Monday, June 19, 2017

Teaching Financial Literacy: Part 1

Summer break is upon us and I finally have time to share something I've been growing increasingly passionate about during the last several years...FINANCIAL LITERACY!

Four years ago my department leader came to me and asked if I'd be interested in teaching a new semester course that all of our senior students would be required to take before graduating. The course would be focused on both financial literacy skills and on civics and I would be tasked with creating the new curriculum. This sounded both daunting and exciting all at once!

That summer I set about gathering resources and doing some research to figure out what exactly the course would cover (Pinterest is a great place to gather ideas). I asked myself what skills I would have wanted to know if I could go back to my late teens/early twenties. I also thought about what skills I DID know that really helped me start my adult life. And so, a new course was born!

Teaching Personal Finance

I plan on writing a 3-part series about financial literacy in the high school classroom. This first post will focus on providing an overview of the major topics covered in the course. In subsequent posts, I will be sharing a comprehensive list for TEACHERS of the best resources & lessons that I've used with my students & will also be creating a list of resources FOR MY KIDDOS who've already graduated and often email asking for links to some of the resources we've used in class. They want access to these resources now that they are actually out in the 'real world' and applying the knowledge they've learned (most of them don't keep their binders from high school nor do they have access to our Google Classroom page once they've graduated). 

Course Overview
One semester can seem like a short time in which to teach all of the financial literacy skills I'd ideally like my students to know (a portion of the course is also dedicated to civic literacy), however, below is a break down of each of the units/topics we do cover. The units also have 'enrichment' topics that help to enhance the basic skills being taught.

1) Money Management
-Consumer shopping/savings skills
-Understanding a pay stub
-Enrichment topics: living on minimum wage/poverty, wealth distribution, the impact of financial stress on individuals and families

2) Credit
-Credit cards/debit cards
-Credit scores
-Interest rates/minimum payments
-Renting/Buying a home
-Taking out loans
-Enrichment topics: debt of the United States, how the country 'borrows' money, how the debts of citizens impacts the economy

3) Saving & Investing
-Checking/banking skills
-Investment options
-Financial goals
-Enrichment topic: consequences of not saving & investing as individuals

4) Financial Protection
-Insurance options
-Identity theft/fraud
-Consumer protection

5) Funding Your Future
-Comparing various post-secondary choices/options 
-How much should one borrow to pay for college?
-Understanding financial aid
-Enrichment topic: discussion/research on the underlying causes of the rise in college tuition costs

Back in April I attended a financial literacy conference hosted by the Maine chapter of the Jump$tart Coalition of Financial Literacy and got some fantastic resources. The BEST resource shared at the conference (in my opinion) is a website for educators looking to teach financial literacy called Next Gen Personal Finance. What I really like about this website is that it's completely free, you don't have to log in or enroll to access the materials, and it's basically a complete financial literacy course broken down by unit with lots of different types of lessons. There are interactive group activities, daily discussion questions, links to videos and simulations, and teacher guides. 

Hello?? Where was this resource 4 years ago when I needed it?? Ha ha! 

If you are considering teaching or are about to teach financial literacy skills to young people you should absolutely visit the Next Gen website as a place to start. Having taught personal finance for 4 years already, I am thoroughly impressed with the materials they've come up with! It also validated what I've chosen to teach my students because many of the resources I already use are included on their website!

(The group of seniors pictured above from one of my personal finance classes VOLUNTARILY came to a financial aid night seminar being offered at a local college. We decided to make a night of it by dining at Olive Garden beforehand! It made my teacher heart happy to see them want to expand upon what we were learning in class for no other reason than to gain more knowledge!)

Teaching financial literacy is incredibly rewarding. I KNOW my students walk away with skills and knowledge they will and have used in their adult lives. I've received lots of feedback from students about how much they've learned in the class and how much more confident they feel about starting their post-secondary lives. Parents also tell me that our activities in class have led to a lot of interesting and important discussions at home with their kids about finances and 'life beyond high school'. It's a wonderful feeling to know that what I am teaching is truly helping my students!

