This week's meme on Heart of the Matter is the following quote:
"Clearly there is an appropriate kind of sheltering. When those who are opposed to homeschooling accuse me of sheltering my children, my reply is always, 'What are you going to accuse me of next, feeding and clothing them?" ~R.C. Sproul Jr
This makes me laugh, I guess because to me it seems so obvious. OF COURSE I shelter my children! What is the definition of shelter? It means to protect, guard, shield, or defend. Every good parent shelters their child from danger and from harmful influences. You shelter your child from being run over by a car by teaching him never to play in the street and to look both ways before crossing and then by supervising your young child when he is in the vicinity of a busy street! You shelter your child from disease by having him immunized or by making him wear warm clothes in the winter and teaching him to wash his hands. You shelter your children from potential abuse by teaching them to be wary of strangers, that parts of their body are private, to scream and run away and tell a parent if someone tries to touch them inappropriately or hurt them. This is all just normal parenting!
So I think everyone agrees that some sheltering is normal and completely appropriate! But what is really being said when homeschool parents are accused of sheltering their children? We are not being accused of being good parents! No, the suggestion is that we OVER-protect our children - that we shelter and defend and guard them TOO much. Obviously, there will be differences in how parents treat various issues in raising their children! I may shelter my children from certain movies, books, and video games that others allow their children access to. But I also know some parents who would consider my standards way too lax! So, who is right? And who gets to make that decision? Should the government tell me what I can shelter my children against and what I can't? Should my neighbor tell me what is good for my family and what is not? My own values drive the parenting decisions I make, and that is the the way I think it should be. I believe that parents have an inalienable right to direct the upbringing - including the education - of their children. I'm not talking about extremes of abuse and wickedness - no, I don't believe that parents have the right to lock their children in closets or chain them to beds and deny them basic elements of nutrition and sanitation. But those types of sad situations are anomalies and extremely rare - to be dealt with as criminal behavior, and not akin to things like disallowing certain types of music in ones' home or favoring curriculum that upholds a particular set of religious beliefs. Yet it seems as if those things are lumped together in the minds of some critics of homeschooling. It astonishes me that there are people who think that everyone should be taught exactly the same thing, at the same time, in the same way! And these are generally the same people who trumpet the value of diversity! HA!
I believe that when people say I am over-protecting my children, they really mean that I am not doing things their way - I am imparting my own values, beliefs, and opinions to my children, and am somehow obstructing the goals of "society" by doing so. Even Christian parents buy into the notion that children must all be "adequately socialized" so that they can live effectively in the "real world". Is the "real world" age-segregated into grade levels, peer-driven with a strict social caste system ruled by popularity, and tasks compartmentalized into 60-minute class periods ? Why do we think that children NEED to be with large groups of other children every day? Why are we as parents dependant on numerical grades and artificial "tests" to tell us how successful and valuable our children are? Why is it okay to treat children as miniature adults, whether by teaching them about adult s*xual behavior or expecting them to be missionaries in a school environment hostile to Christianity, but not okay to want to preserve their innocence throughout their childhood so they can just be kids?
As several other bloggers have noted in response to the above quote, the Bible gives support in this matter of appropriate sheltering. As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches us to live holy, or "set apart", lives. ( 1 Pet. 1:15) I shelter my children from certain influences because I want to help them SHINE as a light in a dark world when they get older, not just blend in and look like everyone else! Do we really want our children to conform to the standards of society today?
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 29:25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
There is an excellent 2-part article by Jonathan Lindvall over at Bold Christian Living. It is titled Sheltering Children - Part 1: God's Mandate for Holiness, and Sheltering Children -Part 2: Parental Responsibility for Influences. While I don't necessarily agree with all of his conclusions, it contains much food for thought.