Are Your Vehicle Ownership Costs Too High?

Are Your Vehicle Ownership Costs Too High?

“I avoid bringing my car to the repair shop until it’s screaming at me so loud that I can’t ignore it,” commented a brand new client. This isn’t an uncommon mindset among vehicle owners – especially those of “older” vehicles with “some mileage” and a tight budget.

“Why worry if there’s no real way to plan for these unexpected costs?,” many people think.

We helped change the mindset of this client, to their benefit. A proactive, thought-out, budget- honoring approach to vehicle maintenance and repair is a win-win for the client and the repair shop. You can reduce the stress of finding that time and money to address symptoms and surprises. You can catch problems before they get worse or strand you. You can set aside a vehicle ownership budget.

You shouldn’t have to worry about unexpected costs, because you can have a reasonable idea of what you need to save each month to keep your vehicle in a safe and reliable condition. With this money set aside and a proactive plan for repair and maintenance, you can reduce your visits to 2-3 times each year coinciding with oil changes and other necessary maintenance. 

How Do I Find My Vehicle’s Average Monthly Cost?

We regularly walk clients through a process of planning out current and upcoming needs in order to create a budget plan. Additionally – and this is key – with a repair and maintenance history, we can formulate a vehicle ownership cost analysis. With the cost analysis, paired with a budget for upcoming needs, we have been able to help vehicle owners keep their list of needs low, reduce their average monthly expenses, and help them set a realistic budget to keep their vehicle safe and reliable. This reduces surprises and their unexpected costs for repairs and maintenance. 

A basic explanation of this cost analysis service is that we calculate your total expenses for maintenance and repairs for as long as we’ve serviced your vehicle. We can show you what your average monthly cost has been and help you plan to maintain or reduce that average. This is a benefit for clients who come to us for all of their vehicle’s needs. By having a record of what was done when and how much you paid, we can better advise you on how to budget for the future. 

The spreadsheet, pictured above, helps us calculate your vehicle’s average cost to the month. We can look at the vehicle’s trends over years, months, and miles to tell the client if the vehicle’s average cost is reasonable, better, or worse. We can also note an increase in the cost of the vehicle’s needs and advise a client when it’s time to look for a different vehicle. For example, in 2020 the average monthly car payment is about $550 for a new car to $390 for a used car per month, not including interest or maintenance and repairs. The average monthly cost for a paid-off used vehicle should be around $120-$180 if a proactive approach is taken for maintenance and repairs. Over the course of 5 years, that is a difference of $22,200.

Why Should I Consider A Cost Analysis?

We have clients, a newly wed husband and wife, who bought a used vehicle (their only vehicle at the time). It wasn’t in great shape and they needed to put a lot of tender loving care into it for the first year or so. In the third year of their owning the vehicle we did a cost analysis. We found that their average monthly cost went from $200 to $75. They were able to decrease their spending by being proactive in their maintenance and repairs and continue to reap the benefits of increased vehicle reliability and fewer surprises. 

How did we guide them in this process? We did a comprehensive inspection of the vehicle when they first bought it and gave them a list of everything they needed to know about the vehicle’s condition. We helped them make a plan to attack prioritized maintenance and repairs while working within their budget. They did a great job of putting away as much of their income as possible to get on top of maintenance and repairs. We saw the vehicle a lot at first, but as they worked down their list, we began seeing it less and less.

We’ve recently talked with them about doing a second inspection. This will confirm the status of the “keep an eye on this” items from their original list and help us continue to help them keep their needs low.

Once the needs on this vehicle subsided, they didn’t reduce their budget for vehicle repair. They kept putting money away as before, but instead of investing it all in more repairs – because there weren’t many –  they were able to use it to buy a second vehicle. 

If the couple continues to maintain their two vehicles well and they continue to put money away, when it’s time to move on, they will have funds set aside for a replacement vehicle. 

When Do I Just Replace The Vehicle?

