Homeschool Myth (3): Over-Protectionism?

One morning before dawn, Mufasa led Simba to the top of Pride Rock. As the sun edged over the horizon, Mufasa said, “Simba, look — everything the light touches is our kingdom. A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day the sun will set on my time here and will rise with you as the new king.”

“And this will all be mine? Wow!” said Simba, looking around. “But what about that shadowy place?”

Mufasa turned to his son. “That is beyond our borders. You must never go there, Simba.”

— Excerpted from Disney’s “The Lion King” storybook

As I resume this series on homeschooling myths (the first two installments were here and here), I wanted to begin with this excerpt from “The Lion King,” and you’ll soon see the connection to the topic at hand: Are homeschoolers being over-protective of their children?

“People who homeschool their kids are overprotective parents who want to keep their kids from the outside world” is a common objection towards homeschooling. Some would even continue to say, “Homeschooled kids are isolated at home, but schools teach kids to survive in the real world.” I think that, as we talk about the terms “over-protectionism” and “isolation,” we’re actually beginning to talk more about parenting than homeschooling. Also, it’s sometimes a question of semantics. For example, would you consider disallowing teenagers to have a computer in their rooms as isolationism/over-protectionism or proper safekeeping? Would you consider avoiding touching toys at a pediatric office as over-protectionism or proper germ prevention?

So to address this issue of whether homeschooling is over-protectionism, I want to walk through several points below.

1. It is a natural thing and a good thing to protect your children.

Parents have the duty to protect their children. In fact it is a part of our parental instinct to protect our children. So this tendency to protect them is a good thing and a natural thing. I would even add that it’s a godly thing to do, because if you look for words like “guard” or “refuge” in the Bible, you’ll find that it is a part of God’s character to protect us, and to be in God’s refuge is considered a blessing: “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8) Likewise, we must recognize that children who are protected well by their parents are blessed.

2. The natural tendency of children is foolishness.

Where do you stand on the age-old debate of whether children are born inherently good , evil, or neutral? I believe that it’s clear from the Bible that we are born with evil tendencies; for example: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child …” (Proverbs 22:15) or “… the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives …” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). We all need proper guidance, especially when we’re young, to be able to walk in the right way in life.

3. Setting boundaries is an act of love and freedom.

In “The Lion King,” King Mufasa set a boundary for his son Simba, telling Simba that he should never visit the shadowland. But within the realm of the kingdom, Simba has absolute freedom to roam. I think that is a great illustration that when we set proper boundaries, for ourselves and for our children, it is an act of love, and it grants them a sense of freedom and security.

My 1-year-old son, River, likes our shoes so much that he wants to chew on them. Without the safety gates that we put up around the house, River might bite my shoes when we’re not looking. I would have had to watch him all the time and chase him down and try to grab him every time, and he would feel like he’s not free living in this house. But after we put up the boundaries, he wouldn’t have to feel like we’re restricting him all the time. As long as he obeys the boundaries (yes, he does try to “break through”), he’ll be free and happy.

So I must vehemently disagree when people accuse us of isolating our children when we set boundaries for our children as an act of love.

4. Every child would eventually get into trouble.

River had a high fever last week. At my workplace, after I told our office manager that my son was sick, she frowned and said, “Oh, I’m soooo sorry that your son is ill!” I was a little bit surprised at her reaction. She seemed to be more concerned about my son than I was. So I said, “That’s ok. Everyone gets sick sometimes.”

I think this is even more true in our children’s lives. Even if we do our best to protect them from bad influences, even if we set clear boundaries and explain the consequences clearly, every child would somehow find their way to doing bad things. I would not be surprised when my children get into big trouble. It is bound to happen because we are sinful beings living in a sinful world.

5. Parents have a fundamental right to direct their children’s upbringing.

Parentalrights.org proposes a “Parental Rights Amendment,” which begins by declaring that “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.” I believe in this statement. The thing is, no one, other than parents, would be in a better position to prepare children for their future, to understand their tendencies, to point out their mistakes, and to give them second chances after they’ve admitted their wrongs. Furthermore, if other people try to usurp parental influence or parental authority, however well-intentioned they could be, parents still have the right to block those influences.

(BTW, an optional read is this blog post from a Christian mom who had considered homeschooling but eventually decided to send her children to public school, and her struggle with who’s influencing her daughter — I guess if she reads this news editorial she might change her mind.)

So, this brings me back to the question of semantics. If a parent is convinced that he/she is in the best position to protect their children by setting up boundaries, would you classify it as “over-protection”? Believing what I believe in the points above, I think my answer would tend to be no.

But I have one more point to make……

6. Homeschooling provides children with a better experience in “the real world.”

A long time ago, someone asked me, regarding homeschooling, “So you are going to keep your kids at home all day?” His question implied that my children won’t ever get to be in “the real world.” At that time, I didn’t know how to answer him. But, now, I know I could say the same to kids who go to school, “So you’re going to be kept at school all day?”

Schools have their own sub-culture, and that sub-culture is not necessarily the “real world” (a topic that I will discuss more in my next blog post). On the other hand, homeschooled children, like all children, already live in the sub-culture of their families. But homeschooled children are not bound by the schedule nor the location of education. To cite a cliché, “the world is our classroom.” Children learn not just by books, but also by interacting with the world. For example, I look forward to sending my sons out, when they get a bit older, to participate in my workplace, or do volunteer work, or work some part-time jobs. I want them to interact with the world not just to get money from a part-time job, but also to see the real world as it operates, to learn from it, and to interact with all kinds of people and people of all ages and not just their peers. I also want their belief systems to be tested and challenged, but because, by its nature, homeschooling helps connect parents with children on many levels, my expectation is that we would openly discuss their questions and doubts. In other words, homeschooling creates the best chance for parents and children to experience the real world, together.

Next time I will conclude this series by addressing the question of homeschooling and socialization.

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