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A Christian going off to college generates two response: (1) "Really? Where to?" or (2) "Watch out!" I understand the misgivings many Christians have about colleges -- secular colleges, especially: they're well-founded and one of many reasons why I looked over most secular colleges. Still, as a girl aspiring to a school that isn't Christian, I am very interested in this topic. It's interesting how a hostile environment is immediately and inevitably linked to lack of faith and how a less aggressive one more conducive to spiritual matters. Of course, cavalier responses to these serious issues aren't very helpful, and as one of Those Homeschoolers who gets lumped into the Sheltering Accusation, I see both sides.

Here's my POV.

To me, my faith is a very personal and integral thing, something handed down, to be sure, but not something I hold in my hands loosely. I am blessed to be raised in a Christian family -- but that is not the primary reason I am saved nor the primary reason I'm not a confessing atheist. I fought the spiritual battles and thought through the hard stuff even as a "sheltered" student very much out of touch with public school. I liked being "sheltered": it suited my people-pleasing nature very nicely and forced me to befriend books and ideas more than fashions and popularity. I am not stalwart in nature and not inclined to seriousness when fun can name the game; others get through the almost 24/7 peer pressure unscathed but I would have floundered. Badly. It's hard enough being human.

There are many myths about sheltering, propagated both by those who ridicule it and those who allegedly practice it. It's a myth that sheltering proponents produce brainwashed, unstable robots dutifully churning out pre-chewed opinions. It's a myth that sheltering involves total abstinence from real life. It's a myth that sheltering automatically cures the soul of wanderlust. It's a myth that sheltering is oppressive.

The sheltering I do not advocate is ignorance -- some families do it. At the moment I can't quite put my finger on it, but I've seen it, where children aren't allowed to do anything and go anywhere, where the Bible (with some pages covered up) is the only book available, where opposing opinions are met with ridicule and sarcasm instead of thoughtful consideration and where all personal statements start with Our family.... It's close-mindedness -- and it isn't only found in conservative camps.

The sheltering I do advocate is not an airtight box. It's a shelter. If you've ever gone to a park shelter, you know what I mean. Nasty sticky spills on the concrete, foul-smelling bathrooms and white-sprinkled picnic tables -- but all in all, merely a sheltered spot with all four sides open. The wind and the rain get through but not in torrents; it's a resting point; it allows a time to get out from the beat of the sun and think a moment.

And the fact that I think differently from the mainstream doesn't mean I haven't considered it. 

I learned things younger than I probably should have simply because I was an obsessive reader. I devoured the daily newspaper, followed the vitriolic letters to the editor and wrote a few of my own (minus the vitriol). I've read much classical literature that others would think boring or inappropriate. I offended people; they offended me; I befriended all sorts of people; they befriended me. I never missed out on anything life, current events or humanity offered: I just looked at it from a different vantage point.

The point of sheltering ought not to be to hide a child away from the storm so much as to equip him with an umbrella and rubber boots. It's not a place of buried heads but working minds. I feel very comfortable engaging with the world at large now that the rubber has met the road in some instances, and I credit that to my chance at viewing it differently -- a chance to figure out humanism before why people can be so mean, if you will.

And the truth is that even in a box no child can miss out on the pitfalls of life. He crams his breath, his body and his humanity in that tiny space. No one can truly be sheltered from sin. The home can be just as effective a breeding ground for sin and unbelief as the public school or the secular world or whatever comes to mind. Any homeschooler of toddlers, unless she picked up a couple of saints at Walmart, knows that much.

It amazes me how people do not get this, though: they think that if they block this movie, this book, this video game, this idea that children grow up holy. Cutting them off from any complicated scenario or difficult belief is somehow seen as good all the time. Abstinence. Abstinence is the key. But deep within us is a wrong desire, a doubt, a hurt or a bitterness. Until these issues -- complicated, icky and sometimes embarrassing as they may be -- are drawn out and discussed openly, they fester.

I say it is by the equal grace of God that any "sheltered homeschooler" makes his way to college in the faith and that his brother graduates from the secular school with faith intact.

p.s. I guest posted over at Livy's place.

