Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It's almost midnight, and I am finally settling in for some much needed slumber.  Allergies and asthma continue to taunt me well into the wee hours, which has made my favorite season something I am wishing would end quickly.

This house got quiet veeeeryyy early tonight, as 5 truly worn out children all stumbled off to bed.  What can I say about the past two days?  As Day 1 and Day 2 have passed on Operation: Rental Rehab, we have watched with ever growing pride as every single one of the kids has stepped up to the plate in extraordinary ways.  I would be posting photos tonight, but I forgot my camera there and it was too late to run and get it.  Or I was being too lazy :-)  Pics tomorrow, I promise.

You would never know that this work crew is comprised of mere children ranging from 13 to 8 years old, and the 8 year old doesn't stand out at all as being the youngest on the crew.  We have watched with great admiration as they have taken on this challenge with an admirable maturity and strong work ethic that has surprised even us.

The First Forty Eight Hours, and here is a list of what we have accomplished:

1)  Ripped out all carpet, padding, and staples
2)  Cut out all old, torn linoleum
3)  Hauled it to the dump
4)  Pressure washed the exterior of the house
5)  Pressure washed the entire fence
6)  Made two Home Depot runs
7)  Replaced broken boards on the fence
8)  Begun staining the fence
9)  Prepped exterior for painting, including caulking, replacing a couple trim pieces, scraping a few spots, priming posts and exposed areas
10)  Ripped out odd wiring for Audio/Visual system in ceiling
11)  Tore out shelves and trim pieces added in to hide aforementioned odd wiring
12)  Discovered water leaks in a couple of places under sinks
13)  Weeded one section of front area
14)  Had one dump truck load of gravel delivered
15)  Hauled off old broken stove
16)  Purchased and laid weed barrier on 1000 square feet of area near driveway
17)  Spread by shovel with kid's wagon (we don't have a wheelbarrow) about 700 square feet of gravel
18)  Sprayed weeds in other areas
19)  Fixed gate
20)  Ordered roof replacement
21)  Ordered heating ductwork cleaning
22)  Replaced one broken light switch, rewiring it correctly

Oh yea, and on top of that each of the kids did 1 hour of language arts, and 2 math lessons, attended TaeKwonDo, Dance class, a volleyball game and Civil Air Patrol.

Is it any wonder that Matthew fell asleep in the car on the way home, and Kenny laid down on the couch and could barely move this evening?  As I typed this, I honestly couldn't believe just how much was accomplished in such a short time!!  And the kids have each tried or completely done just about every single one of the items above.  They all learned how to use the pressure washer and did the house and fence, or at least parts of it.  They all ripped up the carpet, and even Josh learned how to safely use the large cutting knives and cut out the linoleum all by himself in the master bedroom closet.  Watching him run around with his shades on and the measuring tape hanging from his hip has been priceless, even the other kids have giggled with glee over it.

Matthew and Kenny tag teamed it and were up high on ladders tearing out the odd trim pieces with drills to back out screws and hammers.  Matt grinned as he looked down at me and said "Now THIS is real man's work!" and Kenny said "Yeah!  We're REAL men!" 

The girls had more stain on their arms and faces than they had on the fence, but were doing a fine job and Olesya looked so funny heading off the dance class with stain all the way up her arms, dance shoes in hand.

We have quickly come to care less about the financial component of this project, seeing that the sense of accomplishment and learning being derived from it simply can not have a price tag put on it.  This is one of the single best things we have ever done with the kids, and over dinner tonight I asked them each to share what they liked best and least about the project so far, and to the last kid they all declared they were loving every single minute of it...oh, except for the weed pulling :-)

I was gone much of the afternoon myself, while Dominick organized and worked with the kids.  Returning to see the gravel almost done, and boys standing there with shovels in hand, dirty, exhausted and yet knowing they had put in a true hard days work...that was  a moment I won't soon forget, and I doubt they will either. 

For school we are having the kids create notebooks about the project.  How do you turn this into a truly academic learning experience?  I'll share what we are doing.  They have dividers for things like new vocabulary words (which there are tons for a project like this), safety rules, measurements and diagrams, finances and budgeting, photos, and journal entries.  They are required to write regular journal entries about the progress and what they feel about each step.  I will ask them to write about various specific topics as well.  Dominick made a diagram of the house, and they had to measure and label the diagram for every wall in the house, as well as the exterior.  Then they all had to take the measurements and we spent two hours calculating each room's wall space square footage and adding it up to then come up with a total. Then they had to calculate the number of gallons of paint and stain we would need.  Josh could do the math on this, but had to be walked through the stops of calculating area and perimeter because he isn't doing that in math yet.

