Friday, November 21, 2014

Youth Financial Literacy & Entrepreneurship: Watching Seeds Grow

When we consider education, we focus on our children being well-read, able to figure out the area of a triangle, knowing who won the Civil War, and knowing what Ag stands for on a periodic table.  We provide little formal education on how to make money and what to do with that money once you have it.  But as a former business education teacher and a parent, I’d argue that financial literacy is just as important to our children’s success.  Or least, for us to successfully get them out of our house as functional, independent adults (the whole goal of parenthood, right?)

What I learned about money (at least before I went to college and actually majored in finance) was from my parents, with money earned through part-time jobs and allowance.  As a teenager, I babysat.  Many of my girlfriends did the same; the guys cut grass and shoveled snow.  We told people we were available to do the work, decided the fee, did the work, collected payment, and figured out what to do with all that money.  We didn’t think about it then, but these tasks are the essentials of being an entrepreneur.  I’ve reviewed the same steps with my little group who are involved in one of the largest youth business operations around – my Girl Scout troop and their cookies.

Watching Seeds Grow is a guide about entrepreneurship for young people written by son and father, Keith Greer and Peter Greer (President & CEO of HOPE International), which offers simple, easy-to-understand lessons for youth about financial management.

The book opens with a few stories of youthful entrepreneurship, starting with Keith’s (the son) haphazard beginning in business, selling beans in a Rwandan market when he came across a few handfuls of leftover beans.  The stories highlight product-related businesses (beans, candles, tacos, donuts), but children should also be reminded that service-related endeavors, such as tutoring, shoveling snow, and painting friends’ nails, also require the same steps.

The second part of the book lists for parents ten steps of entrepreneurship.  Even for the child who has no interest in running their own business, they are important lessons which can be scaled to the appropriate age: understanding finance and the concepts of hard work, ownership, investment, and generosity.

For instance, Step 2: Start a Savings Account.  For the youngest child, the parent can begin this lesson with a simple bank at home – a jar, a plastic piggy bank, an envelope – and the discussion of putting away a little bit of whatever money the child gets for birthdays or holidays or A’s on the report card to save for the future.  Perhaps start with a tangible goal, like a particular toy or activity that’s relatively expensive, but reasonable.  As the child gets older, you can discuss more about short-term (that new iPhone) and long-term (college) savings goals.  Additionally, as the child gets older, parents can introduce them to the process of putting their money in the bank and earning interest (even if it is just a little bit), and then later the concept of investing (Greer’s Step 6).

An interesting parenting issue which Greer includes in the discussion on teaching children the value of hard work, is the debate about allowance.  Should allowance be tied to chores or other required activities or should it be given, no strings attached?  Greer suggests that by relating allowance to chores, parents teach children the concept of working for their money. Parents might even offer the opportunity to do additional chores to make a few more dollars.

The last section of the book is worksheets for the child who is considering their own business, even as simple as their own lemonade stand.  Applying the ten steps of entrepreneurship, the worksheets lead the child and parent through developing a business concept, considering expenses and setting a price, planning marketing and promotions, and selling the product.

Watching Seeds Grow is an easy-to-read guide which breaks down information about financial management into tangible, actionable steps for the young entrepreneur, the kid working a part-time job, or the kid getting an allowance for taking out the trash.

Peter and Keith Greer, Authors of Watching Seeds Grow

A complimentary copy of Watching Seeds Grow was provided for review; all opinions and comments are my own.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lessons for My Daughters About #BreakingtheInternet

Many situations in life are what we call “teachable moments.”  They may be times when someone did really well, but sometimes (usually) the best lessons are from when something has gone wrong.

In the past week, there was one celebrity who tried to steal the internet spotlight by baring her a$$ on a magazine cover and everything else on the inside pages (although online, cover and inside pages don’t really matter, so we got a glimpse of it all, but anyway...)  Then, another who quietly donned a white jumpsuit and cape, had her husband-to-be suit up in white, and rode two white bikes to their wedding – and the pictures took the internet by a tidal wave.  Teachable moments.

So what can we teach our daughters from these two examples of womanhood?

