Our son, Hayden, lacks one class for his Associates degree, but about a year and a half ago he decided to buy a computer repair business, putting his college education on hold. Not too long after he bought it, a local tv station invited him to appear for a short interview. It was a great opportunity that he didn’t want to pass up, but he began to worry that they would ask him about his education, or more pointedly whether he had a degree in computer science. When he first mentioned that to me, I, too, began to fret, but then it dawned on me that Hayden had been studying computer science his whole life.
When he was just nine months old I began sitting at the computer with him several times a week. While using a product called JumpStart Baby, he could touch any of the keys on the keyboard to see what would happen on the screen. As he grew, we graduated to JumpStart Toddler, then JumpStart Preschool, and so on, with each level gradually teaching more. By the time Hayden’s sister came along, he was almost four years old and while I was busy with the baby, he was able to start the computer, boot up his software, type in his name and do everything on his own.
As Hayden grew up I felt like I saw an aptitude for technology, so I looked for opportunities to nurture it. Hayden had a passion for Legos and played with them throughout his childhood. Somewhere along the way I learned of Lego Robotics groups, and wished there was one in our area that he could join. When he was about ten, I decided to splurge and buy him his own kit, thinking of it as an “educational expense.” That turned out to be a good investment. Hayden spent about an hour and a half just about every day for a year and a half, or so, designing robots and programming them on the computer. He followed his own interests and was totally self-taught.
When Hayden was about eleven, I learned that the high school computer science teacher sometimes held Lego Robotics camps. I contacted him and asked if he would consider having one the upcoming summer, and he did.
The teacher’s own son, who was an incoming high school senior, assisted for the first few days. When the kids had designed their robot, he helped them program it on the computer. But when he was no longer able to be there Hayden took his place at the computer and helped the other kids.
Each day when I returned to pick Hayden up, the teacher would ask me questions such as “How long have you homeschooled?” “Do you always plan to homeschool?” and “How old is he?!” At the end of the camp, Mr. O invited eleven-year-old Hayden to take his high school computer science class. He went so far as to walk me to the Principal’s office to talk to her about it. She wasn’t there, and talking with her confused secretary was amusing, but the result was that the district’s rules wouldn’t allow it since Hayden wasn’t an enrolled student. Alternatively, Mr. O gave Hayden private lessons, teaching him different computer languages and beginning animation. Not too long after that we moved to the Ozarks.
During his teens, Hayden started tinkering with his own computers, taking them apart, fixing and upgrading them. When the opportunity arose to buy a computer-repair business, Hayden had been working there long enough to learn the ropes from the owner who was wanting to relocate. He was only twenty at the time, so it would be a big risk and responsibility for such a young man. My husband’s background was in finance. Having worked for Morgan Stanley (previously Dean Witter) for over twenty years, he was talking to an old friend about the opportunity. His response was that Hayden would learn more from the business than he would with a college degree. We agreed, and with Scott’s expertise in finance, and my experience in advertising and customer service, we felt like we still had things we could teach him and that the business would provide that avenue.
Hayden continues to learn through his business. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud of him. Last year he was contacted about installing a new technology. I was amazed at how confidently he committed to learning it, and negotiated his rates. We asked him if he had any previous experience with the technology, and he said no, but that he could read the manual and figure it out. And he did.
It was for Walmart and they hired him to do work for them in five states, installing lockers for their Pickup service. He also maintains a contract to service all of the McDonald’s restaurants within a 50-mile radius, and is called when any of them have problems with their point-of-sale system.
Once, on a radio program, I listened to a speaker talking about homeschoolers. He said that, in general, they have high self-esteem and are independent learners, and that those traits are beneficial to entrepreneurship. That has certainly held true for Hayden. I don’t know what the future holds for Hayden and his business, but I know that the scope of things he is learning will be beneficial wherever life takes him.
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