Our youngest son, Aiden, has always had a deep connection to the animal kingdom. He's an empathetic soul and naturally inclined to being a compassionate caretaker. Aiden loves all animals, but he has a special affection for dogs. He was the little kid with the big DK Book of Dogs tucked under his arm everywhere he went and he’s the guy who knows the addresses of all the dogs that roam our neighborhood (and he is always willing to round them up & take them back home). Protector of the runt, the lost and the lame! That’s Aiden! At the moment, our small house is home to 3 cats and 3 dogs. Aiden is responsible for bringing 4 of said critters in and they are all as devoted to him as he is to them. Even my own dog chooses to sleep with him!
3 dogs & a boy in a bed!
When Aiden was barely 15, he really wanted to try to find a job. With the economy the way it is and the fact that there are a lot of restrictions placed on the work schedule of anyone under the age of 16, I didn't have high hopes. We started out looking at Craigslist, just to see what was out there. Interestingly enough, there was a lot of work at doggy day care facilities. “I would be good at that, Mom!, he said. And I knew he would be, if someone would give him a chance. We wrote up a letter of introduction that included his interest dogs in & his responsibilities for his critters at home. I talked him through the basics of business introductions and he set out on his bike with his letters in hand. He must have dropped off 10 letters that first week. He asked for the owner or manager & shook hands and each of them. He had some great stories to tell about meeting those people and, within a week, he had a job! The man who hired him was impressed with Aiden’s initiative and his obvious interest in dogs. I like to think that taking a risk on a young kid with ambition paid off for Richard. Aiden has worked for him at Austin Canine Central for almost 2 years now. It's a great job for a kid his age, 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. He has his weekends free and plenty of time to pursue his other interests during the day, but 5 days a week is a big commitment too (at least in unschooling terms!). The job has it's upside: he gets to play with dogs! and it's downside: he has to clean a lot of dog crates! but he enjoys all of it. He works with a great group of people that he genuinely likes (all of whom are at least 40 years older than him) and he's learned a lot about caring for and training dogs. He’s proud of the work he does and people appreciate him for it. More than once, we’ve been out and about and someone has approached him to shake his hand and thank him for taking care of their dog. It makes him feel good, to be recognised and appreciated, but "the glory" is not the reason he sticks with his job.
I wish I could tell you that Aiden planned to go on to be a veterinarian, or even a dog trainer, but, at the moment, he has his sights set on professional BMXer (did I mention that he’s a 16 year old boy?!). Whatever he does, I couldn’t be more pleased about his first work experience. As unschoolers, our focus has always been, do what you love and the lessons will follow. Aiden’s love of dogs led him to a first job that he enjoys, where he continues to learn about a subject he's interested in, in an environment where he is valued and appreciated. Who could ask for a better life lesson than that?!