Overt, aggressive, look-at-me, love-me self-promotion doesn’t always work out so well.  People don’t like being forced to look at you and give you compliments.  Have you noticed whenever a person or even business entity attempts the “make a meme of me” campaign, it usually backfires? A haughty “break the internet” push actually comes off as a little too much self-absorption, and while the buzz may be out there, it’s not necessarily good. I haven’t heard anyone say “wow, I was so happy that while I was drinking my coffee this morning, sliding through Twitter, her a$$ popped up on my screen.” (Yeah, I know some thought that, but I’m talking about the rest of us.) Same when girls are strutting around in dresses tighter then their underwear and just as short or posting 100 selfies a day.  Lesson: stop begging for compliments and attention; it’s not a good look.

People like genuine-ness.  As much as we thrill in the drama of “reality” lives, in our hearts, we want to see for-real real, true love and friendship (or at least the image of it.)  So when photos of Solange’s wedding in white popped on the screen, there was a big collective “awwww, how lovely!”  Here was a celebrity who got married like a person with some sense who was focused on her own happiness, not “likes” and RT’s.  There were no secret, teasing peek photos at the wedding by the paparazzi hiding in bushes (the cute video of her and her son dancing looks like a friend took it on their phone) or month-long live E! coverage of the preparations.  I’m not na├»ve enough to think that there wasn’t a little bit of publicity planning involved in all of this, but the feeling was genuine and natural.  Sometimes we like things not being crazy over the top.  Lesson: We like that natural, real you better than the made-for-TV version.

In the real world, where the rest of us live, “breaking the internet” is not a real, tangible goal.  Sure, people like having a bunch of followers and friends, there’s a jolt of cyber-pride when you get some “likes” for a photo or status post. Heck, that’s what we bloggers live for – a share, a tweet, a comment. But all that amounts to very little in your quest to be a real, good, happy person.  Lesson: please, please don’t base your self-worth on electronic clicks, but instead on warm, live hugs and smiles.

And a few more quick ones:
Lesson: How you start is how you will continue.
Lesson: Pick your husband and life partner wisely. 
Lesson: Have more to offer the world than what’s physical.

And one more:
Don’t overstay your welcome.  If you somehow slipped into the party through the backdoor and folks tolerated you to stay – enjoy yourself, grab a drink, dance a little bit, don’t be a nuisance, and realize when it’s time for you to go.  Take your goodie bag, thank your host, and move on.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's Cold: The Case for Fingerless Gloves (or Mittens)

Why wear gloves without fingers when it's cold outside?  

This was my thought when I first came across this concept of fingerless gloves a few years ago.  (And as an aside, I'm not sure why they are considered gloves, rather than mittens; since they are fingerless, how do you know which they are?  Something to think about over coffee.)  It didn't make a whole lot of sense, but since I found a pretty easy pattern for a pair and I could use some practice in making things in the round, I gave it a try.  And now, as it's getting cold, I'm making another pair (probably my 3rd or 4th.)

As for the yarn - don't you just love this natural color?  It's the actual color of the sheep that is was shorn from.  I bought these skeins last year in a little needlepoint shop in Middleburg, Virginia when I went out there for dinner at Salamander Inn (oh, you didn't know I can find a yarn shop anywhere, anytime?)  Gum Tree Farm is located nearby.

So, back to the gloves - why fingerless?

Because gloves with fingers are great, but sometimes they get in the way of doing stuff.  You have to stop, pull them off to push buttons on the ATM, sign the little credit card screen, count on your money, dial the phone.

When you go inside somewhere - the store, the school, the library - you look like a bank robber if you keep your gloves on, as if you are being careful not to leave fingerprints.  But with fingerless gloves, nobody cares.

Sometimes it's cold inside, too.  I was at school all last week and my hands were freezing. I don't know how the teachers and kids can stand it.  I wanted to put on another layer of socks and cursed the days I forgot my gloves.  But I was working the book fair, so I did need access to my fingers to write, ring up books, count money.  In my own home office space, sometimes its cold, too, 'til the heat kicks in.

