Thoughts on Sheltering

Someone recently asked if I'd expand on my thoughts about rules/relationship and sheltering parenting. [Honestly, the subject has been better tackled elsewhere (Parenting with Love & Logic deals with teaching our children to make wise choices and allowing "affordable mistakes" while they're in our home... and other individuals have tackled these things online in terms of homeschooling far better than I could.). ]

Nevertheless, since I was asked to share, I'll share some from my personal perspective.

Growing up, my parents were not repressive and judgmental, but my surroundings were. We were in a fundamentalist church circuit where virtually no pastor/church was "sound" enough for my dogmatic grandfather. Though I was saved at a young age, this environment smothered out the true love for Jesus that can grow in the heart of a child.

Long story short, I went along with my surroundings until I hit age 13, and then I rebelled against it until I was about 16. My parents felt convicted about things and intentionally left the hypocritical environment we had been in (a dying church which they'd been threatened by my grandpa to stay a part of), and sought out a vibrant Christian fellowship. After looking for months, they found it, and though at the time I didn't know why, but I no longer felt the need to rebel. I was drawn to the grace and truth I found among my peers and the families we encountered at this new church.

All that to say, when I was surrounded by rules, I rebelled big time, seeing no need to follow them because in my mind, there were absolutely no *benefits* to following the rules. The people around me all seemed grossly unhappy, personally dreary, and spiritually bored (or even dead). But when I was shown true fellowship, true joy among believers, and a pursuit of holiness-- not for self-righteousness, but out of a true desire to please God-- well, my heart fell in line with that really quickly. "Sign me up!"

What I learned in a nutshell: Christian joy flourishing in faith built on a strong foundation draws the soul toward Christ. An outward focus on rules and "perfection" kill the Spirit, focusing too strongly on the law.

The "world" I had grown up in was dry soil. I had heard about rich soil. They talked as if "this" was it. But it was dry and dead and had almost no beauty growing in it.

The church we joined also had a HUGE contingency of quiver-full homeschoolers (a group of people which I'd never before encountered-- I'd never known ANYONE with more than 3 or at the most 4 children). Ironically, these homeschooled kids/teens weren't allowed to be in the youth group that was life-changing for me, drawing me deeper in faith. They were kept separate. I'd imagine their parents would have used terms like "wise sheltering" or given examples about greenhouses and flowers and how "until they're transplanted", they need to be "protected".

Problem is, those "plants" that had been completely sheltered didn't develop tough roots, and didn't learn how to feed themselves. Sure, they had knowledge... but they had never encountered others who saw the world differently. They'd never even been allowed to hang out with the incredibly godly public school kids I was challenged by in this youth group-- much less the worldly kids they would have encountered by taking jobs, or in some other way having intentional interaction with secular society. I'm sure their parents didn't mean to set their kids up for failure. Many of these parents are still baffled that their children didn't follow the "formula" they had tried to follow so carefully... and don't understand where things went wrong.

When these protected, secluded homeschooled young adults encountered the real world, with "real" sinners who seemed to be sinning and having a blast, they were fascinated. Without exception, they all fell prey to the appeal of the world, at least for a very long and painful season of adulthood. Many of them have never returned to faith.

Protection is a fine goal.

It's the goal of most people cultivating things. Of course you don't want hail to rain down on your newly growing seedlings. You don't want a bird to come and peck away at the plant you've worked so hard to grow. Yes, young plants need careful protection... but protection is NOT the ultimate goal of raising plants or crops or having a garden. And we homeschooling parents can sometimes forget this. While we may be honestly striving to do right by our kids, we could forget to transplant them until it's too late.

Once they're out of the house, whatever that looks like, we're going to be playing a far less significant role in their lives. So in my mind, the transplanting (for a plant, that means growing in REAL soil in the REAL open air rather than being in a potted plant in a greenhouse) needs to take place once we've given them a good start... probably in the early "teen" years.


Transplanting may look different for each family... but if we're going to do it successfully, I think we need to do it while we can still regularly offer up some water and fertilizer to encourage them towards godliness.

For example, one family in our youth group had 6 boys whom they homeschooled through 6th grade. From then on, they put the boys in public school. During that time, they played football (undoubtedly being exposed to all kinds of locker room talk) and kept up their studies while being discipled and mentored more deeply by their father. These last 6 or so years in their parents' home were devoted towards FAITH IN ACTION.

Another example: some families (like Voddie Baucham's) follow a three-part phase of raising children-- the obedience/training phase (teaching our young ones to heed our words), the catechism phase (teaching our children the deep doctrines and truths of scripture), and the discipleship phase (teaching our young adults how to put faith into action). So, the early years are devoted towards training in obedience ("Children obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord."), the elementary years are devoted towards teaching children truth about God, His Word, and faith (Deut 6:7), and the last years of parenting are spent with a focus on making disciples. Part of discipling is intentional life-on-life training. In the real world.

Jesus spent incredible amounts of TIME with His disciples-- but He didn't pull out to a cave to spend that time with them. He took them as He was going along in life-- talking to adulteresses, partying with tax collectors, going to weddings, mourning the dead, praying for the sick, pointing out the holiness and generosity of widows and the hypocrisy of the "religious". We can, I think, follow His example by not hiding from the world but doing our best as parents to use the world to continue our children's education.

That doesn't mean every homeschooled kid should end up in public or private school. It doesn't mean every parent ought to opt for youth group. Or that every kid should work at some secular place like Trader Joe's or Krispy Kreme. But we SHOULD be intentional about letting our kids learn what the world is really like, and even letting them foul up from time to time. (Love & Logic talks about this-- letting our kids make "affordable mistakes"-- mistakes that they can learn from and we can live with.) Essentially, though, our kids need to, for themselves, find God faithful and value Him above what the world offers. And my experience and observations tell me that this doesn't happen when our ultimate goal is protection and sheltering.

OK, so I've shared my perspective on this-- but it's not fully developed and I've certainly not raised teenagers, or even begun to enter that world. So what are your thoughts? Those of you who have raised your children into adulthood? Those of you who ARE raising young adults? Public school moms? Other homeschool moms? What say all of you?


