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In a recent post, I noted that my children and I have become pen pal junkies. In another post I wrote about how we handle all of the paper that comes in and out from this project. We have an incredible list of friends who we have never met but who are truly special to us because of the life stories that we are able to share with each other through old fashioned hand written letters that travel, in some cases, as far as Africa.
Our pen pals and pen pal clubs have become a fixture in our Kidschool weekly plans and have started to create a very interesting trend in our spending.
All that is really necessary for a pen pal relationship is something to write with, something to write on, something to serve as an envelope and some postage. This could be anything within the United States Post Office’s regulations. But the more one spends writing handwritten letters, the more one is struck by their intrinsic beauty. This beauty creates in my little clan a desire for prettier and more expressive stationery supplies.
Blessed are the grandmothers who leave a couple of dollars with their grandchildren on a visit because those dollars get spent in mom’s store on stickers, stationery and stamps!
As our pen pal relationships grew, I knew that we would need two things badly: a system for handling the letters and some things to beautify our offerings.
So, I took some homeschool budget and stocked a store. Taking advantage of sales at Current Catalog and some beautiful cards from a favorite Amazon vendor, I was able to purchase a nice supply of cards and stickers for all of us to use. But since this was homeschool budget, I knew that there were going to be “academic” strings attached. Namely, personal stewardship and rudimentary math.
I stocked our store with cards and stickers that were more or less the same price as like products. The only profit I am seeking to make is the growth and responsibility of the young souls in my charge. But as a wise steward of my resources, I cannot afford to take a big loss either. So, I priced all of the cards at $.25 per card (since they ranged from $.20 to $.30 from my vendors) and the stickers are $.25 per sheet for one style and $.75 per sheet for another style.
My 8 year old son is a bit too “grown up” for the cartoony stickers that Current sells and so he hoards his money until he can afford to order speciality stickers made by Dover from Amazon (glow in the dark, photo realistic, etc.). Needless to say, his letters have just one or two stickers while his little brother and sister cover theirs with half a dozen or more.
Blessed Grandma spoiled my kids with a few dollars the other day and they combined that with 6 weeks of allowance to completely set themselves up for business. (At this time it has not occurred to them to trade stickers with each other for other stickers or chores – but I am waiting with glee for that day to come.)
What my children do not know is that on the Feast of St. Nicholas in early December, they will all be getting their very own Pen Pal boxes complete with cool cards, thank you notes, birthday cards, Christmas cards and valentines for their friends, speciality pens, personalized address labels and Peanuts and Circus stamps. No matter how much they are investing in their supplies right now, these pen pal boxes will be a windfall to them in early December. After Christmas, my kids need to start buying their own postage – I will sell stamps at face value or for extra chores.
This store is loads of fun! It is fun for me to stock. Fun for them to shop. Motivating for kids who want to earn extra cash. A great opportunity to think wisely about how to spend allowance and gifts. A wonderful opportunity to practice real world math.
Best of all – my kids are having the fun of sharing themselves, their personality and their resources with their friends. Each letter they send is a true expression of themselves and an offering of their gifts.