There's a theory that you only need to keep your wrists warm to keep your whole hands warm.  Something about keeping that pulse point in your wrist covered, keeps the blood going to your fingers warm.  I'm not sure I agree with that yet, but I'll throw it on the list for now, in case it works for someone.

And most important for a crocheter or knitter - they are quick and easy to make!  There's gazillion patterns out there and you can make them as simple or as fancy as you want.  Simply - it's a long tube with a hole for your thumb.  If you are an experienced crocheter/knitter, you might be able to figure this out on your own.  If you need help, of course you can check Ravelry and Pinterest for ideas.

(Note, I also have a pair of toeless socks for the primary purpose of getting a pedicure in the winter, not messing up my nail polish, but keeping the rest of my feet warm.)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Warning: In Service, You Will Get Trampled #GivingTuesday

I’m still thinking about a line I lifted out of the message this Sunday at church: To be a bridge for the hopeless, you must be ready to be trampled upon.

I’m adding this as a sub-text to one of my most-repeated phrases, “No good deed goes unpunished,” something a former boss used to say to me whenever I complained about my latest bruising.

Doesn’t it seem like whenever you are trying to help somebody, whether a specific person or a general, ideal of a group (the “homeless,” “those kids”) you get stepped on a little bit, jostled, and pushed around.  And then you wonder, what the heck am I doing this for? I could instead be sitting back, reading that book that I’ve been stuck on chapter one forever because I’ve been so busy doing this thing and sipping a glass of wine.

Being of service to others isn’t easy. It requires sacrifice of time, energy, emotion, and, often, personal resources. And as a Veteran who spoke at an event I went to last week reminded us, it requires a sacrifice from your family and loved ones around you.  When you go to volunteer at the food pantry, you might be missing dinner with your family.  When you help coach the basketball team, your own kid is missing out on the time to play catch with you.  When you are sitting in PTA meeting, planning the bake sale to buy books for the reading room, you are missing a conversation with your spouse. Dropping those clothes off at the job training center is cutting into happy hour with your friends.  So the sacrifice is your’s, but also your family’s and friends’.

On top of all that, sometimes, folks don’t appreciate your service. Sorry, it’s true. Whether the recipient, other people you are working with, or other people who would like to be doing what you are doing but for some reason are not.  You will have detractors and nay-sayers, unfortunately.  Someone will complain that you should’ve bought canned beans for the food drive, not macaroni and cheese.  You should’ve donated hats, not scarves.  They will whisper that you drive a Benz and just came back from a vacation in Hawaii, but only bought two tickets to the school play.  Sorry. It’s going to happen.

When all this happens and you are looking at the footprints up and down your spirit, look outwards.  Look toward the other side.  Where are you trying to help people get to. Are you trying to make sure kids are warm this winter?  Do you want to make sure families are fed?  Do you want women to have a safe haven when they are abused or assaulted?  Are you trying to get a crosswalk at your school?  Do you have this crazy notion that every child should be able to read, no matter their country of origin?  Keep your eyes there, on that distant side.  Keep in mind the destination you are trying to help people reach.  Dust off some of those dusty footprints.  And keep leading people to a new place.

And in case no-one else says it, “thank you for your service.”

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Currently… Catching up, Planning, and Tech-Challenged

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?  Where did the year go?  What are you doing this week as we get ready to roll into the holiday season?  Here’s what I’m up to this week.


Android v Mac Tech-challenged. Trying to figure out how to get the 2000 pictures off of my Android phone onto my Mac computer.  My husband said “all you gotta do…”  Always be careful with any instructions that begin with this phrase.  It’s a signal that the things is not going to be simple, at all.

Catching up from last week.  You know how it is when you take a few days out of your normal routine – whether it’s for vacation, or you get sick, or you have to travel for work.  When you get back to your normal, there’s all the stuff you’ve got to do that should’ve been done while you were out of your normal spot.  I spent Monday through Friday at the school bookfair last week, so now I’m catching up at home. Laundry, groceries, housekeeping.  Writing.  Are there things that we can just say, “forget it, it’s not getting done”?  (By the way - I've listed a few diverse picks from the bookshelves in this post from last week - Diverse Books form the Bookfair.)

