06/06/2013 11:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Introducing: A Functional Family


I don't know about you, but if I was the mother of eight children and had the gumption to homeschool them, I'm not sure I'd be too concerned about whether there were chemicals in their bath products.

PJ Jonas was, though. She vowed to do better by her kids by making their soap herself, with goat milk. She already had goats on the family's Indiana homestead -- so they could drink what she felt was superior milk, and the kids would get experience caring for animals.

Imagine PJ's surprise when her husband quickly discovered his fingers -- which were always cracked -- cleared right up when he started using that soap.

Soon, the couple had another baby on their hands, a company called Goat Milk Stuff. PJ graciously agreed to an interview with The Career Clinic shortly after learning last month she'd won the 2013 StartupNation Leading Moms in Business competition sponsored by Staples.

PJ is to be congratulated, I think, on the eight people she'll one day share with the world. Heck, she's already sharing them -- lots. Don't even ask how disappointed her retail customers are, for example, when she or her husband fills in for their 7-year-old daughter -- who's in charge of the store.

Here's what else I found enchanting about the Jonas brothers and sisters...

1. They're responsible.

Each child is responsible for a different aspect of the business. The older boys are in charge of the goats -- milking them, cleaning up after them, keeping them fed. An older girl is in charge of customer service. The younger ones bag the soap. You get the idea. And so do the children. They're part of a team, and PJ says what surprises people the most is how much autonomy they have because their parents trust them.

2. They never ask why they have to learn something.

The children learn at their own pace and according to their own needs, but they also learn in the context of running a business together -- so they don't wonder why they're learning something. They're taught about interest rates and effective communication as soon as they need that information to do their jobs.

One lesson that didn't go down easy was why some of their tax money -- yes, the kids all file tax returns -- is used to support public schools. When an older son pointed out that isn't fair his mother told him, "Welcome to life."

3. They know hard work and great fun are not mutually exclusive.

PJ will often stop a soapmaking session or a homeschool lesson to break into song and take a spin around the kitchen or the workshop with her children. "They're still kids," she says. "You have to make it fun." She and her husband have started hiring outside help for that reason. The business is growing quickly, and PJ wants to make sure the family still has plenty of free time.

4. Their friends think chores are cool.

"You know how there's always one house in the neighborhood all the kids gravitate to?" PJ says. "We're that house. Our kids have friends over all the time, and they help with chores before playtime begins. If we can convince them the play will be as much fun as the work, that is. You might not believe how often I'll hear a friend say, 'No! Chores are fun. I want to do more chores!'"

5. They clean up after themselves.

I have littering on the brain after being on trash duty at my daughter's all-night graduation party. "My kids don't litter," PJ admits. "They know they'd just have to clean up the mess themselves."

6. They make it possible for Mom to get nine hours of sleep every night.

The more I talked with PJ, the more I longed to learn something about her that wasn't perfect. Isn't that a terrible thing to admit? PJ laughed and obliged, though. She said you wouldn't want to be around her if she hadn't had her requisite nine hours of sleep.

Nine hours? Was she kidding? How does she pull that off?

"I delegate," PJ says. "It takes a long time to teach a child how to do something the right way, but once you do you've freed up more of your own time. Each of my children knows how to make at least one meal, and each of them takes pride in contributing not only to the business but to our family."

PJ also batches errands, puts all the kids in track instead of dispersing them among several sports and reducing her to chauffeur duty, and reserves the TV set for family movie nights. The children play board games on real boards, and make a circus -- or a bowling alley -- in the barn. They entertain each other.

7. They know they're making a difference in the world with their work.

The Jonas family gets letters from people who tell them not only do their all-natural products -- which include lip balm and lotions, as well as bath fizzies and laundry soap -- smell great, but they also help alleviate many skin problems. "Our soap puts food on the table, yes," PJ says, "but it also helps people. That means a lot to our children."

8. They know they're making a difference in the world by showing up.

What would the world be like, I can't help wondering, if every family was as tightly-knit and filled with purpose as this one?

PJ's doing her part, I think -- by being so intentional about her life, and by sharing her story with you.