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.