It sounds as though your son is finding the positive momentum and joy of learning that you have probably wished for him for a long time. As adolescents move into young adulthood they are also learning to navigate the tricky waters of friendship, peer pressure, and defining one’s self as an individual. The desire to belong runs deep in all of us, but the desire to be authentic and complete in one’s personhood runs even deeper.
I think your best option at this point is to continue to encourage him in his pursuits and actively reflect back to him the excitement you hear in his voice about his current activities. I also find it valuable to give your son the advantage of helping him thing through the choices he is making and the choices his friends are making in terms of where they are likely to be in 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years.
Don’t be overly dramatic or disparaging of his friends and their choices. I think the facts are convincing enough. The evidence clearly shows that boys and girls who complete high school have different levels of educational and career opportunities than those who don’t finish. Talk about what he wants for himself in his life and what he thinks it will take to get there.
Let him do his own research (the internet is a wonderful tool for these things!) to check out Department of Labor statistics about what levels of education are associated with what incomes and what income it will take for him to enjoy the quality of life that he wants for himself in the future. Still, it’s not all about money. It’s also about whether he wants to be bored in a low stimulation job or to become qualified for more stimulating, fun and challenging work opportunities. I think with the right information and your emotional support the decisions will make themselves. He’s a smart young man and I think you can best support him by giving him the tools he needs to make his own wise decisions.