Though just finishing 10th grade, homeschooler Hannah King is already a seasoned worker who feels driven to meet ambitious career and financial goals. In fact, she’s driving herself.
In anticipation of receiving her license in early May, Hannah began practicing navigating the roads of her northern Florida home the previous September in a 2004 Volvo XC90 that she paid for with her own money.
That major purchase—and equally major step toward adulthood—stemmed from a work ethic she’s been cultivating since age 13, when she began babysitting for a neighbor.
Hannah’s first taste of earning money, plus the example of her own parents working and budgeting, made the teen anxious to do more. So about a year and a half ago, when she was 14, Hannah asked if she could apply at the nearest Chick-fil-A restaurant. (Florida law allows 14-year-olds to work under certain restrictions.)
“It was mostly my idea,” recalled Hannah, “but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my mom.”
Budgeting for Success
Hannah’s mother, Angie King, said she recognized her daughter’s desire as the natural outcome of what she and her husband Rex attempt to inculcate in their children.
“We try to lead by example,” Angie explained, “and I think she’s picked up on that.” Their homeschool has also included deliberate lessons in finances and personal responsibility, such as when Angie taught Hannah how to manage a checkbook at the tender age of 10.
Hannah’s request also launched a new era of juggling the teen’s already busy schedule—adding work to maintaining straight A’s in school, athletics, and volunteering with Girls on the Run.
“We definitely told her that school comes first,” said Angie. For example, Hannah was recently dissuaded from taking on extra hours until she finished this term’s AP classes.
Angie added: “She’s naturally a mature and responsible person,” an observation that made saying yes to a job easier.
Not that applying was easy.
Hannah recalled: “I was so nervous when I went into the interview, my hands were shaking. But I was hired on the spot. I was so happy they took a chance on a 14-year-old.”
At the time the only other employee her age was the boss’s daughter. The two quickly became friends.
Hannah said she also learned that Chick-fil-A managers in her area “really love hiring homeschoolers.” This benefits the business, because homeschooled workers are often available when other students aren’t.
“I definitely wouldn’t be able to work the hours I work without homeschooling,” remarked Hannah. “I love that homeschooling gives me the flexibility to work when they need me.”
She said that she has grown as a worker. Recently Hannah was nominated for employee of the month, which she feels reflects the fact she’s taken on some duties that are usually reserved for supervisors, such as bagging food during the lunch rush, answering phones, and dealing with customer concerns.
This growth prompted her to seek more independence—and responsibility—by lobbying her mom and dad for her own car.
Her parents’ response was to have Hannah take a hard look at her budget, not just for the cost of a vehicle, but “insurance, maintenance—everything.”
First Set of Wheels
But the numbers worked, so late last summer, while still 15, Hannah became the proud owner of a silver SUV with a sunroof and turbocharged engine. According to Hannah, it also “needed a lot of work.”
So she launched into learning yet another skill, getting under the hood with her dad to do much of the labor themselves.
Then, after a combination of online training and parent-taught driver’s ed, the momentous occasion came in May when Hannah turned 16.
“My birthday was on Saturday,” recalled Hannah, “so the following Monday I was there at the DMV at 8:30 a.m. to get my driver’s license.” The consummate planner, she remembered to pack her Chick-fil-A uniform so she could proceed directly to work.
Angie confessed the event struck her as bittersweet.
“This is a huge rite of passage for a teenager, and I was happy for her,” said Angie. “But it was hard to watch her drive away for the first time.”
Angie said she reminded herself that not having to chauffeur her daughter would free up several hours a day. And that Volvos have a reputation for safety.
But when it comes to your own children, she added, “you never stop worrying about them.”
Hannah also admitted to mixed emotions.
Compared to a friend of hers, who has a car but shares expenses with the parents, it’s gratifying to know “my car in the driveway is completely my own,” said Hannah. “But I was also shocked,” when the insurance bill arrived.
For now, the added expense means Hannah hopes to pick up extra hours at work over the summer. She also plans to train for a competitive open-water swim in August.
In the fall she intends to take college courses through dual-enrollment, with the goal of eventually earning an associate’s degree and transferring to the University of North Florida to study physical therapy.
If it seems like a lot of work, at least that’s something Hannah is already familiar with.
“Work has really helped me grow as a person,” she said, “so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything.”
Besides, if her schedule gets really hectic, it will just give her an excuse to splurge on something she would really love to have anyway—a new planner.
Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of King family