Why homeschoolers are sheltered

by Kaitlyn Ohnimus                                                                         Wednesday, February 19
Glasses Baby

“Those kids are so sheltered.” “At least I wasn’t sheltered.” “I would never shelter my kids.”

Wait!!! When did being sheltered become such a bad thing? When did it become socially unacceptable to shelter our children? When did we start being grateful that we came from a back ground without shelter?

Yes, I know that our conditioned and emotional response to those statements conjures images such as a teenage boy so socially awkward he isn’t sure if he should enter the store via the enter or the exit because his parents never let him go in a store. Naturally he has large baggy jeans and huge glasses that hide half his face. We imagine a pregnant woman with wild fuzzy hair wearing a jean jumper trailed by eleven frumpy kids hiding behind her skirt sporting wide buggy eyes staring at the dangerous world they know they should never engage or encounter because “it’s bad.” To be honest I have never seen this in real life but for some reason that’s what comes to mind when we hear the term sheltered.

Let’s examine the meaning of shelter. First it is considered one of the three basic human physical needs to which every person because of their inherent human dignity has a right, a right that any just society is morally obligated to defend and provide. The other two needs are food and clothing. The specific obligation to provide these needs to children rests with the parents. When a parent fails to fulfill this obligation we call it neglect and abuse while dialing child protective services. To the same extent we acknowledge that children have other needs that parents must meet. Children require to be fed, clothed and yes even sheltered spiritually and emotionally. Children are fed and clothed spiritually and emotionally when they are given wisdom, education, logic, faith and training in skills.

Kid Veggies


Despite what Hollywood and the Disney channel portray, parents are wiser than their children, even their teenage children. This is why parents feed their children meat and vegetables when their children want candy and sweets. We know that children do not have the knowledge and often the maturity to choose the best option so we rely on parents to choose it for them. Likewise children often want to play out in the cold longer than is good for them forcing parents to call them in to come get warm before their toes fall off. What kind of a mother between the months of October and May doesn’t ask if her child has hat, mittens, and coat in the car before she lets them drive away. As much as 17 year old Billy rolls his eyes, when the car breaks down he’s grateful he listened to mom. Besides directing what it is the children eat or when they come in from the cold, parents provide these goods. It is their worry and their work that buys the food, pays the heating bill and supplies the mortgage. Children simply cannot manage these tasks so they rely on their parents to provide good food, appropriate clothing and a warm home.

In much the same way, it is a parent’s obligation and responsibility to provide emotional and spiritual shelter for their children. Like dietary choices parents have the life experience and the knowledge to know what is toxic and what will hurt their children. They understand what is too much of a good thing like sweets or TV and when more of something else in needed like vegetables or prayer and family time. They must ensure that their children are not exposed to evils they are too immature or young or naive to handle. Here I think more of a plant in a greenhouse. When the plant is too young and weak it needs to be in a warm, secure and controlled environment (aka sheltered) till it is strong and firm. Once it has been given this chance to grow strong it will be able to stand firm during winter months outdoors and bloom again each spring, but if such a plant is placed outdoors too early it will be destroyed immediately. Just like that plant my parents sheltered me. They used their wisdom to see that much of the media, that certain friends, that certain activities or groups were toxic and would hurt me. They raised me in a safe home where I knew I was loved, where I was allowed to believe in truth and beauty, and where I need not be afraid. They filled me with faith in God and made it the air of our home. So many young people are torn down, hurt, rejected, mocked and scorned in their places of formation and it wounds them deeply. I know this from listening to and sharing with these people.

As my maturity and wisdom would grow, my parents allowed me more freedom to make decisions often even letting me make decisions they knew were not the best so that I would learn from them. They often let me fall, but guess who picked me up. Because of this, I have learned trust. I don’t fear that I will be abandoned. I never felt that I was unable to question or challenge, but because of my trust in them I came to them with those questions and challenges. Now I look at the world and I see a place of good and evil. I know there are things in this world that I never wish to experience and because of the lessons I learned I choose to avoid them. Now that I have the maturity to face hurt and rejection it does not destroy me because I know I am loved and I trust those who love me. I have faith in the Lord and wisdom to trust His Church. I, like a little sapling, was sheltered while I was too weak to face the stormy blast on my own. Now I am able I stand like a tree in the middle of a field and sway but do not break as the storm winds blow.

The truth of the matter is that rather than the awkward picture we conjure, sheltered children are becoming well adjusted and psychologically healthy young adults. We are fast becoming leaders in our communities because we are not broken, because our foundation is strong.