Many people get frustrated with a string of high dollar repairs and decide to just sell the vehicle and get into something a little newer and with a few less miles. Or, they may see that their odometer is getting up there and think that they will be proactive and replace the vehicle before too many “big” expenses come along. Neither of these situations are generally based on actual numbers, but rather misconceptions about the depreciating value of a vehicle, a “feeling” about their vehicle, or stress over their financial situation. 

First of all, we’ve seen vehicles get to 300k miles or more and still be cost-effective to keep. . Mileage alone is not an indicator for the average cost to maintain a vehicle. Additionally, a few bigger, more costly repairs, does not mean that the vehicle is in poor condition. Many times, those investments in higher cost repairs (such as major engine work, for example) are less than replacing the vehicle and affords a second life for what has otherwise been a safe and reliable vehicle. Cars and trucks wear down over time, but if well maintained, are fine tuned machines that can be safe and reliable for many years and thousands of miles. 

So, if age, mileage, and a momentary increase in repair costs don’t make your vehicle a candidate for replacement, what does? The answer lies in your cost of ownership. 

First, let’s look at what a new or new-to-you vehicle would cost:

  • For a quality used vehicle, you should plan, at minimum,$5,000 – $7,000 in total expenses. This involves several factors. For example:
    • You purchase a used vehicle for $3,000 – $5,000 (this is generally the low-mid purchase price for a reliable used vehicle)
    • The fee for a thorough pre-purchase inspection (helps you to budget maintenance and repairs in the first year or so). Yes, paying a fee for this inspection will help ensure a thorough and detailed result. You generally get what you pay for. 
    • Plus about $2,000-$3,000 for repairs in the first year (depending on the vehicle’s condition)
    • This is your initial investment, but costs don’t end here. However, if you are proactive, they can certainly go down over time.
  • A financed new or low-mileage vehicle
    • Total of your monthly payment
    • Plus maintenance and repairs 

The question is, are you able to confidently plan your vehicle’s financial needs for less than it costs to purchase or finance a new(er) vehicle in addition to inevitable maintenance and repairs? The answer to that question is our litmus test for clients who are considering replacing their vehicle. The bottom line is: What will it cost you to replace what you have with something that is just as reliable or better?

“Yes”

If you can maintain a safe and reliable vehicle for less than it would cost to replace your vehicle, including maintaining the replacement vehicle’s condition, then it makes the most financial sense to keep your vehicle. 

“No”

If your cost of ownership has increased to the level that it is about the same cost or higher than purchasing a quality used vehicle or financing a new or used vehicle, plus maintenance and repairs, then it is time to move on. This should not be based on, “I feel like my vehicle ownership costs are too much,” but rather, “I’ve looked at the numbers and the costs are higher than they should be.” Start the process of replacing your vehicle. 

“Yes, but…”

Now, there is the case where your vehicle just isn’t working for you anymore (and, be honest with yourself, not just because you are bored of the vehicle). Maybe you have a Toyota Corolla but you have child #3 on the way and you need to upgrade to a bigger vehicle. Or, you have a Ford Explorer but it’s just you and all you need your vehicle for is getting around town and maybe a road trip here and there. Andrew would say, “Just get a Corolla!” Maybe buy it from the family upgrading to a bigger vehicle (ha ha). 

There are times when you need to move on if the type of vehicle you have just isn’t serving you anymore. If you have a trustworthy mechanic that is knowledgeable about a variety of makes and models, they may be able to direct you to a make and model that will serve you well in your season of life. If you haven’t built a relationship with a trustworthy mechanic, now is the time to find one! Ask friends and family if they have someone they would strongly recommend. If you are in Central Florida, we would be happy for you to give us a ring!

The couple I mentioned above had a monthly cost of ownership that was slightly less than if they were to own a vehicle under a lease or payment plan. As they proactively attended to it’s needs, they positioned themselves to a monthly cost significantly lower than financing a vehicle. They did two things right – 

  1. After we earned their trust over time they looked to us  (the professionals) to help plan for repairs and maintenance in a timely manner.
  2. They were proactive in addressing those needs AND in saving for future maintenance, repairs, and funding for their next vehicle. 

