Teaching Kids Financial Responsiblity

It’s funny how the universe works sometimes, isn’t it?  Last evening, the Littles and I had a short conversation about allowance.  Now, we don’t give them allowance though they do have chores.  What?! You may ask, aghast.  But here’s the thing.  A household is a large and difficult responsibility to run, especially if you have a farm with animals and gardens and the like to care for.  I am not giving my children chores so they can earn money.  I am giving them chores because they are part of this household and I don’t want them growing up thinking the cleaning fairy is going to come to their dorm room/apartment/house and take care of everything magically while they are out having fun.  I don’t want to raise men who expect their wives to do all the housework or who can’t take care of themselves if they don’t have a wife.

Also, I want the Littles to learn, just as Big did, that a household is a team.  Teamwork is an important lesson to learn when you’re young, and ensuring that your littles get that they’re part of the family team means you are teaching them how to pass the ball when they need to and how to go for the goal when it’s their turn.  So they have chores.  It is part of their job as a team member.  I do not get paid for doing a load of laundry.  They do not get paid for folding it.

So I explained to them that I don’t really believe in allowance.  I believe if they want extra money they can come and offer to do a job equivalent to the amount they need and we will work something out.  But their daily chores are just part of life.  They get it.  They weren’t asking for allowance, anyway.  They aren’t spoiled, but Martin and I tend to go without luxuries so the Littles can have a good childhood, so they feel ‘paid’ enough.  They were really just trying to understand the concept.

Here’s where the weirdness of the universe comes in.  I am a big NPR nerd, and I listen to it whenever I am in the car, no matter what program is playing on our local station.  Today while I was running errands, the Diane Rehm show did a feature on teaching financial responsibility to young adults.  How–creepy–is it that I was just talking about financial responsibility to my kids and then heard a program about it?  In love with that.

Anyway, there were three experts on the panel, and one was a college professor who believed that financial responsibility should be added to public school curricula.  I remember learning to write checks and balance a checkbook in a high school class, but that was more years ago than I’d like to admit… Do they not teach it anymore?  A second expert said that he was loathe to add another burden to the already overburdened public school teacher.  At first, I was a bit miffed.  Isn’t teaching kids how to live in the real world part of their job?  I  mean, yeah, personally I feel that is the parents’ job, but if you’re sending your littles to public school to learn about the world, shouldn’t they be learning about the world?

Then I thought of all the teachers I knew when I was working in the public school system.  The harried, hurried steps to make yet another common core meeting.  The frustration of knowing they had to leave some students a little bit behind in order to keep their classes ‘average.’  And yeah, maybe that guy was right.  Maybe teachers don’t need another burden.  They’re having a hard enough time making sure all their students can read.  And that’s not their fault, believe me.  It’s the fault of the system.

So it comes to us as parents to teach our kids how to be responsible with money.  The experts on the radio show had a lot of really good ideas.  Put aside three money jars for each kid.  Label one ‘save,’ one ‘spend,’ and one ‘give.’  When your child gets money from allowance, birthday gifts, what have you, have them divide the money up into each can.  When they have enough in the spend jar to buy something they really want, let them buy it.  When they have enough to make a decent donation to a worthy cause, take them to donate it.  Make them save the money in their save jar until they are ready to move out on their own.  Not too shabby an idea.

One of the panelists suggested having your teen get a job and give a percentage to you out of every paycheck for rent, groceries, etc.  That way they won’t experience culture shock when it’s time to move out on their own.  I had never really thought of it that way, but it actually isn’t a bad idea.  I was lucky that when I was a teen my parents did not buy me a car but helped me find a job and then get a loan to buy my first car myself.  I can’t thank them enough for giving me that opportunity to learn about making payments on time before I had to make rent.  They taught me that buying a child a car does not necessarily help the child–it certainly doesn’t teach the child financial responsibility.  So when Big wanted a car, he got a job and a loan and got his own car.  And he paid it off early!  He paid his own insurance and gas money.  We didn’t take a percentage of his check for room and board, but he learned about making his payments and what it means to owe money before he moved out of our house.