My answer: “What’s so wrong with being sheltered?”

Kids Gardening

Katie Ohnimus is grateful to have studied at home for twelve wonderful years with the best teacher in the world. She graduated in nursing from Franciscan University and currently works as a cardiac renal nurse. She lives in Grand Rapids with her dear husband Christian.


26 thoughts on “Why homeschoolers are sheltered

  1. I absolutely love this post. I feel very passionate about my decision to homeschool but I find it hard to articulate my “why’s” when approached in the community by someone of opposing views. I need to arm myself with copies of your post to share as I feel that you have captured many of my Why’s so eloquently- Thanks!

  2. Katie,

    Good post! This blog needs more female writers 🙂

    In any case, your post got me thinking about my own experience as a sheltered homeschooler, specifically about a negative trend that can (but not necessarily) be a consequence of “sheltering” one’s children. What I’m referring to is the judgment of those who are unsheltered. My experience was that the sheltered youth picked up a judgmental attitude from their parents about those “public schoolers” (i.e. the unsheltered heathens). Normally this was a silent, subtle judgement, but a judgement nonetheless.

    For example, sheltered youth and parents alike in these close knit groups would collectively judge teens (and the parents allowed such teens) who played Grand Theft Auto, watched R rated movies, listened to anything but Newsboys or Jeremy Camp, dated members of the opposite sex (hell, even those who just voiced a desire to date members of the opposite sex!), and the list goes on. Speaking from personal experience, as a new college student I had a difficult time not thinking less of my peers who enjoyed playing Cards Against Humanity, made a penis jokes, dropped the f-bomb occasionally, or watched How I Met Your Mother. I was very quick to label the “heathen” and slow to change my first impression.

    My point isn’t that these actions are good and that youth should be universally allowed to do them. Rather, I’m trying to say that this attitude of judgement is cancerous, contagious, and very unChristian. And that I personally saw this attitude more often in the tight-knit, Christian, sheltered, homeschool circles than I did elsewhere.

    Thoughts? Is my experience something common or simply an isolated instance? Do you think that this judgmental disposition is more common in sheltered groups? What was your experience?



    • Thanks Paul,

      First before I answer your questions I want to clarify what I was trying to get across with the article. I was not saying that we should be sheltering our children away and making them judge or fear the world as bad; rather, I was defending the right of parents to shelter their children and to keep them safe from harmful and toxic influences. I was noting the irony of sheltering being a bad thing especially today when we consider such things as our campaign against bullying. I would also like to qualify that sheltering is very age appropriate. You shelter your 4 year old from very different things than you fifteen year old. One of the problems we have in today’s culture is this lack of sheltering young children from very damaging influences; however, on the flip side we do see alot of Christian and homeschooling families who shelter their teenagers from too much; from things they should be ready and mature enough to handle.

      Secondly I think you brought up a very important point and have me pondering writing a post on this topic. You touch on the main and most common danger of living any kind of a virtuous life: Pride. Just like the other vices I think we need to shield our children from pride and speak often on the dangers of pride. This is I believe done in subtle ways. First parents MUST watch what they say in front of their children. Are they putting other families and people down in front of their children? I think they should emphasis that we disapprove of actions but love people and this can be show this by allowing their children to interact with the play with different “Unsheltered” children but be willing to explain why certain activities are wrong and hold their ground about those activities.

      I think that the negative attitude that you talk about is often from two sources.
      One is spiritual pride and must be rooted out!!! I think it is not terribly uncommon to see parents use their “virtuous” children who don’t do such things as those you brought up in your article to massage their pride. This is a sin and a failing on their part but it doesn’t mean that their children are not living an objectively better life. The other reason for this silent unchristian attitude is a knee jerk response to the fact that often times these parents feel judged by other parents for homeschooling or sheltering their children. I think it is easy to respond in pride and arrogance as well as defensively. Again this is wrong and they need to address their insecurities and pride but should not stop raising their children well.

      Finally from my own experience, my best friends growing up were very homeschooled and very sheltered by normal standards. One of our best friends and a huge part of our friend group and youth group got his girl friend pregnant. I was amazed at the support and love that flowed to that couple. We all knew the action was wrong but we loved those two people. They are still good friends with all of us and are now raising their own children and are part of the homeschooling community. I think the difference here is that we were taught not to judge and gossip and we held each other accountable to those standards. We struggled with pride and still do. That’s going to be a constant battle of the Christian life.

