Saturday, March 29, 2008

Is It Bad to Shelter My Children?

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.


Creech Family said...

D & I have been "chewing" on these articles, too, and it is interesting to see how some people think "sheltering" is a bad thing. That being said, we also recognize the need for them to learn to be friends and have different types of relationships (team mates, close friends, acquantances, etc.) but it is not counter-productive to be selective in their environment. I thought one person's analogy of needing to have rats in the home in case they needed to deal with them later in life was very poignant. Good things to think (and mostly pray!!) about. Have a great week -

Renee said...

Like this post. Much to think about and chew on like Faye said. As a Mom who has been a homeschooling Mom for 13 years and now God has led us to put our children in public school my kids are 15 and 12. I've done much thinking, praying and discerning about this. While I want to shelter my children to a point, I also want them to engage their culture and be culture changers with our guidance of course. It is going to be much harder to do this when they "come down from the mountain and go into the neighboring peoples" as He confirmed our decision in His word, but as they have had a good foundation and we will continue. Thanks for your post. My journey to put my girls in public school has been three years of thinking about them leaving the shelter of our home, values, morals and going into a place that clashes with our values, yet so is the lost and dying world around us. What I know more than the foundation I have laid is they are in the shelter of the Almighty, under the shelter of HIS wings. His shelter is much stronger than any shelter I can provide for them. He has the power to KEEP them when I can't. I will still shelter as much as I can. Thanks for your insight.

Anonymous said...

Dont shelter your kids... it ruins there social skills, and when it comes to being able to communicate within the real world, they will be more of a mess, than the parents that have raised them.

Anonymous said...

I agree whole heartedly. My parents over sheltered us. No dating, no extracurricular activities outside of school, etc. and now my siblings and I are suffering from it. We have so much anger towards our parents but cannot relay it to them out of not wanting to give them a heart attack. What is sad is they criticize our current struggles and still don't understand that they are a large part of the mess. Parents let kids make mistakes so that they can learn and grow from them and they will love you for it not resent you.

NCLighthousekeeper said...

Although I believe parents need to be the ones to make the decisions on how to raise their children, and sheltering children is NOT a bad thing, per se, I do think that extremes can be counterproductive. I would ENCOURAGE parents to strive for balance, and not parent out of fear. Sheltering young children should lead to gradually allowing more freedoms as children grow and mature, but still with healthy boundaries. I like the greenhouse analogy, in which tender young seedlings are protected from the harsh elements but still given adequate sunshine, water, plant food, pruning, etc, until the plants have strong roots and are able to be transplanted outside. They now are more likely to thrive in that environment and not be choked out by the weeds. :-)

Anonymous said...

What we have been chewing on as a homeschool family of a 15 and 17 year old is that it astounds us how many families with teens the same age as ours cannot navigate even simple things in a worldly setting (such as ordering off of a restaurant menu) because they have not had practice making decisions for themselves. While I do believe it is our responsibility as parents to protect (shelter) our children it is also our responsibility to PREPARE our children. In our experience the best way to teach our children to navigate these worldly experiences while walking in a manner pleasing to our Lord and Savior is by walking with them through these experiences and using them as teaching opportunities. Sort of a supervised exposure, if you will. And as our teens have grown, they are now making Godly decisions for themselves. We must, as parents, know how to correctly handle the Word of Truth and live it out in the entirety of our lives, so that we can teach our children how to do the same. By the time they are 18 we should have trained them to function as followers of Jesus Christ within this fallen world.

NCLighthousekeeper said...

I agree, Anon. It has been so wonderful watching my children grow into strong, secure, compassionate, successful adults. My oldest 3 have now graduated from college. My middle son is married. They work hard, travel, volunteer, enjoy time with friends, still love spending time with family. I am a proud mama, and continue to be grateful that we had the freedom to home educate and and, yes, to protect their childhood as we did.

Anonymous said...

Sheltering your child is necessary, but I've seen first had what happens when you over shelter a child. My example is my stepson, he is afraid of his own shadow, if he hears an action movie from the other room he becomes frightened and begins to have a panic attack. He sleeps with his teddy bear at age 11. He's afraid to be alone in the other room, two feet away from people, even if he can see them. He wont sleep alone if he can help it! It's just awful and I wonder if there is anything that can be done for this. In the day time he is scared if the lights aren't on in the house. Any suggestions.

NCLighthousekeeper said...

My heart hurts for this child. I honestly don't think this his anxieties have anything to do with being sheltered (protected & cared for) , but are much more intrinsic to his nature and psyche.
Has he been examined by a pediatrician? Panic attacks and extreme fear like you describe are not something I would take lightly.