Jaxon Carpenter’s learning strategy is straightforward and effective. At 16, the homeschooler has surged ahead of many of his peers when it comes to pursuing skills and activities that interest him.

Among other things, he’s earned his master scuba diver’s certificate, worked on the crew of a hot air balloon, achieved a black belt in Taekwondo, and started on his associate’s degree in welding.

What’s the secret to his success?

“You get up early and get it done,” insisted Jaxon.

On a typical school day, he rises at 6 a.m. and launches into his studies to have as much time as possible for other things. A lot of them.

Taking the Plunge

At 10, Jaxon completed training that qualified him to scuba dive in open water. His father Jason was already a diver, and the rest of the family—including his mother Shelly and younger sister—also participate in the hobby.

But Jaxon soon decided he wanted to advance in the skill, taking it from a recreational activity to a money-making venture.

His opportunity came during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many other events and activities were curtailed.

“I decided I needed something to do,” said Jaxon.

He signed up for courses required to obtain his master diver’s certificate. These included training in rescue, navigation, recovering submerged items, and diving at night.

Jaxon scuba diving

The Carpenter family explores a reef off the coast of Honduras.

Learning to dive in the dark, Jaxon recalled, “was very fun! It’s cool just seeing the moonlight shine underwater.”

The other criteria for obtaining the certification required a good deal of time and effort. He had to complete 50 dives.

Finding that Flexibility

“Homeschooling really helped,” Shelly said. The family was able to complete coursework in a way that accommodated Jaxon’s training. “He studied hard, but he also got out there and dove,” Shelley recalled.

Jaxon finished his 50th dive and earned his master’s certificate at 13.

Homeschooling allows students to take advantage of unique opportunities available in their area—from learning to play bluegrass to competing in archery to visiting aquariums.

Since he turned 16, Jaxon has been able to use his advanced diving skills in support of the underwater salvage business his dad launched in 2018 as a side venture to his day job.

His father’s company works with insurance firms to identify watercraft and other valuable objects that can be recovered. His team operates mostly in recreational lakes near their home in Arkansas.

“We raise a lot of bass boats, jet skis, and smaller objects,” Jason said. Some of the bigger items they’ve recovered include numerous houseboats, an airplane, and a crane.

Jaxon helps his father in a variety of roles. He has served as the diver who monitors operations for safety, shuttled extra air tanks to other divers, and helped rig flotation bags and air hoses to provide enough buoyancy to lift the item they’re salvaging.

Out of the water, Jaxon stays involved with diving by working at a family’s friend’s scuba shop in his spare time.

Looking Toward a Career

Not that he has a lot of leisure these days.

Last semester, while still a high school sophomore, Jaxon approached his parents to say he was interested in taking welding classes at the local college.

“We didn’t think that as a 10th grader he could even take college courses,” said Shelly.

Jaxon’s research regarding the opportunity proved correct, however, and he ended up earning 12 credit hours (and straight As) at National Park College.

The teen said he enjoyed studying welding, which involves using his hands, feet, and mind.

Jaxon welding

Jaxon works on a welding project for a class at National Park College. 

“It’s therapeutic,” Jaxon said. “I pull on my hood and play my music, and I get to focus on what I’m doing.”

He discovered that welding can also be used to create art when, for a class project, he made flowers from galvanized steel, lug nuts, and rods.

This fall, Jaxon is scheduled to take 19 credit hours of college courses. And he’s already planning for after high school. Once he’s earned his associate’s degree, he hopes to work as a welder for several years, with the goal of buying property so he can set up his own shop. Once he acquires sufficient experience, he may transition to a career as a welding inspector.

A Chance to Soar

In the meantime, there’s so much more he wants to do.

Jaxon completed training in the local firefighting company’s cadet program, which qualifies him to assist, in a limited way, during emergencies. His father has also served at the company for years.

Jason and Jaxon in their firefighter gear

Jaxon Carpenter and his father Jason pose in their firefighting gear. 

Another family activity that has inspired Jaxon is flying hot air balloons. For 12 years, the Carpenters have partnered with a family who owns a balloon by helping them at festivals and races, including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. In fact, they recently decided to purchase the hot air balloon they have crewed for more than a decade.

Jaxon has helped inflate and pack the balloon, flown with the crew, and acted as a sort of ambassador for the hobby, speaking to people at events and passing out promotional materials. He recently got his driver’s license, so Jaxon will also be tasked with chasing the balloon in a vehicle so it can be recovered once it touches down.

The Carpenter family

The Carpenter family at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

On top of all this, he still has to complete his academic requirements for 11th grade. He also plans to play basketball for his homeschool co-op’s team and continue taking guitar lessons.

Shelly said her son’s ambitions reflect what she and Jason have tried to teach their children.

“We always want our kids to know they can shoot for anything,” she asserted. “With homeschooling, the sky’s really the limit.”