On top of that, they all had to create a project estimated  budget then add up the total estimated cost, itemizing each thing we need for the house.  They will be creating and keeping up with an actual cost comparison sheet, saving copies of each receipt and adding it up as we go along.  They have 2 full pages of vocabulary words, and understand an MLS page which they all each also have in their notebooks.  We reviewed electrical safety using a brochure from our local electrical company, then branched out to fire safety where I gave them a quite impressive demonstration of what happens with hot cooking oil when water hits it...and flames rise to the ceiling.  The yells and screams were enough to let me know they got the message, and that is one lesson they will never, ever forget :-)

We had them go in to the utility companies in teams, and they were responsible for setting up the accounts, having all our information on notecards and learning what deposits are for, what needs to be done to turn things back on, etc.  We got looked at funny at first each place we went, but when I explained what we were doing, clerks were quite helpful.  They all went in to establish the landlord policy for insurance, and the agent sat them all down and explained what the coverage was for, how it worked, and what things like "replacement cost" and "dwelling" meant.  Will they remember it all?  Of course not, but it will at least be a little familiar for them some day when they are doing it for their own first home. 

We have some minor plumbing leaks to fix tomorrow, faucets to replace in the bathrooms, and I found this super book at the library that I ended up buying to use with them that clearly and simply explains the functions and parts to basic things in a house like heaters, vent systems, faucets, toilets, etc.  You can see it here:

You can find it on Amazon here:

By the end of our project, they should have a couple hundred hours of applied learning, plus a well done and complete notebook highlighting all that they have learned.  They will have begun to build a larger vocabulary, seen exactly how adults use the math skills they are practicing in textbooks, and begun to learn the basics of home repair.  Most importantly, they will see that they are capable of handling much more than they ever imagined they could, and they will be able to stand back and look at the house with pride, saying with all truthfullness "Look what WE did!  That was a grown up job and we handled it!"  What greater confidence builder could we ask for?  Matthew has already said to me "Mom, I think I want to be on the Building and Grounds Ministry at church!  I could never be liturgist like Kenny can, but I could do that."  Angela has discovered that she LOVES painting, Josh has proven himself handy in all sorts of ways, Kenny is being forced to focus on one task at a time without leaving it to flit off to the next thing before completing something, which is very hard for him.  He is the hardest worker perhaps of all the kids, but his memory issues and distractability mean that if he needs to go get a hammer in another room, and walks past another job that he sees needs to be done, he will stop looking for the hammer and start that job, never to return to the original task.  He is really trying to watch that and is catching himself a lot even in two days.  Olesya is using her organizational skills to keep our work area  in good shape, so we can find all that we need when we need it.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Matthew telling Kenny not to do something a wee bit unsafe on the ladder this morning and to hear Kenny gracefully accept it saying "Thanks Matt, sometimes you think of things I don't!" argument, no pushiness, just two young men (for as I watch them doing this sort of work, that is exactly what they are...young men) helping keep one another working hard and safe. 

Day 3 begins tomorrow, a shortened day as we have lots of school activities to attend to with music lessons, volleyball practice, TaeKwonDo and even choir for Mom and Dad.  We'll be getting up a tad bit later to let the kids get some much needed rest, then head over for 3 hours of work or so before running off to do whatever it is we need to do.  As we face the next few weeks together on this project, we will begin our day with our Team Cheer as we pull out of our driveway with bleery eyes and grubby clothes "We're LaJoy's, we can do ANYTHING!" and you know what?  They're right and are proving it every single day!

Night all, lots of pictures of progress to post tomorrow!


Anonymous said...

You are right...what an amazing, hands-on project for your kids. And it didn't take Mom and Dad long to figure out how to organize their learning with their folders and notebooks.

I have to chuckle, because how many homeschoolers buy a house so their kids can have a learning experience? I know there are other reasons, but you're so right to say it's worth it for the real life experiences they are having.

I read once that one thing kids need to feel confident and successful is "meaningful work". It helps them feel respected and competent, an important part of the family, and leads to so many good things for their lives and success. I would certainly say that yours is a perfect example of "meaningful work".

What a blessing for your family to have this home to work on together, as it will obviously also add to your "team spirit" and bonding over a shared accomplishmentl....a huge one!

Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

You continue to astound me -- you and your family -- at what you set out to do and what you accomplish -- and the spirit and energy with which you do it! Thank you for your willingness to share all this with the world!
Peace and blessings!
Kaye Hult

Anonymous said...

I have a wheelbarrow. I'll deliver it whenever you need it. Great work, speed and competency, three cheers!

I can now see your master plan. Teach your kids these valuable and various skills, hire them out, split the money between your retirement and their college. What a masterful plan.

Written with a smile,