Certified to the Nth Degree

What about socialization?”
“What about high school, are you going to homeschool in high school too?”
“Won’t they be sad to miss Prom?”

These are the oh-so-common, ever-so-annoying, and fairly easy-to-answer questions we get as homeschoolers. It never fails. Whether standing in the grocery store line, at a Thanksgiving gathering, or simply in a public bathroom when you are just trying to mind your own business, people are so bold to question our personal choices.
            I try to have grace and not assume they are being critical, but rather just trying to understand something they are unfamiliar with. I also try to see it as an opportunity to educate others, and you know what? More often than not, I feel they walk away almost envying the blessing of homeschool, rather than seeing it as weird.

    As common as the above remarks are, there are a few others I get more often, ones that rub against me more than any other, ones that perhaps are meant to affirm me, but actually frustrate me. 

    The remarks? 

“Oh, you have a teaching degree. Well, then of course you can homeschool.”
“You are a certified teacher? Well, then it makes sense for you to homeschool.”
“You were a teacher so homeschool must be easy for you.”

I get it in almost every conversation when homeschool is brought up, as though they are so happy to ‘give me their blessing’ now that they have this ever-so-trivial and unimportant bit of information, as though all their fears of my choices are put to rest because of the false sense of security that some random piece of paper holds. 

I used to just smile and carry on, happy that I didn’t need to debate my decision and that I had the approval of the questioner, but I realized that I was allowing a lie to grow legs and doing the homeschool community, and homeschool moms, a major injustice by letting this ride. 

    The reality is, it’s simply not true.

Sure, I spent four years being educated on learning styles, best teaching practices, brain development, and more. But really, what I was being taught to do with that information was to use it to fit all these unique and amazingly created children into a single box.
I have documented credits showing that I not only know, but can implement, the latest and greatest in classroom management skills- which really just means I know how to keep kids quiet and still at their desks. 

    I spent an entire quarter learning types of tests, styles of tests, and how to test with the best of them. I can even tell you how to chart and interpret the testing data better than many. But what I learned most was how to mold a child’s education to simply get the test result the heads of my department wanted to see. It had nothing to do with the child and what they actually knew; it had everything to do with my performance of fitting kids in the box.

       I was schooled on scheduling and time management- which simply meant no rabbit trails and no time for following curiosities, just stick to the same plan for every single student, every single year, no matter where I teach.  

And finally, I learned that if, after all these things, I could not fit a certain child into the said box, if they did not follow the plan made for everyone else, if they deviated in any way from the crowd, they needed ‘intervention.’ And, sadly, I learned that the intervention was not meant to help the child thrive. No, intervention was to send them out to try new ways to cram them into the box.

     And this, this education I describe above, resulted in my walking down an aisle with hundreds of other teachers that received the same instruction. We were handed a piece of paper, a set of curriculum to follow, and were sent into the world to fill the minds of the youth. 

Don’t get me wrong, it was not the piece of paper that made me the teacher I was, it was my love for my students. I did love them. I cared about them, and I was determined to give them the best education I could.

But I was so very limited.
I was limited in my ability to give 20 children a custom education.
I was limited in the ability to give them experiences that made their education come alive.
I was limited in my capacity to teach them unique to who they were.
I was limited in time.
I was limited to an artificial space that in no way resembled the real world.
And, as much as I loved them, I realized after I had my own children, how limited that love really is. 

But I did the time, I paid the price, and I had the Degree and Certification to prove it.
And that mattered to the lady in the line at the grocery store.

         I did not understand that what I learned was not education at all. I did not realize that I could suck the love of learning out of my very own children at home by sitting them in the same desks, following the same schedule, and putting the same expectations on them that I was taught to do for every other child.
             They don’t teach you in college that children are fearfully and wonderfully made; that the God that made them has a future and a plan for them, unique to that of others. They don’t teach you about the freedom God has given us to follow HIS plan, to bring passion and experience, and all the unique and wild and crazy individuality our kids hold, into our school!

I had to spend years unlearning and breaking deeply ingrained ideas and habits of what education looks like.

              I looked around at all these ‘non-teacher moms’ and the freedom and joy they had in living a life of learning, not confined to a box, a set of rules, or a rigid list of requirements. I saw them use their intuition, their hearts, and their love as they taught their children, while I was using my syllabus, my scope and sequence, and my preconceived ideas of what should be.

           I wanted that freedom. I wanted that heart. I wanted to shake off the chains of formal education and embrace this love of teaching and learning that I saw; it felt so much more powerful than a piece of paper that was stamped with the big word CERTIFIED; a word that holds power in so many eyes.

As moms, we are endorsed by the greatest authority there is: God. And the requirements are laid out in His word, not some college syllabus.

So, take if from me, a college degreed, certified teacher that has worked so hard to shake it all off and embrace the incredible beauty and gift of homeschool:  

You are certified. You are qualified, you are equipped, you are smart enough, educated enough, and you are beyond able to do what He calls – not because you have some fancy piece of paper, but because you have the King of Kings walking with you.

Don’t let the lady at the post office make you think otherwise.

Originally published in the
Homeschool Idaho Magazine