Getting ready for this week.  And despite trying to catch up from yesterday, today is still here and tomorrow is still coming.  I’m working on my menu plan (which helps a little bit with that daily panic of what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner), related grocery list, and everything else to do list.

Thinking about Sunday’s message at church, or at least the line that I lifted out of it: To be a bridge for the hopeless, you must be ready to be trampled upon.  Still thinking on it, let’s talk about it more tomorrow.

Exercising again.  I don’t really have to go into the got off track, gained a few pounds, blah blah blah explanation, right?  So now, especially before the dessert-rich holiday season really kicks in, I’m trying to do better.  On my shopping list is one of those holders for the treadmill so I can read read on my iPad while I’m doing my walking warm-up.  I can scan email, Facebook and Twitter, flip through a few articles in those ten minutes.  I’m not much for exercise multi-tasking (why I love swimming) but this little bit makes me feel productive until I turn up the speed and start running.  Do you go into any kind of pre-holiday diet or exercise routine?

And I’m writing.  Working on novel number two and a few blog posts.  Coming up soon are posts about #GivingTuesday and service and a review of Watching Seeds Grow for kid entrepreneurs in observance of National Entrepreneurship Week.

Have a great week!

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Diverse Books for the Kids from Scholastic Bookfair

I've survived another week of the school Scholastic BookFair.  Five days of running the little temporary bookstore in the space now known, again, as the Media Center.  Along with spending the day as book-seller, its a unique look into the normal school day.  Every class and every student comes through the book fair.  Talk about getting to know your kid's school.  Add to the fun by dressing in costume with the theme of the fair - I managed to get away with walking around the school all week and attending my parent/teacher conference in a long red cape and crown.  Don't miss the fun - you should volunteer for the school book fair. (And I'm not just saying that as a plug for my 2015 team.)

While stocking, searching for, and selling books, I always end up with a pile of books for my own kids.  Of course, there's the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid (somehow our book fair is always timed to the release of the newest book so there's that madness), some LEGO or airplane building guide, and some princesses or fairies.  This year we also picked up Lucky Dog, a book about rescued dogs; this because the dog on the cover looks like our own lab/shepherd which we adopted from Lucky Dog Rescue.

As I've said in previous posts (like Where Does My African-American Child See Herself in Books), you know I've always got my eye out for books that reflect diversity, especially in a "normal kid" kind of way, going through whatever experiences kids go through.  Here's what we found this year.

What does Kennedy's assassination and integration look like from the eyes of a young Black girl?Kizzy Ann Stamps is a young girl in the early 1960's.  Her neighborhood schools are about to be integrated, which means she has to leave the school she's been attending and her Black teacher to the new integrated school with a new White teacher. And she is not too happy about this change in her life.  To ease into the change, her teacher suggests that she write a letter to her new teacher to introduce herself.  The book is told through her continued letters and then, when her new teacher gives her a journal, entries in there.   

The Mighty Miss Malone: Men and women, dads and moms, do what they can to take care of their families. Sometimes that means moving to a new city for a new job, but not necessarily as a whole family all at once.  This is Deza Malone's family's journey through the Great Depression.  The timing and picture of the little girl with braids on the cover makes me think of my own aunt and makes me want to know her story.  Written by Christopher Paul Curtis, award-winning author of The Watsons go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu: What if your grandmother's aunt came to live with you as you get ready for sixth grade? Add to that, she is going to be your new room-mate.  And while you're trying to be a regular kid, your family continues to follow Chinese cultural traditions and make you go to Chinese school.  The premise of the story just made me laugh, and not just in a typed "LOL" way, but for real laughing out loud.

Jump Into the Sky: In post-WWII 1945, Levi sets out towards a southern Army base in search of his paratrooper dad. I anticipate that it will be an interesting historical fiction: 1945, traveling through the south, Black soldiers, and a teen Black boy.  And I would expect there are some interesting coming of age issues, as well.  I picked this one up for my son. 

Happy reading!  And when you're done, let the kids read, too.

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