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19 impressions

  1. I heartily agree, Lee dear. It drives me nuts (figuratively...) the way people on both sides view (or do) "sheltering their children" in ways that are completely off.

    Thanks for the post on it. :)

  2. "The point of sheltering ought not to be to hide a child away from the storm so much as to equip him with an umbrella and rubber boots."

    Loved this.

    Something else applicable here is that everyone brainwashes.

    The kid that goes to public school is being brainwashed- the kid that attends family worship every day is brainwashed- the kid whose parents model that church isn't important is just as brainwashed as the kid whose parents model that it is- and so on.

    People say "you've been brainwashed" like it's a bad thing. Yes, I have been brainwashed, and my brain is cleaner for it. But what many don't realize is that they've been brainwashed too, one way or another.

    The question is, in which cleaning solution did your brain soak?

  3. Hi bailey!

    I am a new reader and have been really encouraged and challenged to think by your blog. Thank you for standing up for Jesus and not being afraid to share what He is doing in your life.
    I found your blog via Raising Homemakers btw.

    I have to agree with this post but only to some extent. I think thats its very true that homeschoolers(I was homeschooled btw) can tend to be either far to the right or far to the left in regards to sheltering. The parents either try and keep them from the evils of the world or at least things they think are evil as you said like DVDs, tv shows, rap/rock music, or public schooled kids. But what they do not realize is that they cannot block out sin from their home. So these holier than though kids think they are holier than say the public schooler, but are they really?

    Then there are the far left homeschoolers who hang out with the public schooled kids and even do some classes and watch the same movies, tv shows, and listen to the same rap/rock music as the public schooler. But lots of times I have observed that these kids despite the music they are listening to or movies they are watching they are not any worse than the sheltered to the inth degree kid. They both sin and both therefore need the grace of God for salvation from their sin.

    I have also come to realize that I was glad I was sheltered to some extent, but really thankful that my parents did not put up a long list of rules on the wall in our home saying what type of music we could not listen to, what type of clothing was not acceptable, or what else we were not aloud or had to do. We did not need that list of rules plastered on all the walls in our home because as my sister and I grew up we trusted our parents and without that list typed out we knew the rules. We respected our parents and would ask their imput on what sort of music, movies, or clothing we were wearing. So I would say there needs to be a balanced sheltering in every home. Everyone needs to realize legalism is sin and does not save you. Just like killing someone in our heart is sin or lusting after someone is sin. So I guess to wrap up my comment I would highly recommend sheltering, but each family must find a balance where the kids are not legalists and they are not let loose with no sheltering or mentoring at all.

    Hope that made some sense. Thanks for the meaty and very thought provoking post Bailey!

    In Christ,

  4. No matter how we live our lives God can find us. It is a different practice per family on how they want to shelter themselves. If they are meant for God, he will have them.

  5. whoops!
    I gave the wrong's the guest post link:

  6. Hi, Rebecca! I'm glad you can come along the ride of life with me. You make some excellent points, and I agree with you totally -- that's why I wrote the post. :o)

    Very true, Gabriel...and Jake...and Allison.

    I fixed it, Olivia! Thanks!

  7. I find this topic a fascinating one, mainly because I've argued out with a couple of different professors and many classmates why my "shelteredness" isn't something that's detrimental to me. It's nigh impossible to convey to the secular world, unfortunately, despite the fact that I'm a [more or less] well adjusted [almost] adult. :) I like the pictorial idea you present of equipping a child for the storm.

  8. Well written. I think that it's good for young Christians to exposed to both "good" and "bad" things. Then they can know the difference between right and wrong.

  9. Hi, I'm just stopping by your blog for the first time. A friend shared the link to this post on Facebook. I'm glad I came to read it! As a "sheltered homeschool graduate" myself, I can completely envelope the same feelings you spoke of. If my life really was sheltered (from the world's POV), then I certainly am glad that it was---and still is---my life! I can't think of any other way I would have wanted to live my childhood. Public, secular school? How horrible and "normal". Instead, I'm glad to have befriended literature, my own thoughts, and myself, before now launching into the real world. It never could have happened any other way if I didn't have the lovely parents that take care of me.

