why mandatory homeschooler registration is a bad idea, part two ~ the myth of teacher qualifications

Two amazing homeschooling moms, Nancy and Rose!

It is time for true confessions: I have a teaching certificate from the State of Illinois. I graduated from college in 1974 with a degree in something the college called Human Relations, a combination of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. In another life I might have been an archeologist, a similar line of work to my more recent profession of trying to find someone’s clean baseball uniform in a 4 ft. tall pile of laundry that was hiding our bed.

When we began homeschooling our children, I had every confidence that I was well-trained and qualified for the task. In fact, I was frequently told, “Of course you can teach your own children, you have a teaching certificate.” I owned Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. I willingly embraced this notion because, during those days, the only people I personally knew who did such a thing were missionaries in the outback of Africa and hippies who were making sand candles somewhere off the grid. But here is another true confession: rather than help me be a better homeschooling mom, I discovered how the course work I did to receive that certificate actually delayed my ability to become a successful homeschooling mom.

In researching the current requirements for obtaining teacher certification in Illinois, a lot of memories came flooding back to me…endless months of writing goals and objectives for various subjects, reading and analyzing the philosophies of noted educators, social science research methods for gathering pertinent data related to testing, weeks of classroom observation and months of actual student teaching. I had to smile because, while I spent the first few years of homeschooling pouring over teacher’s manuals and handing out boring assignments, my own children were the ones who finally taught me what learning is supposed to look like! When they were inspired by something they had read or seen, there was no holding them back. I became a more proficient instructor the more I facilitated and the less I got out of the way! As I began to really consider and understand the vocabulary of institutional education and what it meant in my life, I quickly realized that there wasn’t a single thing I had learned in all those years of education courses that had prepared me for being a successful homeschooling mom!

The truth is that institutional education places requirements on teachers to keep their college professors employed filling impressionable young minds with their latest ideas to experiment on the minds of innocent children and their unwitting parents. One young homeschooling grad I know who was taking college classes toward the goal of receiving a teaching certificate concurred: these institutions are more interested in preparing teachers to conduct further experiments on kids than to actually instill in them a love of learning and the ability to self-educate. They take simple, down-to-earth and proven methods of teaching and complicate everything, making sure these profs keep their prestigious jobs!

Here is just one example of this. About 15 or so years ago, I met a woman who longed to homeschool her two first graders but her husband was adamantly opposed to the idea. Nothing she could do would persuade him to at least let her try, so she ordered an Alpha-Phonics workbook and began teaching her children to read in the afternoons when they came home from school. In a few short weeks, her children were whizzing through early reading books, leaving their classmates in the dust.

One afternoon she received a call from one of the 1st grade teachers, wanting her to come in for a conference. When she arrived, all the 1st grade teachers were present. Her children, it seems, had told these teachers that their mother had taught them to read at home and these State of Illinois certified teachers wanted to know if this mom would share her secrets. Not only did she tell them but she began coming into the school during the afternoons and working with all the children, teaching them phonics. These “qualified” teachers expressed their frustration with the look-say method they had been taught in college was the best way to learn to read. They also told her how adamant their curriculum coordinator was that this was the material and method they would use. So they asked this mom to come in and teach them how to teach children to read!

Now that Senator Maloney has opened the “teaching qualifications” can of worms and many people are going fishing to find ways to make sure homeschooling moms are “qualified” to teach, according to some state standards and propped up by university professors with socialist agendas, we can only expect more and more people telling us how truly unqualified we are to teach our own kids! It’s just one more unnecessary, irrelevant, and costly notion that proves mandatory registration to be a bad idea!

And now for those who still aren’t convinced, I would like to share a testimony written by my dear friend Rose who is an amazing homeschooling mom and a true inspiration to all who know her. Please, please read her story in her own words:

In light of the new legislation trying to be passed in Illinois regarding regulating homeschoolers, I was asked to write out my testimony. As I thought about sitting and writing it all out, I became very insecure and even had a few panic attacks. Going through this process made it more clear to me how important it was share my story.

