I was having a conversation with a fellow mother recently, as we sat at the park supervising our children’s play.  Like many others before, she noticed that JR looked old enough to be in school and so she asked about it.  I mentioned that he is homeschooled.  As it turned out, she had an older child that attended the local public school, having outgrown her Christian pre-school.  The mother began telling me about how wonderful the preschool was, how I really needed to consider putting JR into their kindergarten program, and so on.  I mostly listened, and when I felt it necessary, I did finally explain that he was in preschool at one time, a wonderful Christian one, no less, but that I had been very disheartened by the negative influences that had affected him.  I briefly told her a few of the reasons I loved homeschooling, and I caught myself concluding with the statement that, for now at least, we wanted to shelter our children.  We all had to leave shortly thereafter, but I have since reflected a bit on that statement (I seem to be doing a lot of reflecting lately. Oh well…)  NOTE:  I write these thoughts simply to share what I feel God has called me to do in our personal situation.  I firmly believe whether or not you feel the need to homeschool is a personal matter between God and your family, and no one should make you feel guilty about doing what you feel prayerfully led to do.   This post is not intended to make anyone feel guilty about choosing to NOT homeschool, but will hopefully be uplifting for anyone currently homeschooling (or considering it).

Growing up, I was homeschooled for a time, attended Christian, private school for several years, and attended public school for a while.  Now, as a mom, I have sent my oldest 2 children to preschool, and have homeschooled for almost a year.   As a result of those school experiences, I am very familiar with the stigmas associated with homeschooling.  I have also seen and experienced how the idea of a parent “sheltering” their children is often frowned upon.  

One of the major stigmas of homeschooling is that we are sheltering our children too much from the “real world.”   Furthermore, by sheltering, we are raising children to not be open-minded to others’ way of life.  That we are, in essence, raising our children to be bigots.  I have heard countless times how important it is to allow my kids to be exposed to the “real world” so they will know how to handle it when they are older and out on their own, and so they will be open minded to all things.  For a while, I debated the wisdom of homeschooling and wondered how to not be overly protective.  Through my studies however, I have recently taken on a much different viewpoint.   I have realized there is a balance.  Just turn on the news and you can hear what is in the real world today.  Murder, theft, rape, violence, child abduction, pornography, you name it.  Pure evil.  Having experienced the public school system, I know that there is a movement to introduce alternative lifestyles like gay marriage to elementary school students, with no requirement to inform parents before such a topic is introduced.  Classes also teach safe-sex instead of abstinence.  Having grown up with my parents fostering troubled youth, and having adopted a baby from a teenage birthmother, I know that pre-marital sex is rampant.  Having lived in a city that uses sex and beautiful women to sell everything, I know how easy it is to desensitize an entire society to such things.  And frankly, I do not want my children desensitized to such things.  I want them to be well aware of sin when they see it.   This world is the devil’s kingdom.  Do I want to protect my children from exposure to such concepts entering their little minds?  YOU BET!!  My goal is to teach my children that people are not “bad” or “good” based on a past sin or current lifestyle choice.  Rather, we are commanded by Christ to love others no matter what.  Christ himself dined with the sinners instead of the religious, yet hypocritical Pharisees.   For some, a sin is commited because of a true lack of Biblical education.  For others, it is a one-time mistake.  And for others, it is a blatant choice to abandon the Word of God and commit a sinful act to fulfill a selfish desire.  But, whatever the reason, we are to embrace people, but not embrace their sinful natures.   

Yet another stigma attached to homeschoolers being sheltered is their “lack of a social life.”  Our society puts a great deal of influence on exposing children to peers their own age in order to teach them “social skills.”  Yet, I have realized that when you look down the road to young-adult hood, the end result of this peer influence is seldom positive.  Innocent T-ball games have resulted in violence between fathers with children on opposing teams.  I do not want our children to learn to be selfishly competitive, and forget that playing a game is about teamwork, building up another, and putting others first.  I do not want my sons’ sex education to come from a fellow third-grader who hardly has an accurate idea himself.  I do not want my daughter’s view of herself to be influenced by fellow tween-agers who believe a girl must be overly thin, flirt, and dress provocatively in order to be loved.  Why does our society believe that similiarly-aged peers are so important in training our children?  When did the importance of parental training fall by the wayside?  Furthermore, relationships with similarly-aged peers have become valued, while relationships with other generations have become completely neglected and devalued.  And that is accepted as OK.  Do I want to protect our kids from negative peer-pressures?  ABSOLUTELY!

