Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Natural Learning

Today started with no real plan.

Boy #3 had speech this morning and gymnastics and baseball scheduled later this afternoon. (I know -- I think that sounds like a lot of one kid too. But it's the last day of speech and the last day of gymnastics, and the only day of the week when it all falls on the same day.)

It was almost 9:30 am before I realized that Boy #1 was downtown at the Green Market. He has a tendency to sleep late, so when he wasn't up yet, I just assumed he was sleeping. But then when he wasn't downstairs either, it clicked: Wednesday morning. June. He's selling at the Green Market.

Boy #1, my natural born entrepreneur, has been selling things at the Green Market ever since he was six. He pays for a spot, carts his produce down there in a wagon and spends his Wednesday mornings learning from the vendors and customers at the Market. Today, he was selling maple syrup and radishes.

So when Boy #3 got home from speech, the rest of us strapped on our helmets and headed downtown.

What started as a simple excursion spiraled into a morning of learning. We visited with friends, caught up on the small town gossip and checked out the plants and produce. We wandered into the health food store and found a new, yummy, organic treat.

We walked into the local appliance store to check out the taxidermied animals on the wall. (Trust me: They know us there. As far as my kids are concerned, that little store is as good as a natural history museum.) We filled out tickets for a raffle drawing (a great chance to practice penmanship, letters, numbers and spelling) and ended up borrowing two movies from the church that runs a lending library (Sunday School Musical and Sugar Creek Gang: The Great Canoe Fish). Then we stopped at the yarn shop, admired the yarns and talked to the owner before heading home.

At home, one boy started popping popcorn (for the movie) while another checked the price of silver on our just-recently-returned-home computer. Next thing I know, he ran into the kitchen, yelling, "Call Uncle Tom!"

Uncle Tom, an accountant, introduced my sons to investing by giving them each a one-ounce silver coin. He then showed them how to track the price on the computer.

My boys have been paying attention. Boy #1, the entrepreneur, has managed to amass a number of silver coins. All of them have been watching the price of silver for months, because Uncle Tom agreed to act as their private broker. At any time, he said, they could sell their silver back to him for market price.

So I called Uncle Tom and placed the Sell order. Then we settled in with our popcorn to watch The Great Canoe Fish.

After the movie, Boy #1 headed to the hardware store to buy some seeds. I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Boys #2 and 3 while #4 played with trucks. Now #1 and #4 are planting beans and carrots in the garden while #2 and #3 play outside.

Not bad for a day of learning -- and we still have gymnastics and baseball to go.


  1. Now THAT is life learning. Don't get that from any textbook.

  2. Wow, what a day! And all your activities are just priceless for learning.

    That is such a neat idea that Uncle Tom came up with.

    Boy #1 sounds very ambitious, wow! You must be really proud.

  3. I'm so grateful for Uncle Tom -- MOST of the time (Tom, if you're reading this, you know I'm refering to the convincing-boys-they-can-fly thing. Oh, and "I can do what I want." That, we could have done without!)

    Seriously, though, Tom has a natural gift for teaching financial stuff at a level the kids can understand. He gave them a short video about the US Mint. He introduced us, as a family, to Rich Dad/Poor Dad and got the kids the Cashflow for Kids game. And the silver idea was just genius.

    If you're interested, it's a pretty easy/cheap way to get your kids into investing. An ounce of silver is about $15 right now; buying a one oz. silver coin will cost a bit more, due to pressing, profit, etc, but to make things easy, Tom explains the difference but then just goes with market price. You can usually find the coins at coin shops and coin/jewlery stores.