MoziEsmé said...

I like the example you gave of homeschooling through 6th grade, then "Faith in Action."

I went to church schools all my life, which have their own set of issues. For my child, I want her to be exposed to a wide variety of beliefs while helping her form her own and then to stand up for them. I'm not into censoring everything that comes her way, because I know I won't be around forever to do that.

Catherine said...

Excellent thoughts, Jess. As my kids approach their teen years (my oldest turns 13 in a few days!!), I have been pondering this more and more. How can I help them learn about God and interact with the rest of the world? Even if they are home for school, how can I encourage other activities? I certainly agree that no two families will come up with the same answers. You have given some good things to think about.


Evers said...

My wife pointed me to this post, asked what I thought... so here's what I think. =-)

Great post. Very thought-provoking. We have four, soon-to-be-five little ones 6yo and under, all homeschooled. We hope/plan to homeschool them through high school.

My response? I would guess that many of the quiver-full homeschool parents you knew sheltered the kids, and end up with "overly sheltered" kids who left the faith... is because the parents themselves were sheltered; and sought homeschooling not as a training ground to prepare their children for being light in the world, but as a cave to hide from the world (like monasteries of old).

How often did these families interact with unbelievers? How much did they travel the world? How aware were they of politics and world trends, as they relate to being a faithful citizen and "mission-minded Christian" -- apart from lobbying for homeschool rights? How often doid they as a family minister to lost people? Interact with lost neighbors?

One of the side effects of being a faithful parent with children in the public school system instead of homeschool is that you're forced (to a degree) to interact with unbelievers.

I think as our children get older, enter into teen years; we need to think: how can we as a family, and they as soon-to-be-adults, engage meaningfully and evangelistically with the world around us?

I think you makes a fundamentally important point: to shelter children for 18 years... then just to drop them into the world with no transition plan is a recipe for disaster. The thoughtful, faithful, wise Christian parents, no matter their schooling option, shouldn't be simply trying to get through child-rearing years and hoping to get them out of the house. They should be deliberately working on training and equipping their children to be soldiers for Christ, winsome warriors for the Lord.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Tracy said...

I can't tell you what a blessing this post is to me today. We have four children. 17B, 15G, 13B, 9G. All homeschooled. Until a few years ago. We allowed our eldest to attend public school. Play football. Run cross-country, join ROTC. You get the picture. None of our children are "sheltered". The oldest has a job, and has for 2 years. The boys are in scouts. They have been in plays, chess clubs, and get together with friends.

Anyway, the oldest was just accepted to a governor's school for the summer. Yesterday we delivered him to the university where he'll be for the next 5 weeks. I came home and cried, asking myself, "Does he have a strong enough foundation to endure the temptation that he'll encounter there? What about the liberal teachings that he'll hear?"

But you know, after this five weeks, he'll come home, and we can talk about everything. Then he's a senior in high school. Perhaps this is God's way of giving him a trial run before he heads to college for good. We pray that he'll be a blessing and a light to those whom he'l encounter this summer.

And of course, we'll be talking on the phone, and sending letters with encouraging scripture verses.

Anyway, your post made me see his trip away in a whole new light. Thanks!

In Christ,

christy said...

I am thankful for this well-thought out discussion of sheltering.
We have three boys. My husband and I have them home to shelter them, BUT...we recognize the need for them to be "in the world" on occasion.
I have had problems sorting out in my own mind what's just "letting them try out their wings" and letting go entirely.
Unfortunately, I generally see things in black and white. Sometimes grace can be a gray area.
Again, thank you for not just referring people to other places; this is the blog I happened upon.

a woman found said...

I think this is an excellent post! I have a 3 and a 5 year old. Just recently I began "homeschooling"...basically just being more purposeful and engaged in my time with them. I never thought I'd homeschool. I want them to have real faith in Christ and know Him intimately, I don't want them to grow up thinking God is keeping them from "having fun." I want them to know the joy of the Lord.

Thing is, I've been confronted by the Lord in my own time with Him that He holds me accountable to do my part in modeling that life of joy in Him and in loving my kids enough to train and discipline them to believe my words and obey them.

I've really struggled to know how to parent my kids. I was raised with a fearful example and I don't want my kids to be fearful. I want them to be strong and courageous.

I am just learning that there is a time for them to be "protected" and saturated in influence from me and my walk of faith in Christ and that there is a foundation building time of teaching them God's word and that there is eventually a time to let them go. In fact, the Lord brings the stories of Moses' mom and Samuel's mom to mind often. He reminds me that there comes a time to be "weaned" and released into the world (Pharoah's house) and into the service of God (the temple).

I believe it's not sheltering but rather releasing that is the goal of parenting. The goal is to build my kids up to be released into a life of living by faith. I pray that happens for them without years of bondage to perversion and sin like it did with me. But I trust that just as Christ was able to draw me out of bondage and sin He is able to save my sons!

I pray that as I pour my life, my love and God's word into my boys they will seek to follow the God of their mother!

Bless you!

Terry said...

Wonderful post, Jess. It is a balanced approach to protecting our kids that many parents miss out on- either by sheltering too much or being too permissive, both of which can have disastrous consequences.

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

Great post, Jess, and you have summed up so many of my feelings & thoughts on sheltering, based both on my own experiences growing up and my mom's perspective using the 20/20 hindsight. :o)

Jess, would you mind if I printed this post to tuck away in my home management binder for future reference & encouragement? :o)

Gina@Chats With An "Old Lady" said...

It will look a little different in each family. We need to pray for wisdom as to how God is going to provide opportunity for our children to learn to stand. It will be different with each child...depending on where they are at spiritually etc. We have found that it really is different for each of our children. We just need to be willing to not "over shelter". My children have never been in a youth group, but have learned how to be a part of the body of Christ as a whole. They have not needed a youth group to interact with peers. We have public school kids and homeschool kids in our church...but at church...they are just kids...a part of the body of Christ. Schooling is not an issue. Our church is committed to training parents to train their children...because that is their job..not a youth pastor. If a kid comes to church who does not have christian parents, then we make them a part of our families...and a part of the body.

