How To: Teach Social Science, Part 3 (Economics and Political Science)

Economics and Political Science are topics that you should add to your high school curriculum to some extent, depending on your child’s interests and your own priorities.  I am going to deal first with Economics and then Political Science and I will be sharing some very helpful and practical resources so be sure to read on!


Economics is actually a subject you can begin to teach when your children are very young, and then add more sophistication and knowledge as your child grows.  It’s really not all that complicated, though it might sound intimidating!

Teaching economics is, at its core, simply a matter of teaching your child how to properly handle money.  If that’s something that you’ve never really learned yourself, or something you’re still learning, then it can be a process that you embark on together!

Another aspect of economics is also understanding the economy outside of your family (did you realize your family has an economy of its own?  Well, it does!)  As your children grow older you may want to introduce them to the broader subjects of economics (this can also be a part of your political science curriculum since it’s impossible to separate the subject of politics from the subject of money!)  My two older boys actually took Economics courses through the dual-enrollment program at the community college and that may be an option you might want to consider when your children are older.  There are likely also some good online classes that could give your children exposure to the subject of economics and how economies work on a broader scale.

But first things first.  Given that dealing with money is one of those integral factors in life that everyone deals with – just as much as eating and sleeping, frankly – it is clear that teaching your child how to earn, save, spend, etc. should be pretty high on your list of priorities.

Now before I go any further, I’d like to address something that, for some reason, parents seem to have strong feelings about and I really don’t know why.  That debate amounts to this: allowance or paying for chores?  Let me tell you – as a parent of grown children – it doesn’t matter.  Please, please, please don’t go off on someone about how we’re not supposed to give allowances because kids won’t understand the importance of working for what they have, or how we shouldn’t pay for chores because doing chores is part of being a family.

The thing to keep in mind when it comes to allowance vs. paying for chores is balance.  Yes, we want our children to learn to appreciate the value of working for a dollar and yes, we want our children to understand that everyone pulls their own weight in a family but for goodness sakes, you’d think from the debates I have read that it actually matters what path you choose.  It doesn’t.  Do what works for your family, what seems to be the best course, and let others choose their course.

In our family, I chose to give my children an allowance.  I also chose to pay them for chores that were over and above their regular chores.

From the time my children were old enough to reasonably take on chores in addition to, for instance, picking up their toys and keeping their rooms straight, they were given more and more responsibility.  One of your goals as a homeschooling parent should be to “work yourself out of your job,” as it were.  What I mean is that by the time you have teenagers living in your home, they should be the ones doing the dishes, running the vacuum cleaner, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, etc.  I haven’t been responsible for cleaning my home in years.  I still do most of the laundry and the cooking, and I’ll run the vacuum in my own bedroom, but the rest of the cleaning is done by my older children.  It’s truly amazing how many families do not require their children to learn to do the housekeeping.  I remember years ago when my daughter used to take dance classes and she told me that most of the friends in her class had no clue how to clean or do laundry!  These were all girls that went to public schools and while I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations, this seems to be a pretty common thing.  In our home, my daughter and my sons have all been required to pitch in when it comes to the housework, as they should.

I never paid my children for doing these chores, they were simply expected to do them (and without complaining!)  If they did anything extra, such as wash my car or do yard work, then I would pay them for these additional “services.”

Rather than paying my children for doing their regular chores, I paid them an allowance.  I found it easier than keeping track of who I owed for what though, with my youngest child (now 10 ten years old) I do have a chore chart where he earns stars for doing certain chores as well as his “computer schoolwork.”  He gets 10 cents per star, and it’s an easy way for me to keep him motivated, but I wouldn’t want to have to do this with multiple kids.  But that’s just me!  You may have a system that works very well for you and that’s what’s important.

Early economics training then, has to do with your child having some money of their own, and then teaching them how to use it according to your values.  Many Christians use special banks that divide their child’s money up into “giving,” “saving,” and “spending” categories.  I didn’t use a special bank but I required my children to put a percentage aside for giving, as well as a percentage for saving for long-term goals.  They would also have a percentage for short-term/impulse spending.  How you decide what those percentages should be is up to you and your value system, but I will say that I believe teaching your children to give money to those not as fortunate (in material things, that is) is a good habit to teach from a young age.  I am surprised how many people have never learned that habit.

