Making, organizing, trading, owing and spending money has been a large part of our life. Mateo has become increasingly interested in making and spending his own money. When he asks for something he sees on TV or at the store, I now allow him to make his own decision about spending his money. I have been able to introduce to him the ways that advertising and marketing work. He is able to make confident decisions about whether a "product" is worth spending money on - What is it made from? Will it break quickly? Will it hold my attention long? What is the value? Is it healthy for me? Is this something I want to gain a certain type of knowledge from or is it just for fun? These are questions that we make as adults everyday and these are questions that he should also start to consider. I don't want him to take the things available to him for granted, but instead make wise choices about whether these "wants" are necessary.
This discussion about money has been going on for a while. We started out by making a wallet several months ago. At first we considered buying one but Mateo decided that he wanted a wallet that was like his fathers - a duct-tape wallet.
So we went to work selecting a colored tape and coming up with a functional design. We included an area for the bills, but instead of card slots we opted for a Velcro pocket for loose change and the occasional salvaged-treasure find.
Our summer in a Europe added to Mateo's money lesson since he had to consider other currencies. Euros, pounds, and dollars all became a little overwhelming so he designated different pouches and zip-purses for each type of currency. And while, being only five years old, he couldn't quite grasp conversion rates, he at least now understands that countries have a different currency and value systems.
My little entrepreneur is still furthering his interest by working. Every Sunday he sets up a lemonade stand that runs along a side our friend Jason's BBQ days. Its become a regular hit. This past Sunday, however, Mateo moved his location to Muriel's Little River Market Garden (an amazing local project located on the same property as our bus), and not only did he help with selling plant seedlings, he also sold lemongrass tea and lemonade.
Through his lemonade business we practice our math skills - addition, subtraction, decimals - and learn their use in everyday life. He also understands that sometimes you need to spend a little money to make a little money.
Mateo is very proud of the money he has made and frequent pulls it out and shows it off to his friends. And although we sometimes worry about his recent obsession I know that he has every reason to be proud of accomplishments. Just last week Mateo was buying himself a snack at our weekly homeschool coop group, where we take a Lego class, and he decided to buy Sofia (his aunt and my 4 year old sister) a snack as well. Without any hesitation he offered to buy her something and gave her big hug and said, "because I love you Sofia!" I was proud to see him on the right track and not only learning about the value of money and his sense of independence through it, but also about generosity too.
Seeing my little man mature is rewarding, but, as is often the case with parenting, pride and concern go hand in hand (not to mention embarrassment). After a particularly successful day of lemonade selling, Mateo turned to one of our friends who happened to be helping him at the time and quite frankly asked to see her breasts. When she refused, explaining that she felt it wouldn't be appropriate, Mateo offered her money. Naturally we had a long talk about this and while I neglected to probe too deeply into his motivations and the motivations of adults in similar situations we did cover the basics ofrespect between people and the misuse of the power of currency.
Money will be a lifetime lesson, but for now I simply want him to learn that money comes and goes, can't buy love and should not define you as a person.
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