That’s something every child should learn in some way before they leave home for good.  We may think we’re doing them a favor by providing for them and not letting them worry about such things until they have to.  We’re not.  It is such a struggle (remember?) to suddenly be responsible for All the bills and All the cleaning and All the… everything.  It takes most people up to a year to get the hang of it once they get out on their own.  They go into debt because they don’t realize that credit cards aren’t free money.  They end up with bad credit because they don’t understand the minimum payment thing.  They sometimes even lose their first apartment because they just don’t understand why they can’t pay their rent a little a lot late.

Another fantastic suggestion was to have your littles sit down with you while you make out your monthly budget and pay your bills.  Let them see how much you have coming in, how much you have going out, and where it’s going.  I know some parents want to hide such details from their kids, but really, what good does that do them in the long run?  If they think your food, electricity, internet, and water come magically, or that your debit card is a magic money tree, they will not understand when they get out on their own why they should budget.  It might give them a worry-free childhood, but it sets them up for disappointment as adults.  Besides, if they get a grasp of where your money is going and how much of it is actually spent on them, they might start asking less for extravagances.  Win-win.

Teaching your kids while they’re young what it means to make on-time payments, how to save and be patient, how to recognize when they have a little extra to give to someone who is in need… These things will help the transition from ‘mom’s house’ to ‘my house.’  Maybe they won’t make the same mistakes we did.  Maybe they’ll have a better grasp of reality.

As for my Littles, at least they will know how to take care of themselves.  The shock of actually being the person who has to sweep and vacuum won’t be so hard on them.  And if I play my cards right, they will have a firm grasp on what it means to be financially responsible.  I have to do some more thinking on this room-and-board thing… What if you told them it was room-and-board and secretly put it into a savings account for them?  That’d be a nice surprise when they have to come up with first & last month’s rent plus deposit. 🙂

Do you have any ideas for teaching littles how to be responsible with money?  Share, share, share; I’m sure we could all use that advice.

Love wins,



Conquering Your Homeschool Fears

Our summer science begins next week, and it’s got me thinking about some people I know who are still trying to make the decision to homeschool.  It’s a hard decision and a scary one.  As parents, we believe we know what is best for our children.  We see the flaws in the public school system and hope a miracle occurs that will fix them.  We see the bureaucracy involved and know the miracle probably will not come.  At least not soon enough for our kids.  We do research and realize private schools and charter schools, while they may be trying, are really not much better.  We have to decide.  Send our kids to school?  Or take on that enormous responsibility for ourselves?

Native American Crafts for American History 2012

Native American Crafts for American History 2012

Knight and horse craft 2013

Knight and horse craft 2013

Homemade kites 2012

Homemade kites 2012

If you’ve never done it before, deciding to homeschool is downright terrifying.  I remember well how scared I was as my beautiful husband and I made the decision.  I remember going to my neighbor’s house.  She has nine kids (I’ve counted them!), and has now graduated 3 from homeschool.  She had been homeschooling for several years when I went to her for advice.  She said, as any experienced homeschooling mama generally says, “Absolutely! You should go for it.”  There was A Lot more to that conversation.  Mostly I needed someone to tell me I could do it.  That I wasn’t setting out to destroy my children and setting myself up for an Epic Fail.

Let me be the first to tell you, you can do it.

Middle concentrating 2011- our first year

Middle concentrating 2011- our first year

As amazing as professional teachers are, each year they have 20-35 kids to look after and educate.  You only have a few, or maybe even just one.  So what you can give your kids that a public school teacher can’t is one-on-one.  Even when you’re unsure of your methods, that one-on-one training opens up so many possibilities.  When I first started, my homeschool looked very like public school–I taught the Littles according to their grade levels, gave them separate subjects, worked on a schedule much like a middle or high school is set up: certain subjects at certain times every day.  As that year progressed I realized my boys were far beyond what was considered their ‘grade level,’ so I upped the stakes and they followed along winningly.

