by Kristina Houser & Lyn Waldeck
In the years I have been associated with NACD, I have worked with a many wonderful families. Since I have been around long enough now (20 years + in one capacity of another), I have gotten the pleasure of watching many children become wonderful adults. At a recent evaluation I asked one of the mothers on my caseload to write an article on her young men and how well they are transitioning from “program world” to “work place.” This is not a sudden move and the work that this mother has done on program for years now has served the purpose of preparing them to be productive, happy men who have a lot to contribute to the community and the people who are fortunate enough to be included in their circle of friends and family.
When Kristina first sent in her article, she was very good to point out some of the wonderful things that her men are doing; however, she was shy and a little on the humble side in including what a fantastic job she has done as their mother. At that point I decided that this would be an article that is co-authored so that families can get a picture of how her diligence has paid off without her feeling like she is tooting her own horn.
When I first met the Houser Boys, who we now refer to as the Houser Men, the ages were as follows: Erik age 11, Kristofer age 10, and Andrew age 8. All three boys had significant developmental delays and had been through years of school that the family was not satisfied with. Kristina began homeschooling the boys and doing program in 1996. Kristina would be the first to tell you that not every day is the perfect day, not every week is the perfect week, and not every year is the perfect year. The family has dealt with many life events over the years, as well as many stages of development that stalled at times in difficult places. There was also a time when Mom’s health was such that just making it through another day was considered a success. What has remained important is her diligence to continue in putting the pieces together for her sons with the idea that some day they would be men. Along with program, Kristina has been very committed to teaching them many chores and continually raising their level of responsibility. The boys have been responsible for many aspects of running the house, from cooking to cleaning and even into home renovation when the need arose. They have also had the responsibility of assisting in care for extended family members. There was a time a few years ago when the boys were very engrossed with imaginary play. While this seemed harmless in younger years, the longer they hovered in that level of development, the more difficult things became. I remember one of the hardest transitions for them several years back was to take total control of their free time and direct it to more mature and engaging activities. Kristina really rose to the challenge in this area and redirected her boys into manhood. Today their maturity has really grown, and without the many years of sticking with program and taking the boys through the necessary stages, I know they would not be where they are today.
Read here what their mom says about how the boys are involved in working and volunteer work as they live a life being exceptional men:
I read about the “Exceptional Entrepreneurs” project NACD is promoting. It is an excellent idea. As a parent of three exceptional entrepreneurs, I am eager to watch the result of implementing it. My family has been practicing a form of this for the past year. Andrew, Erik, and Kristofer have each individually pursued their interests (with my help and direction) and now have successful, meaningful, and productive work in the community.
We started this when Lyn, our NACD program evaluator, encouraged us to help Kristofer pursue work outside the home. After determining his interests, we approached a coffee shop located in our church building and arranged to have him volunteer once a week. Now he works there one morning every week. It’s the highlight of his week and his definitive activity. He is the delight of everyone who comes for coffee, and many schedule their day so they can stop by when he is there.
Kristofer’s success prompted us to use the same model with Andrew. Andrew loves horses. He is learning to barrel race and this year plans to do exhibition riding at some of our local Texas rodeos. He was not skilled or educated about horses, but he wanted to work with them; so we (all of the boys and I) volunteered at a local horse barn. Once a week he started learning to feed and brush and lead horses. Several months after they started helping, the boys volunteered for more mornings. Now he and his brothers work for pay five days a week feeding, grooming, and cleaning stalls, and they are also learning to exercise the horses and ride with proficiency.
We developed a friendship with the barn owner, and after I expressed an interest in helping the boys develop a for-profit garden, she made a large space in her pasture available to them. They work there one full day a week after they finish feeding the horses. They also work on some weekends when necessary. Their urban farm has produced enough to sell to a local community-supported agriculture group (CSA). Starting next month they will sell directly to the public through a new urban gardening awareness program begun by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT). This is where our third son, Erik, comes into his element. We will be featured as a garden worked by exceptional entrepreneurs. We will sell our seasonal produce and educate the public on urban garden/farming. Erik is our spokesman.
Our entrepreneurial experience has evolved, and it all started with volunteering first at places tied to the boys’ interests.