Also over the years my children learned to save for bigger ticket items that they wanted.  My oldest son saved hundreds of dollars at a time for specific golf clubs he wanted.  More recently he saved to buy himself a used car (a Pontiac Grand Prix!  It’s a 1999 but still sweet!)  When my children were younger they would save for certain Lego sets they wanted that were quite expensive.  Saving for major purchases is also a good habit to develop.

As my children hit their later teen years, I gIve them another tool that has helped them to plan and budget as adults and that tool is David Bach’s book The Automatic Millionaire. I wish I’d had the information in this book when my husband and I got married over 30 years ago.  We would surely be in a much better financial condition than we are now.  The Automatic Millionaire teaches you how to get rich slowly by setting up automatic systems to pay off debt and save for the long-term.  I have instituted many of the systems in our own household and my adult children are using these systems as well.

I know many homeschoolers like to use Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace” program and I am sure it is fantastic.  The results speak for themselves.  But there are some things about David Bach’s system that I prefer, so I recommend you spend the $10 and purchase David Bach’s The Automatic MillionaireDescription: for your teenager.

As I said, teaching economics, at its most basic level, is simply about making sure your children have some means to “earn” money and then teaching them how to use it wisely.  In the broader sense, you can utilize curriculums that teach subjects such as “Macroeconomics” and “Microeconomics” and you can even incorporate these studies into your political science or history curriculums.

One final thing: please make sure you teach your child how to balance a checkbook.  It is astounding how many adults don’t know how to perform this simple task!

Political Science

For my “How To Teach Political Science” segment, I asked my 23-year son to give me a list of books he would recommend high school students read in order to gain a basic foundation in Political Science.  He is very politically active himself and frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for president someday.  He’d do a great job too.

But moving on, the following list would certainly give any high school student (or adult) a phenomenal foundation in Political Science when compared to the knowledge of the average adult American.  Try to have your child read at least a couple of the following:

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
The Heritage Guide to the Constitution by Edwin Meese, Matthew Spalding, and David F. Forte
Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief by James McPherson
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin

Finally, please feel free to share, in the comments, the techniques you have used to teach your child “economics.”  And if you have any thoughts about books to add to the list above, share those too!

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  • I don’t really like the *pay for chores* or *allowance* thing at all but maybe my thoughts will change as the kids get older.

    It also depends where you live. I grew up in Worcester, MA – a veritable economic wasteland. The only jobs I could get paid $3.75 an hour and involved being a *fast food associate*. I passed on that, opting for empty pockets instead.

    But in metropolitan areas there are plenty of odd jobs and little business ideas kids should be taking advantage of outside of the home.

    It is funny though – how strong some people’s opinions are on giving allowances!

    Add John Adams by David McCullough to your son’s list. Loved that book!

    And The Millionaire Next Door to your list of recommended financial reading. Youngsters will enjoy that one too.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the recommendations on the books! My son is constantly reading so I will tell him to add those to his list. I think he’ll especially like the John Adams book. And I have heard good things about “The Millionaire Next Door” for a long time. I’ll have to check that out.

      Another book I recommend (I’ve been wanting to tell you specifically about this one) is “Thou Shall Prosper” by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. He is phenomenal and he and his wife have ten kids (I think) and they home-school (or did, his kids might be grown now). I first heard him on a tape I got from a home-school conference and was very impressed. I saw him interviewed on TV about this book YEARS ago and bought it for my husband. We are now using it as a “devotional” for the whole family. Great, great book.

      Our family does have very entrepeneurial leanings but little kids can’t go out and mow lawns or feed the neighbor’s Great Dane, so when they’re young, they get an allowance. Some of the jobs my kids have taken on: my oldest son had a pet-sitting business in the neighborhood from about the time he was 13 until 16 or 17. My daughter has been tutoring high school (and some college) students in math and science for YEARS.

      My kids have also been the type of people who are willing to volunteer to help various organizations, another habit that is good to teach. My sons will be helping again this summer with our local Junior Golf Summer Tour and my daughter once again volunteered to costume the play at the college she works out. You never know what volunteering can do in regards to connections or future job opportunities. Just another aspect of financial training.