Two years ago, our youngest son Mike bought a project car, a 1968 Catalina Ventura.  It was supposed to be a relatively uncomplicated project which he would fix up a bit, drive for awhile and then sell for college money.    It also fit nicely into his homeschooling curriculum as an elective.  As the days went on, however, the project became very complicated, and before we knew it, there were car parts literally all over the barn.   He had dismantled the engine, cleaned and painted all the pieces, removed the seats, ripped out the carpet and removed a quarter-panel.  He discovered in the process that there were many things wrong with the car, from brittle to broken wiring, deteriorated rubber seals, cracked vacuum hoses, hidden rust, etc.  

For two years the car was parked in the center aisle of the barn as he worked.  He spent many cold hours out there, diligently working.  We thought the project would never end.  Most of his work was done after a full day of doing his rigorous classical curriculum and required completely different mental skills than the schoolwork did.  He also had to work in order to pay for the project, sometimes being at the coffee shop before 6:00 am on the days he had to open and doing data entry at a different job on weekends.   In addition, he was president of his 4-H club and active as a youth leader and member of a polyphonic choir.

Since he had never worked on a car before, every step of the way was a valuable, if not frustrating, learning experience.  Once the car was back together, it wouldn’t start, so my husband called in a mechanic who charged us $300 to get it started.  He did so, and the excitement was high.  Alas, he left and then the car didn’t start again!  Another 6 or so months passed, trying to figure out the problem, and finally he got it going again. 

The car is now on the road.  Mike is discouraged because it turned out to be a costly experience in which he used up every penny he earned on his job for two years.  The car still needs work and it is not likely he will recover all his money.  But we don’t think all is lost.  For somebody who didn’t have any experience at all, this was a huge undertaking.  By following the shop manual, he figured out the wiring, he reassembled the engine, did his own brake job, and many other things to get the car on the road.  It was a puzzle to beat all puzzles.  He doesn’t have the time or money to finish the job because he will graduate in May. 

Hopefully, the lessons he learned on this project (self-taught because his parents are mechanically challenged) will carry him far.  He persevered, he sacrificed, he followed written directions, and he learned a whole lot about himself and his abilities.  He learned to deal with disappointment and perhaps he even learned a bit about humility and the need to listen to the advice of his elders.  Every child needs to learn, not just from books, but by doing as well.   We say, good job, Mike, we are proud of you.

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