I also don't think that kids who rebel...even if they have been overprotected, can blame it all on their parents. They do know right from wrong, and make choices. I have seen several kids rebel over the years, and have seen some well meaning parents very devasted. When all is said and done, we will not ever be perfect parents. There are always things we could have done better or differently. Even if I have overprotected at children have still been taught right from wrong. They have to answer for themselves. We will be held accountable as well...and I continually beg for mercy that I might do the very best I can do, and that God will fill in where I miss it!

The Pauls' said...

We have 4 teenagers, 18, 17, 14, 13
(plus 6 younger ones)
Our goal with them has not been to keep them from the world, or to shelter them, but rather to lay a foundation in their hearts. It's not about rules, it's not about sheltering, it's about training their hearts to know why right is right and wrong is wrong. To teach them how to make choices based on God's Word not because they have to, but because they want to and because they love Him. You mentioned families that 'sheltered their children and then when they were 'let out' in the real world, they didn't know how to react and found sin 'attractive'. My opinion would be that they knew all the 'right things to do' but they didn't know why they did them. What was the goal of training these children. Was it to have children that were looking good on the outside and doing all the right things, or was it the inward beauty of the heart. I think this is where many parents go wrong. You can shelter right up until they leave home, but if their heart is not trained it won't help. But I am not against sheltering. We are not quick to throw our kids out to the world just because we don't want to be accused of sheltering, yet we do know that we need to slowly let go. We haven't done youth group as a rule. They have went to functions once in awhile, but generally we try to do things as a family with other families. Why, because we believe the family unit is a very strong one when functioning the way God designed it to be. And we don't believe that our kids will listen better and grow more spiritually in a youth group. In a family you learn way more that you do amongst peers ect. And as a family you can minister to the lost and the needy. You don't have to have a program to do this, God has set it up right within family. I think there is such a fear out there from parents who hear the 'negative sheltering' stories and then we throw it all out. We need to remember that God has entrusted these hearts to us, to seek Him for wisdom and not to judge ourselves according to others, but to know what God has called us to and do it

Nicole said...

Thanks for this wonderfully thought out post.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that the ultimate goal of Christian parenting is not sheltering. I was blessed with godly Christian parents who sent me to the local public school, and saw it as a training opportunity (like the life on life training you were talking about). They didn't send me off and leave me to my own devices, but through constant counsel gave me the tools I needed to be a follower of Jesus, in the world. I am very grateful to God for them and hope to follow their example with my children.

Jessi said...

I'm a new reader and have really enjoyed your blog. I thoroughly LOVED today's post. I am a mom of 4, ages 3-12 and currently homeschool, but we are open to all options, and take everything on a year-by-year basis, and consider each child's needs individually. Your post was very insightful and encouraging. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

ky frugal mom said...

Just some food for thought! Taken from

Our Church Youth Group
by Douglas W. Phillips, Esq., December 24, 2002

I have the privilege of worshiping in a small, family-integrated church. When asked about our various church programs, I explain that we are blessed with more than thirty different organizations to which our members belong — they are called families. I further explain that we have more than sixty youth directors — they are called parents. In fact, we have such a full schedule of events that there is a mandatory activity every day of the week — it is called family worship.

The Phillips Family Youth Group and friends visit with the Scott Brown Family Youth Group at their home in North Carolina
Both through the preaching of the word and informal shepherding of the congregation, the church leadership aspires to equip our dozens and dozens of youth pastors to successfully minister to the diverse needs of the many individuals and special interest groups within their respective organizations. Because we don’t want to leave anybody behind, we have instructed these church organizations to reach out to the young, the old, and the infirm — the singles, the divorced, or abandoned — everybody, such that we will have a comprehensive outreach for every special interest group represented by the membership of our assembly of believers. As a result, these organizations sponsor events that include hospitality and evangelism outreach, one-room schoolhouses (usually meeting in the family den), foreign missions (to Mexico), and literally hundreds of other activities designed to meet the needs of the organizational members.

The amazing thing is that our financial budget to accomplish these goals is $0.00. Well, that is not exactly true — we do spend some money on photocopying, tape distribution, and various other training tools that we place in the hands of our youth directors.

As an example to the congregation, the elders are required to be youth directors, too. In fact, if the elders don’t manage their own youth programs well, they have to step down from being elders.

The Stinnett Family Youth Group practices biblical peer-grouping in Plymouth as part of the 2002 VFM Faith & Freedom Tour
With so much responsibility on their hands, our youth directors have to really get their collective acts together. (I happen to be one of the youth directors, so I speak from personal experience.) They have to study God’s Word more than they have ever studied before so they can wisely lead their organization. They have to be creative so they can solve the diverse problems of their special interest groups. They have to learn to be patient. They have to learn to love. They even have to reprioritize their lives.

This last part is crucial. Only by reprioritizing life, and structuring their organizations properly, will our youth directors be successful. They know that. They also know there is a price to pay. But most of them are willing to pay the price, because they have decided that the greatest activity they can do in this life is to be a youth pastor and to run a special interest organization called the Christian family.

Here is what we are discovering: The more we commit to faithfully shepherding our mini-congregations, the more blessing we experience. Moreover, the more we study what God’s Word says about these little congregations, the more we see the wonder and the brilliance of God’s plan of equipping the Church and transforming the entire culture through these often forgotten, twisted, and even maligned organizations called Christian households.

The Doctrine of the Christian Household
Did you know that the Bible communicates at least seven crucial, culture-transforming missions for the Christian household? The household is the God-ordained seat of education. It is the first place where we are to develop and communicate a distinctively Christian aesthetic for culture. The home is not to be relegated to a mere place for consumption, but transformed into a powerful tool for industry and production. In the household (not the state welfare agency) we find God’s true pattern for multi-generational, covenantal care. The home, not even the temple or church meeting house, has always been the God-ordained primary locus for daily worship. Our homes not only provide us with a platform to honor God’s non-optional commands for one-anothering and hospitality, but they were designed to be the most powerful forums for evangelism and discipleship in the Christian’s arsenal.

