Friday, March 7, 2014

Money: earning, saving, spending, donating and investing it – or not having any

This week we've discussed money: earning it, spending it, saving it, donating it and investing it; as well as situations where people find themselves without enough money to live on. Thematically this was was a follow-up to the unit on jobs.

The San Francisco Bay Area has both poverty and extreme wealth, and we live in a neighborhood where the two co-mingle, so wealth and inequality are important themes in our everyday lives.

In anticipation of this we had watched Chaplin's The Kid, about poverty in the tenements. It is probably his best movie, and the children loved it.

In the morning we read Judith Viorst's Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. Before starting we had set out a cup full of 100 pennies. The children counted out the pennies each time Alexander spent some – until he was no longer rich.

One evening in the week we watched the 1971 film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and discussed it (we prefer it to the Tim Burton one). We also read the book out loud over the course of the month – we recommend the edition with the original illustrations by Joseph Schindelman. Here are my notes:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - discussion
  • Veruca Salt - wanted a golden goose but fell in the garbage chute
  • Violet Beauregard - gum-chewer who turned into a blueberry
  • Augustus Gloop - obese boy who fell in the chocolate river
  • Mike TeaVee - always watching screens, was shrunk by the WonkaVision contraption
  • Charlie Bucket - the hero, stole fizzy lifting drinks but gave back the Everlasting Gobstopper at the end.
  • Slugworth - the evil competitor of Willy Wonka, who offered $10,000 to Charlie if he could bring him just one Everlasting Gobstopper (but who was really Willy Wonka’s agent)
  • Willy Wonka - was he good or bad? He let bad things happen to the mean kids, but they were ok in the end.
  • Grandpa Joe - understood what it’s like to be a kid - but foolishly got Charlie to try the fizzy lifting drinks
What happened in the end? What do you think Charlie will do with the chocolate factory? What will Willy Wonka do?
To the children, Veruca Salt was the most intriguing character.

C had ordered a Money Savvy Pig (a piggy bank with slots for Save, Spend, Donate, and Invest) for the school. We talked about what each of the slots means, and decided to save up for a telescope.

Last summer C and S set up a lemonade stand on the High Line in New York with some friends, which was a financial success. Now we revisited that experience and role-played the various decision points: deciding what enterprise to embark on (we pretended we were a family-owned pizzeria), investing your starting capital, putting in the work to create a product, and then selling it for a profit.

On another day, we discussed spending the money we have earned, and how our wants are different from our needs (this unit on wants and needs can be found in the Oak Meadow curriculum). The children ran around house labeling things with Post-Its: red for things they thought they really needed, green for things they wanted but didn't really need.

The dog got a red sticker:

We are planning to keep developing the theme by creating our school store, perhaps on Etsy, when we have come up with a good enough product to sell.

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