'I Homeschooled My Son, Now He Runs a Multi-Million Dollar Company'

When my son Nathan was 3 years old, his uncle asked him, "What's your favorite story?" He expected him to say Goldilocks and the Three Bears or something like that, and Nathan said: "Napoleon and the battle of Waterloo." His uncle was floored.

I home-schooled my six children at our home north-east of Boise, Idaho, up in the mountains. I started homeschooling my eldest when he was about 4 and the others were immersed in that environment as they grew up, picking things up from their older siblings. They almost had a head-start by osmosis.

I was always reading to them, so the little ones had a higher level of reading comprehension than their age would reflect. They always had good vocabulary, and could write well, too. Nathan, the fourth of my children, was no different. He was immersed. And now Nathan is the CEO of a company that has an annual revenue of $33 million—which I believe is partially due to the environment he was raised in.

How homeschooling worked

I started looking into homeschooling in about 1982. The idea was pretty new then but, the more I read about it, the more I thought, "That's for me."

I think my decision was influenced by my experience of public school. I saw that the days were long and filled with a lot of busy work and I really wanted to teach my kids to think for themselves and be lifelong learners. I didn't see that happening in public school. Plus, I was kind of teased at school—I wasn't in the "in" crowd and I wasn't that happy. I didn't want that for my kids.

I read books on homeschooling and education, and I gravitated towards certain philosophies on which I modeled my lessons. In addition to their textbook learning, I taught them math through cooking; I taught them science through being out in nature, with us collecting leaves and then looking up the plants; or we looked at birds and identified them. I believe this philosophy taught them to be more observant of their environment.

Homeschooled Child
Stock image of a child learning at home. Lynn Weimar taught her six children at home. iStock / Getty Images Plus

On a typical day, I would have the kids do their math before breakfast, then we would do reading and writing. I taught them Latin or Spanish; I gave them an activity for "P.E.", such as swimming or riding their bikes; we would do scientific experiments; and for History, we would read biographies, as well as textbooks.

It was more self-paced than school. When Nathan was 12, he asked me, "Is there a certain number of hours that I have to do, or a certain amount of work?" And I said, "Well, I suppose there's a certain amount of work," and so he just doubled down on everything.

He was always ahead, and I didn't want to feel like I was punishing him for being faster—like, "OK, I've got to find more work for you to do because you finished so fast"—so I let him keep moving ahead. He was doing fourth-grade math when he was 5 years old.

From a homeschooling perspective, there was always the concern of: How are they going to develop social skills? They had friends nearby who were homeschooled, and we would hang out with them a lot, but all my kids were shy. Then again, I was raised in public school and I came out shy. I think they came out with more confidence than I came out of public school with, but I might not have done the best job of really helping them to develop those social skills.

How homeschooling helped my son become an entrepreneur

Homeschooling suited Nathan's personality. He was always pushing for more and wanting to do what the older kids were doing—and I didn't want to hold him back. For example, I started a homeschool correspondence course so I could help other homeschool moms teach their kids how to write, and the students would write stories that would go in a newsletter. Nathan was only 5 but he wanted his stories in there, too. I explained he needed to be in a certain grade first, but I ended up creating a whole newsletter just for him and his stories.

Nathan was done very quickly with school, and I allowed him to graduate when he was 15. He went on to take some classes at Boise State University. He wasn't challenged in that environment, and I think he saw college as preparing him for being a good employee, which wasn't what he ever wanted. He already had in his mind that he was going to be an entrepreneur and start his own business.

He started his first business when he was 13, where he would sell wooden cut-outs that he made. One day we were all driving into Boise and he wanted to buy himself a pair of pants. We never bought new clothes for the kids; it was always hand-me-downs or Christmas presents. But Nathan decided he wanted a pair of pants, so we drove to a more populated area near our home and he went door-to-door while we stayed in the car. He sold a couple of his cut-outs and got $40, then we drove into town and he bought a new pair of pants.

I think his homeschooling experience helped him develop this entrepreneurial spirit. Not just in developing his independent thinking, but the fact he was immersed in real life. The classroom is an artificial environment, whereas my kids learned in our house. We started building our house right after Nathan was born and it was never really finished in all the time we lived there—there was construction going on from the time he was a baby.

Lynn Weimar with her son Nathan
Lynn Weimar with her son Nathan Barry on a private plane. Barry is now a successful entrepreneur. Lynn Weimar

I think this setting helped him know what he wanted his life to be like, and what he didn't want his life to be like. Money was always a big problem in our family, and he knew he didn't want to have that problem.

After Nathan left college, he started a business with a couple of guys and did a lot of consulting work. He wanted to go into web design. He did quite well for himself at age 17—consulting and building websites and whatever else he was doing. He worked for a company during the recession and then went freelance until he had the idea for his company and he doubled down on that.

I believe that all my kids were instilled with a desire to be lifelong learners, and to be self-made. Nathan told me that the entrepreneurial things I did had a big influence on him. He said he saw that you didn't have to have a job or wait for somebody else to give you money; you could go out and make your own.

Lynn Weimar founded Be Fit Beyond Fifty. Her son, Nathan Barry, is the founder of the email marketing software company, ConvertKit.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek's My Turn deputy editor, Katie Russell.