Most parents long to spare their children unnecessary hardship in life. What better way is there to do that than to guide them gently, consistently, and progressively by precept, example, and experience?

Very often we are teaching when we don't know we're teaching.

I once offered to teach a friend how to start a business, and we planned to include our children in the start-up so that they could learn from the experience, too. Three months in, my friend had a change of heart, and I was left with the half-finished project...and the bills. Thus began one of the most difficult years of my life.

Because we had sold advanced subscriptions to finance the project, I researched and wrote frantically to stay ahead of schedule but eventually fell behind despite my best efforts. I wrote our customers, offering them a refund. One lady begged me to keep the money. She believed in the project and wanted me to continue. My children shouldered a great deal of initiative and responsibility that year, doing their schoolwork with minimal oversight. They also ate a lot of frozen pizza while I plowed doggedly ahead.

My conscience flogged me. Here I was writing about how to teach through learning adventures, and my own children had to revert to textbooks because I had no time to devote to the very practice I was preaching.

Finally the project was finished.

Only my 10-year-old son was home at the time, but I called him in to celebrate "the last word of the last sentence on the last page."

He cocked his head. "You mean it's over?" (Meaning, I suppose, the whole excruciating ordeal.)

I nodded.

"Mama, why did you do that to us?"

His question wasn't meant to be rude or accusative, but my heart broke.

He didn't need to know all the ins and outs of why my friend did not continue, but I could tell him the truth about how I had taken money in advance, how I owed it to customers to deliver the product they had paid for, and about the lady who begged me to continue.

He was silent for a minute, taking in what I said. Then he asked, "Do you mean you did all this to keep your word to one lady?"

"I guess I did," I said, and I wondered if he would understand.

He said, "Wow."

He understood...and he has grown to be a man of integrity who thinks about how his actions will affect others and swears to his own hurt. (Psalm 15:1-4)

I cried many tears over that project, but it has been a blessing to many people in many ways. Without all of that, though, if God's only purpose for having me finish was to teach my son by precept and example what it means to do business with integrity, then I'd say the experience was well worth the cost.

Complete and Continue