…right off the bat, [the reporter] commented that my husband and I both have post-graduate degrees. I was trying to figure out where this was going when he said something to the effect of: "So you have a master's degree and were certified to teach public school, but you're not using it?" Yes, he actually said that. I laughed and said, "Not using it? I use it every day!" He sputtered then, but I told him I was glad he voiced that, because this is such a common misconception not only toward homeschoolers but toward stay-at-home moms in general.
A fellow homeschooling dad and then-employee of this same newspaper later told me that this reporter mentioned how riled up I got about his comment. I really didn't get riled up. I was quite calm, but he probably didn't appreciate my knowing smirk. It's hard not to smirk at such an outdated and ridiculous comment.
To claim that one isn't using one's degree at home is, frankly, ignorant. It's right along the same line as, "You need to be a certified teacher to teach your kids at home." Please. Anyone who has gone through teacher certification knows that half of what you learn in education courses is useless information. Seriously. The only way you really learn how to teach is by, um, teaching and being open to continuously learning and improving. Aah, but that's another misconception to address on another day.
I have a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in history, and I did certify to teach at the secondary level (although that certification would have lapsed a long time ago). I also have a master's degree in English, with a concentration in creative writing. I had an incredible interdisciplinary Humanities program and a slew of excellent professors at my liberal arts college that broadened my knowledge base in countless ways. After college I worked in a variety of jobs, from telemarketer to substitute teaching to editor, before being a stay-at-home mom. When my firstborn was about three, I decided it was a good time to pursue my master's degree. I took mostly evening classes and finished three years later. By that time we'd added a new baby. For those three years, by day I did playgroups and story time at the library and spent hours at the park; by evening I wrote furiously, determined to finish my thesis and get my master's degree.
I did not go into college or graduate school thinking, "How will I use this degree?" I went into thinking, "What will I learn? How will I grow? What kind of interesting people will I meet?" College was never optional for me; it was a given. Earning my master's degree was a personal goal that I'd set when I was very young. I had a great role model. My mother received her master's degree when I, the youngest of five, was a baby and my oldest brother was 16. My mother hadn't worked outside the home in over a decade at that point. But she taught us every single day, from nursery rhymes to botany in the woods to storytelling to music to cooking. Although her career was raising five children, she traveled extensively throughout the world, always studying the culture, language, and literature of the country before visiting there. She worked side-by-side with my father, a research scientist, helping him with this research, recording data, suggesting possibilities. She volunteered with Headstart back in its early days and with a sewing guild, teaching young women how to read patterns and sew their own clothes. When I was in high school, she began a 20-year position with Literacy Volunteers, helping a dozen or more foreign students learn to read, write, and speak English through the years. Don't tell me my mother wasn't using her degree.
So what qualifies as "using your degree"? Must I teach in the public school system? Do I have to be a journalist, an editor, or a playwright? Or is it all a matter of a paycheck? Would I be "using my degree" if I were working at a daycare, but not at home, with my own children? Must I earn actual money to be using my degree?
Any mother knows that she uses her degree every day, whether it's a high school degree or a PhD. Perhaps homeschooling moms are more acutely aware of using those degrees simply because our lives are filled with constant learning as we seek to raise new learners. To say that our own children—our families— aren't worthy beneficiaries of our degrees is treading on some dangerous territory. And there's an army of moms with diplomas ready to enlighten those poor souls who just don't get it.
Platitudes and Misconceptions #1: I'm a Better Mom Because I…