Today I was told that I'm babying my children. That I'm sheltering them. That they don't act like "normal" children their ages. They're unschooled. They're different, I get it. But what if? I decided to consider the possibility that I might be sheltering or babying them. I know they're definitely not "normal," whatever that means.
I got the feeling that because I wasn't ordering my children around, but instead asking them what they wanted, how they could resolve a situation or fix a problem, and asking politely if they could do something for me while accepting "no" as an answer to my question, I was somehow seen as not parenting properly. If by babying, you mean listening to them, taking their opinions and feelings into consideration, not expecting them to want to do everything I ask of them, and finding common ground with them, then yes, I am absolutely babying them. A child doing what they want to do, or "getting their way," as it was put, in this context is not being babied or spoiled, it's promoting their independence and supporting their decision making skills. If a child comes to me with a reasonable request, why not say yes whenever I can? And yes, my children do inform me they're doing things rather than asking permission much of the time and are encouraged to say no if I ask them a question and the answer is no. If I need them to do something and therefore tell them to do something, I may question a no answer, but it rarely happens that they don't see my need and happily comply. This is because they love and trust me and I love and trust them and their ability to make good decisions for themselves.
I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback at the concept that my children are sheltered. I guess one could assume that children who are "homeschooled" and who are at church at last two days a week might lead somewhat sheltered lives. After all, church people don't talk about sex, violence, murder, lust, and all of that, right? Oh, wait, read the Bible. It's all in there. My youngest, at age 3, knew what a prostitute was because she asked and I answered truthfully. My children know the ugliness of war, hunger, human trafficking, and genocide because those topics have come up as we move through our lives. They know about sex and don't find it odd to use the words penis or vagina or breast or knee or head or uvula. Ok, they do think the word uvula is odd. I do, too. My kids know the real history of Native Americans and of slavery and of brother fighting against brother in war and of peoples of all sorts fighting for basic human rights and are allowed to feel and express adequate disgust and awe in a safe and supportive atmosphere. They navigate the real world exponentially more than children who spend the week sitting in a classroom, as they're out and about in the world nearly every day interacting with people of diverse ages and walks of life. So, sheltered? No, not really.
As far as not acting like "normal" (I took that to mean schooled or perhaps mainstream) children their age? Thank God. None of us are normal around here.
I've met "mainstream" kids (schooled and homeschooled) their age who act older than their years, and not in a good way, and value societal trends and the opinions of others above all else because that's the culture in which they're being raised. I've met overly sheltered kids both in school and homeschooled. What I want for my kids - and what they want for themselves - is different.
My children tend to look to themselves, not to the opinions of others, for their sense of self-worth. Their values are based on our family values, their own unique educated view of the world around them, their own hearts, our religious values and most importantly on love. They are not hung up on having the latest and greatest or looking one way or another. They do not base their own value or anyone else's value on what they own, how they appear, or what they've accomplished, but rather on who they are on the inside. They know that food is a need and a cell phone is a want. They know that family means safety and they can tell us everything and anything. They are free to make mistakes and to ask for help fixing them. They know love and forgiveness as a rule, not blame and punishment. They are given love, respect and trust just as they are given food and water - because that's what sustains us all.
If any of these things makes my children different or weird or whatever, then so be it.