    ~ Tarissa
    { In the Bookcase }

  10. The Grace of God is key here. No matter how much a person's parents shelter him, no matter how decent of a person he becomes, he still needs a Savior. Everyone, no matter how sheltered, sins every day.

    Oh, and I agree with you, Bailey. Blocking out bad influences is not as helpful as openly discussing them; actually teaching the child what is bad, and why. If you do that he'll be equipped to make his own right decisions, instead of feeling confused. :)

  11. Bailey, I don't know if you have ever read this blog or not, but "Love, Joy, Feminism" is a great blog showing how a homeschooler who was sheltered quite a bit fell. I have lots of fundie friends here in South Carolina, and I always recommend the site to them because I think we can learn well from negative examples. If you check out her blog, read her story. It is heartbreaking, but at the same time it is scary how she fell away from the faith when she went off to college. Now she is a feminist, atheist, humanist, environmentalist, and egalitarian. Of course, I don't think her parents were perfect in their training, but which parents are? I know they didn't equip so well as they could have. It seems to me that God gives a lot of grace to parents, though. So it is sad to see that this lady did not accept the faith of her fathers as her own and cling fast to Jesus.

    So anyway, check it out if you have time. Learn from it, so that you don't ever fall into the same traps. Actually, what you said was good, in your post. So, as long as you can hold fast to Christ, no matter the argument a person gives, you'll come out all right.

    By the way, have you considered Patrick Henry College? My cousin went there and loved it. If you are interested in politics, they are great in that. If you are interested more in the liberal arts, my cousin said they do a fantastic job.

    This is the link of that blog I was writing about.

    Stacie Veron

  12. Mrs. Parunak over on Pursuing Titus 2 - she is the one who led me to your blog :-) - wrote a post on this same topic from the parent's perspective recently:

    She words it differently and the focus of her concerns is different. She uses a metaphor of a wall, which would seem to be contrary to your metaphor of a picnic shelter with open sides, but I think her end conclusions are quite compatible with yours. I like both metaphors and think they effectively illustrate different aspects of the sheltering issue. :-)


  13. We know some people who keep their children in a box. The oldest is nearly 13, and she doesn't know a lot of things. She almost has the innocence of an 8 year old. Sure, innocence is good- to a degree. But when they are kept in the dark about nearly EVERYTHING in this world, I can't imagine what a shock it will be when they actually start learning about some things, they'll be in utter shock. As my mother says, balance is the key. My mom and I watch shows like "16 & Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" together, so we can talk about the consequences of having pre-marital relations. We also read articles about abortion, and discuss the harmful affects of drinking, drugs, ect. I'm "sheltered" but not to the point of ignorance.

  14. This comment is a response to Stacie Veron's comment:

    Thank you for the link to "Love, Joy, Feminism". I went there and read her introduction and story. I think it is a very interesting blog. However, I don't see anything sad about it and honestly I don't see how it works as a warning or negative example. Even if you don't agree with the choice the author of the blog made, she appears to be happy and successful. More importantly, I don't see how you can learn not to "fall into the same traps" from it. Unless, are you suggesting that Bailey should not go to college as she is planning? No, clearly not, because you recommend a college. If your comment was written tongue-in-cheek or joking or I have otherwise completely misinterpreted it, please let me know and I will (figuratively) scuttle away in abject embarrassment, but if you sincerely think there is something to be learned from this blog as a negative example, please explain what that is. Note: I understand that you would find the woman's story sad if you view her as "fallen", I just don't understand what it is about her blog that might help you avoid the same "fate".



  15. Stacie, thank you for the link. I scanned through her story. It's so like me to want to pick through and say, "Aha! Here's what went wrong!" -- but humanity and salvation does not work as simplistically as that. I firmly believe in the individuality of the child and his need for personal redemption, so I don't think the parents are entirely responsible.

