Teaching Delayed Gratification is a Must

We visited our hometown over the weekend and noticed that a couple of businesses we always shopped at have closed down. I looked them up online when I got home and found that they went out of business because of the bad economy.

One store owner, who ran a wonderful Christian book/gift store, blamed her business closing on people no longer using their credit cards. She said that in the past, people bought more items and paid with credit, but then they began paying cash and only buying little things. She and her husband decided to close down while they could still pay their bills.

As a business owner myself, I understand her feelings. But part of the reason our economy is in the bad shape it’s in is because people abused credit. They bought things they couldn’t afford and borrowed the money to do so, but couldn’t pay it back.

One of the projects in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers is designed to teach teens about handling credit cards responsibly. When I speak to homeschool groups, I’m often asked at what age people should begin teaching their children about credit. The book is intended for teens, but I tell parents if they really want to teach their children to handle credit responsibly, they must begin when their children are babies.

I’m not suggesting they get their baby a Visa card. But the root of credit problems is usually (I’m excepting medical emergencies here) an inability to delay gratification. Somebody wants a big plasma TV to watch the Super Bowl and they buy it on credit, never thinking about how they’ll pay for it. They don’t have the self-discipline to set aside money each week until they have enough to pay cash for the plasma tv.

How do you raise your children to become adults with the ability to delay gratification, to wait for what they want? You gently make them wait for what they want.

Don’t pick up the baby as soon as she makes a peep. Let her lay in her crib for a bit babbling and cooing before you pick her up.

Don’t buy your preschooler a toy he demands at the store. Let him wait for it until his birthday; he’ll appreciate it more, and he’ll have learned a little bit about waiting for what he wants.

Don’t buy your preteen the latest electronic device the day it comes on the market. Teach her to save up her allowance and birthday money until she can buy it for herself.

The child who learns he doesn’t have to have everything this instant is unlikely to become the guy who puts a $3000 television on his credit card a few days after losing his job. The adults who couldn’t wait until they were actually able to pay for what they wanted helped get us where we are today: in big financial trouble.

The goal is to NOT raise a child like this:

Great Tools for Financial Literacy


I’ve been using Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers with dd17 for the past 18 months or so, and we’re almost finished. We’ve been having a lot of fun with the projects.

Funny how using Life Prep has been a different experience with each of my children.

Our eldest was very eager to get out on her own, so we emphasized the rent, food and utilities projects over the others. Our son was completely college-minded, so we stuck to more reading and less projects. Dd17 is not in a big hurry to be out on her own, but she’s not sure about college either (she’s already racked up a few credit hours and isn’t sure if she wants to keep going), but she really gets into all of the projects.

She has run a couple of small businesses, so she understands the need to watch your expenses and make prudent choices. She seems to really get into studying how loans work, and how you can save a lot of money by prepaying them.

While working on the projects from the book, she enjoyed playing with some online financial calculators at Bankrate.com. They’re wonderful! I plan on adding mention of them to the next edition of the book when we update it again in a few years.

Homeschoolers and College

Homeschoolers and college have been an item for quite some time. As soon as the first crop of homeschooled kids burst on the scene in the 1980s, astounding bystanders with their intelligence, diligence and social skills (!), homeschooling parents gained the confidence to expect their children to go to college without a public high school transcript.

And go to college they did, many doing so well that colleges began to (and still do) seek out homeschooled kids. One of ours went to college and graduated with honors, so I guess we’re part of that trend.

But I think homeschooling parents should be aware that it’s not just a matter of sending your child to college and watching him or her thrive. College has changed. There are things going on at colleges and universities today that we parents never would have dreamed could happen. Knowledge of these things is necessary before you and your child make the college decision.

I’ve got three examples of why you must be extremely knowledgeable about colleges:

College and university staff sometimes lies to parents in order to push a certain social agenda.

Colleges and universities are more than happy to take your money in order to prepare your child for a career in which your child probably won’t be able to find employment.

Many college administrators believe that stopping alcohol and drug abuse is the responsibility of the student, not the college.

First off, colleges sometimes lie to parents.

Should You Stock Up?

Sick Child is Offered Some Sustenance from a Girl Acting as Nurse
Sick Child is Offered Some Sustenance from a Girl Acting as Nurse

All the furor over the swine flu (which may or not be justified, we’ll have to see how it plays out) is resulting in news reports suggesting that people should stock up on food, water, medicine, etc. in case a pandemic wipes out our already struggling economy.

