28 May 2014

Congratulations graduates on completing your high school course of study and earning your high school diploma! Savor this time of celebration with your family and friends and enjoy the sense of hope and pride this achievement brings. As you make plans, I trust you will remember the sacrifices many have made to bring you to this point in your academic career.

No doubt you are thinking about the future and working on career plans. You may be a little worried, considering the economy and outlook for employment. It is true that these are trying times, and employment is difficult to come by. Some of you will have dreams of pursuing higher education, either at a community college or a four-year institution. Others may be looking at securing apprenticeships or employment. Both courses of action, I believe, have benefits. I want you to make wise plans. What you do next is a big decision, and I encourage you to thoughtfully consider your options and confer with your parents and other experienced adults in your life as you make your plans. Personally, while I am a big proponent of higher education, I urge you not to acquire debt merely for the sake of a college experience.

Whatever you are considering, I want you to learn from my experience. At your age I really did not understand the true nature of vocation.

On the subject of choosing a vocation, there is a lot of debate among experienced adults who give advice to young adults. Some encourage young adults to understand their passion and then to actively strive toward a role in which they get to do what they are passionate about. Now, it is possible for someone to never get to the point where they are paid full-time to work at something they are passionate about, but the idea here is to pursue that goal. This camp appeals to me, to my idealistic and romantic side. I like the notion that I could be a college professor of educational history, and although I work at a university, in reality, I am not a professor. The reason: there is not a lot of need for educational history professors. But I keep working on that plan. I keep that dream alive. I think there is some good in that.

The other camp argues that one should take a more realistic and pragmatic approach. I also value this. The reality is that the market for professors is tight, and I might be able to find a low-paying professorship, but find that it wouldn’t pay my bills. So I have discovered how to use other skills I have—information technology skills—to be gainfully employed at a university. This camp says info technology is obviously the future and that I would be smart to maximize my skills in this field to have an adequate income. I enjoy info technology work; however, I am not as excited about it as I am about teaching educational history.

What does this have to do with vocation? From experience, I know that you may not find the perfect plan for reaching the vocation that suits you perfectly. The way I resolve the tension in my life around choosing a vocation is to rest in my belief that God is sovereign; in other words, He is in control, and where I am right now is—well—where I am. The work I have to do today is the work God has given me to do today. This view, I believe, empowers me to work hard at the information technology job I have, giving my employer a good day’s work for the wages I am receiving, but at the same time, allowing me to dream, and to look for opportunities to move closer to my dream, while not feeling guilty about it, as if I was being ungrateful or discontent.

I am working at thriving. I am working at thriving in my current state and as well as in a potential state. My experience is that this position creates the best possibility for peace and opportunity for new experiences. New experiences bring new insights into my skills and what I can do well and what I find exciting. Which brings me to my closing point: you never really stop learning and graduating. Whatever is next for you, you will one day look back at it as a stage from which you eventually graduated into a new stage of life. It is my hope that when you look back, you will be able to say that you were blessed because you worked hard at thriving. You made good sacrifices, and you received the benefits of them, just like your homeschooling parents have done. Your graduating is an end of a stage for them. I am confident they are looking at you and are excited that you are thriving. They, in turn, will look forward to thriving in a new stage of their own.

Kevin McClain and his wife, Brea, started homeschooling in 2002. Kevin has a master’s in education, instructional technology, from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in educational studies from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he works as an educational technologist. In 2010, he joined NCHE's board as education vice president. He served as NCHE president from 2012-2016.