and be home by noon. I often gave each child $5 and a challenge: “Go buy and sell whatever you want and create your own opportunities. But when we leave, you have to give back my $5.” Some would spend it on food or trinkets, but some would actually make a profit and give it back to me before we left. Eventually, the older children didn’t even need my money. That real-life activity gave me insight into the mind of each child. It gave each of them opportunity to learn to create money out of nothing instead of depending on someone else to give it to them or trading their hours for dollars. Learning lessons means making mistakes. It seems to me that it’s easier to learn those lessons when you’re young and still at home than when you’re 50 with a family and no retirement in sight.

During one of our weekend visits to Dog Days, Drew bought 50 over-heated rabbits for 50 cents each. He bought small cages from another vendor and revived the rabbits at the creek near our site. The next day, he made a profit selling them individually with a cage for $4 and $5. He learned later that when you bring home inventory that didn’t sell, it soon eats up your profits!

From Selling Animals to Selling Houses

From buying and selling animals, Drew gained the confidence to try more expensive items—like houses. When he discovered his interest in real estate at age 18, I flew with him to Tampa to a rather expensive three-day conference to learn how to buy houses.

Once, he bought an older house that had had a fire in the bathroom for $880. He cut out the charred wood and hired a carpenter (not his dad) to repair the walls. Six months later, he sold the house to a rehabber for $15,000. His net profit was just over $10,000.

On another house he owned, he took a 4-wheeler for the down payment. My older boys mowed a course through the tall grass in our 6-acre front field and drove it for a few months before Drew traded it for three central units installed in three of his houses.

Along the way, he discovered eBay™, the world’s trading post, where a house sells every 5 minutes. Now he teaches people how to buy and sell houses on eBay™.

Want to Hear More?

As we’ve explored entrepreneurial endeavors, we’ve told our stories and others’ stories in a free weekly e-newsletter. You can subscribe to it at a site originally built by my second son, who is a marketing webmaster:

Through the years, we’ve also invited my Internet friends over to the farm for one-day workshops, but the plumbing and air conditioning couldn’t handle the load when 100 folks showed up two years in a row. So now we host an annual conference where successful experts and mentors of ours explain home businesses we are studying, such as Internet marketing, investing in real estate and the stock market, self-publishing, and selling on eBay™. It’s called Rhea’s Entrepreneur Days (

Need Encouragement?

If you have a “different” child at your house who is a dreamer, a discoverer, or a dynamo, read The Edison Trait by Dr. Lucy Jo Palladino. Then join our Yahoo! Group™ to meet others who are on the same page. Just visit to find us.

Galileo said, “You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.” As a homeschool mom, I feel my job is to draw out the genius hidden deep inside each of my children. I’m not preparing them to be employees; I want them to be self-motivated individuals who impact the world through their homes, churches, and businesses.

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6