Member submission-Unschooling Voices #3

Lars D. H. Hedbor sent this e-mail as a submission to Unschooling Voices #3. He is answering the question of the month.

"My wife and I come to unschooling from a libertarian viewpoint - it's well-aligned with our values of self-determination, self-ownership and self-responsibility. Our approach to "allowances" and money management in general for our kids is shaped by these values as well.

I've resisted simply giving an allowance to our 7-year-old because I feel that it could start her down the path of thinking that she should get money for simply being there. I'm not so wrapped up in this idea that I think that allowances lead directly to kids growing up to be rock-throwing commies, I do think that it's a poor precedent to set. My wife disagrees somewhat, but is willing to humor me on this point.

That said, I certainly think that it's a great idea for kids to start getting used to the idea of managing money. For our daughter, this takes the form of making choices over whether to go for the instant gratification of an ice cream, or to put money aside to buy another dragon toy. (She vacillates between these poles pretty wildly.) It also exposes her to the elemental mathematics of making and counting change, as well as calculating how long it will take to reach a financial goal.

The solution that we've settled on (for the moment, at least) is to set up a regular schedule of age-appropriate chores that she is responsible for. When she completes these chores cheerfully, completely and on time, we pay her an agreed-upon amount of money - it amounts to a couple of bucks a week - with reductions, if necessary, for chores that have not been completed.

There are also the occasional special tasks, with special payment offered. For example, the apple tree has dropped a good deal of fruit on the lawn, so I'll offer her a bounty of a nickel per apple picked up, which both ensures that she's *very* thorough, and that she can earn a nice chunk of additional change toward that next dragon.

This approach has had its pitfalls -- there have been times when we've asked her to do something, only to be challenged with the question, "How much will you give me for it?" We usually just remind her that there are some things that we all contribute towards the smooth operation of the household, unless it truly is an extraordinary request, in which case the negotiations commence. (This contributes to another useful life, skill, right?)

In any case, while this is far from being any sort of perfect approach (she too often leaves her money around the house and loses it, which discourages her from saving), it seems to be working pretty well for us at this time. I hope this helps!"