Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Unschool lesson in economics (or trip to the mall)

One of the most important things we can teach children is how to use money wisely. For a lesson in economics, my kids and I hit the mall. The kids were excited to see all the stuff for sale. While in each shop, I would discretely point out the price. The kids were surprised at how much more expensive items costs at the mall. We talked about "over head" costs and how that is passed on to the consumer.

We also took a minute to watch the other shoppers. We talked about whom the shoppers were (mostly teens and early twenties) and what the shops sold (goods geared to that crowd). We also discussed impulse buying and credit card debt. I went into detail about how much an item bought on credit really costs.

We are going to do a follow up lesson after Christmas, so the kids can see how the prices change after the holidays. I especially like the end of the year sales. (That is about the only time I shop in a mall). A couple years ago, on New Year's Day, I bought (for only $9) a very nice artificial Christmas tree that would have cost me $90 if I had bought it two weeks earlier. Because of allergies, we no longer use a "real" Christmas tree. Before buying the Christmas tree on sale, we borrowed a friend's artificial tree which looked a bit on the battered side. Now, every year when I put up that discount Christmas time, I feel so happy. I think about how nice it looks in comparison to the tree we had used before. I'm teaching my children that part of the joy of obtaining something you want is waiting and saving to get it.

We also use the "Money doesn't grow on Trees" method of money management. The girls each have savings accounts and we make regular fieldtrips to the bank to make deposits. The girls fill out their own deposit slips (except the 5 year old) and wait in line to see the teller (including the 5 year old). My 11 year old is paying for much of her clothes. My 9 year old saved up money to go on a trip to Virginia to see her cousins. When the kids ask to eat out, I ask them if they are buying. Most of the time, they decided it is better to eat in. ;)


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A Day in Our Lives

Melissa O. Markham said...

A great lesson! Thanks for sharing! I am always looking for new ideas on how to teach my own children.

Henry Cate said...

"I am always looking for new ideas on how to teach my own children."

I find that partly it helps to constantly drop possible subjects into the conversations I have with my daughters. At least one or twice a day I’ll try bringing up some topic. Often they won’t express any interest, but sometimes they’ll be interested and we’ll talk for awhile. There are many learning opportunities around us. We’ve talked about the basics of economics, physics, politics, lots of history, family relations, business, and so on.

A couple years ago we were fortunate enough to be able to swap houses with a family in Hawaii. Near the end of our week there we happened to drive past Pearl Harbor. We had decided not to take our young daughters on the tour of the Arizona memorial, but I did mention the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the start of World War II. My oldest daughter asked a question, and a discussion started up. About two hours later they had enough. Because they were engaged and interested they learned more in those two hours than they would have in a ten hour lecture.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

And I thought I was the only person who took the kids to the mall for a field trip for school!

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I wrote a brief article about the stress of consumer debt at Christmas this morning on the HSB Company Porch (http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/HSBCompanyBlog/57750/), but I am going to go back and edit it to link to your post. Blessings ~ Patricia