Disclosure: I was selected for this sponsored post by WeAreTeachers.com and H&R Block. All opinions here are my own.
The H&R Block Budget Challenge is empowering kids with essential personal finance skills while giving students and teachers a chance to win $3M in scholarships and classroom grants.
This year has been a very blessed one full of honors in my personal and professional life. I was selected to serve the educators in my state as the 2014 Michigan Teacher of the Year, my school district has me in an instructional coaching role to support nearly 600 K-12 classrooms, and my wife and I moved and had our first child–a beautiful little girl named Laina Josephine. In addition to the many lessons I learned about education and opportunities I had this year, a rather simple lesson about personal finance emerged as quite powerful for me: money doesn’t grow on trees, so you better know how to manage what you have.
In moving to a new city, I had to sell my old home and buy a new one. Becoming a new dad completely changed my perspective on how I manage my money and invest in the future for my family. Amidst all the professional work I was doing this year around the state and country, I had to navigate a variety of new financial decisions that have a lasting impact on much of my life. The biggest lesson for me this year was how little I knew about financial matters.
Now, you might be wondering what personal finance has to do with anything or why it’s important. I wondered the same thing growing up as I watched my own parents raise our family and make financial decisions. I didn’t pay all that much attention to the details at the time, even when my parents tried to teach me about their decision-making process, and I never took any finance classes in school; however, I now realize that without much preparation I had two choices when faced with my own financial decisions: either figure it out yourself, or pay someone who knows about it to help me make my decisions. While I love a good puzzle to figure out, this one had too high of stakes to gamble my learning curve.
Being in a position to have limited choices, and a great deal of uncertainty about all the decisions being made due to lack of knowledge, was admittedly a stressful feeling. But because I both worked with professionals who knew how to advise me, and I also did some ‘on-the-job’ training of my own, everything turned out just fine in the end.
Now, looking back on all the things that happened this year, I think about how much more at ease I would have been with a head start in financial literacy; moreover, I know that I want to make sure that my daughter grows up with the financial skills she’ll need to make sound decisions in her life. Let’s face it, a New Millennial like her: she’s going to have a mobile data plan when she’s 3 years old–how’s she going to budget the coins in her piggy bank to take care of that monthly bill? 🙂
These are just a few reasons why I believe that a strong start to financial literacy for kids is essential before entering their working life. From questions of how much to save and how to save it, to ones about managing budgets or the options you have when looking to get a new car or house, money skills are necessary for all of us. So, what options do our students today have to learn personal finance? Most likely, they have only two: learn from home or learn from school. But what if, much like me, they don’t pay enough attention to mom and dad, or they don’t take the finance class offered at their high school?
Here’s where I’d like to switch gears and think about a solution to this problem as I would in my instructional coaching role working with classroom teachers and schools. I wonder: do kids need to take an entire course on personal finance in order to learn the basic skills? How might we create an opportunity for kids to learn basic finance without it becoming “one more thing” that they have to do in their academic career?
That’s where the H&R Block Budget Challenge comes up huge. It’s a program that is accessible to classroom teachers whether their subject area focus is finance or not.
The H&R Block Budget Challenge is a finance simulation and interactive competition for high school students. Teens act as recent college graduates who’ve started their first job. They receive regular “paychecks” and have to make decisions about cell phone plans, where to live, credit card offers, etc. They must pay their bills on time and earn points for making smart financial decisions.
The Budget Challenge is open to students 14 years of age or older, enrolled full-time in grades nine through 12. The next “season” for this financial “sport” begins January 16, if you get registered before January 9, 2015. Teachers must register classrooms to play Budget Challenge. The Budget Challenge doesn’t require a lot of time, only about 15 minutes, to play, because it teaches lessons in a game-based way to students. And, in the grand scheme of life, isn’t money management just one big game?
As a strong proponent of project-based and problem-based learning, this opportunity is a great one for classrooms to use to bring even more authentic learning to their students. Many teachers from around the country have already started with the Budget Challenge and are finding their students to be engaged and learning. The H&R Block Budget Challenge is free to play and H&R Block is offering both classroom grants and scholarships to the winning students. Over $3 million will be awarded in total prizes!
When teachers sign up they will receive a free print kit to get them started, including a classroom poster and lesson plans. There will also be videos that teachers can use to help teach some of the financial concepts. This program could fit really well in a math class as a real-world application of the students’ math lessons. It could even fit into social studies, where the personal finance principles that kids learn could be used to analyze economies of scale or even the rise and fall of world nations.
Ultimately, this fun and free opportunity for classroom teachers of finance and beyond can make for a great class project with valuable career-world lessons. All you have to do to get started is visit www.hrbds.org to sign up. If you know someone else who might be interested in trying out the challenge with their students, share this post with them or send them directly to check out the H&R Block Budget Challenge.
It’s fun. It’s free. And students will love it.
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