Every year we try something new.
This isn’t completely voluntary,* but it is nice to break routine a little bit. There will always be math, grammar, spelling, handwriting, composition, Latin, history, and science.
Every. Single. Year. (Plus even more in years to come.)
Those subjects are extremely important to one’s intellectual wellbeing and independence. (We can debate the Latin later.)
But some things are important to learn and understand for other reasons. I don’t want to say for more practical reasons because I think that is untrue (what isn’t practical about science or history? I can find lots of daily applications for deep knowledge in both of those fields), but the modern educational world will classify them as such. They have a value, and they have a place, and although it is never my preferred subject material, I admit it would be foolish to omit them completely even at a young age, but especially as the children get older.
I’m talking about vocational training.
This year we became Biz Kids!
Every week for the majority of the school year we have watched at least one episode of Biz Kids on Amazon Prime. The kids have learned about creating a business plan, making and staying within a budget, income and expenses, taxes, marketing, social entrepreneurship, job interviews, business ethics, spending, saving, investing, donating, and some really interesting business ideas that kids all over the country have started on their own. The shows are really entertaining, although maybe a little outdated – my kids didn’t really understand why the spoofs on Captain Kirk and Spock (renamed “Stock”) were funny, but they still knew it was funny and laughed a lot anyway. Think “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” but about entrepreneurship. Quirky, but very informative.
I let each child pick a business venture – although their options were limited to something to sell, something affordable, and something they could do on their own.
We came up with jewelry, mini bow and arrow sets, and bee friendly plant starts. (I encouraged the plants because it coincided with biology/botany in the spring, even though that “business” is a little harder to run and the 1st grader can’t really do it all on his own. I don’t mind a little watering now and then.)
So far the results have been varied, but the kids have all learned quite a bit.
Some of them have possibly learned they don’t want to become entrepreneurs, and that is just fine.
The bow and arrow sets sell like hot cakes – when my son gets around to stocking his inventory and advertising. Three dollars for one set and $5 for two! We’ve advertised mostly on Facebook – and one lady from California asked if we could mail some to her! But we learned through a more local shipment experience, it costs more to mail these guys than they are worth (well, unless you buy maybe 20 or something.) So right now we are sticking local.
The jewelry has done a lot better than I anticipated. My 3rd grader is very detail oriented, so making one necklace can take her over an hour! But she figured out she can make earrings quite a bit faster, so the jewelry shop is quickly being overrun by earrings. Three dollars a necklace, $1.50 for a bracelet, $1.50 for earrings, or $5 for an entire matching set. Internet marketing doesn’t work so well for what she’s got. So one afternoon we set up a little booth at a busy corner (and let the Community Facebook page know about it) and she had a lot of people come and look at her designs. She made more money than I thought she would!
The plant starts, well, it is still snowing here almost every other day (or so it seems), so they are still nice and warm sitting under the grow lights. My 1st grader, though, has received A LOT of interest from people in our neighborhood. He started in a gardening 4H club this afternoon and his teacher there has already said they want to buy their starts from him! He came home, “Mom! I think I’m popular! Am I popular?” because they all made him feel like the cool guy for already being a gardener, and maybe for having a business. Fifty cents a pot. Not too shabby – not 50 cents for one of those little guys, but he/we repot them in bigger 4 inch pots as the grow. Some of our squash plants are already about 8 inches long!
But since the plants won’t really be ready to go into the ground for another 3 weeks or so, I set him up with some chocolate covered peanut butter bars for him and his little brother to sell at our “busy corner” booth.
Guess which product sold out first? Yeah, 25 cents a bar? Those were never going to last.
I don’t anticipate any of my kids starting their own business any time soon. I know it can be done, and done extremely well, but that really isn’t our focus in life. I want their childhood to be, you know, a childhood – not a business venture. But the lessons they have learned through this experiences will last with them for hopefully a very long time.
The biggest lesson? The value of money and how to manage it.
I had the children put their prices pretty low. I’m not terribly concerned about them recouping all their inventory costs. I more so want them to see what it feels like to make a sale and actually pocket some money, save some money, and donate some money. When they see how slowly money comes in, and how much work it takes to even get it to come in, and then how quickly it flies away, they begin to value all those little pennies and nickels a whole lot more. For the kids in our family 50% of their earnings go to “spending” money, 40% go to savings, and 10% goes to God in the form of tithing. And actually we do all of that in reverse order; first we pay God, then we pay ourselves, then we get to buy the things we need/want. The children do not have an allowance, but they have extra chores they can do to earn money. Notice the extra! Regular chores are just done because that is how families run; everyone helps out. But extra jobs are entitled to a little compensation.
This means, pretty much, my kids are always broke. Seriously, how hard is it to even get them to do their regular jobs!
But there is always a birthday card with some money, or during the summer my older son will get random jobs feeding cats and watering lawns when neighbors go on vacation, so somehow the money still flows… more like trickles… but moving nonetheless. My 5th grader has saved over $100 of his “spending” money so he gets to open his own bank account soon. My 3rd grader just saved up enough and bought herself some cute little dollhouse accessories. So she’s broke again. And the 1st grader and pre-schooler would live at the dollar store if I let them, so needless to say, they are always broke. 🙂
Maybe this “value of money” lesson is sinking in more for some kids than others.
Well, truth by told, this lesson hasn’t sunk in for a lot of adults either, so better to at least start the lesson early and repeat as necessary than to never teach it at all.
For some really good tips on how to teach kids to value and manage money, check out the blog post “Why Teaching Kids about Money is Important” from Running On Life. If you are looking for a homeschool course or curriculum geared towards older kids/high schoolers, Dave Ramsey has some good stuff out there. (You know, in case you find your 16 year old rolling her eyes at all the funny Biz Kids skits. It happens.) He’s got curriculum for younger children, too. But for us, the corny skits are good enough.
Let me know what you have done to teach your kids about managing money. Do you give your kids an allowance? And if you do, how much do you pay them?
*We are technically part of a charter eSchool via a program set up for homeschoolers. We run our home schools essentially how we want, but are required to submit weekly learning logs and have each child study a minimum of 6 subjects throughout the school year. One of those subjects must be either technology, engineering, or entrepreneurship. Last year we choose engineering and learned about simple machines – like inclined planes (ooooh! exciting 😉 ), this year of course we chose entrepreneurship. But next is still a little up in the air. We’ll just have to see how things go. (Although I do have a budding robotics engineer on my hands! Life could get even more interesting soon.)