If you are like me, you find budgeting to be stressful – making sure you have allocated your income in the wisest way for you/your family with enough cushion for surprises. The tighter your budget, the more difficult it is to plan for “the unknown.” However, if you have a good mechanic who gives reliable input in a way that you value and understand, this can take you a long way. In addition, if you can work with that auto repair shop to evaluate your cost of ownership and have a thorough inspection of your vehicle so that you know what your upcoming needs are, you will have so much more confidence in the money you are saving and where the money is going when it comes time for maintenance and repairs. 

Dear Women – Love, The Mechanic’s Wife

Dear Women – Love, The Mechanic’s Wife

Dear Women,

When I see your social media posts recounting horrible vehicle repair experiences, where you’re sure they overcharged you for a problem they didn’t even fix, I feel your anger and disappointment.

When I hear you say, “I don’t like bringing my car to the mechanic because I don’t know when they are taking advantage of me,” I cringe. 

When you tell me that the repair shop was pressuring you to approve a repair and you weren’t sure you really needed it, but now you don’t know what to do. I don’t blame you for shedding tears over it. 

When you say, “I don’t like going to the auto repair shop because I feel like they treat me differently because I’m a woman,” it really frustrates me to hear that.

Ladies, we should not be having these experiences. We should certainly not be having them just because we are women. We should not be worried about being overcharged, about paying for an unnecessary repair, or being taken advantage of because we are women. We should not put our wallet, our safety, or the safety of our family in a compromising position because auto repair is a man’s world and we are women. We should not be broken down on the side of the road because, while we knew something wasn’t quite right, we dreaded bringing the vehicle in to be looked over. It’s uncalled for.

Ladies, you deserve respect by everyone – including the man (or woman) who is helping you keep your vehicle safe and reliable.

Men, women deserve your respect. So, respect her. Even if you don’t know her, respect her, You might be the only man in her life that has ever shown her what a gentleman is.

Before becoming a mechanic’s wife, that was me. I was that woman who called Dad every time her car made a noise because she was scared and didn’t know what to do. I was that woman who handed her cell phone over to the mechanic, daddy on the other end, because she couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Why must the mechanic speak Man? Why can’t he just speak Human? I’m grateful to my dad for filling the gap between me and the auto repair shop, but do you know what? My dad isn’t a mechanic. He worked in insurance sales. He may have tinkered with cars in the driveway here and there in the 1970’s, but when it came to auto repair, he mainly relied on life experience.

Now that I am a mechanic’s wife, I have a different perspective. I have the perspective that no one should ever feel like they are being overcharged, taken advantage of, or talked over, under, or down to. 

Women – while you are the most vulnerable to feeling this way, you are not alone. A lot of men whose father’s didn’t tinker in the driveway with them aren’t confident in understanding mechanic talk. Even if they did have those kinds of father’s, they may have learned a thing or two that is incorrect. Whether you are a man or woman or teenager who’s just gotten their driver’s license and first car, you should be treated right by your mechanic.You should be and you can be.

Ladies, stop waiting until you feel like your vehicle is going to break down before you finally relent and start typing “auto repair near me” into Google. The right man is out there waiting to treat you and your vehicle right. Don’t wait until your car is about to give up on you. That’s like being in labor and not going to the hospital or birthing center until you are ready to push. You don’t want to have that baby in the passenger seat of a car! The doctor or midwife wants to walk with you throughout the process of your pregnancy. They want to labor with you from the start  – not just when you are ready to push. Then, all you have to focus on is your beautiful family. 

There’s a mechanic out there ready to use plain English, to take the time necessary to discuss your options until you understand what is happening with your vehicle. 

There’s a mechanic who’s not interested in just telling you what’s wrong, he will gladly show you. 

There’s a mechanic who wants to use his expertise, time, and resources to serve you to his fullest. 

There’s an auto repair shop who will give you a clear honest answer about what is wrong with your vehicle, a reliable budget estimate of the cost of repair, and honest advice about how long they would or wouldn’t let their mom drive a car in that condition.

