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3 Sites to Teach Kids to Be Financially and Entrepreneurially Literate

Mr. Shulman was my junior high school social studies teacher a million and a half years ago. I still remember when he announced that he was going to teach the class about the stock market and buying shares of companies. He told us he’d give us all a hundred mock bucks for us to invest and by the end of the semester, we’d see who had made the best financial choices.

I couldn’t wait to learn about the market. I wanted to know how to make my money work for me, about reinvesting my profits, about following The Dow Jones Industrial Average. I knew I had this in the bag. I was going to invest my C-Note in Atari. Problem was Mr. Shulman never had us do the activity. And, neither did any of my high school teachers. And, if we’re being honest, I didn’t take any classes in college that taught me how the stock market worked. Nowhere in school did I learn how money and finance worked. I didn’t learn about starting businesses nor compound interest, and I had been primed for it when I was thirteen.

But, I would have been all over it even earlier, because I was always trying to figure out how to make a buck: buying candy cheap and selling it for inflated prices at school, winning prizes at amusement parks and selling them to dads who couldn’t win them for their kids, hosting lemonade stands and yard sales. I always wanted to know how to make a buck, and when I had it, what to do with it so I could make more.

Too many of us grew up not knowing how money worked, not knowing how to make our ideas into businesses, not knowing the importance of saving so we could enjoy the long-term gratification. As a result, many of us adults are barely financially or entrepreneurially literate. We struggle to keep money in the bank, don’t know the difference between an IRA and a TSA, and watch as someone else on Shark Tank runs away with the great business opportunity that we came up with ten years earlier.

That’s precisely the reason I teach financial literacy and business development in my third grade classroom: applying for jobs, weekly pay checks, paying monthly rent on their desks, shopping for immediate gratification versus saving for the big monthly auction, business plans, marketing. Yes, these are eight-year olds, and no, they are not too young to understand the value of money, how to save and plan, and even how to create a classroom start-up where their peers pay them for their goods or services.

Not every young person, though, gets this opportunity in the classroom. But, fear not dear parents, for you too can teach financial and entrepreneurial literacy to your children at home with the following three online sites.

1. MyClassroomEconomy.org

MyClassroomEconomy.org is the free site that I use in my classroom for our yearlong economy unit. It was created by an incredible teacher, Rafe Esquith, and investment management firm, Vanguard. Although it’s been created for teachers, I recommend parents to take a look at it, because it can be modified for use at home. You can have the kids in the house apply for household jobs: dish washer, lawn mower, trash monitor, etc… and distribute their weekly pay using the black-line masters provided on the site. This means instead of actual cash, you can use family money, and come up with a list of items, activities and experiences that the kids could use their money for (extra bedtime story, bike ride to the beach, stay up 30 extra minutes, paint Dad’s fingernails, etc…).

The beauty of this site is that you can take it as far as you want. Want to have the kids rent their room? Do it. How about having them buy their room so they don’t have to pay monthly. Go for it. Want to teach them about compound interest? Then set up a bank (you hold their money) and add more to their “account” each month they leave it untouched.

2. TomorrowsLemonadeStand.com

This site was created by seven year old, Kylee Majkowski, who wondered why she wasn’t being taught about entrepreneurship when she witnessed a think-tank her mom was involved with. With mom’s guidance, Kylee created Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand in order to create “minpreneurs” for 7- to 11-year olds.

The yearlong program has three parts, or “seasons,” running eight to ten weeks each. The first is when the future businessmen and women learn entrepreneurial concepts. In the second season they develop product and service business ideas. During the third season, the youngsters create and build their businesses. And, this all culminates with a mock investor panel presentation, helmed by successful entrepreneurs. The up and coming entrepreneurs also have the opportunity to launch their ideas into the market with the support of the Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand team through their business labs.

I love that this is a site that was created by a kid who wanted something she was not being provided at school.

3. “My First Startup” Comic Book

Now, this one doesn’t exist just yet. It’s currently looking for funding on KickStarter.com, but if you like the idea, you cannot only get involved early, but you can give your youngster a chance to be a part of this entrepreneurial educational opportunity.

Three business men who are passionate about educating young people about starting and running their own businesses came up with the idea, and believe that the comic book format will attract kids who are ready, and provide them with what they need to be entrepreneurs of their own.

As a parent of two entrepreneurial daughters, what I love about this KickStarter campaign is that depending upon how much I pledge toward the project my girls could have a professional superhero poster made of them, could chat with the creators by phone, lunch with the designers, have their own comic made about them, or even be drawn in as characters in the comic book.

We as parents have the responsibility to teach our children how to use their passions to make money, how to save and spend it, how to invest it and how to make it work for them. Not all of us have enough knowledge to do that, but we can’t completely rely on the schools to prepare them for life in this arena. So, why not use what’s already out there at the tips of our fingers with just a few taps of the keyboard, in order to raise children who are financially and entrepreneurially literate?

America’s Relationship Guru

Leon Scott Baxter, “America’s Relationship Guru,” is the author of Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting and the founder of SafetyNetters.com. He’s the father of two girls, 12 and 16, and has taught elementary school for eighteen years.