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Are My Homeschoolers Sheltered From “Real Life”?

Aren’t homeschoolers sheltered?

Homeschool parents have to answer this question often, asked by someone skeptical of whether parents “know what they’re doing” in teaching their children. This question, and variations upon it, seems to be a constant reminder of what the public at large has been conditioned to believe.

For more than 100 years, society has also been conditioned to believe that children must go to a school where a specialist, a certified teacher bestows knowledge upon them. There, they are also taught to interact with other children their own age, deal with bullies, sex, drugs, and violence, and learn to grow up to be good, decent people, not scarred for life.

Did I say conditioned? Yep. I did. You see, we have been taught that the only way children can learn proper social skills is by going to school, surrounded by people of their own age. Because in the real world, we only have friends of our own age so school tries to replicate that, because they’re the experts, right?

Wrong.

As adults, most of us have horror stories about our school years. We remember all the awful things that the other kids did, and probably have some guilt ourselves. We think about how little Johnny went out on a drug binge and died of an overdose.

Would these things have happened if we had all been homeschooled? Perhaps … But perhaps not. Chances are, had little Johnny been homeschooled, his parents would likely have spotted problems sooner – if they had even had a chance to progress to becoming problems.

We homeschoolers watch the news, we see the rampant bullying, the student suicide rate rising as a result, the pressure children are under to perform, and we have asked the question: “Why should I send my innocent little one into that battle zone?”

This is typically met with disbelief, shock, and dismay at our audacity to call “school” a battle zone. Then comes the inevitable, “Why are you sheltering your children? They need to learn to deal with real life sooner or later.” We understand that adulthood is no picnic. But childhood should be spent in exploration and learning, not being forced to deal with situations in which they lack the emotional and social tools with which to appropriately handle the situation.

A nine-year old has a far different response to bullying than an adult. The adult can generally walk away and tell that bully to take a hike. That nine-year old will quite possibly take the bullying to heart. The things that the bully will say and do will haunt them. We have seen this in the news with alarming frequency: children committing suicide because of bullying experienced at school or on social media (and social media is a whole different animal, which I’ll get into later).

When they cannot get help they need from the adults they trust, are afraid to ask, or don’t think the adults can help, they begin to lose their sense of self-worth. They feel as though no one cares about them: they are alone. They do not have the experience of life’s years that would give them the tools to handle this.

But why would this happen? The school is filled with teachers and staff who are trained to prevent this bullying, or deal with it appropriately should it occur. They should be able to deal with the bully, and discipline him or her appropriately.

Remember those news stories?

The zero-tolerance agenda in schools has made it so that the children being bullied cannot fight back without getting in trouble themselves. Because they are the ones seen pushing back (if they do), the victim is victimized yet again while the bully goes free in many cases.

The schools who do try to deal with the bullies are so over crowded that there aren’t enough eyes on the kids. There are perhaps 6 staff members on the playground for 100-200 children. That is not enough supervision for children who still need to be taught to be gentle and kind; who still need to be reminded that other children hurt inside when they are treated harshly. We know how brutal children can be – it’s our duty to teach them empathy, kindness and respect. These lessons are better learned in the home than they are in the schoolyard.

Why do I want my children subjected to that?

I don’t. I’m sure that parents truly don’t either, but they have been taught that toughness forged in the schoolyard, on their own, is preferable to learning it with guidance from parents who adore them.

We have been brainwashed into thinking taught to believe that we are incapable of teaching our own children. Also that sending our kids away for strangers to teach is a good thing. We have also been taught that schoolyard bullying will teach toughness. It won’t. It will create coldness, and a placid lack of concern for the suffering of others.

It is this lack of concern that allows people to think it’s alright to video someone in a moment of sheer terror while they are mugged; because it’s better that someone else suffer than they; and because if they can witness someone else’s misery, then they can feel just a little better about themselves.

Bullying happens – denying this fact doesn’t change it; nor does punishing the victim for defending himself.

Am I sheltering my children by homeschooling?

I certainly hope so. With me, they experience the world in ways that are safe, wholesome, and promote strength without coldness, and gentleness without weakness. They have the opportunity to interact with many people of a variety of ages. Our children learn that playing with younger children is different than paying with older children;  and that old people have the best stories; The boys also learn that talking to each age group has slightly different rules. They learn this because they are homeschooled. They are comfortable in their own skins, and they empathize with people when they are hurting.

Yes, my kids are sheltered. They are happy, well adjusted, and they even bully each other. The difference is that I can bring them up in front of me and deal with the problem immediately and teach them how to deal with issues properly. They are disciplined very nearly immediately for bad behavior so that, hopefully, they don’t do it out in the world, when I am not there to intervene. Correcting bad behavior when it happens is vital, and it is but one of many reasons I keep them home. Also equally important is modeling good behavior. I’m not perfect, but I certainly can admit a mistake and honestly apologize.

Are there families who take the effort to protect their children too far? Absolutely. But those parents are present in the public school system too, it’s not just in the homeschool community. We see this in the helicopter parents that are afraid to let their kids play in their front yard without supervision. This isn’t the norm though, it’s the extreme.