Today’s Ask the Grad is a young man from a large homeschool family. Evan Travers is a homeschool graduate who is finishing a degree in computer science and honing his photography and social media talents. He shares with us how to raise men prepared to excel in the next generation.
When I tell people that I was homeschooled, it has not been uncommon to get a rather surprised response. A raised eyebrow, a low whistle, I am used to such answers. I have found through experience that I will almost always get that reaction up front, but once a person gets to know me, and hear my story, they usually end up wishing that they were homeschooled too.
I am very glad I was homeschooled. It has been such a huge blessing to me, and I would not have chosen any other way. I am very grateful to my parents for making that choice in a time when it was such a strange and alien path to choose for your children. I have reaped nothing but joy from it. I am so very thankful that homeschooling provided a way for me to be best friends with my siblings, to develop and encourage a love of discovery and learning, and to foster a sense of responsibility in me.
I am the oldest of six children. We all are/were homeschooled, all the way up through high-school. This family dynamic was so very crucial to my learning process. My brothers and I are different ages, in different “grades,” but we played, worked, and learned together as a family. Our strengths complemented each other, and we built each other up in academics, and in character.
My brother Graham and I especially worked together in school, as we were the closest in age to one another. I have always been a word/language person, and he has always had a head for math and definitions. (He’s currently getting his Masters in Accounting.) In subjects like biology, which has a combination of language, logic, math, and reading, we would collaborate on the teaching process. We would trade back and forth, explaining the parts in which we were more proficient. It was a great process, as the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone
else. This taught me great communication skills that will be useful for the rest of my life.
I learned how to work together with vastly divergent personalities. In a family, if you have a conflict or an annoyance, you can’t really just avoid the person. He or she is a member of your family, and you quickly learn to make things right, to forgive and to learn about other people’s personalities. In this age of collaboration across the globe, where your co-worker could be from a completely different background and culture, this knowledge of how to work with people’s strengths and their weaknesses has been invaluable.
I have noticed in my friends from more “traditional” school settings a sort of age barrier that I don’t have. Most young people don’t know how to relate to children ten years younger, or adults ten years older. Without the caste system of grades, and with the fact that my best friends growing up were of all ages, I have found that it’s not a problem. Indeed, I didn’t even notice it until I started moving in some circles outside of homeschooling.
Many of the people I meet seem to have had a very different experience than I did. They don’t care about their siblings activities, they don’t have a good relationship with their parents, or they outright dislike or hate members of their immediate family. This seems unbelievably sad to me, as I absolutely treasure my four brothers and precious sister, as I also respect and love my parents. I couldn’t imagine living without their humor, wisdom, and care. It always comes as a surprise to me when eyebrows are raised over my desire to spend time with my best friends at home rather than friends from school or work. I just laugh.
Academically, I think the greatest gift that homeschooling provided to me was the desire to learn, and the ability to seek it out for myself. In school or out, I was constantly seeking out knowledge for myself, learning it, applying it, and in some instances teaching it back to my siblings. I learned how magical it was to see another person’s eyes light up in understanding of a concept. I started down a long path of loving to teach people that continues to this day, at work and at school. At school, you can nearly always find me in the undergrad lab where I’m either teaching calculus, arguing mythological types, or troubleshooting programs. I’ve also found this invaluable in the workplace. Most of the on the job learning consists of “here’s a problem, it’s your responsibility to learn how to solve it.” That’s 90% of life, and fortunately, that’s 100% of homeschooling.
I now am focused on finishing my computer science degree, and learning all I can. I am also keeping an eye out for opportunities for me to start my own small business. My dad runs his ministry out of our home, and having him around the house has been wonderful for our family. I would like to provide my own family (Lord willing,) with the same level of care and attention.