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where I will be providing lost of great financial literacy resources & lesson ideas for teachers, all of which have been tested and 'honed' over the last 4 years (8 semesters) in my classes! In the meantime, find me over on Instagram!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rustic & Coastal Master Bedroom Makeover

As my home renovation journey continues, today I'm sharing the first room in the new house to be {just about} finished! My initial goal was to have my master bedroom completed BEFORE actually moving into the house. But, as is the case with most renovations, everything takes far longer than anticipated! I've been squatting in the room next door, eagerly anticipating the day that I could move into my new and improved beautiful bedroom! Let's take a look at the space throughout the renovations...

Fixer Upper Renovation Ideas
DIY Shiplap Plank Wall

The first item to tackle was removing the window to the left of the room to make the furniture placement in the space fit a bit better. Since there are two other windows in the room, losing light wasn't an issue! I attempted, in vain, to remove the wall paper but quickly gave up and decided to use a plank board tutorial to cover up the walls instead. My suggestion would be to paint or prime the wall paper BEFORE putting up the boards so that the pattern doesn't show through in the nickel sized gaps... let's just say I learned that lesson the hard way!

Before I painted & decorated the room I created a design board for inspiration. I was going for a 'rustic meets coastal' look in the space with a soft, calming color scheme. The bed pictured above is from Target, although I ended up just using the headboard I already had (also from Target). The paint color I chose is Window Pane from Sherwin Williams.

Rustic Light Fixture

The ceiling fan was replaced with a low profile light fixture. I LOVE this fixture!! I shopped all around looking for something affordable and rustic-looking. This one IS rustic looking but a bit of a splurge, at least for my budget, but I couldn't be happier as it really adds some interest to the space. The floors were stripped of the worn-down orange stain and then re-stained. That process in itself will wait for another post as we attempted to DIY the floors and it did not end well! I had to bring in the pros...lesson learned!

Are you ready to see the space now that it's all pretty?! Here it is...

Rustic Coastal Bedroom Decor
Farmhouse Bedroom Decor
{This photo is of my grandmother when she was's one of my very favorite parts of this space}

Master Bedroom Makeover Ideas

I still have some decorative touches to add (like maybe some framed art above the bed and something on top of the dresser) and need to finish organizing the closet spaces, but I really could not be happier with how things turned out! The rug, ceiling fixture, and side lamps are all new but the rest of the items I was able to reuse from my previous house, which made this makeover pretty affordable!

Here's the source list:
-Hardwood floor color is 'Jacobean' stain by Minwax (on red oak flooring)
-Area rug is from Overstock
-Side lamps are from Lowes
-Ceiling light fixture is from Wayfair
-Wall paint color is 'Window Pane' from Sherwin Williams
-Bedding and curtains are from Home Goods (purchased a few summers ago)
-Cordless Roman Shades were purchased from Amazon
-Nailhead trim headboard is from Target (similar)
-Side tables were purchased 10 years ago from Christmas Tree Shop
-Mirror is from IKEA (purchased it at a yard sale and painted)
-Dresser is a Salvation Army find that I painted white and then distressed

In case you forgot where is all started, here's a 'before' and 'after' of my rustic/coastal bedroom retreat...
Master Bedroom Decor Ideas

The next space I'll be tackling is the full bath, which is done being renovated but just awaiting paint. I'll be sure to share that makeover journey soon! 

I post daily home renovation updates over on Instagram...hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Home Renovation Journey

Today is the last day of February break and I've SO needed this past week to make some progress in this space before turning my attention back to teaching. I'll be honest in saying that it hasn't been easy juggling home renovations and school obligations (while also trying to fit in some fun and relaxation in an attempt to feel human/normal) but sometimes there are busy seasons in life and this happens to be one of them!

The past few months have been an incredible whirlwind between traveling for the holidays, starting a new semester at school (with new kiddos and new courses), packing up and moving out of my previous house, and moving into my new place. Luckily there was a three week period between when I closed on this new house and when I sold my previous house, so there was at least some time to get the renovations started before moving in. I'm also fortunate to have lots of extremely generous, handy, and helpful friends and family members! So much progress has been made in some areas and yet there also seems like there's still an incredible amount of projects left to complete (baby steps)!

First, some BEFORE photos of the new place...