Castle craft 2013

Castle craft 2013

Mayan temple craft 2011

Mayan temple craft 2011

The only thing I have kept from that first year is adherence to a schedule.  In my house, we all work better with structure so we keep it structured.  However, now the only subject they’re on different levels in is math, and they both learn science, history, art, language, geography, and music together.  It helps that the Littles are only two years apart.  Once they both had the basic understanding of a subject down, they could move on together without anyone feeling held back or left behind.  I do expect more from Middle when it comes to research, writing, and the like, but he is technically 2 grades ahead of Littlest so it’s only fair.

My point is, there are so many ways to homeschool and if you pick one no one is saying you have to continue with it.  You can change it up.  I do.  Every. Single. Year.  The Littles love not being boxed in to a certain type of learning or even a set number of subjects.  They give me input on how we should do things, and decide on their own electives.  They even help me decide what order we’ll do our schedule in.  That way, they are learning to make their own decisions about their education, which I hope will stead them well when the time comes for college.

Littlest with his Robinson Crusoe journal 2014

Littlest with his Robinson Crusoe journal 2014

The myriad options for approaching homeschool should erase at least some of your fears.  There are others, of course.  Like the whole, “Wow, if I do this, I am committed to doing this for 12-13 years.”  Well, yeah.  But you’re going to be raising them anyway, and it is kind of your job.  The one thing to keep in mind, though, is that if it all gets overwhelming or you find that homeschooling isn’t working for your family, you can send them to school.  As long as you have kept them at their grade level in work they should assimilate pretty easily.  So take that fear off the list.  You can homeschool for a year or until they graduate.  The option for change is always there.

Then there’s the financial question.  I’m not going to lie–there are months when we struggle a bit and I start thinking, “We wouldn’t have to worry about this if I just went back to work.”  In my case, my beautiful husband is always there to remind me why we made this decision and of the cost of child care and professional clothing and daily lunches and gas money.  And we remember we’d be giving up this wonderful opportunity to raise our kids ourselves in order to make an extra–what?–$50 dollars a week?  A hundred?  After we factor in the costs of me going back to work, it suddenly seems like a Really Bad Idea.  So we make it through and things get right again, and I am always grateful I didn’t cave.  If you decide to give up half the family’s income in order to homeschool, it’s going to be hard.  You’ll have to give up some luxuries and some social activities in order to afford books or paper and pencils.  Or a rocking printer like the one I finally invested in.  But the rewards are so numerous.  I promise you, getting to be the one who teaches your kids their values and ideals, sees every nuance of their growth, and witnesses all their firsts makes it worth it.  And as a good friend of mine says about the people you owe money to, “They can’t eat you.  What are you stressing about?”  Also, I know several families in which the primary homeschooler has a part-time or even a full-time job.  The options are there and apparently doable.

Scarecrow-building day with our homeschool friends 2013

Scarecrow-building day with our homeschool friends 2013

You might also be really scared of what will happen to your kids socially.  In our society, the public school system is where kids learn to interact with others, right?  It’s where they make friends.  Now, I know there are people out there who have been lifelong friends with people they met at school.  I am not one of them.  My circle these days is made up of people I’ve worked with, family, people I’ve met through my husband, people from all sorts of places… none of them people I knew in high school.  In fact, barring a couple of exceptions, I have never had a desire to remain friends with the people I went to high school with.  I had a lot of friends in high school.  I wasn’t comfortable around most of them.  I didn’t agree with the way they thought, the things they did, or the way they viewed the future.  I always felt like an oddball.  Why would I still want to feel like that as an adult?  I mean, think about it–public school throws us in with a bunch of other people our age that we don’t get to pick and we have to at least find one or two we can tolerate for the next 12 years.  In high school, most of my friends went to other schools and I only saw them on the weekends.  So technically, public school didn’t do much for me socially except teach me to hide who I really was.