Of course, this vision for the Christian home presupposes a rigorous adherence to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Unless we presuppose the Holy Scripture, not the traditions of man or the present cultural patterns, as the starting point for any coherent worldview or cultural vision, our thinking will, by definition, be muddied. Furthermore, this household vision of victory presupposes an appreciation for the doctrine of biblical patriarchy, which teaches the necessity of leadership in the home by fathers committed to family-unifying policies and a vision for multi-generational faithfulness.

When the household is functioning according to these God-directed purposes, it becomes the most powerful instrument available for the Church of Jesus Christ, next to the Bible itself, in its arsenal of culture-transforming, kingdom-building tools. When properly understood, the doctrine of the Christian household is the antidote to the palsied, family-fragmenting efforts of modern churches to resist the world through man-centered programs which do little more than bring the philosophies and methodologies of the world into the Church of Jesus Christ.

Long live the Christian family! Long live biblical patriarchy and the victorious household!

Get the Tape
If you would like to learn more about the principles articulated in this e-mail, it would be my pleasure to send you a copy of my sermon tape “An Introduction to the Doctrine of the Christian Home.” See my P.S. below.

Family Vision in 2003
As we approach 2003, may I suggest that now is the time to ask the Lord for a distinctively biblical family vision of victory. Please continue to visit our Web site for suggestions on how you can expand your vision and for exciting opportunities to join us as we do the same through our new Father and Daughter Discipleship Retreats, regional Uniting Church & Home conferences, New York-based Faith & Freedom Tour, Back to Patriarchy conferences, and much more.

Doug Phillips
Vision Forum Ministries

Researcher George Barna maintains that if current trends in the belief systems and practices of the younger generation continue, in ten years, church attendance will be half the size it is today.[1]

Dawson MacAlister, national youth ministry specialist, remarked that 90% of youth active in high school church programs drop out of church by the time they are sophomores on college.[2

Carletta said...

Interesting post, Jess! There is a conversation about this currently on the WS. I have not had time to participate, but from what I've read, the focus is similar to your posts - rules vs. relationship.

Ironically, someone there quoted Michael Pearl as saying that if you can only have joy or discipline - choose joy. I am NOT a fan of TTUAC, but I find it interesting that this man who so many feel is focused on punishment has said to choose joy first.

When looking at others, I wonder if some of us miss the essence of what helped them produce great children.

I will admit that sheltering is one of the main reasons we homeschool. It is not what drew me to homeschooling at first, but I feel we are reaping the benefits of it.

My children will be (and are currently being) exposed to values we don't agree with, but I am glad that I am with them during those times of exposure. I am glad that I am with them enough that they look to me for direction and guidance instead of looking to their peers.

I listened to Voddie Baucham's audio sermon about the three stages of raising children, and I was under the impression that during the discipleship phase his children were with him more, being mentored by him, and not necessarily out in the world on their own.

My aunt is the first person who introduced me to the concept of sheltering. Of her 5 adult children, 4 of them are thiving and 1 of them went through a period of wildness and came back to the Lord. While the 1 was in rebellion, she kept wondering what she did wrong.

I wonder if some of us focus too much on rebellion among homeschoolers and too little on the ones who don't rebel.

I think there was a study done that showed 85% of Christian teens who go to public high school leave the faith. I wonder if the numbers are that high for homeschoolers.

Anyway, it is not like the statistics matter because we can't parent by them, LOL! I wish there was a perfect formula to follow.

I try to watch my children for guidance as to when they are and aren't ready for more. I've recently learned that my son is ready for a bit more freedom, and that I had given my daughter freedom she wasn't ready for. I am beginning to think that only time will tell whether or not this has been a job well done. I am praying that the Lord will fill in where I mess up.

Thank you for these thought provoking posts!

Gina@Chats With An "Old Lady" said...

Why not "some rules And relationship"?

Why not "discipline AND joy"?

It's so easy to swing to one extreme or another. All of us battle that. That's why we need to pray constantly for wisdom, and then admit to our children we are not going to be perfect, but we are really trying to strike a balance. I say to my kids all the time, "Look, I've never been a mother of an 18 and 15 year old. I'll make some mistakes. Please be patient with me. I really love you, and love God and want to do it all right. I'm not going to do it perfectly, but I'm really striving to do the right thing."

I think if they know you are trying, and you willingly and regularly seek forgiveness when you fail, your children will show so much grace. Atleast that has been my experience.

Pepperpot said...

I can relate to this posting so much it's painful. I was one of those sheltered kids, lost in the greenhouse of rules with no love for Christ. When I went away to college - a Christian college - I soon was lost in a desperate life I loved, but could destroy me. It took many years for me to be willing to let Christ free me, and I bear many scars to this day from my years as the prodigal daughter. I could talk all day about how important it is to find that balance, and not put your kid's heads in the sand to keep them 'safe'. It's something I think about on a daily basis with my own children. Thanks!

Jess said...

Hey Carletta-
I haven't been to the WS in a while; funny that they're talking about it there too. :)

I think it's great to shelter to a degree... particularly in those early years. But sheltering to protect God-given innocence while still recognizing that our children's "enemies" are not only on the outside of them but are also IN them (namely, their sin)... that is a different thing from sheltering to keep our children from ever encountering the world and seeing the "outside" as enemy.

And sheltering them from the larger themes of a depraved world while they are young is different from keeping them from interacting with reality as they get older. (I'm just using your questions to springboard the discussion-- not aiming these comments at you, obviously, friend!)

As for Voddie Baucham, you're right-- they DO have their older children spend huge amounts of time with him-- but it is time in the real world-- his daughter helps to run a lot of his schedule/calendar/speaking stuff, and his son travels with him-- to hotel rooms, books signings, interviews and speaking events. They are both interacting with real people in the real world and having a chance to "practice" before they hit the ground running as adults.

Yeah, I think you're right that we can focus too much on this issue-- but at the same time, there are always new people coming into the homeschool ranks who haven't yet thought through these things and perhaps haven't had the life experience to watch what happens when you overshelter young adults.