Of course, if everyone followed this advice, it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because most grocery stores keep very little in reserve, instead relying on a steady stream of deliveries to keep their shelves stocked. It only takes a little fear-mongering to quickly clear those shelves.

Nevertheless, it’s always wise to keep a small stash of necessities in your house. (Learn more about stashes here.) I learned this the hard way when my husband and I were struck by a rough flu bug at the same time. Back then we had two toddlers; keeping them fed and their diapers changed was all I could do because I had a fever and was so dizzy. But my poor husband was even sicker than I was. So when we discovered we were completely out of acetaminophen and pop, guess who got to drive to the store to buy more? I was the logical choice, being the less dizzy of the two people in the house with driver’s licenses.

That was over 20 years ago, but I remember well driving down the highway and then trying to aim at the parking lot of the store and thinking, “I have no business driving in this condition.” It was all I could do to stumble into the store, buy what I needed (imagine the clerk’s joy over waiting on someone as sick and probably contagious as I was) and make it back home.

That experience made me decide I would never let my family be caught sick without supplies again. Since then, we always have acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin in the house. I keep spare containers of drink mix just in case. Crackers, applesauce and rice are also good things to keep in the pantry for recovering patients.

So, should you stock up in case the swine flu makes it to your neck of the woods? That’s up to you, but I highly recommend that you make sure you at least have the basics in good supply at your house, because even if the swine flu turns out to be just another bug, you know how families share germs. Sooner or later, you’ll be glad you don’t have to run out for supplies when you’re feeling awful.

Was 20th Century Prosperity Just a Blip in History?

I recently read an article in a quilt magazine about Ida Stover Eisenhower, mother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It included several photos of quilts made by the president’s mother from the time she was young.

The quilts were pretty, and representative of their time (late 1800s to early 1900s). But what really interested me was the story of her married life.

She met her future husband, David Eisenhower, at college. After they were married in 1885, David sold the prime Kansas farmland his father had given the couple as a wedding gift, raised an additional $2,000 and started a mercantile store with a friend.

The business did very well for two years, but then local farmers began asking for credit after losing their crops to drought and grasshoppers. Eventually David and his partner had to borrow money to keep the shop afloat, but the store failed anyway.

The Eisenhowers then moved to Texas, where David found a job working for a railroad company as an engine wiper for $40 a week. These were hard years for the Eisenhowers. It was during this time that the future president was born.

After two years in Texas, David was offered a job in a creamery in his hometown, and the family moved back to Kansas and lived with relatives for seven years. Then Eisenhower’s brother, a doctor, sold them a house on a few acres at the edge of town. They would raise six sons in that 818-square-foot house. And Ida and David would live in that little house for the rest of their lives.


Ok, it’s a bit of history, but what’s so interesting about it? I think it shows that up until the mid-20th century, getting started in life was tough. People had a hard time making it. If it wasn’t drought and grasshoppers, it was financial trouble. But people persevered and got through it.

However, after World War II, our country became unusually prosperous compared to the past. My generation (the tail end of the Baby Boomers) grew up believing that life wouldn’t be so hard. You go to college, get a degree, buy a nice house, drive nice cars, and as long as you show up to work each day, you’ll keep moving up and getting in a better position financially until you retire comfortably like your parents did.

It’s not working out that way in my family. I’m one of four sisters, three of whom are married. Of the three husbands, two have been out of work for some time and one is watching his business shrink. The unmarried sister is the mom of two boys and has been out of work for over a year. The other two sisters work in the public schools and are employed, for now.

And it’s not just our family. One friend’s husband has had his hours cut and faces an uncertain future. Another quit her church preschool teacher job because of something immoral going on in the church; a few weeks later, her husband was laid off. Friends who retired early had to go back into the work force as substitute teachers because their retirement account took a beating.

Up until recently I was thinking something strange was going on, with so many people I know losing their jobs, and unemployment rates across the country skyrocketing. But now I’m wondering if the “something strange” was actually what happened while I was growing up, when for fifty years or so it was so much easier to earn a living than it had been for most of history.

Maybe it was a glitch, a blip, and now we’re going back to normal, like the normal of Ida Stover Eisenhower’s time, when making a living was a struggle, and you were grateful to have an 800-square foot house to raise your six boys in. I wonder….