Talk to friends, talk to family, check out the article Six Qualities to Look for in An Auto Mechanic Shop. There is a great auto repair shop out there. Go find it!

In general, the auto repair industry has a bad reputation for treating customers poorly, not communicating well, issuing bills that don’t make sense, and not fixing the problem right the first time. Auto repair is a rough industry (I can tell you honestly from both sides), but I know that there are shops out there ready to build a relationship with you. Look for one with honest communication, quality-focused automotive repair, fairness in practice, and kindness in action. You don’t deserve anything less than that.

You matter and your vehicle matters because you need to get to work, school, church, soccer practice or the retirement home knowing that you can get there safely and reliably. You should be able to look into the face of your mother, husband, child, and friend with a smile because you know that you and your family have been cared for.

Love, 

The Mechanic’s Wife

Father and Son Shop Time

Father and Son Shop Time

“Daddy!” the boy squeals as he flies into the shop, wrapping his arms around his father’s legs. 

“Arthur boy!” his father exclaims. 

“Walk, please!” his mother warns…for the millionth time. 

“Can we do shop time, Daddy,” Arthur asks.

“That sounds great! Beth, is it ok with you if we have shop time after we close today?” Andrew asks with the “you know it will be good for him” look in his eyes. 

Looking forward to getting the boy home, I respond with exhausted elongated words – “Yeah, that’s fine.” 

But it is good for our now 3 year old son. And it’s good for Andrew to be able to share that special time with him. It’s certainly a benefit when your dad owns an auto repair shop. It’s a unique experience that few other kids his age enjoy. 

If you have been a client for any amount of time, you have recognized that Andrew is a good teacher. That’s one benefit of his music education degree and he applies this with our son, especially during their Shop Time.


What Do They Do?

Arthur is always interested in what Andrew is up to and does his best to emulate him. 

Arthur loves to help out around the shop and Andrew loves to give him practical jobs.

Learning opportunities abound at the shop!

With Andrew’s degree in music education and Arthur’s interests in everything music and everything in Daddy’s shop, this was a big hit! This is just a short clip of the beginning of their music exploration around the shop.

Finding out how things work around the shop can take a lot of different forms, but this is one of the most fun to date. I think Central Florida amusement parks have a rival!

These are just a few examples of the fun Andrew and Arthur have during their shop time. Many of them, I haven’t been around for. They will look for little treasures that Arthur can hide away in his pockets, do an oil change together, or just explore how different tools work. Arthur has been around the shop since his birth and is now capable of being helpful with small tasks. He truly completes our family business.

What a treasure trove of learning for a little boy!

Keeping Your Car Healthy While You “Shelter in Place”

Keeping Your Car Healthy While You “Shelter in Place”

It’s been a month, now, since the U.S. President declared a national emergency due to COVID-19. Many of us have been confined to our home since then. More recently, we are required to stay home aside from essential work or errands. That means, we’re not driving as much. I can’t even remember the last time I got gas for my car (Gas prices?!!). Just because you aren’t driving your vehicle, doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep up with it’s care…or maybe because you aren’t driving your vehicle that’s all the more reason to attend to it.

There are several opportunities to get on top of your vehicle’s needs and some of them don’t even cost a single penny. 

Educate Yourself

Taking the time to educate yourself about your vehicle and how to maximize your investment probably isn’t high on your priority list when your life is busy with work, school, kids and just life in general. In our present circumstances, however, why not set aside some time? 

Like many of you, whatever work projects you had going on before the COVID-19 crisis have been turned on their head. My goal this year was to facilitate a series of seminars about vehicle ownership to equip people for making confident decisions in keeping their vehicle safe and reliable. Now that life has become virtual, I jumped on the bandwagon and reformatted my seminars into a Facebook Live series. I hope you take the time to join me!

Taking control of your vehicle’s maintenance and repair budget

April 4, 2020

Session 1: Can you really budget for repairs and maintenance? (Watch it now!

Session 2: Demonstration: DIY maintenance with Andrew and Arthur (Watch it now!

