Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Sheltering". . . or Protecting?

Of all the tired stereotypes about homeschooling...and there are that has become quite tiring to me is the idea that Christian homeschooling parents have made the decision to homeschool out of some kind of paranoid fear of the world and a need to "shelter" our children. This misconception does have some valid roots. After all, many homeschooling parents, myself included, are concerned about protecting their children, and wish to minimize the influence of the world. However, the implication of this stereotype is that we have a fear-based form of parenting and are not trusting God. This is simply untrue for the majority of homeschooling parents that I know.

To start, let's ask ourselves if "sheltering" our children is an automatic indication of fear or not trusting God. Is "sheltering" truly a bad thing? I contend that it is all a matter of how it's packaged. When a person uses the word "shelter", instantly images of drawn window shades and shy, fearful children are brought to mind. It is a word with a heavy connotation. And, in my opinion, it is rather unfair to use it so copiously when referring to homeschoolers as a whole. So, let's use the word "protect" instead. Now that we have substituted a word that more fully conveys the truth of the matter, let's ask ourselves if "protecting" our children is a negative thing. I think the obvious answer is "no". One of our very jobs as parents is to provide protection for our children. In fact, in Mark 9:42, we are told, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." Pretty heavy words! And if we take this warning seriously, it may lead us to take so-called extreme measures to avoid putting our little ones in danger of being led into sin.

Now, in all fairness, every parent must use discernment as to what they will guard their children from. We protect our children from many things on a daily basis. Some are obvious dangers. Some are more subtle. Perhaps to many parents, school seems to be something from which parents should not need to protect their children, and homeschoolers seem to be acting out of paranoia and fear. Schooling seems to be an amoral issue in and of itself. But I would argue against this notion and further point out that not all parents have felt this way throughout history. In fact, when public school first became compulsory in 1852, citizens actually met the local officials with guns drawn! It seems they found the idea of sending their children off with strangers for seven hours of the day a bit too radical! Today we have grown accustomed to the idea, and the court of time has rendered it innocuous in our minds. This is our "normal". But could it be that it is not so normal after all? Could it be that we have just learned not to question the status quo? Could it be that "this is the way we've always done it" has become good enough for us?

Whether you see a danger in the secular institution of public education and the influences of often godless peers and teachers or not, homeschoolers frequently do. (Disclaimer: I know there are some godly teachers who are trying to make a difference. I commend them, though I personally feel the foundation is such that a Christian cannot truly effect lasting change in the system. But that is a topic for another day and another blog post.) And if I, as a parent, see a danger to my children, should I not do what is necessary to protect them? And, to take it further, should I not warn others of the danger I see? I recently heard the argument that God protected Daniel in the lion's den, implying that we should trust that He will likewise protect our children from harm within the public school. First, though the passage does deal with God's protection, I would argue that we should be careful drawing such a conclusion from a Scripture that has nothing to do with education. I don't believe that passage is addressing our schooling choices. But, if we were to apply it to the topic at hand, I would agree that God certainly can protect them. He is sovereign and in control of every aspect of our lives. However, I would make the point that as parents, we don't generally throw our children into the lion's den and then ask God to protect them after we have personally put them in harm's way. This is presuming upon God's mercy. Life is dangerous, yes, but that is all the more reason to be vigilant and carefully consider how much time we will invest in discipleship ("schooling")!

So, are we homeschoolers choosing our path out of fear? Or is it out of a deep conviction to protect our children? I propose that it is the later. And it is my heart's burden that many more parents will take a fresh look at something we've all come to take for granted as normal. I share not with a heart to put myself or my "superior" Christian parenting skills on a platform, but out of a sincere hope that more parents will start to see the dangers of allowing others to spend the majority of the day with their children, the children with whom God has blessed and entrusted them.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."