Do you want that for your kids?  The thing is, as long as you don’t hole your kids up in your house 24/7, they’re going to make friends.  It’s what kids do.  It’s what humans do.  I’ve talked about this extensively in another post, so I’m just going to say, wipe that fear off your list.

Equinox lesson at local forestry's nature center 2013

Equinox lesson at local forestry’s nature center 2013

Listen, fear begets courage.  It’s healthy to have a little fear, because it helps you think things through.  It can even help you throw on your big-girl boots and tackle a problem head on.  If you’re still wavering about homeschool because of fear, take a deep breath.  Remember who you’ll be doing this for.  Contact someone with experience and let them encourage you.  Look at how happy my Littles look in all these photos.  Then look at your own kids.  And go for it.

Love wins,


Reasons Not to Homeschool

Recently a new yet dear friend asked me if I like homeschooling.  She had been to our local public school’s Kindergarten Round-Up that day, and it seemed like she was considering her options.  Of course, I told her I Love homeschooling.  But I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since.  And with my seminar coming up, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching about what homeschooling really means to me.

The truth is, I do Love homeschooling.  Since I started this journey four years ago, my life has been fuller and richer than it has ever been.  I have not only taught my Littles, I have learned so many things about myself I don’t think I could begin to count them.  Like, I am a natural teacher.  You might think that’s an odd thing to discover After I started homeschooling, especially considering my history in educational employment, but I’m not just talking about teaching my kids here.  I have helped people decide whether or not to homeschool.  I have mentored peers who were looking to improve their homeschool experience.  That discovery led to this blog and to the confidence to submit articles to homeschooling magazines.  I am not ‘bad’ at math and science, as I was convinced I was when I was young.  I have the capacity to learn the things I need to know to teach my Littles what they want to know.  They have changed me, all these discoveries.  They have made me better and stronger.

When someone approaches me with the desire to learn about homeschooling, I am filled with the desire to teach them.  I’ve promised that friend to get together and discuss things with her, but with a new round of heavy snow coming in, we have to postpone.  Because of that, I’m going to give a little advice here.  What do I want to say to people who are considering, even minimally, taking the chance of homeschooling their children?

Go for it.  That’s going to be my answer every time.  There are so many benefits to parent, child, family relationships, that any argument against it becomes powerless.  I read an article once called, “Why Homeschooling Can Be a Bad Idea.”  I kept it because there were no Real arguments in it, and it reminds me of all the reasons I Do homeschool.

Link to College at Home Study

The first reason given was (Captain Obvious, anyone?) the socialization factor.  The article claimed that “Isolating children from the outside world can affect his social skills, or worse, result in phobias and other disorders in social settings.”  WHAT?  What parent who cares enough to devote her life to teaching her children would then proceed to isolate her children from the world?  A study created by College at Home shows that homeschool children test better on Image result for homeschool imagessocialization than public school children by a score of 14.42.  Why?  Because homeschool children aren’t stuck in a classroom for 13 years with 30 other kids their exact age, who are doing the exact same things, and learning to think in the exact same ways.  Homeschool children tend to have friends from all ages and social classes.  I have never known a homeschool child who couldn’t hold his own in conversations with anyone from infancy to elderly.  They are polite, they are thoughtful, they are usually mature far beyond their years.

The second reason the article gave went like this: “Kids may not get education that is well-rounded, and the knowledge learned may be confined to the biases of the parents.  Kids may not able to explore other beliefs and points of view.  This can develop close-mindedness in children, or at worse, bigotry.”   See the above paragraph.  This argument is too absurd to hold any merit.  It barely warrants my response.  It actually seems to come from a place of close-minded ignorance and bigotry.  Considering that they still teach that Christopher Columbus was a hero of the modern world in public school, how can that quote be anything more than ironic?  Yes, homeschooling gives parents a chance to teach their religion to their children without interference, but since we can’t even honor our country in public schools anymore, how is that a bad thing?  A good homeschooling parent teaches their littles a subject from all sides and lets the littles form opinions themselves.  That’s kinda part of the point.

