Economics Storybooks for High School Kids

Stories involving economics put the topic into context and make concepts easy to understand and remember.

Supply and demand are related. When one goes up the other goes down. In college, I remember being confused by the countless number of similar graphs illustrating this concept. Despite the fact that the concept is simple, when put into word problems in exam format I was more confused than ever. Like history, I'm finding economics much simpler and enjoyable the second time around.

One excellent source of economics concepts are the books written in story format by Russell Roberts.

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness
The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance
The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protection (3rd Edition)
The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity

The Choice by Russell Roberts tells the story of a business owner who travels through time to see how his company and America change after government officials pass laws limiting trade. Most people think we as Americans are better off when we purchase products "Made in America". While the people who work for the companies producing those products definitely benefit, the rest of America may or may not. The book clearly explains this concept by exploring a series of questions asked by Ed Johnson, the owner of a television set company and David Ricardo, his time traveling tour guide.

The Price of Everything by Russell Roberts begins when a large store raises their prices following a natural disaster. Again, the general thought is the store is price gauging and hurting the public. This book pokes holes in that argument by explaining how high prices make people think twice about what they really need. In addition, it further explores concepts such as supply and demand, and specialization, all in story format.

These books make economics an exciting topic for discussion by putting the topic into context. I much prefer them to the dry textbooks I attempted to learn from in my younger days. :)

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Combining History, Government and Economics - Richard Maybury

The single best resource I have found which combines the subjects of history, economics and government are the Uncle Eric books written for children by Richard Maybury.

Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career, and Financial Security (An Uncle Eric Book)
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? A Fast, Clear, and Fun Explanation of the Economics You Need For Success in Your Career, Business, and Investments (An Uncle Eric Book)
Whatever Happened to Justice? (An Uncle Eric Book)
Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (An Uncle Eric Book)
Ancient Rome: How It Affects You Today (An Uncle Eric Book.)
Evaluating Books: What Would Thomas Jefferson Think About This? Guidelines for Selecting Books Consistent With the Principles of America's Founders (An Uncle Eric Book)
The Money Mystery: The Hidden Force Affecting Your Career, Business, and Investments (An Uncle Eric Book)
The Thousand Year War in the Mideast: How It Affects You Today (An Uncle Eric Book)
World War I: The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today, 1870 to 1935 (Uncle Eric Book)
World War II: The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today, 1930 to September 11, 2001 (Uncle Eric Book)

Reading this series teaches kids how to make decisions that will affect their lives in a positive way. I loved sections of Personal, Career and Financial Security which discussed the benefits of exposure to a variety of experiences such as, school plays and clubs, sports teams and work experience. Teens have the opportunities to learn different skills from all of these activities. Whether training a new employee, to working with another student to memorize lines, to speaking in front of a large audience, to learning to be responsible and show up on-time each day, kids will benefit.

The book Liberal? Conservative? or Confused? explained how different parties try to control different aspects of our lives which they believe will benefit society. What is a liberal and why is the term so confusing? This book explains.

Since I noticed many parallels between Ancient Rome and America a few years ago when we studied the Roman Empire, I was excited to read Ancient Rome: How It Affects You Today. There were three distinct eras of Roman history. There was the Roman Monarchy, The Roman Republic and then the Roman Empire. The book explains how the government changed during each era and how it effected the people. These changes are evident today in American history, but on a much accelerated basis.

Overall, I would highly recommend this series of books as part of a connected study of history, government and economics.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Chickens Arrive

After over two years of waiting, my son finally got his chickens.

What should have been a very happy moment ended up being a bit bittersweet and a huge learning experience. It is a very common practice for companies to ship newly hatched chicks. Since my son wanted specific breeds of chicks, my husband and son decided to order chicks from the internet. Unfortunately, the night they were shipped was about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. We suspected nothing when picking up a noisy package from the post office, but when my son opened the box, three chicks had already passed.

I was quite upset. There was no heat source and the surviving chicks were huddled together. I still don't understand how they could send the chicks off knowing the meteorologists had predicted a very cold night. So a difficult learning experience......... Don't order chicks through the internet before the weather is warm.

One-by-one, my son picked up each of the surviving chicks and dipped their beaks in water to teach them how to drink. Then they were placed under the heat lamp.

 They were slow for a while as they all must have been way too cold.

 They huddled together for a while to help stay warm.

Then fairly quickly they began behaving like true chicks - pooping and eating, eating and pooping.

Unfortunately, two more chicks of the original 13 passed away over the next two days. It was a very difficult lesson in the facts of life that none of us expect to experience so soon during this adventure. There were tears and we were all unsure as to whether we were doing the right thing.

 Because we had lost so many chicks, we wanted a few more to fill the coop, so this time we purchased chicks at a local store. They were cheaper, looked healthier and I think about a week older then the chicks we already had at home.

They were different breeds than we had hoped for, but are still cute chickens who are known for laying lots of eggs. We are quite happy with the new comers.

Preparing for Chicks

A brooder is a space dedicated to raising young birds. Before our chickens arrived, my son prepared the brooder.

The large tub in the master bathroom finally had a use. It would serve as the chick brooder until the chicks grew old enough to survive outdoors. The base of the tub was covered with paper and the water outlets and drain were covered with cardboard so the chicks couldn't get into them.

