When folks in the big, wide world find out I don’t have a formal high school diploma, much less a college degree, I often get responses ranging from bewilderment to outright shock.
It’s just a matter of perspective, I guess. I sometimes forget that being taught math or English by my parents is weird enough, but to then claim that my parents, pastor, and other close mentors could have also taught me how to be intelligent, make money, and live a happy, normal life—all without the usual college or “job” experience… that is well nigh crazy.
I’m one of those homeschooling experiments that didn’t stop at the end of “high school,” (whatever that is). My dad took me to work with him every day starting at 15-years-old. I’d spend half the day studying and half the day working with him. Some evenings, he’d mentor me on making sales calls. My education as a teen was far more than the seven books in my backpack—it was the relationships, challenges, and learning opportunities of real life. In fact, I learned many of the most important lessons of my education as I was working beside my dad.
I started my first sales business at 17, and it wasn’t easy. With my dad’s coaching, I continued to pursue various correspondence studies in business, communication, and law, as I worked in my sales business. I was accepted into a law school when I was 17, but soon found that the sales I was doing was more lucrative than even the legal business would be, so with my parents’ encouragement I decided to whole-heartedly pursue entrepreneurism and mentorship. And it wasn’t just my parents’ mentorship—I was mentored several days a week by Kevin Swanson in everything from theology and history to speaking and administration.
The second business I started was selling gold and silver bullion, and in a few short years, both of my sisters and my dad and I were all working at least part-time for the business. By the time my siblings and I were in our teens, a family dynamic that had started with a spirit of service and volunteering had turned into a lean, mean, productive machine—both in ministry and in the business world. Almost by accident, our “homeschooling” family was now a thriving center of work and productivity. My younger sister was one of the most competent conference coordinators I know, as well as the self-taught accountant for all my businesses, and a graphic designer.
All told, over the last ten years I started over five businesses in sales, real estate, investments, and precious metals—all with the involvement of my parents and siblings. Today, I’m married and have two cute little boys and a baby on the way. Both of my sisters are also married. My wife and I together still work with my parents and siblings in the Generations ministry as well as in several of the family businesses.
The idea of families working together is simple: families that love God together and love learning together also happen to love doing things together. They can get a lot done, when everyone kicks in. During the early years, we all helped with homeschool conferences, hospitality, father/son retreats, overseas missions, and countless other projects. As a twelve-year-old, it didn’t feel like work—it was an opportunity to join the “big people” and contribute to the projects and vision that our family believed in.
Here’s what our family learned along the way. Family, education, and work don’t have to be separate boxes that each individual must keep neatly labeled on the different shelves of life—they are a way of life, braided together in the nurturing context of Christian discipleship. I didn’t just get homeschooled (or home-discipled, as my parents thought of it) through high school—my discipleship never stopped. My parents weren’t interested in letting the deep relationships forged through a decade or two of love and training get dissolved by the modern world’s way of thinking, working, and living. At least not without a fight.
Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t all easy. I’m sure there were times where my parents would have loved to forget that I and all my crazy businesses ever existed. My pride, selfishness, or laziness would bump up against someone else’s sins, and our family would have to resolve all the same conflicts you find in any typical workplace. I can personally relate to every mother-son tension that ever existed. God’s grace in bending my heart toward diligence, love, and honor to my parents through my young adult years is nothing short of a miracle. An ongoing miracle at that.
I’m not saying that going to college or having a “job” is wrong or even inferior. God calls different people to different things, and you can’t run a nuclear submarine with your eight-year-old daughter by your side. At least, I haven’t seen it done. But I think it’s time that we as Christians (not to mention homeschoolers) take the God-given principles of discipleship and keep pushing them as deep into life as we can. And while that will look different for every family, I think we will be delighted and perhaps even surprised where it will take us.
The adventure of a family economy—a family working and serving together for the glory of God—is one of the most rewarding and exciting journeys I could ever imagine. The relational, spiritual, and financial fruits stunned us—we didn’t know how rewarding and productive it would be to work and serve with those we were closest to. Instead of coming home from work to the family, we never have to leave.
I can’t wait until my boys get a little older. I hope and pray I can raise them like my parents raised me.
By God’s grace, I’m going to try!