Session 3: Q&A with Andrew and Bethany (Watch it now!

Women, You’ve Got This!

April 16

Session 1: How to find a man mechanic who will treat you right (Watch now…)

Session 2: Demonstration – What to do when you get a flat (Watch now…)

Buying used affordably, safely, and reliably

May 2 – 9:00am – 11:00am

Session 1: Make a wise investment in purchasing a used vehicle (Watch it now!)

Session 2: Demonstration: Important information a vehicle can tell you (See Session 1)

Session 3: Q&A with Andrew and Bethany (Watch it now!)

To receive regular updates on more upcoming seminars and other helpful information, please like our Facebook page, @Marinelli Auto Service

Make A Plan

Start Simply

Do you check your engine oil, coolant, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid on a regular basis? Do you regularly check your tire pressure? What about your windshield wipers? The more familiar you are with your vehicle based on its basic health, the more likely you are going to be invested in keeping on top of keeping it that way. 

Focus on Prevention

The more you know about your vehicle, the better you are prepared to take measures to prevent nasty surprises and set a practical and affordable budget for maintenance and repairs. 

When was the last time you had a really thorough inspection on your vehicle? Do you have a comprehensive list of your vehicle’s current, upcoming, and future needs with an understanding of their benefit to your vehicle’s safety and reliability? If so, then you are prepared to prevent your vehicle’s needs from being urgent and likely more costly than if you waited until components start to fail. 

By working with your mechanic to compile this information and talk through what decisions you need to make about maintenance, repairs, and your budget, you can save yourself a lot of worry, time and money. If you haven’t done this – or maybe it’s just been a while – or you don’t know where to start, please reach out and we’ll be happy to help you begin this process. 

Stay Current

Having a plan in place for maintaining your vehicle is only beneficial if you act on it. Schedule regular maintenance and repairs according to the number of your vehicle’s needs and the budget you have set. We like to see our clients do this in conjunction with oil changes – why go back and forth between the auto repair shop for multiple things when you can leave it for a day or so and get them taken care of at the same time in a regular interval?

We know that time is precious! Plan ahead to a time when going without your vehicle is going to cause the least amount of stress. Many of our clients schedule service for when they are going out of town – if it’s just going to sit in the driveway, why not use that time to get some work done? Speaking of sitting in your driveway – many of you have been driving your vehicle so little that you can’t remember the last time you got gas. If you aren’t an essential worker and life has slowed down, now is the perfect time to jump into this process. 

Communicate Regularly with Your Mechanic

We understand that this health crisis has affected many of your jobs and income. Maybe you had planned on getting some work done on your vehicle but now your budget has changed. By staying in regular contact with your mechanic about repairs and maintenance due and your current budget, you can navigate together the best course of action, even if that means re-evaluating your initial plan to meet a change in budget. 

We are happy to help you tailor your vehicle’s next service appointment to your current budget. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

If you have any questions, concerns, or support during this unusual time, please get in touch with us. We want your vehicle to be safe and reliable but, more importantly, we want you and your family to be safe and well. 

-From The Mechanic’s Wife

Working from Home with Kids

Working from Home with Kids

As we watched from the other side of the world, we sent our “thoughts and prayers” to China as COVID-19 swept their nation this past December and into the new year. I, like many, thought, “Oh, that’s sad,” then moved on with our daily lives as the news drifted in and out of our fast paced lives. The virus quickly travelled west as Europe started putting up red flags – Italy getting hit especially hard. Various international business and parenting Facebook groups that I follow cried out as they were quarantined in their homes with their family – children especially going stir-crazy. These virtual group members supported them and offered ideas for passing the time and expending pent-up energy. 

March greeted us and the deadly virus was no longer on the other side of the world. It was in our backyard. Before we knew it, the Coronavirus lingered by our front door as it haunted our every move. We began to argue about it’s severity, about precautions, and whether the media is fear mongering.

Then reality hit. Schools, businesses, the entire entertainment industry – including the American’s beloved national and collegiate sports teams – shut down. Now so many of us, if we’re blessed enough to still have a paying job, are working from home – myself included. 