I'm completely with you on the idea that only time will tell.... and that I'll need so much of God's grace and mercy to smooth out the places where I did too much of something, and to fill in those places where I did too little of something else.

Thanks for the discussion- I always appreciate your thoughts.

Johanna said...

This is such a hard topic to discuss truly in a setting like this because so much of it depends on the child. Some children need more sheltering than others, and a parent needs to really know their child to make that decision. Although the thought of sending our precious ones off into the world can be scary at times, especially when reports come out of violence and things we wish our children would not have to face. But the reality is that my job as a parent is to prepare my child to be part of this world, and to do it with his/her faith intact. I cannot fully do that if I never allow my children into the world. Did I encounter some not-so-great things in my youth group or at my Christian school? Yes. But my parents had given me a great foundation before I ever got there and I was able to stand up for what I believed anyway.

Great post - something all parents have to be thinking about!

Kristi said...

I think Carletta is talking about the post I started at the WS, I was lamenting about the difficulty I'm having finding a balance with disciplining my very strong willed dd. I'm starting to think the WS isn't the place for me anymore either.

I really don't know how I feel about this. My oldest, like yours, is only 6 and I can't imagine letting her have more freedoms or allowing her to be a part of the world since anytime I turn my back she seems to be sneaking around. I can just see that letting her loose would be a recipe for disaster. We went for dinner at a very conservative Christian family's house and the kids disappeared for maybe 5 minutes and she was basically molested by their 8yo dd. There seems to be dangers lurking around every corner, how many "mistakes" do we allow them to make when they're this young? Putting her in school would guarantee she be exposed to pornography and talk about sex and drugs, things I remember being exposed to as early as 1st grade at my very small, conservative Christian school. Is that really what's best?

When is sheltering "too much" and when is it just our common sense job to protect our children?

This parenting thing is so hard.

Jess said...

Hey Kristi-

Well, you have to realize-- I'm not talking about "releasing" my 6yo to go and be "in the world". I'm talking about wisely and cautiously letting a 16 yo actually interact with the real world. Big difference.

I'm basically trying to help define the difference between innocence and naivete. And there's a big difference.

And this isn't necessarily a public school/private school/homeschool issue. This could look different for every family, at each potential age range we're talking about.

Generally speaking, with public school the potential problem will be overexposure to things that are unsavory and above the maturity level of the one expected to deal with it. But I think we as homeschoolers need to wisely recognize that a lot of homeschoolers in the past have gone wrong by not giving their kids the opportunity to learn and know about the world within carefully defined boundaries that are laid out at an age appropriate level.

There's a big difference between what I have just described and the first grader analogy you gave.

Kristi said...

Yeah, I know it's not a homeschool vs. public school thing, I've just honestly been thinking about public school lately so I guess that's where my mind goes. I do think that homeschoolers (obviously) put a priority on sheltering so it's something we need to balance. That's the hard part, as I see it. I understand you're talking about older children, and hopefully it gets easier as they get older!! LOL...You said there's a big difference between innocence and naivete, is there really? I would think the line between raising our children to be innocent but not naive is pretty fine. Most teen homeschoolers I know are completely dorky and clueless because they HAVE been sheltered. Not that dorky is necessarily a bad thing, but how do we keep our children informed and a part of the world as they grow without sacrificing their innocence or purity? I guess that's not something I have to worry about quite yet, but I do think about it (and worry, lol)

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! I was very sheltered and I struggle daily with how to walk the line between discipline and attachment, between sheltering and trusting, all the time.

I also am trained as a social worker, and I worked with survivors of sexual and physical abuse. It is crutial to keep in mind that this can happen even in a sheltered environment, and sometimes is it easier in such environments because the guard is slightly down. Protecting children from abuse is a different level of protection than keeping them "unstained by the world". It is frequently the case that people who desire to abuse children will use the auspices of the church to do so--we all know about the problems in the roman catholic church, but it happens in ALL churches, and by lay and ordained people of all ages I'm sad to say.

Anonymous said...

One more thing about the abuse issue: if an 8 YO is acting out against younger children at the first opportunity, I'd suspect someone has done this to her. It is pretty common for kids to do what has been done to them as a way of dealing with their trauma, and if a kid is truly sheltered where would they come up with that behavior?

Tamra said...

Just found your blog and WOW. I am enjoying it immensely. I have a couple blogs and will be posting links to your site, as I'm sure my readers will enjoy it here! Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion! I was a "dorky" kid myself, and was never homeschooled a day in my life...LOL!! I came to terms with my dorkiness in college, where I was actually esteemed for my mad grammar skills ;o).

My story is similar to yours, Jess, in that I grew up surrounded in my church by home-schooled kids who had absolutely no exposure to the world - whose parents didn't even talk to them about what they might encounter. Today, interestingly enough (with a few exceptions!) neither those kids NOR their parents are serving God today.

I really do believe that kids will rise to whatever you expect of them.

If you expect that your kids are going to be rebellious, they will be. So if your motivation in "sheltering" your kids is to keep them from rebelling because you just "know" that they're going to go nuts without your watchful eye...then chances are, they will live up to your expectations!

As a child and a teenager, it was the expectation that I would go after in His Word...and I was encouraged that way. My mom concentrated on building a strong spiritual foundation and encouraging me to have a relationship with a result, I never really wanted to rebel, nor did I lose my innocence (I was actually dubbed "the sweet, innocent one" in my group of friends my senior year of high school!).

Again, I do not write this as an "expert" on anything - I do not even have kids of my own! Just sharing my own story and how I was raised...

Kristin said...

From the perspective of someone whose parents did some things really well... my parents homeschooled me and my brother and sisters through elementary and middle school, and then sent all of us to public high school. This was a deliberate decision so that we would be exposed to different opinions from peers and teachers, different "truths" taught, different family backgrounds and value systems and behavior choices - while we were still living at home and could come at the end of the day and talk to Mom and Dad about what was going on. They reasoned that if we had this training while we were living at home, we'd be a lot better equipped to handle such situations in college or when we were on our own.

