Meet Homeschooling Kids: Makonnen David Blake Hannah
Business Not Quite as Usual
Part 1 of 2
By Linda Dobson
Makonnen David Blake Hannah wakes to the sunshine over Kingston, Jamaica, eats breakfast, and soon gets to work talking on the phone with business partners or providing updates as a consultant to Jamaica’s minister of technology and commerce. It’s business not quite as usual because Makonnen is a 14-year-old “unschooler,” or one who uses the world as his classroom and learns through day-to-day experiences.
Day-to-day experiences have been rich for a young man whose dad runs a music studio and whose mom works as a journalist, author and film maker. “Many people know me as a Rasta woman who doesn’t put her child in school,” explains Makonnens’ mother, Barbara Blake. “People have recognized him on the street since he was 7 years old and did our first movie. We didn’t think his appointment as government technology and commerce consultant would bring international attention. We just thought, ‘Oh, cool, how nice, Phillip. You’re a good man to offer this to Makonnen; that’s lovely.’ But next thing we know the news is all over the world! If he wasn’t prepared, it would be crazy, but it’s no big thing, just a good thing.”
Makonnen plans to keep his consulting job as long as the minister wants his help, even though his only monetary compensation has been a small honorarium. “I think you have to be 15 to be paid. I’m not in it for the money, anyway,” he explains, “so it doesn’t really matter.”
Homeschooling Provides Free Time for Interests
What does matter to Makonnen is Internet research for his businesses and consulting job, the Internet lessons he takes, and the books he’s currently using to review the computer programming languages Java and C++. “Anything I really have to learn, I usually just sit down and learn it,” Makonnen says. “We’ve used a couple of textbooks they use in the schools, but every resource I need is on the Internet, so I just go right there. I’m an Internet-based learner,” he adds with a laugh.
Makonnen’s interest in and use of computers began about a decade ago. As a 4-year-old, his writer mom’s computer with “the little green blinking screen” fascinated him. “I would sit around and press buttons and I got interested,” he says. “As I got older, I got to use newer and newer computers. Now I have a 450 megahertz, 128 meg RAM, a clone I built myself.” He credits his growing knowledge to “asking questions of people who know more than I, reading books, and going on the Internet.”
Most of Makonnen’s business partners are old friends who have already graduated from school, and he has “too many friends” to ever feel socially isolated. “I go out all the time,” he says as if the question of social isolation is almost silly. “In Jamaica, we have a lot of opportunity to interact with people because there are concerts and music sessions practically every weekend. I’m always there, so I know everyone. I’m a friendly person, so I have bunches of friends.”
When he’s not consulting or building or repairing computers, Makonnen works on a Web site he created with two other homeschooling teenagers from the United States. The site, eBiz 4 Teens, “teaches kids how to start up their own Net-based businesses.” It was good enough to get the team into the final competition for ThinkQuest, an international cyber competition that this year attracted 3,000 students and coaches from 127 countries. The homeschooling team and their coaches (their moms) flew to Los Angeles for the finals. John Gage, Sun Microsystems creator, presented the homeschooling team with the Interdisciplinary category’s Silver Award. Makonnen will forever be the first Jamaican to have participated in the competition.
Watch for Part Two of Makonnen’s homeschooling story – including an update on what he’s up to today! – on tomorrow’s Parent at the Helm.