      I do agree Paul that it is a danger of tight knit and sheltered groups. Each person and especially parents need to stay vigilant to that danger, but I think that as parents it is very important to protect especially young children from damaging influence. Hope this addressed your questions! Sorry it’s such a long post. You asked alot of questions.

      • May I please, please have your permission to translate this to Spanish? I have soooo many families in Latin America that could really benefit from this post.

      • I agree with this response. Chances are though that the close knit group will self-implode…the pride and judgemental attitude doesn’t foster close knit anything! I have witnessed this. If joy and love of things good, true and beautiful are truly there, there is peace. But we have to teach our kids to discern what will be thistles and weeds, things which make no room for faith to grow. Grand theft Auto or speaking mean of others…homeschoolers or public schoolers, whomever!

    • There’s something of a catch-22 in the things you’re talking about. I was a homeschool mom while my children were growing, some, but not all of the time for the last 4 children. Two of them immediately did a lot of ‘testing’ as soon as they were out of the house, making some bad decisions, but some good. The problem is during the time they are growing up and before you think they are ready, there are the questions, “Why can’t I play grand theft auto?” etc. And so you are needing to say something, knowing that if you say, “Because it is wrong” or “because it wouldn’t be pleasing to God” then it automatically sets up an immature mind to think of other people they see doing it (because homeschoolers aren’t really as isolated as media portrays) as “SINNERS!” And if you say, “Well, I just don’t think it’s a good idea for you right now,” then they think, if they are smart kids, “Well, it must not be that big a deal; my mom is just not being fair!” And if you explain every detail of why they shouldn’t be doing it, they might as well do it because they are knowing all about it – and, as a parent – you’d have to play all the games to know all the reasons, and I don’t know any parents these days, homeschoolers or not, who have that kind of time! There is a time that you must teach that God set up parents to be in authority for a reason – and that doesn’t mean it has to be unreasonable – and teach them about the chain of authority. And as much as no one of us wants to blindly accept another’s decisions about what may or may not be good for us, and most children least of all; we need to learn about authority to be able to remain in civilized society and to understand that one day we must stand before God and answer for our actions and for those He put under our authority.

    • But making some judgements are absolutely necessary. People do have a very serious obligation to avoid the near occasion of sin – which includes bad companions. It’s not always easy to keep the judgement confined to the person’s actions without speculating on the state of the person’s soul, but that’s what everyone needs to do. If a person likes to say bad words or watch immoral movies and TV programs or things like that, a child needs to know how important it is to avoid that person, because associating with him will exert an bad influence on him. That is just as important as learning not to consider himself superior to everybody else.

      Many people get so overly-concerned about not being judgmental that they overlook the need to make some judgements, in order to avoid bad companions. As in all things, there needs to be a balance there. Going to extremes about not judging is just as bad as going to extremes in judging people.

  3. I got an almost all of a sudden urge if you will to home school. I have 4 older children that have went to/are in public school and 2 that haven’t started yet. Good read. I’m sheltering rah rah hiss hiss 🙂

  4. Great article — Thanks so much for this!

    I’m a home educating mother of 10, and have unapologetically “sheltered” in the same way you are talking about. Yes, it was challenging, including facing the either blatant or subtle judgements of others. However, the fruit of that wise and VERY Biblical “sheltering” is showing clearly that it IS the right choice, despite the tide of the current culture. My oldest 3 children are now in their 20’s and out of the home, and all 3 of them have stated more than once how much they appreciate the way they were raised, how much their eyes have been opened to the negative, often devastating effects of their peers who were not “sheltered,” how grateful they are for the love, care, and protection they were shown by their parents, despite what others or even they, themselves, thought during those years, especially the teen years. They clearly see more and more the loving, solid foundation they’ve had, and they gratefully say how valuable this is to them.

    In addition, our family gets SO VERY MANY positive comments on how “different” our children are — how polite and articulate, how genuinely loving and respectful, how great their relationships are, etc.. This is not a fake facade, but just reality. There is no way that my children could get a strong foundation in both wisdom AND love without “sheltering” them. They know they are to “live in the world, but not be OF the world.” And this is not some fear-based, legalistic, judgmental decision. It’s simply a sincere, genuine desire to live as we believe the Lord has called us to live, how He wants families to function. One of the main functions of the family is to be a safe haven of peace, protection, and love. That’s what it’s all about.

    Many blessings to you in your journey, and thanks again for this insightful and encouraging article.


