Thursday, December 1, 2016

Teaching financial literacy at five

One thing that is really important to recognize in this post is how fortunate we are to be able to use this tool to teach Andrew and James about financial literacy.  It's not lost on me that there is a great deal of privilege needed to spare a couple of dollars a week!

So a few months back we started exploring ways to support James and Andrew's understanding of money.  To this point they both had piggy banks that we'd toss spare change in now and then.  We had also opened up savings accounts that we deposit money even less frequently.  There was no real rhyme or reason towards when money would go in or what it would be used for when it was there.  We figured at five it was time to take the plunge in establishing an allowance.  Simultaneously we created a "Helping" Window which engages Andrew and James in daily and weekly tasks to help around the house.  So the crux is that we encourage them to help out and they receive an allowance.  The allowance then goes into a jar which has a tally of what they need to save to achieve a goal (usually Lego of some type).

Here's a pic of the "Helping Window"

A key to this system, is that the allowance is the same every week as long as they make an effort to help.  We also don't remove money from the jar. In this way, we aren't tying financial learning to behaviour, punishment or guilt.  The outcome for us is the learning and not simply rewarding the work they are doing.

What we've seen so far:  Andrew and James have shown a new understanding of the need for patience and persistence in pursuing a goal.  They have also learned that saving for an item they desire is a necessity of life and that it can take time.  They have also shown a desire to help out around the house, not for financial reward, but so they can contribute.  A major learning was that if they worked together, they could save for an item more quickly than if they only saved as individuals.  Lastly, they've learned to prioritize how there money is used.  Sure they can buy that toy car at the register of the grocery store but if they do they won't be able to purchase the Lego set they'd really like.

This process has also provided a great moment of empathy when Andrew mentioned to Adrienne that he wanted to donate his next two weeks of allowance to Jump Rope For Heart!  Cue proud Papa tears!!!

So my not so little men this post while it started out as an update does have a strong life lesson.  That even in the smallest of hearts there is desire to give, help, and empathize.  Thank you for reminding me how philanthropy and supporting others should be a priority when managing my own money.  You're truly lovely!!!

Love Dad

PS - thanks for putting up with another Movember moustache I appreciate that you saved your comments about hating it until the last day.  I'll shave tonight!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Children's Lit. that makes my heart sing

For those of you who know me you'll know I have a sweet spot in my heart for children's books.  I love a great story and often use the messages of these books in teaching and educating the young people I work with.  A typical learning experience with me involves a story time component, and I find that this is often more popular than the actual presentation itself.  I wrote a post on our Ryerson Student Affairs Blog ( highlighting how I use these stories to better my practice.  This effort serves a dual purpose, compiling a list of stories that we love as a family while also discussing how the lessons and plot-lines can inform our development as people.

So here's an ongoing list (that's right I will add as I discover more) of my favourite children's books.

In no particular order:

Image result for the giving tree

The Giving Tree
By Shel Silverstein

The story of a boy, a tree, and the lessons one can learn from how we interact with others and our environment.  I love this book's message for both givers and takers or as is en vogue these days "Bucket Fillers" and "Bucket Dippers." I have had many a conversation about the importance of being aware of your impact on those around you and to ensure that you are not always taking/dipping but finding ways to give back.  Likewise, I have also engaged in reflection on how the tree in the story needs to consider her wellness.  Similar to the instructions on how to utilize the oxygen masks on an air plane, if you give of yourself to the point that you have nothing left to give you are not necessarily serving others as best you could.  All in all this is a great book with deep, deep messages.

Image result for the lorax

The Lorax
By Dr. Seuss

An all time personal favourite of mine, "The Lorax" tells the tale of what happens when we ignore our environment in the service of profits and our own self interest.  THis tale is full of fanciful creatures and lands but it rings true with kids and young adults.  Truthfully, I get goosebumps each and every time I read this book as I think about the world I will leave behind for my loved ones but ultimately, I love the optimism at the end of the story.  My favourite line is: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not."

