Homeschool High School’s Most Essential Subject

What subjects should you include when homeschooling your teen through high school? Answering this question can and does fill entire books. Personally, I think at least some of the subjects should be related to your teen’s interests as much as anything else. But there’s one subject that should be mandatory: personal finance.

With unemployment and underemployment becoming more common, it’s imperative that we send our kids out into the world with some financial savvy so they can wisely manage what money they’re able to earn. And we have the resources to do the job.

As parents, we put the “why” behind the “how.” It’s one thing to say that teens should set some money aside every month and save it for a rainy day. It’s quite another to tell the story of how your dad and his siblings saved almost every nickel they made as teenagers so they could help their single mom buy the family’s first house. That was a real-life situation I shared with my teens; I’m sure you have your own. (Sometimes true stories don’t have a happy ending…..every family these days knows someone with a cautionary financial story to tell.)

We also have great resources available to use with our teens. For example, we don’t need textbook charts showing how credit card interest is calculated. We likely have the credit card bills that show how little a minimum payment is required for the purchases we’ve made each month. We can show the high rate of interest charged on balances, the equivalent of paying a 22% (or greater) premium on everything we buy…..thus saving us 22% when we pay off the bill each month. (Even if you’re not a credit card user, the reason for that decision should certainly be shared with your teens, if you haven’t done so already.)

Textbooks might also include case studies of make-believe families with examples of income and expenses. However, we can place a month’s worth of real paycheck stubs on one side of the table and a month’s worth of bill stubs on the other (utilities, mortgage payment or rent, car payments, etc.) and let our teens do the math. Real life has much more impact than case studies of strangers.

Today’s economy offers many sad stories of those who relied on credit to make up the difference between their income and their desires…. to their detriment. Go over some of these stories in your newspapers and online and discuss them with your teen. Use them as examples of why it’s so important to live within your means.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to teach your teen your view of personal finance. I designed similar projects for my teens* that they worked on, and I included them on their high school transcripts with the title Life Prep (Personal Finance). No one questioned it, and it certainly didn’t prevent my kids from being admitted to college.

You might be hesitant about sharing your personal financial information with your teens. If so, consider that what you teach them about this subject will greatly affect them for their entire lives. Making smart financial decisions when young can benefit a person for years. Unfortunately, messing up because of financial ignorance can hurt a person for years.

Sharing information and opinions about personal finance is every parent’s job. It’s too important to leave out, especially in times like we’re living in right now. Homeschooling parents have the time and opportunity to do this. The time to begin is right now.

*found in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers

A Homeschool Tempest in a Teapot

So the press has found some dissatisfied homeschooled adults. This must make them so happy. Nothing like a little controversy to boost your website traffic.

It makes sense that there will be some homeschooled adults who are dissatisfied with how they were raised. Just looking at the populace at large, what percentage are unhappy with the way they were raised? Probably a good portion, judging from the number of self-help titles published over the years for readers trying to get past their problematic childhoods. Why should homeschoolers be any different?

In this particular case the focus is on a certain type of homeschooling family, known collectively as Quiverfull, according to the article. (That name stems from a book very popular among Christian homeschoolers in the 1990s.) This has been a trainwreck in the making for some time. I knew several families like those described in the article; given their strict beliefs, particularly as they applied them to their daughters, rebellion was inevitable. After all, once your girls get out into the world and discover that there are options in addition to marriage and motherhood, some of them are going to want more choices.

When my first book (Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers) was published, I had trouble getting a booth at a certain homeschool conference to sell it. I couldn’t even get a response from those running the conference. I was later told by someone in the know that the problem with my book is that it encourages girls as well as boys to become independent adults. The families running the conference didn’t want their girls to get any ideas, I guess.

Now, I don’t agree with their mindset and my husband doesn’t either. We homeschooled all our children, daughters and sons, with the intent of helping them be all that they could be. Personally I think we can trust God to lead each child to the right career; those that think all girls should be trained only to be wives and mothers ought to give some thought to how God used Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael.

But just because I disagree with families who raise their daughters to be only wives and mothers doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing. There is no agenda-free schooling anywhere. There’s an agenda in public school and private school just as there is in any homeschool. Parents are free to choose how to educate their children, and children are free to embrace or reject their upbringing when they become adults. The article I cited at the start of this post is merely an attempt to foment controversy, so don’t let it bother you too much.

The irony in all this is that many of the young women quoted in the article will someday change their minds. They’ll end up being stricter than their folks. I’ve seen it happen before. Some of the biggest rebels eventually turn into the strictest parents. People are funny, aren’t they?

The Downsizing Chronicles: Almost There

It’s been three months since we moved to our little house, and I’m thrilled to say that we can now get one car in the two-car garage with room to spare. This was no mean trick, as the garage was literally filled to the brim with stuff (rows of stuff stacked as tall as I am) not very long ago. We’ve gone through everything, only letting into the house what we really need or want. That’s been hard, because we liked all of our stuff!

We took some ribbing from family and friends about how much stuff we had, but the fact is that I never had time to completely go through things over the years because I was too busy homeschooling my kids, and I certainly can’t regret that. Also, we kept things that would be needed for our long-held dream of living on acreage, a dream that was apparently not in God’s will, and it wasn’t until we bought this tiny house in town that we knew we could give those things up.

We took countless boxes to Goodwill. We’ve given a lot of toys and homeschooling items to friends with young children. We’ve sold a lot of things on Craig’s List. And there are a few more things that need to go, but we’re working on that.

The hardest items to give up were the books. We love books. And though we do have a Kindle with plenty of books on it, the fact is that there’s nothing like holding a much-loved book in your hands. But there just wasn’t room for all the books we loved.

I’ve sold and given away many books in the past, but there were some I could never let go of, including those I used for my kids when I first designed Life Prep for them. I’m going to be giving those away on this blog soon, because I can’t use them with my youngest.

There is an upside to all of this. As much as I miss the things we gave up, it’s very freeing to live small. The housework doesn’t take nearly as long as it did when we had five bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. The utility bills for this house are lower than the last house (90 years old with 38 windows!) and the small closets here forced us to get rid of a lot of our clothes (which weren’t getting much use anyways because we don’t have jobs and nobody dresses up at church these days.)

So I’m not complaining. And the fact that they’re predicting snow tonight and we won’t have to clean off the car tomorrow because it now fits in the garage makes me extra glad we worked so hard to get rid of all our stuff after the move  :)

The Downsizing Chronicles: I Keep Finding Things I Forgot I Had…..

….Like a few more booklets, which I’ll continue to give away free while they last. And then there are some of the books from the reading list of Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers. I don’t need them anymore because my kids are grown, and I hate to give them up because they’re great books, but I just don’t have room for them in our new little home. So stay tuned; I’ll be giving them away soon!

Teaching Our Daughters About Money

Seven years ago, Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers was first published. Since then, I’ve gotten many email messages from readers who used the curriculum with their kids and were pleased with it.

Sadly, I’ve also been asked why I chose to include girls in my target audience for the book.

Now, I realize that many homeschoolers are even more conservative than I am, enough so that they plan to keep their daughters at home until and unless they marry. But to keep them in the dark about financial matters seems so misguided to me. Continue reading