For me, this was invaluable - I learned a lot about talking about my own beliefs rationally, calmly and compassionately; interacting with people who weren't from a Christian background; and standing firm in the face of peer pressure. It also pushed me to examine my own faith, and to determine absolutely that I believe these things because I know them, and not just because that's what my parents believed. It was, essentially, a training ground for life in the real world, on my own and living in a different state.

This may or may not be the best path for every family or every kid, but the general principles I think are sound.

Catherine R. said...

Jess, I'm glad you are talking about this. I am really trying to decide exactly what I think on this topic and I don't think it's too early even for me who's first child is 4 months away from the other side of the womb.

It is strange to me, because of my life, to hear about overprotected kids but it does make sense. I think there's probably little danger of me oversheltering my kids...I mean how many of us can tell their kids about mommy's years as a heroin addict? My single parent household was one of zero guidance. I do see the potential problems with oversheltering though. It seems foolish just as it is with parents who personally introduce their children to porn, for example.

I hope to get a good balance, like you encourage, without squeezing too tight or at the other extreme, flat out neglecting to guide.

Anonymous said...

I'm planning on homeschooling my girls (ages 5 & 2 now) all the way through high school. I went to both public and private growing up...and saw/experienced a bunch of things I don't want my daughters to at such a young age. I am also, however, planning on *exposing* them to the *world* around them...volunteering at shelters, troubled youth facilities, teach them that there are people out there who are in different places and we need to reach out to them, rather then *join* them. I'm praying this way, they can see what might result from some bad choices, without having to experience it themselves (like I did due to my sheltering as a child...eek!).

But if anyone has this parenting thing figured out to a "T"...fill me in!!! :)

Ticia said...

Well this could be long.
I grew up in a conflicting household where God existed but was paired with permissive hippy type parents.
I attended pubic school k-12.
We (me and my husband) based on our experiences and choices have chosen to homeschool through high school.
I have 2 two children ages 13 and 16 .
We choose very carefully what is and is not appropriate for our children. But there is a fine line to walk for sure.
We have layed a solid foundation for them and believe that they will do very well in life. I even watched my young cousins who were very very sheltered grow up to be excellent people who are an asset to their community. They didn't lose their faith and are well adjusted. Just know that what is wrong for one family is not wrong for another. Even two families making the same "sheltering" decision will not do it in the same way. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts on this subject. Leticia

darci said...

great post! thanks. too many long but i'm sure interesting comments for me to read right now. :) bath bed and a good book are fairly important right now.
but I really agree with what you wrote. it's such a fine find the balance between the shelter i believe we're called to give our kids and wrapping them in bubble wrap. we homeschool, 8yr old, 5 yr old, 10 month old and (soon) two more but I find that our kids have WAy more interaction and true friendship with non-Christian kids than any of the other kids at our *old) church. even though these kids attend school with each other, our (old) church was so cliquey..everyone so relieved that there were so many church kids at the school. we have many friends over to our house who are not of our faith, and of course have great opportunities to teach our kids. Our kids regularly pray for their friends, and we have conversations like 'why do you think they talk like that?'..which leads to what Jesus says is cool, not what the world thinks. I just pray daily that God shows me the balance, to raise up strong men and women of God. Safe, confident, gutsy for God kids.

Carletta said...

Oh, yes! I know we are only discussing and I'm enjoying this conversation. It is something I have been thinking about.

I totally agree with you that the sin comes from within - it is part of the sinful nature. I remember asking my mom once, "Where do these kids come up with this stuff?" And she told me, "It's IN them!"

We are probably talking about the same Voddie Baucham sermon. I came away with the exact picture you just described.

When I hear the word "shelter" I think, "Of course we should!" But I think I am a bit clueless as to just how some people take it to the extreme. I have only witnessed legalism from afar through family members who deemed us unsaved and too sinful associate with, so I don't have a full picture of what extreme sheltering is like or how damaging it can be.

I think we are pretty close in our thoughts on this issue. As always, thank you for your insightful posts!

Mrs. McG said...

Apparently, I do things backwards from others. My children all went to public school until middle and high school and the oldest 2 boys now attend a private Christian school. My oldest daughter went to public school all the way through and that was a huge mistake that I will not repeat (for reasons such as: gang violence, almost complete lack of teacher assistance/caring, opposition to and countermanding our religious beliefs, sex happening in the school, etc.). One younger child is autistic so we'll have to play that by ear.

I think the best choice is to search out all the facts in the matter, know your child and, above all, seek the perfect will of God for that particular son or daughter.

Amy D. said...

I love this post. It really provided me with some great inspiration as to how to find the balance in this parenting thing. I have a 3 and 1 year old and have felt many of the things other "posters" have felt. A book I've just recently read on grace has opened my eyes so much and it's truth has freed me and given me peace, that I must recommend it to your readers - I hope that's okay! It's called GraceWalk by Steve McVey.

Lady M said...

Hi Jess,

I am addressing some of this to you and some to the comments already posted and it has gotten rather long.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the benefit of a youth group like the one in which you were involved. After the experience both my brother and I had with our church group (you do not even want to know my sister’s experience), I have no desire to have my children have anything to do with a church youth group. There was more undesirable behavior there (pre-marital s*x, drugs, you name it – it was there) than I would ever want my children exposed to – even as adults. It was supposed to be a reputable group (all the grown ups thought so anyway), but the kids there knew better. Sigh. I went to a public school and I graduated long ago – way back in 1986. I was exposed to plenty – plenty of stuff that I would never, ever want my children exposed to, that is for certain. It may have been the very best school in the state (academically, sports, music), but the people were still just the same as everywhere else. At that time, the church schools were full of the children that had been kicked out of the public schools – certainly not a good option.