Our kids are also at home because childcare and/or schools are closed (again, our family is no exception), which poses a conflict. How can I be productive working from home when my kids are home? You’re probably also asking, since my kids are not in school, how do I keep them engaged in academic activities so that they don’t fall behind once schools open again? 

Social media has allowed these families to come together and support each other in schooling their children at home. Teachers have piped up and offered assistance. Many of these families have never considered homeschooling and never had the opportunity to learn how to teach a child, much less actually do it. Adding the need to be productive with your own work, this has been a major challenge for most families in the U.S. 

I feel modestly prepared to take on this task with my preschooler. Our life has not had a “normal” routine since he was born more than 3 years ago. I have never really “left” my job; I’ve switched back and forth between working from home and working at the shop. I’ve had to work full-time for the past 18 months while still having our son around for a good portion of the day. I’m fortunate that Andrew and I both have education degrees, tons of experience with kids, and come from families full of teachers. My mom and mother-in-law have especially been helpful, having decades of experience teaching preschool – elementary school children. 

In the time I’ve wandered back and forth between working from home and working at the shop with a toddler in my care, I’ve learned some great lessons that have made this full-time working and schooling from home a reasonably smooth transition.

1. Create a routine and stick to it

Think about what a normal routine was like for your child when they were in school and/or childcare. Write out that hourly routine and consider how you might replicate that at home. Just like you have a normal routine for your work-day, they also have a school-day routine that keeps them grounded and productive.

Older children may have been sent schoolwork packages to keep them on track with each subject in their curriculum, but what about electives and extra-curriculars? How many times a day did they have recess? Did they have a set reading or study time? What time did they eat lunch? What time did they get to school/come home from school? 

Like the older children, keep babies’ and toddlers’ snacks, lunches, and quiet times on a similar time schedule. Just because they don’t get tested or graded, doesn’t mean you should usurp learning activities. Keeping their minds engaged and challenged both keeps them occupied, learning and growing. Occupying them in something meaningful may allow you some precious moments to focus on your work while they’re occupied. 

The big difference for the younger kids is that their attention span is much shorter and they are less independent in learning tasks. Where you may be able to block out an hour for a 10-year old to engage independently in an activity or two (45 minutes engaged activity, plus instruction and wrap-up), I suggest keeping younger kids’ focused learning activities to a 30 minute time-slot (15-20 minutes engaged activity, plus instruction and wrap-up). Fill in gaps between structured learning with free play – playing is learning!

Believe it or not, kids actually thrive on order and routine, especially when things get a little out of whack. They might resist at first, but stay the course and be consistent. Provide this daily security during such an uncertain time.

2. Prioritize school routines and weave work throughout 

I know that you are doing your best to get the same amount of work done at home as you do in the office. With kids around, that is unlikely to happen (sorry!). However, you can set a new work pace and accomplish realistic goals if you are wise in how you manage your time. 

First of all, if you have two parents working from home at the same time (bonus!), you are more likely to be successful in your work goals if you coordinate responsibilities. Take turns in teaching and learning times with the kids. Figure out which subjects you each thrive in and divide them up. When one parent is with the kids, the other parent gets uninterrupted work time. If you plan well, even the parent working with the kids can sneak in some work while the children are focused on a task.

Secondly, plan your childrens’ schedule first, then sort out where you can fit your work priorities in that framework and what work tasks are best to do when. If you try to work your kids’ schedule around your work priorities, you are going to feel frustrated and agitated by your kids’ need for attention and end up spinning your wheels. On the other hand, if they are content and engaged in their work, you can manage your own time accordingly. For example, if my son is working on an art project, I know that I need to keep my attention on him, lest paint get all over my whole house, but I can probably be checking and responding to email during that time. I save my focused projects for when he’s engaged in play (i.e. play dough works miracles!) or napping. 

