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

Wish You Were Paid to Homeschool Your Children?

With the economy being the way it is, most of us could use some extra income. That makes the idea of being paid to homeschool our children pretty tempting, at least at first.

After all, if we weren’t homeschooling our children, we could be out in the workforce bringing in some much-needed income. I once worked out that by staying home to homeschool my kids, I’ve missed out on over a million dollars in income. I guess you have to be really convinced about the superiority of homeschooling to give up that kind of money.

In New Zealand, the government actually pays parents to homeschool their children. It’s not a fortune: the pay starts at $743 per year for the first child, with lesser amounts for additional children. But it would cover a nice quantity of books, software and field trips, that’s for sure.

The writer of the New Zealand article I just linked to thinks we need a program like this in the U.S. I don’t agree. The problem with taking money from the government is that you open yourself up to being told what to do and how to do it. This is the same danger that many people ignore regarding state-run virtual schools.

There’s an old saying: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” It’s true of employers, and it’s also true of governments. I don’t want government money. I just want to be free to choose how to educate my kids.

Do you feel the same way? Or are you ready for a paycheck?

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

More Thoughts on Frugality

I thought of one more reason why I’m frugal. It’s because I see being frugal as a way of earning money without going to work.

For many years I homeschooled and raised kids and did not earn any money. But I viewed the money I saved by living frugally as being like pay: every dollar deducted from the store receipt total because of a coupon or a sale price was a dollar I had earned through my efforts at finding the best price.

As a bonus, it was money I earned without having to pay tax on it. (When wives going to work full-time first came into vogue, one of the criticisms of the concept was the fact that the second income often pushed a couple into a higher tax bracket. I was a newlywed back then, and that knowledge made an impression that never left me, I guess.)

I’ve also been conscious of the sliding scale between income and expenses. Back when I only had two children, I stumbled upon a job opportunity that allowed me to work at home as a writer and editor. The company I worked for gave me as much or as little work as I wanted.

At first, I took on as much as they would give me, thinking I could make a nice side income. But what I discovered was that the more I worked, the less time I had to make meals, thus driving up what we spent on pricy frozen entrees and restaurant food. I also realized that I was spending money on treats and toys for my kids because I felt guilty that I sometimes parked them in front of the television in order to make a deadline. I began to notice a trend: the more money I earned, the more money I spent.

I had to find a balance between earning enough money and saving enough money. So, where was the happy medium?

I never found out, because I had another baby and had to give up the job. Great way to solve that problem 🙂

These days, I still prefer earning money without going to work. We have a publishing business, so I can continue to work at home, and I decide how many projects I want to take on, i.e., how much I want to work. I divide my day between homeschooling our youngest, working on the business, and continuing to be a frugal homemaker. The ideal mix of those things is something I haven’t figured out yet. But one thing I know for sure: I enjoy the challenge of living frugally.

Inspiring Story for Teens

This month’s issue of Money Matters magazine (page eight) has an inspiring story for all teens. If I were still doing Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers with my daughter, I’d add it to her assignments for the week.

It’s the true story of a young newlywed couple who has been married for less than two years, has no debt and has $50,000 in savings, all due to their joint effort to manage their money responsibly.

He has a college degree, and she has a one-year technical degree. Both worked their way through college and graduated without debt. Their goals for the future include a large family, a paid-off house and ample donations to missions. What a great example for all young people!

Money Matters is published by Crown Financial Ministries, the organization that Larry Burkett helped start. Listening to Larry Burkett’s Christian financial radio show helped encourage my husband and me as we worked toward becoming completely debt-free, a goal we achieved (not on our own, only with God’s help!) in 2002.  Do check out Crown’s site while you’re there.