I wouldn’t change anything about my education through homeschooling. I regret nothing. If the Lord should bless me with a family, I would definitely want to give them the same opportunities I had. I so strongly appreciate the family ties it fosters and the love of learning it encourages, and I would want my children to have that same experience. I am incredibly grateful to my parents for putting up with my shenanigans growing up, and being so patient and loving with me as they encouraged me to grow and learn, and become the man God wants me to be.
And now our reader-submitted “Ask the Grad” question. Shanda asks:
I have five boys and feel more concerned about their future, since they will be the sole provider for their families some day. I would love to hear from men … specifically the journey away from home and into the workforce. I want to be encouraged that my boys WILL be okay (spending all day w/their MOTHER) and that they can have successful careers.
There seems to be some kind of perception that boys who have a good relationship with their mother will not be strong-minded, successful people. I am not sure where this comes from. But fear not, it is entirely untrue. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, I’m really close to her. We stay up late laughing, sharing, we confide in one another. I love to joke that my favorite teacher was my first grade teacher (and my second grade teacher, and my third grad teacher…)
The story of how I started down my “career path” is a bit different than most I would imagine, so I can’t speak to exactly how it will play out in your family. At the end of high school, I was thinking and praying about what I would do with the rest of my life. As I have an interest in photography, and I’ve always been a bit interested in the field, I was considering going to school for graphic design, maybe for websites. I had been building websites for about a year before this, just as a hobby. I took some time to think about what path I would pursue. As I was praying about this, an old friend I had met on a missions trip contacted me and asked if I would like to work for his website company. It was an answer to prayer, and a little into that job they started me programming. I worked there for a year, and I’m still working for them as I study programming and computer science in school. I would never have guessed that words/language guy like myself would enjoy programming (or math, but that came later.) It turned out to be really invaluable, because I entered school with direction and some knowledge of what I needed to study.
As to what you phrase as “the journey away from home,” I sense that you are concerned that they will have some trepidation leaving their home and handling things on their own. I don’t know the age of your five fine boys, but I’m sure they will be just fine. I’m really glad to hear that you are telling them that they’ll be providers – this is a great truth. A ways into my search, I realized that it really didn’t matter which path I took. If God called me to be a trash man, so be it. I would be the best trash man ever. I learned that it was the goal of providing that was important, not the means by which it comes about. It’s great that you are telling them things like this.
Although change is scary, it doesn’t need to be as a big a jump as it seems. I chose to remain at home throughout my schooling, in order to remain in a place where I have responsibilities to more than just myself, in a family setting. If I lived in a dorm or an apartment, I would only be responsible to take care of myself, which isn’t how life is in the home or the workplace. I’m not saying that choice is for everyone, but it was a choice I really have come to appreciate over the years. The things I have learned in my family, in my home, have been more helpful to building my character and strengthening my resolve than all the workplace and college experiences so far.
I remember very clearly a class I took my first semester at UAB. I needed extra hours for my scholarship, so I found one that looked interesting. Narrative Film. Being a newcomer to the school scene, I neglected to notice it was a fourth level class for exiting Stage and Film Production seniors. So I arrived there, as a Computer Science freshman, and my professor asked me incredulously: “What in the world are you doing here?” I shrugged, and said that I thought the class would be interesting. The class consisted of actually filming short films, and I flourished. I took from what I learned at home about taking initiative, filling needs, and being available to help and worked in every position from microphone stand to director on various short films.
About half way through the semester, the professor pulled me aside and asked me if he could ask me a personal question. A little concerned, I said “Sure. What’s on your mind?” Leaning in a little confidentially, he whispered: “By any chance, were you homeschooled?” A little relieved, I laughed and responded “Yes.” He nodded sagely, looked around, and said “that explains a *lot*.” He told me that he had met a few homeschoolers, and they usually have a “fire in their belly” to do great things, and not just the status quo, and said he saw that in me.
Your boys will be more than just fine. The preparation you are giving them at home will prepare them for more than just ACTs and SATs, it prepares them to deal with real people, and real life. They will rise up and thank you some day, for the skills, and love for learning you give them. Hope that’s some encouragement to you.