It’s the natural inclination for parents to be protective – sometimes overprotective. Homeschooling parents especially often have this tendency. I think this overprotectiveness is usually a reaction to the extreme situations of messed up kids that sometimes come out of the school systems. Some parents take one extreme and head as far in the opposite direction as they can go. They’re terrified of letting their kids be exposed to the “filth” of the world, as if anything but Adventures in Odyssey tapes (ok, you probably just download them from iTunes now) will turn their kid into a pot smoking, tattooed atheist – the three worst things any Christian homeschooling parent could imagine.
I know I’m a nineteen year old college student with no kids, so maybe I have no business talking about this. But I was homeschooled, and grew up around homeschoolers, and this is simply what I have observed.
Anyway, so some parents don’t let their kids watch, listen to, or hang out with anyone remotely unchaste. But when parents do this, consciously or unconsciously, they’re painting their kids as having pure souls, not to be tainted by anything from the outside world.
But we don’t need the outside world to have a problem. Our own sinful hearts are the problem.
So much of real life is theoretical when it comes to homeschooling, evangelical Christians. It’s drilled into us from an early age that the world is a sinful place, and that we have to constantly be on the lookout for sin. We’re taught how to deal with people who challenge our faith, and in general taught how to deal with the world. But none of that compares to actual, invaluable, practice. Hanging out all the time with your siblings is great, but it’s not enough. It’s just not.
If you’ve ever homeschooled or been homeschooled, you have heard the question, “don’t you worry about socialization?” Most of us scoff at this question. Of course we’re socialized. We have friends from church, or sports, or co-ops. But when we really think about it, do we really know that many people who aren’t like us? Do we really know how to relate to people who are different?
When it comes to other people, I think keeping kids from becoming friends with other kids – whoever it may be – can be damaging. It keeps kids from learning how to understand and love people who are different. To keep your child from being friends with another kid because he or she doesn’t believe the same things is to deny the precious, God-given value of that person. It is to paint your child as the victim. It is to say, “your kid’s a worse sinner than mine.”
To be honest, I really didn’t spend a whole lot of time with people who weren’t exactly like me until I got a job in high school. And while it didn’t really change my personality or beliefs, learning to have relationships with different people was a big adjustment. It kind of threw me off. I remember being so afraid that I would become a “bad kid” by being friends with people who held different beliefs, and didn’t have the same moral code as me. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to shift my thinking from fearing the influence of others, to realizing that my own heart is the problem, not anyone else.
This isn’t a knock on homeschooling. Homeschooling can be great. Looking back, I realize now that I had a mostly awesome homeschooling experience, and I’m really grateful for that. It’s not just about being socially awkward. I’ve met awkward people from all walks of life. Awkward is okay.
The real, underlying problem is that over-sheltering is based on fear, and it produces fear. I think Christian parents feel responsible for their childrens’ souls – and in a way, they are.
But the hard truth is, you can’t save your kid. You can’t be Christ for them. Only Christ can be Christ for them. They’re going to have to make their own choices at some point, so you may as well let them get some practice now.