You bet I want to shelter my children. That is the job of being a parent. Protect your child from the nastiness of the world until they are prepared to deal with it – and it may be they are not ready until college or later! My dear sister, I wish she would have been better protected – it was in that 6th - 8th grade area that she went down the path she was/is on. Unfortunately, our father was having grave health problems during that time period and she got involved with the very worst crowd – not the party crowd – the dark side – and she was raised in a Christian home – same upbringing as my own. We were in public school, yes, those parties looked like a blast – that was all you heard the kids talking about. I at least waited until I was out of high school before I got on the band wagon of stupidity. What could my parents have done differently? They did it according to what you said – trained us biblically, we attended youth group, Sunday school, had us out in the “mission field” seeing real, live sin….. My parents were involved in church – as young children, we were at church as often as the PK’s were. However, we all have free choice, don’t we? I did not have to decide to start going to parties after HS, but I did.

Both my husband and I have various life experiences and can also refer to family behaviors as examples as to why they would want to avoid certain behaviors. Yes, Sin LOOKS fun – and yes, it can be fun for a season. Ultimately, as with ANY sin, there is a price to pay for that season. We have both paid various prices for our past sins. We may be forgiven, but that does not mean they are without consequence (God did not say forgiveness negates consequence). I look back now and shake my head and wish I could erase a lot.

That said, we are very up on what is going on in the world. My husband and I do not hide from it. Heaven forbid anyone actually believes what they are hearing from the mainstream media – there is a whole other world of news out there and it makes the 5pm news look like a BBQ. My children (although younger 7 & 9) are well aware of the nastiness of the world. Sad, but true – we can thank family members for illustrating that for them, sigh. We train them as to what is right, what is wrong and WHY they should avoid said behaviors.

Can we not shelter and protect our children from the nastiness of the world, train them up to know better without tossing them into the pit to learn the lessons of why from “experience”? In this day and age, children are being treated more and more often as adults in the courts eyes….Not sure I want them to run the risk of “affordable mistakes” – to many are not affordable anymore, whether it be jail time, drug addiction, pre-marital s*x (with resultant std’s), etc. The whole let’s send the child to PS so “my child can be salt & light” is a horrid misnomer. Most children are not properly equipped to refute the gook that is out there. I know I was not and my parents were fairly diligent about training us at home and at church. PS was my parents only option or so they thought – they had no idea that homeschooling was in that states constitution.

I should also say that I have a good friend who was raised in a Christian home and went to PS as well – and she is still after all this time as naïve as they come about the garbage out there. I like that in her – it is a good thing and must have been very refreshing for her husband when they first met.

Anonymous said...

I agree with much of what you said, however I'm not big on the idea that the world is the "real" environment and the home is a fake green house environment. And I think that young ones need lots of chances to see how mom and dad interact with the world before they are ready to go off on their own, even to cub scouts. This method means lots of family-in-the-world time together when they are young. Ministering to neighbors, volunteering, etc. I think it's important not to do a lot of age-segregated stuff, I just don't see the benefit there. The "real world" isn't age segregated, when you get a "real job" it usually involved interacting with a variety of ages. Not that kids shouldn't have kid-classes, but there are some who spend almost all of their social time with their age-mates. I've met lots of totally UNsheltered teens that have no idea how to talk to an adult because they rarely have to. The Sunday School my kids attend has ages 5 to 12 all together in the same class and it is WONDERFUL.

Ticia said...

I thought I might add that I don't feel that the public school system reflects what the "real" or adult world is like.
My teens have never snuck out of the house, stolen anything or had sex.
(all things mys sisters publicly schooled children have done on more than one occasion.)
This is because my children are not learning from other children what to do or how to make decisions. They have learned from adults who know better.
They do interact with the other kids in there neighborhood. But they also have no problem telling these kids not to swear around them. They also defuse fights that happen . But you know what they are the most popular kids on the block.

Kristie said...

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Anonymous said...

another wise post, Jess :)

Many good things here from others also. I just wanted to add one little point - we should avoid parenting out of fear.
By all means, we need to protect our children - and that will look different in different homes, and in different cultures and parts of the world - but if we shelter out of fear, then we may not be trusting in God to be in control.
If the local church youth group is not suitable because of worldliness, materialism etc, then we should find another way for our teens to spend time with friends and grow in spiritual maturity (for of course they do need friends, and Christian friends can really spur each other on). But if we just avoid all youth groups because of our own bad experiences, I think our teens will see through that - i think they will sense our fear.

Those first 12-13 years or so are a wonderful opportunity to build values into their hearts. But there comes day when they need opportunities to demonstrate that they are starting to think for themselves. We can spend these teen years alongside of them, helping them think through decisions, and explaining choices we may make for them.

Anyway, some great thoughts from others :)

Sim in Oz (with a newly 14 yr old, plus a 12, 10, 8, 7,and 4 yr old coming behind)

Saralyn said...

Thanks, I needed that.

Your post exudes trust in a heavenly Father Who has a plan, Who's arm is not too short, and Who can save church kids and street kids alike. Praise God it's not all up to mom!

E03 said...

i just want to say that i'm glad i found your site, you have a lot of good things to share. and...i'm curious, you said you're overseas, right? where are you?

4kids&luvit said...

I am a stay-at-home mom of four, we are in our third year of homeschooling. You hit it right on with everything you said. We do homeschool for personal reasons but it was a hard decision to make because both my husband and I knew families like the ones you described. We didn't want to be lumped in the same category or to have our kids turn out "weird" or worldly because of sheltering. It's all in how you communicate with your kids and in the activities and friends you provide for them. We are so blessed to be part of a church with a large homeschool population as well as public/private school kids. No one (so far) feels that their way is better or judges anyone else, and certainly NO ONE would keep their kids from enjoying the benefits of fellowship with other Christian kids- it's refreshing to see!

Melisa said...

I found it interesting that one commenter thought that people were avoiding church "youth" groups out of fear. Could it possibly be they are avoiding them out of WISDOM?

Those of us who homeschool are already aware of the benefits of avoiding educating everyone by their age group and thus only being with their own age group (something you will not find in the real world - when was the last time you shopped at the Target that was only for 20-25 year olds...).

I attend a "family integrated" church. You will not find a youth group there. Youth groups are a relatively new creation. Worshiping and learning as a family is not. I have seen far to many church youth groups that are simply awful. They look all nice and shiny on the outside but rarely are they what they are hoped to be or do what the parent thinks they will do for the child.

