"No way. Do not involve us in an educational multi-level marketing scheme!"
Having succeeded and failed at more than one multi-level marketing (MLM) “opportunity” in the past, it shocked me that my husband responded to my proposal that I Direct with Classical Conversations in such a forceful way. Surely, he could recognize that what I was describing was not anything like the modest successes and notable failures my MLM experience held?
Obviously not. Time to back pedal and respectfully explore his objection and perception.
In the life we have built and share, he is an excellent gatekeeper for my attention, energy, opportunity, personal and professional growth. He is generous with me and nearly always says “yes” when I present him with a desire or idea. He is also a “glass half full” kind of guy, and is quick to identify problems, weaknesses, and can ferret out trouble spots before them making themselves known. I am an overflowing “glass all the way full” kind of gal, and I figure we will work on problems or make course corrections, as necessary. Both perspectives have their place, and neither is untrue.
He heard words like business, legal, license, tax, and the biggie—money. Who in the world, he wanted to know, is Robert Bortins? If CC is their family business, why are you doing their work? These questions had to stand up to my husband’s examination.
Something singularly focused me. I could choose to enroll my children in the program I wanted. Classical Conversations offered me supplemental income to offset my homeschool program costs! And with my glass full perspective, I had no concern about aligning myself with CC and signing on as a licensee. I wanted to Direct.
But I recognized then and I also do now that I should weigh my husband’s questions and cautions. He is a loyal family watchdog, town crier, and faithful whistleblower. We addressed his concerns one by one.
First, I would be responsible as a licensed Director to own and operate my personal business. I understood it would require me to uphold licensing guidelines I did not develop, rather I would adopt them. True, I would not receive tax or legal advice from CC. However, I would have freedom from excessive reporting, and I would not have the expectations that come with being an employee. In short, I would maintain the integrity of the program - so that as a licensee, parents would receive from me what they expect from a Classical Conversations program. I had freedoms within that structure as an independent licensee and it would be my business.
CC would incentivize me to recruit other families to join my program. That seemed very “real world” to me. However, this was one of my husband’s significant concerns. A seasoned 100% commission salesperson, he knew how crushingly hard it can be to find, attract, and keep customers. He reminded me that people are fickle, they switch allegiances, and there is always a competitor with a new shiny “____”. Interestingly, he was also encouraging on this point. He knows I will talk to anyone about nearly anything, so he didn’t get stuck on this point. He just figured it would take us longer than it already did to go anywhere and do anything because I would want to talk to people about CC! I would have support, tools, training, and CC would market my program for me.
I “introduced” my husband to Robert Bortins. Okay, not really. But I shared the story of their family, how they came to develop Classical Conversations, and how I admired Leigh Bortins, a female visionary and entrepreneur. She was so relatable, and like me, had taken action to ensure there was a classical education community for her own children.
That, in fact, was the turning point in our conversation. I could express to my husband that I was not pursuing a multi-level marketing scheme, and in contrast, was eager to invest further in what I was already doing—classically educating our children.
Plainly, I was already investing blood, sweat, and sometimes even double the tears into the pursuit of transforming my children’s minds toward Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. I was already pouring into curriculum, traditions, and tools of learning. But he could see my weariness and isolation, and he softened as he considered the benefits of classical Christian community for our family. He started to come around when he realized I was already doing all this, anyway. It might as well pay me.
He drew a line, though. We never say, “It’s not about the money.” After all, I agreed to Direct to make enough money to cover all our education expenses. At some level it is always about the money because that is how all businesses thrive! CC is a business that offers reasonable commissions to its field team and other than expecting us to uphold our licensing agreement, requires nothing more of me or my fellow Directors.
A small disclaimer here. Sometimes I say, “It’s not about the money.” This is imprecise on my part. I might do something or meet with someone because I want to. Perhaps I plan an event, offer a supplemental resource, or go above and beyond. And, if you were to require me to conform those efforts to what I just described, you would challenge the preceding paragraph. But don’t miss what’s nested in this confession. I do it for the good of the world—and for love.
What about all the guidelines? Is it true I must have all my school-age children enrolled in the program to qualify as a Director? Yes. Can I only get my hands on the curriculum that CC produces and uses in its programs by paying my children’s fees and tuition? Yes. Are these terms upsetting to me? No. It is like asking why you never see a Chick-Fil-A employee eating a roast beef sandwich. There seems to be very little conflict in the world when a cheerful teen in a red polo eats a container full of chicken tenders. Should we not have the same “that seems obvious” reaction to CC, like Chick-Fil-A,—both of whom produce a unique product?
There were two ultimate points that my husband and I needed to agree on. First, Directing for Classical Conversations could never tip into work without pay. It would be easy to get swept away with passionate purpose. I might enslave myself to a never-ending to-do list, to the detriment of other important roles and imbalance between reward and result. It has not required me to work past my margin or beyond. Second, because I am compensated for student enrollment, my husband needed assurance that it would never negatively impact me if I did not achieve business goals. I assured him that nowhere in my contract did it reveal that it would handicap me for having a small or even a failure to get off the ground program. In fact, if I don’t have students, I don’t owe CC any licensing fees!
And so, I built it. My CC program that is. And they came. I have had the joy of being a part of dozens of families’ lives over the years I have been a CC Director. I have learned leadership and business skills. I have loved and laughed with many Middle School-aged students. I have prayed hard prayers of frustration and repentance with many parents. And I have lifted my hands in joy and celebration at breakthroughs and milestones.
There have only been benefits for me as a Classical Conversations Director. Sure, my husband sometimes must rope me back in, and help me keep my bottom line healthy. But let us revisit why I do this.
Do I earn supplemental income to support my choice of homeschool program? Have I grown as a classical educator, in community, no longer plagued by weariness and isolation? I think you ought to know by now, the answer is yes.
What if you asked my husband to describe the company I work for? Would he confess he still thinks it is a scam? Are you expecting him to declare that it is nothing but a multi-level marketing scheme that exploits desperate moms?
Well, maybe you are. But I have the inside track and I know what he will tell you. Classical Conversations has been the best educational choice we have made for our family. And he has watched my life and skills enlarge in worthwhile ways.
He will tell you, “She built it and we all benefit.”
Laura Kooistra, the wife of Kent, mother to six, belongs body and soul to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A decades-long home educator, she has always employed classical learning tools but found her people and place in community when she joined CC as a Challenge B Director in 2012. Her two youngest daughters are enrolled in local Challenge programs. A hobby farmer in Southwest Michigan, she enjoys both sunrise and sunset from her open property. Laura collects big words, loves challenging books, drinks strong coffee, devours podcasts, grows flowers, overuses commas, and enjoys time together (her love language)!