Mel Biado loves surfing with dolphins, teaching Japanese, helping kids conquer math and assisting the Boy Scouts as a merit badge counselor.
But when he’s not doing all that or working his day job in the financial services industry, he’s teaching an online money management class geared to tweens and teens called “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees.”
Biado is an instructor with Outschool, an online educational service where kids under 18 can take live online classes via video chat on a variety of personal finance topics such as investing, budgeting, earning money and other financial basics.
“This is the stuff I wish I knew when I was in high school,” said Biado, who lives in Orange County, Calif.
Biado’s class is one of several personal finance programs offered on Outschool. Other courses include “Money Mindsetting,” which teaches goal-setting and career exploration and “Kids Keep Your Cash,” for personal finance basics.
Outschool, launched in 2015, manages a schedule of about 9,000 live classes. In addition to financial education, classes cover cooking, learning Spanish via Taylor Swift songs, Harry Potter, Dungeons & Dragons and traditional classes like algebra, science and history.
The company said thousands of students have enrolled in personal finance classes. Instructors do not need to be professionally certified; they just need to be passionate about what they’re teaching.
Most Outschool classes cost $10 to $15 per class hour, with some involving multiple sessions over several weeks.
About half of Outschool’s students are home-schooled, but the company said it is expanding its list of classes to attract students in charter schools and public schools. Virtual classmates come from all over the map, even from different countries.
Outschool says the live teaching to small groups of students sets its program apart from others because the students can ask questions and get immediate feedback from teachers and peers.
The push by Outschool to teach children money smarts comes amid a larger national debate over the effectiveness of mandatory financial education classes in classrooms from elementary school through college. Only a handful of states require public school students to take a personal finance class.
That’s where programs such as Outschool can help.
Biado, who’s been with Outschool for about a year ago, relies heavily on technology, including a Zoom video-conferencing application to teach students who mostly live on the East Coast or in the Midwest. His biggest group has been five students.
He starts class by asking about the meaning of “money doesn’t grow on trees.” That rolls into questions about the money parents spend on them, where the money comes from, how the kids can help their parents spend less, and the need for developing a personal spending plan (Biado avoids calling this a budget.) He also stresses the importance of tithing.
As for homework, Biado only asks that students “continue the conversation at home.”
While there’s no way of judging results, Biado said feedback has been good. Said one parent, “It got my son’s wheels spinning.”