Image result for homeschool images

Third, the article states, “Parents who are not qualified to teach could limit the scope of a child’s knowledge.”  Again, What?  That same study from College at Home shows that homeschool students test higher across the board than public school students.  The difference between those with parents certified to teach and non-certified parents?  1%.  I’m not kidding.  Refer back to the part where I said I’ve learned I don’t suck at math and science.  I never took chemistry in high school or college because I was afraid of it.  But we’re taking it now, and all three of us are excelling! 🙂  The thing is, if we don’t know something our kids need to learn, we’re grown-ups with brains of our own–We Can Learn It Ourselves.  There are too many resources out there to help us along, such as the What Your x-Grader Needs to Know series of books by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., for us to teach with a limited scope.

The fourth reason?  “Homeschoolers may miss the inspiration provided by the occasional great teacher.  How many great men were influenced by mentors other than their parents?”

Does ‘mentors other than their parents’ have to mean public school teachers?  Perhaps that mentor can Be the child’s own parent.  What a crazy idea!  Or maybe it’s their minister, an aunt or uncle, an elderly person they visit at a nursing home, a scout master.  This one pushed my buttons.  Again, coming from a place of ignorance.  Don’t fear that homeschooling will rob your child of the opportunity to have mentors.  If anything, it can give them a more diverse field from which to choose.

Ah! “Homeschooled children miss advantages of learning in a classroom setting.  This involves being challenged and encouraged by fellow students, working within structure and beyond book-learning, such as respecting authority outside of their parents, following orders and procedures, as well as participatory events such as playing in the band or orchestra, or team sports.”

So what they’re saying is, homeschools have no structure and only do book-learning.  How many of you homeschoolers work like that?  I don’t know a single homeschooling parent who teaches exclusively from books and provides no structure to the homeschool day.  Also, what advantage is there to having to raise your hand to express your thoughts? The only advantage there is to the teacher, who would indeed have her hands full if all her students spoke their thoughts without waiting for some kind of prompt.  But that’s not how the real world works, and it shouldn’t be how we teach our youth to operate.  I’ve already said that homeschool kids tend to be more polite and mature, so it follows they have plenty of respect for authority and following procedure.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around what the author imagines homeschool to be like, and I just can’t get there.  If you are considering homeschooling, please don’t worry that your kids will turn out to be lazy sloths who disrespect authority and can’t follow rules.  That is stuff littles are supposed to learn at home, anyway.  Also, the big Disadvantage of the classroom setting–having to share the teacher’s attention with so many other students–far outweighs any advantages.  And I’m honestly not sure I agree that there are any advantages.

Finally, the article states, “Parents have to juggle homeschooling with their own social needs and personal interests, desire to work, and financial needs.”  That is true.  The one true statement about homeschooling in the entire article.  But isn’t it also true of parenting in general?  Don’t we make sacrifices for our children every single day without ever regretting it?  Listen, if your social needs and personal interests are more important than your child’s education, by all means, do not homeschool.  You would not be good at it, anyway.  But if you’re children are truly the most important things in your life, then there’s nothing to be afraid of.  You might have to give up working.  You might have to tighten the budget.  You might not get as much time with your friends or have as much money for entertainment.

But you don’t have to miss a minute of your kids’ lives.  You don’t have to worry about what terrible social skills they may be learning from other kids at school.  You get to be there for them for one-on-one learning Every Day.  They know that you have made them your number one priority and they appreciate the sacrifices you make.  Trust me.  My Littles tell me almost daily how grateful they are to be learning at home.

My advice if you’re considering homeschooling your child?  Go for it.  There’s no reason not to.

Love wins,


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