    I too encountered inconsistencies with paradigms I subscribed to and faced tough arguments thrown by atheists, evolutionists and pro-choicers: all I can say is that it is by the grace of God that I am a Christian now and will remain so. However, I'm working on not being cavalier about my steadfastness and will certainly be on my guard during college.

    I briefly considered PHC, but it didn't suit my educational goals. I campaigned with PHC students, though, so I very much like what's going on there!

    Adele, thanks! Interesting read. I'm still working through my own ideas on what prompts children to jump ship. I personally don't like the concept of being "walled in"; I never felt like it and it didn't describe my goals. But I'm tired of hearing people pick on my parents for "hiding me away" from the world. It's definitely a balance, as Mrs. Parunak said. I pray for grace to know it.

  16. Adele, I got your second comment after I published mine. :o) It's interesting...because while I obviously strongly disagree with her rejection of Christ, I very much share her frustration with the "dollhouse girlhood" she experienced. I think there is a movement of young women away from these teachings, some rejecting God during the process and some clinging closer to Him. Oh! And I wanted to hear your perspective, Adele, on whether you consider yourself a "shelterer" as well?

  17. Thanks for your responses, Bailey.

    While I was reading the story on "Love, Joy, Feminism" I was thinking of you, and while I saw similarities in the way the author describes her childhood, I kept thinking, "But Bailey has clearly been exposed to arguments from all sorts of perspectives and thought about these issues and engaged with people who do not share her beliefs, so none of that will be a surprise when she goes to college" Pretty similar to what you said in your response to Stacie. That's why I was confused as to what you were supposed to learn. I thought maybe there was something implied that someone who shared a homeschooling background would understand. But I can see where the blog can just serve as a reminder that there is the possibility of college changing people radically.

    Yes, I am definitely a shelterer. My daughter does go to public school, but she went to a Montessori school for pre-school and kindergarten, which is very much in line with my UU values. When it comes to books, music, video we have always been very intentional about sheltering my daughter. We never said, "You are not allowed to watch xyz or read abc" but we pre-screened and pre-read many things for a long time. Some things we suggested she might want to wait until she was older. Others we read or watched with her so we could discuss things and answer her questions. Mostly I don't want my daughter to see things that frighten or disturb her excessively. The interesting thing is, one of the things I knowingly and intentionally sheltered my daughter from was fundamentalist Christianity. I did not want her being exposed to certain ideas that would scare and disturb her before she was ready to cope with them. Now, when her friends ask if she is worried about going to hell, she is equipped to say, "I'm a Universalist. We don't believe in hell." And just like most parents of any faith I suspect, there are certain topics I want taught to my daughter from a certain perspective. I want my daughter's education on sexuality to come primarily from myself, her father, and our church (which has an excellent religious education curriculum on this and related topics, called Our Whole Lives). In this way I am just as "sheltering" as any homeschooling Christian mother I think.


  18. You are a wonderful mother, Adele. Indeed, I see very little difference between you and the average homeschooling mama in this matter of sheltering. I was merely curious as to how that worked out in a non-Christian home, simply because so many have told me that only Christians shelter in order to brainwash their kids. Thanks for responding!

  19. Hi Bailey! I don't even know how I initially came to your blog, but I think you write very well and enjoy your POV on whatever it is you choose to write on. I know you are primarily speaking about sheltering here, but I have to say that a main reason to encourage our children to go to Christian colleges isn't just to shelter them from the wrong influences of peers. Some of the garbage being taught at secular universities is just that -- garbage. I would hope that our children are strong enough in the Lord and how they have been raised to avoid the wrong crowd and making the wrong decisions wherever they go. They will be out in the world someday and must know how to deal with people and make good judgement on their own. However, though there are some excellent teachers in colleges/universities, there are also some who are extremely bent away from God and delight in teaching contrary to anything that has to do with Him. I don't know who can justify/risk not only sending their children to possibly sit under someone who teaches that way, but to pay thousands of dollars to do so. When my children go to college, I know not every class will be a benefit to them -- there's a lot of stuff put there to "round them out" -- but at least they will be taught by people who are Christians. It's not a perfect system, I know, Christianity can be a loose term at times I also know, but it's a step in the right direction.



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