Fixer Upper

The Exterior
When the Maine temps are a bit warmer, the exterior siding will be repaired and repainted and I'd also really love to add either a farmer's porch or at least a small covered porch over the front door. Garrison style homes are one of my least favorite styles of homes so I'll do what I can to add some curb appeal! One advantage that this home has over my last, is the garage! Although it's small, my car does fit (the very first thing I did after closing was drive my car into the garage) and hopefully next winter when the renovations are over, the garage will be empty enough for me to actually use it!

The Kitchen/Dining Area

Through the side entrance you come into the kitchen. The space was pretty dark and a bit cramped so my immediate thought was to tear down the wall between the kitchen and the separate dining room, which you can see through the doorway in the photo above. Removing the wall would allow more light into the space and would allow for a more open entertaining area.

Kitchen DIY

The layout of the kitchen would need to be reworked since the wall dividing the space is now gone, so I set my mind to designing a 'one wall' kitchen with a large center island and a walk-in pantry. The space is already so much larger and just makes much more sense for my style of living and entertaining.

Above is the view from inside the original dining room...the wall to the right has since been removed. Below is the 'before' and 'progress' views of the space with and without the wall. Hopefully by next weekend I'll have a partially functioning kitchen since I've been living off of a microwave and refrigerator for the last few weeks!

The Living Room
The sunken living room is really the space that sold me on this house (other than the great neighborhood)! I could see the potential in the brick fireplace, the built-ins, and the size. I also like that this space is right off the kitchen so it will make sort of one large continuous entertaining space. This is the room in the house that is the closest to being complete as I really needed at least one clean, happy place while everything else is in shambles! 

Here's a little sneak peek at the progress made so far:

The Front Room

Since the sunken living room was an addition to the house, the original structure also has a living room. Since I don't really need two full-sized living rooms, I decided to borrow some space from the front living room to add a walk-in pantry (accessible from the kitchen side). Although the brick chimney had to stay because it's hooked up to the boiler, the rest of the brick hearth was removed and the new pantry was framed in. I'm thinking I'll now turn the front room into a little office or reading/library area at some point. Below is a view from the kitchen where the door to the pantry was added (where those 2x4s are).

The Half Bath

The half bath on the main level also houses a laundry closet. The vanity & toilet have been removed and the tile wall has been demoed. New flooring has been added and I had the washer/dryer stacked. I also added paintable beadboard wallpaper to cover up all the imperfections on the laundry closet wall. A small cabinet with shelving above for some storage will be added to finish up the space.

The Full Bath

The bathroom was the first thing to be completed as I needed it to be up and running before I moved in. We had a two week time frame to get it all done! This space is a good size and since it's the only full size bath in the house I wanted to add a double vanity to make it more functional. After everything was gutted, the plumbing and electrical were moved and a new vanity (which I LOVE) was added. I chose to do a plank wall to cover up the wallpaper and the holes where the original lighting/electrical fixtures were. A new toilet, shower/tub, and new flooring have also been added. There's still some finish work left to do as well as decor (the fun part) but it's functional and looking good so far!

The Master Bedroom
 The master bedroom is a long and narrow space, the walls are covered in wallpaper, and the chimney runs up straight through one of the closets, so there were some design challenges. The first decision I made was to have one of the windows removed to better accommodate furniture placement. Other than right in front of the doorway, there was really no other place to put a queen sized bed! So, the window on the side wall was removed and then wood planks were added to the space to cover up the wallpaper (I gave up on my attempt to remove it). The chimney in the closet has to stay but it was painted white to better fit in! A new light fixture was added and the floors were refinished.

Progress so far...

The Other Bedrooms

The home has three other decent sized bedrooms (with great size closets, too)! Luckily, other than refinishing the hardwood flooring, there are only mostly cosmetic updates do be done in these spaces. The first room to get a makeover will be the 'pink room' which will be painted gray and turned into my office/craft room!

My plan is to do a separate blog post for each space in the house with lots of 'before' and 'after' photos and the details on each space. Be sure to check back in to follow along on this journey! I also post (almost) daily home renovation pics/videos on Instagram! Hope to see you there, friends!

Now, off to lesson plan for the week ahead!