As homeschool moms, one of the most common and tiring things we regularly face is the barrage of people who try to impose on us their ideas of what’s best for raising our kids. The endless, and typically demeaning, “what about…?” questions that start with the presumption that we’re depriving our kids.
But as I reflect back on almost 20 years as a homeschool mom, I’ve realized how I was initially on a path of doing to my boys exactly what I was pushing back against from friends and family.
Preconceived ideas of what kids can do
My youngest son, Kevin Cooper (better known online as Cole Summers), was the reason that my husband and I shifted from a mindset of limiting our kids by our own ideas of what they should be learning, to letting their interests and talents drive their education. Before our son was taken from us in an accident while away for a friend’s birthday last year, he lived as a trailblazer, proving that society’s, and our own, preconceived ideas of what kids could do was totally wrong.
Can a seven year old start, own, and run a corporation as a commercial farming operation?
I would have guessed not, and I would have been wrong. Nearly everyone I know holds on to the belief that kids can’t own a vehicle. When Kevin had the opportunity to earn a pickup truck in trade for helping a neighbor, he asked us to show him where the law says he can’t own one. We couldn’t. Our state DMV couldn’t either. At eight years old, Kevin was the proud owner of a beat-up old classic truck.
Confusing our opinions for knowledge
After an older, retired hay farmer mocked our son’s rabbit farm as a foolish business, claiming he was raising rabbits for $8 only to sell them for $4, Kevin took to saying that too many people seem to not be able to tell the difference between their opinions and knowledge. In reality, Kevin’s farm was earning more than the old farmer assumed he was losing.
But what mattered in that exchange was the insight about confusing our opinions for knowledge. I started to recognize how much I fell to that same mistake, and how much I would have limited my boys in life if I let my pride stand in the way of learning and admitting that I was wrong.
Don’t Tell Me I Can’t: An Ambitious Homeschooler’s Journey
1 Timothy 4:12 was one of Kevin’s favorite Bible verses…
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. – 1 timothy 4:12 NKJV
It was just his nature to live the first part. Any comment about not being able to do something simply as a matter of his age was always turned into motivation to show that he could. He grew in his early teens to adopt a mindset that, “unless something goes against the laws of nature or physics, don’t tell me it can’t be done.” But understanding and embracing the second part of that verse was when Kevin really started to shine. He understood that it simply meant to inspire others. That’s where the development of his online life as Cole Summers grew out of.
The first time someone called him inspiring over Twitter, Kevin was as happy as ever for days. He saw that as being one of the highest compliments anyone could receive. It motivated him on a level that we didn’t know how to react to. All of it came so close to never happening. The farm, his truck, showing that a kid could buy land and build it into a regenerative desert ranch, and even buying a dilapidated old house to save it from what appeared an imminent future as landfill waste. All the things Kevin did might have never been around to inspire others, all because of how close we came to limiting him by what we wrongly believed a kid to be capable of doing.
I frequently wonder, as Kevin often did, how many kids don’t get to show themselves to be brilliant economists, accountants, programmers, engineers, or whatever other ambitions they might have behind their natural curiosities and talents. All because we adults have this natural tendency to try forcing our young, star-shaped pegs into the square hole.
My husband and I sometimes look in on the social media comments and book reviews left for the memoir our son published, “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t: An Ambitious Homeschooler’s Journey,” a few weeks before he was killed. Thousands of followers and thousands of book sales, and one of the most common words we find is “inspiring.” And we almost didn’t let that happen.
May Kevin’s story be a reminder to us all that we should never underestimate the potential of our children and always encourage them to pursue their dreams, no matter how unconventional they may seem. Thank you to his parents, Billy and Tina Cooper, for sharing his story with us! We will do our part to carry on the inspirational words of Kevin’s book and his beautiful legacy. May God bless and comfort you forever.
Kevin Cooper, also known as Cole Summers, was not only a trailblazer in his own right but also an inspiration to countless others. His determination and refusal to accept limits based on age or societal expectations have left a lasting impact on all who knew him and continue to inspire others long after his passing. His story serves as a powerful reminder to parents and homeschoolers to let go of their preconceived notions and let children’s interests and talents guide their education, and to always believe in their limitless potential. In the end, this homeschooler’s journey and his legacy reminds us that every child has the potential to do great things if given the chance to explore, learn, and grow on their own terms.
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Forest Rose is a God Loving, Blessed Wife, & Mama to 3 girls. She’s passionate about lifting moms out of the trenches that are discouraged, overwhelmed, or feeling alone or isolated. Her hope is to point them to Christ and equip them to rise up with a newfound hope and joy within, that He alone can provide. Besides blogging, she also loves to create printables!