Finally, another idea that has been brought up by others to discourage sheltering is that, as Christians, we are called to be a light in a dark world.  People have told us that since their children are being brought up in a godly home, they are called to send them into the schools to be the light.  I will not argue that fact for someone who truly feels called to do so.  In fact, I prayerfully sought the wisdom of that idea.  Then, during my recent devotion, I came across the passage in Luke 3:23, that “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”  When I read that, it really hit me that if Christ himself, the perfect son of God wasn’t ready for his official earthly ministry until He was around 30, then why should I expect my elementary and pre-school aged children to be ready for such a responsibility?  Now, mind you, that is not to say we should never minister or discourage our children from doing so.  But I realized that perhaps I would be wrong to put such a responsibility on my children when they haven’t had the time to be properly trained first.  Christ was being prepared for all those years, and then, when the time was right, the Spirit led him into the desert to fast and pray for 40 days!  As if that wasn’t enough, Luke 1:80 is speaking of John the Baptist when it tells us, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.”  They needed that spiritual preparation before officially going out into the “real world.”  And, in regards to John, what better way to shelter a child from the world than to live isolated from it while he was being prepared for the ministry in which God would one day use him?  We send children to school for 12 years of grade school, and then follow that with a number of years of college in order for them to be qualified to be teachers in a public school (in most cases).  Why would I expect less in ministry? 

When I first began homeschooling, if I told someone I homeschooled, I often felt a need to explain that I had plans for my kids to be adequately educated, exposed to the world, and socialized.  Not anymore.  According to a study by A.C. Nielsen Co., thanks to television, video games, and other influences today, by the time a child finishes elementary school, he has witnessed over 8,000 murders!   Average statistics show that just under 1/3 of teenage girls will become pregnant at least once before age 20.   As a mother, I feel God has blessed me with the responsibility to raise and protect our children.   Mark 9:42 states, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”  Proverbs 22:6 commands, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  After a great deal of prayer, S and I felt we could influence and train our children best by being physically with them as much as possible through homeschooling.   So, as I prayed and studied these points, I realized that if I spent their most formative years raising them, loving them, training them in the Bible, training them to weigh everything they hear against scripture, teaching them what God calls righteousness and what He calls sin, and encouraging them love others as they love themselves, then, when they are older, they will have no problem handling the real world.  It may be a shock to them, but that is good.  If I have used God’s principles correctly to teach them that children are a blessing directly from God, then if a friend comes to them when they are teens and asks for advice about getting an abortion, my hope is that they would be able to confidently and lovingly help her see how big a mistake that would be, and that you can’t “right a wrong with another wrong.”  Or, if I have properly trained them that God commands us to love our bodies, which are created by Him, and that we are to care for those bodies as God’s temple, then if they encounter an offer to smoke a cigarette or take an illegal drug one day, my hope is that there would be no temptation because scripture has been cemented so deeply within them that their conscience would never allow them to do such.  

I am now proud to say, “I shelter my children.”  There is absolutely no good reason for my young children to know the evil that abounds out there.  I pray I can shelter them for many years.  I pray that God will give me the wisdom and discernment to not only shelter them, but to use these years to educate them according to scripture, and to live my own life in such a way that I can be an example to them.  I pray that they will grow up with a Christ-like love and forgiveness for everyone, but a hatred for sin and evil.  I pray that they will learn to build solid relationships with people from all generations, 0-100.  I pray that they will develop the heart of a servant, willing to help another in need.  And most importantly, I pray that they will be followers of Christ.