If a parent (or anyone else) has had what someone calls a bad "experience" in the past, are we not supposed to learn from said experience? Once upon a time, experience was referred to as wisdom. We should be very wise with our children and not just jump on the band wagon of what everyone else is doing (there is an unpopular thought line these days). I realize not all church youth groups are the same, but given the number I have seen that are fairly similar in makeup, etc., I do not blame the people who want to avoid them.

Be wise and learn as much as you can about situations before tossing ones children to the "wolves" - it may even entail you sitting in on several meetings and chaperoning a couple of events before allowing your child to become involved - if at all after checking the situation out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful post. It has truly given me much food for thought and I suspect it'll keep my mind twirling for a long while. I can't really had anything to what has been said on the pros and cons about the different schooling systems, but regardless of all that what you have written has made once again reflect on the fact that:
1 - I strongly believe that most of my mistakes somehow related to areas of my parents lives where they weren't too sure about what they believed in or areas where they or one of them struggled or did not provide a good example coming from the heart.
2 - It is normal that teenagers challenge the world around them. This includes their parents, naturally. I think that is only natural and positive (after all, we are not without sin and therefore there is potentially a lot to be challenged). I think you should just make sure that (a) they pick up this inquisitive and questioning spirit from you (it is easy to just follow the crowd even when you're a christian) and (b) that they apply it also to their peers.
3 - If our kids attend a regular school, I believe it is crucial to make their family their safe place, which is truly welcoming and strong and loving so that they do not become emotionally dependent on their peers. It seems to me that the present trend of having kids spend all day in school clearly sets them up to become vulnerable to whatever influenced they may be exposed at school or outside the family.
Just some thoughts.
Again, thank you for your post.
Catholic Maria

Anonymous said...

We homeschool (ages 6, 4, 1.5 and expecting...TWINS). We are in Christian community with many homeschoolers and strong Christians who attend the solid Chrisitian school with devoted parents. I have a number of the teenage girls come over to help me. It astonishes me how silly and peer OBSESSED many of the girls are who attend the youth group. There is a contentment and glimmers of virture with many of the girls who are homeschooled. I know this sounds extreme, but I look very closely. To show my partiality, though, I do not come from a close family so perhaps I would do well to not focus on that TOO much. I think A LOT about sending our teens off on a never ending stream of social demands that the youth group gives and really, cannot imagine not being together as a family on Sundays. We love worshipping together. OH, and the youth, have I been seems like it is just to entice the teenagers to come and hang out with maybe a little bit of scripture thrown in. The pastor and young woman youth leaders actually act foolish and "so crazy" in order to be cool. I just don't see how it would prepare our sons and daughters to be virtuous men and women, but I think I should be careful to not be too extreme either.

Have you heard Voddie's "Centrality of the Home" sermon..I believe I found it here at your blog. Anyhoo, I really struggle to see what is so great about all the age segregation and foolishness that youth groups perpetuate?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,
I have really enjoyed reading your blogs. I am curious about the quiver full homeschooling families whose kids rebelled. Would you describe them as the typical families you would find say at Voddie Baucham's Family Integrated Ministry or was there something more extreme about these families? Our family has been prayerfully considering leaving our mega church and going to Baucham's church. We love his teaching and the people there. I have had some people warning me to be careful of sheltering my kids by taking them to this "bubble" as they call it which doesn't represent the mainstream christian culture. Sometimes I feel so confused. I know our children need experiences with the world around us, but do I really want the negative influences coming from church? I just keep thinking that the church isn't the place for them to be exposed to what we don't want them to succumb to. I would rather allow them to see enough through our family reaching out and serving a hurting community than for them to get an education in worldliness, rebellion, etc. through the church. So, I am just asking do you think Voddie Baucham's views and church are balanced or is this just the kind of ministry you said you saw a lot of kids rebel in? Thanks so much. Your blogs have been a real encouragement to me.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent post, and it makes me wish that all parents, whatever their faith or schooling beliefs, put as much thought into how to raise their children as you have.

My husband and I are strong believers in public schools for various reasons, but it is important to be conscious of the downsides of every type of schooling.

One thing I have come to appreciate as a parent is how much we learn from our children, as well as how much we need to teach them.

Your reflections on your own teenage rebellion indicate to me that your parents learned the right lesson from you, which is that the church your family belonged to was not giving you the support and guidance you needed.

One can easily imagine your parents reacting to their rebellious daughter in a different way, which might have pushed you much further from Christianity and for a longer time.

Laurie B

Ashley said...

hi jess, CP gave me your blog address, and i have really enjoyed reading it! you are obviously very well-read and a thinker! i really enjoy getting some good, stimulating reading between wiping bootys, moving the laundry through, etc! i am a fellow OBUer and am interested in many/all of the topics you cover here! i love it! thanks for this entry, specifically. as my oldest boy gets closer to school age, i have been pondering homeschool and its implications often.

50s Housewife said...

This is such a thought provoking post! I'm also enjoying reading all the comments.

I guess we're sort of in the "middle". We home schooled and then public schooled. We DO let them participate in youth group, but only certain activities and mission opportunities. I am more one to shelter the children and my husband is more one to let them participate in the "real world". We balance each other nicely. :)

My oldest 2 sons are grown and currently serving in the U.S. military. Both are walking out their faith as young men of God. That is/was our ultimate goal as parents. :)

Miss Amy Smarty said...

I'm not yet a parent...but I have a few things to say.

I was raised in private school from K-12, then all during college. And I say "THANK GOD!". Seriously.

I now teach private voice lessons full time in a public school. Just being there everyday...talking to the kids, and seeing what goes on...I will NEVER put my kids in public school.

To me, it's not only about sheltering vs. letting them get out in the world. It's very much about education. I cannot stand the cacophony that is the public school system. I think my children would get a much better education from me...and I'm NOT one of those dress wearing, boring, opinionated home school mom types. I just don't like the education system. But I'm not chomping at the bit to fit into some home school category either. So we'll see. I need to figure it out before I have children, I guess.