"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

My Sheltered Children

Shelter - (v) To place under cover. To protect.

Several weeks ago, I posted a call for people to share the most common myths and misconceptions they hear about homeschooling. That pesky lack of socialization was of course the first thing mentioned, but the list eventually grew. One thing that was offered was the objection that home schooled kids are "too sheltered" and it's one I forgot about until I saw it in my drafts folder this morning.

Too sheltered.

First, I'd like to point out that strictly per the definition up above, we should want to shelter our children. As parents, it's our job to shelter our children. There are a myriad of circumstances in which we need to protect them, keep them safe, and place them under cover.

But I'm aware that that's not what people mean when they raise this objection... they mean overly protected, and overly sheltered. They mean kids who are raised in one tiny little sealed bubble, kids who are not able to venture out of said bubble, and kids who are missing out on the big wide world.

Now, I can't pretend to know why everyone chooses to homeschool. But I do know, with absolute certainly, that my decision to keep them out of school was based on the exact opposite premise of wanting to make their world smaller.

I keep my kids out of school in part because I want to make their lives bigger, not smaller. I keep them out of school because I want to give them more freedom, not less. Freedom to explore, and learn from, the whole world. Freedom to choose who they do - and do not - spend their days with. Freedom to discover where, when, and how they learn best. Freedom to talk with us about what they do and do not want to be exposed to. I try to never make knee-jerk, unilateral decisions (ie: no, you can't watch that movie because it's rated R) but rather let each individual child be my guide. It hasn't failed me yet. When my children are interested in specific ideas, plans, and experiences, we try to find a way to make it happen.

But surely, they're sheltered from something by not being in school? Well, yes. They're sheltered from the painful dread that comes with having to go to school every day when you're being bullied, or teased by your "friends", or unfairly singled out by a teacher. They're sheltered from being required to sit through a class, or a semester, or an entire year of teachings that are not applicable to them, or are not in line with their own personal value system. They're sheltered from spending all day, every day, in an environment that might not be best for them, in a multitude of ways. They're sheltered from not being able to have any say in the people, places, and things from which they learn.

I surely make no apologies for sheltering them from any of the above.

Interestingly, when I went to dictionary.com for the above definition, I saw this sentence as an example of its usage:

Parents should not try to shelter their children from normal childhood disappointments.

This is something I see a lot. Similarly, I hear a lot of people say that kids need to go to school because they need to learn to deal with things like bullies.

Am I the only one who finds this an odd - and sad - justification against home schooling? First, I'm not really sure what "normal" childhood disappointments are, but life provides plenty of those on its own. Life's sometimes bumpy. While I would love to be able to protect my children from all of life's disappointments, I can not. Home schooled or not, sheltered or not, they know disappointment. It seems completely illogical (not to mention cruel) to actually make a point of ensuring that they experience their fair share, and ensuring that they experience more than what life will naturally give them.

As to bullies... Bullying is no joke, especially in this day and age of the internet, cell phones, and Facebook. I remember the pain of being bullied well, and I can't even imagine what it's like today. My being humiliated in front of a group of five girls, or even the whole lunchroom, is surely nothing compared to being humiliated in front of the whole school. Or a group of schools. Or an entire internet community. All it takes these days is one click of a "send" button. Bullying is a real and serious problem, one that's contributing to the loss of self-esteem, loss of confidence, and loss of LIFE. Bullying is breaking children, all over the country, and in no way could I ever be convinced that that could be a good thing, or a necessary thing, or a rite of passage.

My kids have been disappointed, and my kids have encountered bullies: On the playground, at homeschool groups, in baseball, at Cub Scouts, on field trips. And they've handled themselves just fine, without ever having been subjected to the day in/day out torture that some children have to endure.

They are confident, and they are self-assured... despite their lifetime of being sheltered.


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