They say my homeschooled children are sheltered. That public school with its bullying, drugs, and cliques is the real world. And that my children will never learn how to handle the tough stuff life has to offer.
While other children are learning about other cultures through textbooks,
my children are helping a family of refugees - "our family" as they call them - from Syria; listening to and reading news reports and articles about Syrians, Kurds, and ISIS all fighting over "our family's" home. They are learning what life was like for "our family" after they fled to Istanbul, Turkey - how refugees are treated as scum of the earth and living conditions are barely liveable. The realities of not-even-close-to-living wages; lack of food, healthcare, safety, and security that refugees face is made all to clear as we learn more about their experiences.
With their own eyes, they are seeing the Muslim religion in action through this peaceful, thankful, kind family.
While other children are being offered drugs and alcohol in and after school by their peers, my children are learning about the effects of addiction in a more personal way. Participating in an "Arts Response to Addiction," teens researched addiction and its effect on all it touches and responded with art, song, dance, and spoken word. Addiction was given a face at a memorial service for an acquaintance who died of a heroin overdose; and witnessing no less than five police officers and security guards attempting to hold down someone under the influence of drugs in the emergency department while we were there with our own emergency brought one of my children into stark realization of the dire consequences of addiction.
This, they learn, this is what addiction looks like.
While other children are bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying at school, my children are becoming friends with the bullied - with students pulled out of school and into the homeschool world by parents concerned for their child's physical, mental, and emotional safety and wellbeing. As they share experiences with these children, they learn what they can do to help both the bullied and the bully.
In another Arts Response, this one about responding to hate with love, two of my children fearlessly shared their faith and how to respond in love and forgiveness through song and spoken word.
They take to heart that violence and hatred aren't the answer to violence and hatred - that compassion and love can work wonders on any broken soul.
While other children are experiencing hate due to skin color, religious belief, mental ability, gender identity, or socioeconomic status, my children are learning how to respond to hate with love. They are getting to know a rainbow of people of different ages, abilities, gender identities, walks of faith ... and to celebrate their differences.
They are comfortable being themselves and encouraging others to embrace their own uniqueness as well.
Sheltered? Perhaps they are sheltered from witnessing and experiencing the gossip, social pressures, and judgements of their peers that they would experience at school. But they are most definitely not sheltered from the realities of our world, as they spend much of their time out and about in the real world, witnessing its realities, helping those in need when they can, and striving to make changes for the good.