Finally, if there’s absolutely no way around needing some focused work time (i.e. you have a scheduled phone or video conference), don’t feel bad about a little extra TV time in the middle of the day. Find something that everyone agrees on and that, if possible, would be intellectually challenging for the kids. Afterwards, have a conversation with them about a moral or ethical conflict between characters or the good or poor choices a character made. I’ve been known to do this after my 3-year-old has watched the movie Cars for the thousandth time (Wow, Lightning McQueen was truly a selfish jerk until he met the folks in Radiator Springs!). 

3. Involve the whole family in the process.

I already mentioned having mom and dad trade teaching time if possible. If you have children of multiple ages, you can also involve the older children in helping to teach the younger children. Not only does it give you some extra space, but it’s actually really beneficial to the kids. The older kids get to reinforce and feel confident in what they already know. The younger kids learn to trust their older siblings and establish a positive bond in their relationship with them.

Make this uncharted adventure a group process – for older kids, have them share what their daily schedule is like and work together as a family to develop your “new for now” routine.  For younger kids, get to know what their favorite part of their school day is and prioritize that in your schedule. 

Take time to find out what your children want to learn about. Find times where you can all work and learn together about a subject that interests one of the kids and continue to take turns. You can also look at what they’ve been learning at school and make it a group project for the whole family. Get creative and make it enjoyable for everyone.

4. Use the resources you have around you. 

If you don’t have a set curriculum, work sent home by your child’s teacher, or your child is bored and/or getting done with their work too quickly, you might need to come up with some additional material. Or, if they are being overly challenged and getting stuck, they may need some assistance. With younger preschool or kindergarten age children, you may not have much teaching content to go off of. Parents, I’m here to encourage you that you are not in this alone

I know that many teachers are concerned about kids around the country who are not going to be able to keep up with learning and want to help. Reach out to friends and family to see if they know anyone who is certified in your child’s learning level who might be able to tutor them virtually. Reach out to your child’s school to find out what resources they have available to families. Even my son’s preschool is providing resources and help to keep their kids learning, growing, and connected with their friends from school. 

For younger children, like mine, you may feel like you are starting from scratch. Consider where they are developmentally, the kinds of work that was sent home from school in the past months (i.e. Were they going through letters in a certain order? Colors? Shapes? Reading a certain type of stories?) and replicate some of those activities – practice makes perfect and they won’t get bored doing the same activities a few times. If they have a favorite, let them keep doing it and find ways you can change it up every so often. Even taking more time each day to read to them, play with your child’s toys together, or involving them in activities at home (my son LOVES baking and cooking – we talk about amounts, texture, temperature, etc and it usually becomes a science lesson of sorts). 

Finally, there are tons of amazing resources out there. One that I love for children from infancy through grade school is Dad Lab (Google it! – there’s a book, a YouTube Channel, Instagram, Facebook group, etc) which has tons of great ideas. Take a subject that interests your child (Arthur is really into space right now) so we use that interest and incorporate letter sounds of the planets, simple math, colors, etc to supplement his learning. We go online and watch videos about planets and look for images to talk about. 

Embrace the now

As the old adage goes, use this time to make lemons into lemonade. It’s incredibly difficult to turn on the news or Google “COVID-19” and not wrap your mind around that fact that this is not a Stephen King novel that we’re living – it’s real life. Our kids don’t need to hold onto that fear any more than we do. You may even have a friend or a family member who is ill with this virus or has succumbed to its horror. Andrew encourages me repeatedly to take one day at a time. Today, embrace the time you get to be home with your children. 

Remember the first day you put them into child care or their first day of school and the ambivalent pull of emotions that made you burst with pride and mourn the parting all at the same time (you, too, dads!). Hold onto these moments that you get to be together. When your child is resisting the school lesson or you are pulling your hair out because you can’t concentrate on your work proposal, just stop. Stop and take a breath and remember that you are all in this together. Take a break from what you are doing and find something fun to do as a family. 

These circumstances won’t be with us forever. Just like how the country found a new normal after 9/11, we will find a new normal once schools and workplaces are open again and life will – and must – go on for the survivors.

– From the Mechanic’s Wife

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