Living in such a fast-paced technological information age, it may seem absurd that people grow up illiterate. Both my parents are illiterate. My mother went through the eighth grade and then dropped out of school in order to work. Her reading is very minimal. My father dropped out in eighth grade as well and is unable to read or write. I myself made it to high school unable to read more than a few memorized words. When I look back, my first memory of reading was in second grade. My teacher gave me a choice: to go to the reading circle or to the play area. I chose to play. Unfortunately, that was the first moment I “fell through the cracks” of our educational system.

Growing up in the public school system, I was moved in and out of low reading classes. A few teachers noticed me and worked with me one-on-one in order to “pass” their class. I went through elementary, junior high, and high school by memorizing things and learning to compensate for my lack of reading.

When asked how I made it through high school unable to read, my mind wanders to two specific classes: ninth grade science and history. During science class, my teacher helped me by reading to me and allowing me to earn credit for memorizing things that other students did not. In history I was in what was called “helping teacher history,” a lower academic class. I passed with flying colors. The tests were photo copied text book pages with words or phrases missing to create a fill-in-the-blank form. All tests were open book. All I had to do was match the sentences up and look for the missing words. Reading was not my only struggle. By tenth grade, I still did not know my multiplication tables. I “slipped through the cracks” time and time again.

In eleventh grade I attended a private school. I remember crying at my desk. All the things they expected me to already know I had never heard of. Being in lower classes and passing from grade to grade did not prepare me for anything or help me at all; I was no further ahead. When I realized that the school knew I could not read my heart sank. I thought to myself, “Here we go again.” The family that I lived with at the time bought me a reading program that used music to learn phonics. The school worked with me during the summer using this program instead of their own books. After that summer I continued with the same program and taught myself. It was not easy, but I was determined. Having fewer distractions coupled with my memorization abilities, I quickly learned phonics and moved through the program confidently. This program catered to all of my learning styles and relieved my stress over the whole reading process. Unfortunately I did not complete high school, but my learning did not stop. I continued to teach myself to read, and I vowed that when I had children this would not be an issue; I was going to break the cycle.

After having my first child at age 18, the one thing I had going for me was that all the books for her were written at my reading level. So read we did. By the time she was four, she was reading and writing. Pride filled my heart knowing that I did what seemed to be the impossible: I taught my child to read. By the time she went to preschool she was well ahead of others. This would not be the first time that my heart would feel this same joy. My confidence soared. I have now taught all four of my children to read and write, three of them before pre-school. My oldest was reading at a post-high school level by fifth grade, while I was still reading at a fourth grade level. Despite some of my children doing so well in public school, I still had some concerns but felt inadequate to teach them at home. However, as I thought about it, I realized that I had been teaching them at home all along by training them how to tie their shoes, brush their teeth, read and count.

I began to notice that although my oldest was reading at a higher level, she was “slipping through the cracks” in other areas. Even at my request to hold her back to give her time to catch up, they were still advancing her. I knew she would be lost if I did nothing. I then made the decision to bring her home for one year working through the summer to fill in the gaps. I figured I could not mess anything up over the summer and could always send her back. When summer ended, I beamed with pride and joy realizing that I had gotten her through a complete course. I also noticed behavioral issues began to diminish; she was definitely more focused. Seeing great improvement in her, I decided to work throughout the rest of the summer with the other three as well, thus our homeschooling journey began.

My goal in homeschooling was to instill a love of learning. I am often asked how I can teach something I do not know. My answer is I do not teach it, we learn it. I have since learned so much along side of my children. When I learn something new, I am eager to tell my children and they see the thrill I gain from the new knowledge I have obtained. Subsequently, they are just as eager to tell me what they have learned. Because I taught my children to read, the whole world is their class room. When we do not know something, we can look it up or ask someone who knows. This has helped them in so many ways. They understand they do not have to know everything all at once and by seeking out their own answers rather than them being handed to them, they actually learn the material rather than go through the mere motions to meet someone else’s standards. I honestly believe seeing my weakness showcased their strengths. I have learned over the past five years that I do not need a collage degree or even a high school diploma to educate my children. All I need is an eagerness to learn and a willingness to be transparent with them and allow them to teach me. Together we can learn and together we can and will succeed.

