We have a new addition to our family: Kate. If you haven’t read about her, please click over to my career blog and read the story.

That’s Kate, with my youngest son. And our 15 cats. For the past month I have been answering questions about Kate:

Is that your daughter? How long will she be there? Aren’t you scared she’ll steal from you?

I have also been fielding a lot of advice.

She needs a job!

Don’t get her a dog!

She should get a GED first.

That’s when I realized: Kate is a homeschooling topic. Kate told me, “I was good at school… Well. When I went. I didn’t really go enough to be good at school. But I would have been good.”

I think what she means by that is that she is curious and smart. Which is definitely true. It’s just that when kids don’t have a consistent place to live, they don’t have a reliable way to get to school. And you know what schools do in that case? They expel the student. Kate tells me that she was never officially expelled but she stayed with kids who were expelled which made it even harder to get to school.

When I first started trying to organize Kate’s life, we handled emergencies like health insurance, warm clothes and sleeping pills because her nightmares never go away. But there was one other emergency: her high school diploma.

The school told her that if she didn’t enroll in a program to graduate then she’d lose her chance to get a diploma. She was panicking. She was scared to move out of Florida because doing so would make her ineligible for her diploma.

My advice: Forget the diploma.

I realized that I could help her get jobs to figure out what she likes to do. When you are applying for an internship and you look like you are on top of your game, no one asks if you graduated high school. And if she wants to go to college, we can say she homeschooled, and she can talk about how she spent her childhood worrying where her next meal will come from, and where she will sleep next.

Both employers and colleges know that the GED is for kids who couldn’t get through the system. That’s much different from homeschooling, which is kids who embarked on their own, alternative system. The GED is a distraction from your real purpose as an almost-twentysomething, which is to explain why you are special and different and will make a good employee or a good student and most of all, a good member of the community you’d like to be a part of.

Kate does not need any seal of approval from a high school or a testing center. And neither do the other kids in this world who have spent their childhood years doing meaningful and remarkable things.