  5. This sheltering thing is great when the home is a safe place. Really, every home can be a shelter. Children can be exposed to a great number of things and learn to deal with them in a healthy way because their parents – or any consistent adult in their life – is there at the end of the day for them to help them learn to deal with the difficulties of life. So, I would argue two things:
    1) homeschooled does not equal sheltered. even a homeschooling home like the one I was raised in can be a “non-shelter” if the adults in the home do not make it an emotionally safe environment. Likewise, a non-homeschooling home can be a shelter for a child if the parents make it so.
    2) its easier to have teachable moments and raise well rounded, experienced child when that child has experiences that are less than ideal. When a sheltered child grows up and is no longer dependent on the parents, he has the option to make unwise choices as a reaction to these new experiences not yet known because of the sheltered life. There must be a very fine line between sheltered and ignorant. Its important for a child to have many experiences, not all positive, while they are in the shelter of their parents in order to learn to handle them in a way that produces a positive long term result.

    I write these things from my own perspective as a homeschooled , sheltered child.

    • It’s normal to want to experience “the forbidden” when one is emotionally battered by “the law enforcers”. The love, trust and respect between parent and child should never be broken. First, the parent needs to be well grounded in Christ because ONLY GOD can protect us from all the devouring evil that roams the earth. It is hard for an adult to always make the right choice; a child/youngster can become overwhelmed if exposed to all the worldly experiences.

  6. Thanks. Great response on sheltering. The world is so hurt that it hurts them to see a loving family sometimes. Envy perhaps? But what few people realize is that families become strong when they focus on love, respect, unity, and commitment. They don’t give up on each other! Marriages and raising children are hard work… but so worth it. Shelter on! 🙂

  7. Thank you for this post! It is a topic debated within the homeschool community. There is not agreement even within other homeschooling families.

    I grew up with very little boundaries and was exposed to more than I should have been. I went to church but the world had a stronger draw. Therefore, I am much more selective to what I allow my kids to watch and listen to than my parents were for me.

    Yet other homeschool parents are more relaxed and expose their kids to more than I do. This creates conflict when my kids say, “But so and so can watch that or listen to that song.” I have caved in due to the fear that I am over sheltering.

    Thank you because your article reminded me to keep those boundaries and the overall purpose for such boundaries. There is such a bigger picture to keep in mind.
    God bless you,

  8. my children went to public school and they were still sheltered and guided. The big difference is that they we go to talk thru problems and issues that they had heard and witnessed. It’s easier to redirect a middle or high schooler that still lives at home when they make a bad choice or need parental advice than it is to redirect a college student or adult. The guidance we gave them as they experienced life prepared them for college and jobs. I’m not saying that homeschooling doesn’t prepare them. I’m saying that both choices have advantages and disadvantages but parenting and sheltering is common with any Christian family regardless of your schooling choice. Make the decision that works best for your family or child but the decision should be based on learning styles, personalities, educational opportunities, and lifestyle benefits instead of the concept of sheltering. All of your arguments about the value of sheltering were great but it does bother me that the article implies that public school children are not sheltered. Christian parents who send their children to public schools do not somehow throw them in without shelter or guidance. That simply isn’t true. Both options can provide shelter

      • Thank you for your comment! I agree completely. If you read the article carefully you will notice that the only time homeschooling is mentioned is in the title and my bio. I was simply expressing the importance of parent’s providing a safe and sheltering environment for their children and defending that right. I very much agree that any parent can and should shelter regardless of educational choice. My primary audience is homeschooling families who I believe get called “sheltered” more often than other families, but all parents should provide a sheltering home!
        Katie O

  9. I homeschooled my children until they left for college (they are both in their thirties now). They both went away, one to Bible college, one to a state university. Their experiences were different, just as they are different, I thank God they are both serving Him. I have worked as a teacher in a Christian school for 15 years and have many friends who work in public school. Without hesitation, I would recommend homeschooling to anyone who is able. Sheltering doesn’t mean locking them in the house, it means not exposing them to what the world says is “good & right”. I remember when my children were younger (and homeschooling was almost unheard of), people would ask me about “socialization”– I would smile and give a polite answer, but in my head, I was thinking, “what, exactly, can my 5 year old (or 10 or 15 yr. old) learn from a room filled with other 5 year olds (or 10 or 15 yr. olds)? ”
    None of us is perfect, we have all made mistakes as parents and there will always be those with “eccentric” behaviors, but by the grace of God, He will give us wisdom, patience, and joy as we desire to do what He has given us to do. — Melanie T.

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