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  1. says

    I appreciate this series so much, Karen. I have to say that when you were describing the teachers asking the mom to come in, my first thought was Scout’s teacher forbidding Atticus from teaching Scout any more ‘reading and writing’.

    But instead, I love the fact they were so open-minded in teaching these little bodies and trusting souls. I love that story about those first grade teachers, even though it’s mind blowing what a bureaucracy can do to the simple inclination to learn AND to teach and nurture.

  2. says

    I had the absolute privilege of meeting Rose last fall at a retreat for homeschooling moms. What a beautiful example her humility is to all who hears her testimony. God is weaving out a glorious journey in her kids lives. They are so blessed to have such a wonderful momma!!

  3. Anthea says

    Thank you, Rose, for your wonderful testimony.

    When people ask me, “Wouldn’t it help if you had a teaching qualification?” I answer, “No, not really.” “But how do you know that — how can you be sure?” “Cos I was a teacher for 12 years. It’s worse than useless.”

    Thanks, Karen for the new mp3 button to download the shows. I don’t have iTunes, so I have been using the back entrance to listen to shows.

  4. says

    I was one of those teachers who graduated from “The Teaching College” in mid-state Illinois. I graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education yet never learned how to teach phonics. I remember sitting in class and about 1/2 of us were in a verbal argument with our “Reading Curriculum and Instruction” tenured professor BEGGING her to teach us how to teach phonics. She absolutely would NOT even tell us where to go find out the information ourselves. We learned such valuable things as re-writing our student’s work for them so that our hallway bulletin boards looked neat and that we should tell our students to spell in such ways that make THEM FEEL GOOD. Several years after college I was teaching pre-schoolers in another state. The third time I was repremanded for teaching my 3 year olds that 11, 12, 13 come after 10 I chose to quit. Apparently the curriculum objectives were to teach these 3 year olds to count to 10 but then had to tell them they couldn’t learn what comes next until they turned 4 and moved to the next class where the objective was to teach them to count from 10-20. It disgusted me then and now that I can see the glories of homeschooling I feel so sorry for children who are held back by such silly management techniques. It is such a priveledge to teach children at their own level.

    Kudos to you!

  5. says

    Kristi, I am so grateful that you shared your own story. I have seen so many similar things and often it is hard for people to believe this kind of information.

    I remember when my oldest three were in public school as young grade schoolers. At the time, a new experimental reading program was being used in their school called the Mastery Learning program. I worked as a substitute teacher a couple days a week, my first real hands-on experience with elementary school and something I have always been so grateful to have done because it broadened my knowledge of the “system.” In one 1st grade class there was a little boy who was extremely gifted in art. In fact, I have never seen such amazing detail drawn by anyone so young. But he struggled with reading. If I had been his homeschooling mom, we would have put away all workbooks and I would have read out loud to him while he drew. This little guy needed time to mature and, more than anything, to be encouraged to use his gift. Instead, this reading program required that the teacher have each child read a list of words while holding a stop watch in front of them so the child was sure to see he was being timed. If he hadn’t “mastered” the list that day, he was given the same words again. The children, of course, were divided into three groups according to their abilities, each group being given a name. Everyone knew the “Bluebirds” were the slower kids, etc. The day I was expected to have him read the list to me, I was done. This boy had tears running down his cheeks and from that point on I had a glimpse of his future.

    So one day I was in the teacher’s lounge alone with the reading specialist I knew had been a 1st grade teacher the year before. I asked her to explain the philosophy behind this reading program and she unloaded on me. She told me that she had taught children to read for more than 2 decades using phonics and that this “mastery” method was creating more and more problems. Because of her experience and tenure, she complained so much the year before that they offered a new position they were creating called “Reading Specialist” to help all the “remedial” readers. Up until this program, there had been no need for such a position. When I asked about the folly of the whole thing, she told me that the school district had received tens of thousands of dollars from the state in exchange for a commitment to using this program for a certain number of years. All those precious children were guinea pigs and the teachers accepted it without complaint because it meant $ for other cool things in their classrooms.

    Why people insist on thinking the “experts,” ie teacher college instructors, know what is best for children I will never understand. What a scam!!!!!

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