Image result for what do you do with an idea

What do you do with an idea?
By Kobi Yamada

I loved this story so much that I drew ideas in sidewalk all over our driveway for two months.  This story is exactly as advertised.  It runs through various stages of ideation in a whimsical way.  It is also one of my favourite gifting books, especially for the big thinkers on your list.  I can think of no better lesson or conversation for young and old than discussing how to be confident in your ideas and thinking.  In the end (spoiler alert) the idea becomes so big and grand that it is now taken on by the world...what an incredible story with artwork to match.  Certainly a must read!!! If you can't tell, I really like this one!

Image result for zinger's hat

Mr. Zinger's Hat
By Cary Fagan

The story of a boy who meets an old story-teller in the park.  During the story, Leo and Mr. Zinger build a story together but in the end, Leo realizes that it is his story.  Mr. Zinger's hat is a fantastic book for learning about the importance of self authorship as well as an important lesson in allowing other's to write their own tale.  I have often worked with this book to talk about the value in encouraging other's to tell their story, to have input in decision making and to discover their own truths.

Image result for love you forever

Love You Forever
By Robert Munsch

There are many Munsch books that I love but this one has the had the greatest impact on my life.  Love you forever is a great book for thinking about the process of growing and change that we all have to manage in our lives.  It chronicles the life of a baby to a man and the simultaneous journey of the child's mother from parent into old-age.  It's admittedly a tough one that I rarely get through without tears but do yourself a favour, learn the song, sing it to your children as they grow and love them forever.  For you guitar players out there here's a simple chord progression:

C                         G
I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm Living
My Baby you'll be

Image result for corduroy bear

By Don Freeman

Corduroy is the story of a department store toy bear (who is missing a button) and the girl who falls in love with him.  Corduroy goes on a journey through the store trying to find his button.  In looking for it he finds what he is really looking for a family, a home, and a girl who loves him ( I should write this stuff for the back of books :P).  The reason I like this book is that it takes a complex lesson (love is more powerful than anything) and teaches it in a unique way.  A second reason I love this book is that it goes beyond the simple stories in which everyone has more than enough and lives in large suburban homes and expresses it in a way that speaks to the diversity of experience and reality for most.  I love the innocence of discover in this story as Corduroy explores the department store and then finally realizes that what he has been looking for all along is not a button or a castle but a home and a friend.

Oh the Places You'll Go
By Dr. Seuss

This book was given to James and Andrew by their Uncle Jeyas (one of my best friends), in fact he gave them each a copy and inscribed it, which should portray not only its importance but also his quality as a person.  Dr. Seuss wrote this book as a graduation address and it is beyond fitting.  It talks of the importance of resilience, effort, realizing potential and achieving great things.  As usual, my favourite line is the last one:

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

The Man with the Violin
By Kathy Stinson

A great story about the busyness of modern life and the need to take time to stop and listen.  "The Man with the Violin" takes place on a regular day in New York city when a young boy hears beautiful music in the subway station.  He asks his mother to stop but she is too busy and pulls him along.  Later he hears the same beautiful music on the radio and discovers that the musician he was listening to in the subway was a world famous performer.  I love this book as it is a good reminder to all of us to stop, listen to the world around us, and see beauty for beauty regardless of where and when it presents itself.  

Image result for winnie the pooh books

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh
By A.A. Milne

I am completely and admittedly biased on this one.  My granny was a huge fan and I can safely say that the indoctrination into A.A. Milne's world (and Christopher Robin's imagination).  I love the diversity of characters, messages, and the way Milne strings together sentences...the longer they run, the better they are.  The most difficult part of these books is to do the language and writing justice.

I would love to know what books are inspiring you and your's.  Feel free to add books that you love or that have made an impact on you in the comments field or by replying to the social media posts.  Thanks all, happy reading and loving!!!