Before the chicks arrived the brooder was prepared by purchasing feed, pine shavings, chick grit (little rocks for them to eat to help them digest their food), food and water feeders and a heat lamp.

Newborn chicks need air temperatures around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Each week the temperature can be lowered by five degrees until they are eight weeks old. Then they can be moved outdoors. A heat lamp was hung above the tub on a wire which could be shortened or lengthened to adjust the temperature.

High School Economics - Devaluation

As a high school student, my daughter has been studying history, government and economics.

Did you know it was illegal for Americans to own gold following the great depression?

If a friend borrowing your house, told you that when you wanted it back they would give you one room instead of the entire house because they had traded the rest of the house for vacations and other things they wanted, you would probably be pretty upset. Your friend didn't keep up his end of the contract and defaulted on the debt to you. There could be multiple reasons for your friend's actions, but the bottom line is that you are out most of a house. Fortunately you were lucky enough to get a room out of the deal.

This may sound quite far fetched, but it is almost exactly what happened in 1971 when the United States was taken off the gold standard. The formal word for being taken off the gold standard is a devaluation of currency. In code, the 1971 devaluation meant the government defaulted on its debts, and instead of owing gold, Americans owned paper. America being taken off the gold standard was a lot like the friend borrowing the house.

Concepts of inflation, deflation, devaluation, depression and recession are difficult to understand when watching and reading about current events in the media. The media has us so confused that we think there is no way we could ever understand these concepts. The reason is they are not pure economic concepts we are trying to understand. They are economic concepts mixed with government policy. The government regulation of currency makes it behave in an unpredictable manner which even financial analysts have difficulty understanding.

This correlation of government, economics and history is a subject my husband and I have been working to understand and find resources to teach the concepts to our children. Fortunately, there are resources available that can help untangle the confusion.

The book How to Profit from the Coming Devaluation is an economics book first published in 1970. The author, Harry Browne, predicted the devaluation of 1971 and the following recession. Not being an economics scholar, I loved this book because it explained how the government's involvement effects conditions we see and feel in our everyday lives. In addition, it teaches how to prepare for a recession before it happens.

My husband, daughter and myself enjoyed reading this book and now feel we have a much better understanding of how governments use inflation, deflation and devaluation to control the money supply. We all know that money doesn't grow on trees, but sometimes it seems like the government believes it does. With skyrocketing national debt we wonder how and when this will all end. How to Profit from the Coming Devaluation is a simple book to read that really helped me to gain valuable knowledge and prepare for the future.

Dog House to Chicken Coop

My husband and son modified a dog house into a chicken coop.

From planning, to hammering, to using a saw; my son learned so much from this project This minor construction job enabled my son to experience all the steps involved in a construction project. They began with measuring and modeling, worked up material cost estimates, purchased materials, and then cut, hammered and installed materials.

Once the model was complete and the snow melted, construction, or rather demolition began.  The picture above shows the storage area. The floor of the storage area as well as the wall to the left was ripped out.

 Several boards were cut away to enlarge the door.

The inside area was much larger with the walls removed.

A list of materials was created before beginning construction.

 Tools were gathered.

 Insulation was placed on all interior walls.

 Two holes were cut in the roof and filled with vents.

Can you see the roof vent?

High School Government, Economics and History - A Combined Study

This year my high-school aged daughter studied government, economics and history.

Because there is so much correlation between the three subjects it's difficult not to study them together. Over the next several weeks, I will discuss the resources we used covering these subjects at the high school level.

Before beginning this in-depth government, economic, history study we spent a lot of time studying history. In fact, history has been covered in some form each year for at least six years. In addition, the basics of government were well understood before beginning this unit. This government course is not a course to learn about the three branches of government and how many representatives there are, but rather a course to understand how the government works and has operated throughout history. Different administrations have enacted policies which continue to affect us today. Many political decisions are based upon power and economics. To truly understand government and it's impact upon us, it is important to understand how we got to where we are. Hence, history, government and economics can and should be studied in conjunction.

There is no better place to start than the beginning of American Government as we know it today - The Constitution. The book Five Thousand Year Leap does just that. It explains the reasoning behind the Constitution in a set of principles used to define the Constitution such as Principle 7: The proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things., Principle 1: The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law, and Principle 27: The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest. I highly recommend this book as a great place to study government once the basics are understood.

Please join me each week as we dig deeper into these three intertwined complicated subjects to shed light on them and make them easy enough so that a high school student can understand.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

How Many Chickens to Get?

My husband and son made a model of the coop.

This existing dog house was perfect for a coop. It just needed a few modifications.

My husband and son began by taking many measurements and making sketches.

 The measurements were used to create a model in preparation for modifications.

 The dog house had an entrance door shown on the bottom and a storage compartment shown on the top right. Inside on the top left was a void space enclosed with plywood.

To modify the coop they planned to combine the void, existing living space and storage area into one larger coop area. In addition, the dog-sized door would be enlarged, vents would be added to the roof and insulation would be added throughout the interior. In addition, the fenced-in area needed to be covered with hardware cloth to prevent predators such as hawks from getting the chickens.

The model was also used to determine how many chickens would comfortable fit into the coop. Each chicken needs about 4 square feet of floor space, so they used pom-pom balls to represent chickens. 13-15 chickens would comfortable fit in the renovated home.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.
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