My Son the Geek

(l-r) Andrew, James, Timothy

(l-r) Andrew, James, Timothy

How well I remember the day we brought home our first computer. Little did I know then that it would be the instrument God used to teach me a valuable lesson about how He provides for His children.

It was April 1989. My husband was the pastor of a small, rural church that was able to give us only a token amount each month, and even with his job at a local grocery store we were barely scraping by. The oldest of our four children was six. As homeschoolers we were very much in the minority, and had already received many comments and cautions as to how we were depriving our children of good academic training. Along with the classic objections about socialization, a common concern was, “Your children will be computer illiterate. They won’t get anywhere in life because they won’t be able to find decent jobs without computer knowledge.”

This undermined our confidence in our ability to homeschool our children, because we were already concerned about how we were going to provide the best education for our children. We knew full well we could never afford a computer, let alone lessons to learn how to use one.

Or… could we?

At that time, Canadian families with children under the age of eighteen were the recipients of a substantial yearly child tax return. This is what we used to buy our piano in April ’84. When we received our cheque in April of ’89, we made a similar decision to purchase something we knew we would never be able to save for otherwise. With $500 hidden away in a drawer, we began our search for a used computer. It didn’t take us long, for there were not many priced that low in 1989. We drove to a farm near Riviere Qui Barre, an hour from home, and made the exchange with a young man who had bought himself a newer computer. We were now the pleased and proud owners of a five-year-old Apple clone.

Neither Ian nor I knew a thing about computers, beyond his ability to turn it on and insert a floppy disk. With the computer we had inherited an assortment of games the former owner could not use on his new computer, Ian was at a loss as to how to play them. But as we scratched our heads and wondered where the money was going to come from to take a course in computer basics, help came from a totally unexpected quarter.

At four years old, our son James didn’t need anyone to teach him how to use the computer. He just seemed to “know” what to do. Without hesitation he climbed up onto the chair his dad had just vacated, and for the next half an hour he sat there playing game after game and showing his dad and big sister how to play them too. And that was only the beginning.

Through the years, it was James who learned how to do anything new, and taught any member of the family who was interested. He was highly motivated to learn all he could about anything and everything to do with software. We lost a few important files during his experiments and learning experiences – and more than once he had a few siblings angry with him for clearing space on the hard drive by deleting games no one had played for awhile. But he was making steady progress, and the entire family benefited from it. Whenever he got stuck, he would find the right books from the public library.

When James was eleven, a friend from church loaned us an old but excellent computer that was several steps up from the Apple clone. Now we had two computers, and James had better material to work with. A year later another friend gave us a newer computer. Our old Apple clone still worked well, so we sold it for $50. Somewhere along the line, we gave our friend’s computer back to him, for by now we had obtained another newer one.

Over the next few years our son’s abilities had expanded to the point where we had four computers, in two different rooms, and all were networked together so that any computer could be accessed by any other computer in the house. This is really helpful, especially for use with Word documents or games.

Our financial challenges continued through the years, which caused us no small concern as our children approached the end of high school. As we saw the children of homeschooling friends go on to university and community college, we wondered how we would ever provide the means for our children to go on to post-secondary training. And again the Lord provided through unusual and unexpected means.

Shortly after his seventeenth birthday James was hired as a summer worker at Acrodex, where Ian works. He worked alongside his dad, doing the same job Ian had attended a community college for nine months to train for. James proved to be fully qualified with no special training. He proved to be a real asset to the company, and in September he was asked if he would stay on and work full-time. He received almost the same salary as his dad, who had been working there for six years. He was commended highly for his work ethic and respectful attitude toward his supervisers and co-workers.

After a year and a half at Acrodex, James enrolled in a four-year program in computer sciences, taken by correspondence through Athabasca University. As a young man, he still liked nothing better than to experiment on the computer, and come up with something new or an improvement on an existing program.

59James continued to be a valuable asset at home as well. He was our resident expert in computer software. If anything went wrong, it was James we called upon to find the problem and correct it. If someone couldn’t figure out how to use a program, it was James who taught the person how.

James was taken from us too soon in a highway accident when he was 25. We lost a great guy. Our first son, the big brother looked up to by all of his sisters and brothers. We miss his wacky sense of humour and his big, booming laugh. And even now, five years later, we miss his expertise on the computer. On the piano I have a picture of him, arms crossed, eyes twinkling in a half smile. Every time I look at it, I can hear him saying, “Now remember what I’m telling you, Mom. I’m not always gonna be here to tell you what to do!”

I was proud of my son, the geek. But I am also deeply grateful to God for showing me that He is not restricted to my ideas of where my children should go or how to get there. James was not the only one — he was only the first of our seven children to prove the value of delight directed learning – and to demonstrate that where God has not provided the means to go the conventional route, He will undertake for us in other ways and get us where we need to go.

In 2003, we were a family of nine, living in a 900 square foot home. Homeschooling was often chaotic, and I often despaired of their ever entering the work force with anything substantial to offer. Now, twelve years later… Six of our children have grown up and gone on to succeed in a variety of areas beyond homeschooling. As I look at my two nursing assistants, drugstore supervisor, carpenter and Bible college student, I am amazed and proud of every one of them for their accomplishments and their contribution to those around them. They’ve done far better than I ever would have thought when they were growing up.

© Willena Flewelling


  1. Hello Willena, What an Awesome story my friend! Life is such an amazing thing Right? There are so many memories to be cherished and yet so many more to come.

    We as parents all want the best for our children, but even with so little they all seem to rise to the top some how.

    Crazy how life plays out.. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us here today. Have a Blessed Easter weekend ahead.. Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…Discover How I Won The Fearless Dominators Team BlitzMy Profile

    • Thanks, Chery. I never felt I was a “good” homeschooling mom, and after 19 years of homeschooling, I put my 3 youngest in public school. You should have heard the uproar of the older ones! But I left the boys in school for a few years, till Nathaniel chose to be homeschooled again for jr high and high school. He did well at public school, and is doing well at home.
      Willena Flewelling recently posted…A Withered HandMy Profile

  2. ian flewelling says:

    I Remember ! Interesting to speculate how different our life could have been if we had not gotten that computer at that time .

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