The Greenhouse Effect


People often ask us how we’re going to prepare our children for “real life” if they’re being home schooled and “sheltered” from the world. I once read a book that answered this question beautifully and today I finally got around to checking it out again. I’d like to share it here, in hopes it might help others to understand where we are coming from and why we are raising our children this way:

“How are you preparing your daughter for a world that, it is all too clear, may not be pleasant?” asked Thaddeus. “All this here – it seems too perfect, too serene, too idyllic. Don’t you feel that, if the worst does come, perhaps your daughter will be ill equipped to cope with it because she has been so completely protected from the harshness and cruelties of life?”

The baron nodded and continued to reflect a few moments after his friend was through, and then spoke.

“There are times and seasons, Thaddeus,” the baron said, “periods of life, now for one thing, now for another. God gives seasons of difficulties that lie ahead. It is a mistake, in my view, to think that only hardship prepares one for hardship. There is, of course, a sense in which that is true. But there is another sense in which serenity is of equal strengthening value.

“Take growing plants, for example. Nurturing a tender young plant in a greenhouse early in its life, and then exposing it to the harsh winds and frosts of winter could kill it. On the other hand, if the years of its early life are such that its roots go deep and its stalk and trunk and branches grow strong and vital, then it becomes a plant of such virility that it will flourish under any adverse circumstances. So the greenhouse yields two very different possibilities of result.

“Likewise, imagine a tree having grown from a seedling high on the slopes of a rugged, rocky mountain where all nature did her best to destroy it. If that tree survives, it will indeed be tough and sinewy and hardy, able to withstand most anything. Yet most such seedlings die on those fierce slopes before reaching maturity. Those that do survive are usually dwarfed and deformed and never shaped and fruitful as they might have been had they spent their early years in a more protected environment.

“So which is the best way to grow a healthy and vibrant plant? In the greenhouse or on the mountain slope? Both contain inherent risks.

“What are children but tender, growing live things? I happen to be a strong believer in giving all things that grow a strong and healthy beginning in the protected environment of the greenhouse. Figuratively speaking, of course.”

“Please explain what you mean more specifically,” said Thaddeus.

“Let me give you an example,” replied the baron. “When I travel to find a certain new specimen for my garden, or to purchase seedlings, or obtain a cutting or start of some plant I want to try, I go to extreme lengths to give that plant all the help I can to make sure it begins its life in a healthy manner. Whatever strength it will carry with it throughout the remainder of its existence depends on the help I give it in its first year or two. What I must do mostly at first is protect and shelter it from all sorts of effects that would kill it if left to itself – snow, frost, wind, pests, various fungi, rabbits, deer, snails and so on. I am extremely protective of my young plants, and often I cover them with small shields until they are well under way. I also fertilize and prune as needed. I spare no effort during the critical first two seasons.

“You see, it’s all a matter of getting their roots deep into the good, rich soil so that the growth of stalk and trunk and stems and branches and leaves above ground is vital and healthy. Without deep roots, and if outside influences continually come to eat and destroy the first tender green spouts, a long and healthy and productive future is doomed.

“I happen to believe that the same thing is necessary in the matter of one’s children.

“In any case,” the baron went on, “such was the Father’s way with his own Son. To insure Jesus’ protection and nurturing, his Father chose the most godly woman of the time, young Mary, to act as his greenhouse, so to speak, to sield him from all that could thwart the Father’s plan. If such was the Father’s way, it is the example I for one desire to follow.”

“But how long is such to last with children?” asked Thaddeus.

“Jesus remained at home with his mother for thirty years, so I suspect it is longer than most people realize.

“It has been our hope and prayer that by providing a serene life for our daughter, and by giving her an environment where there is a minimum of conflict, internally, so to speak, that she will be strengthened within herself to face the external conflicts that will come upon her later in life. We desired to show our daughter what life and relationships were supposed to be like, how they could and should function in an ideal setting, in order to give her the roots and strength necessary when later trials come.

“You come to know the true and the real by being surrounded by it, not by going out into a world where false values and wrong attitudes and shallow relationships are the norm.”

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10 Responses to The Greenhouse Effect

  1. Mrs. Parunak says:

    What a great analogy! I love it. What book did this come from?

    • Rina says:

      It came from a book called The Eleventh Hour by Michael Phillips. It’s a historical fiction book but is filled with some of the most amazing discussions of the Christian lifestyle I’ve ever read in this type of book. I thought you might like it!

  2. Rachel says:

    This is a great analogy. I must admit, I would probably consider myself the skeptic in this conversation, but that is an excellent way of looking at things.

    I was once a witness to one of the truly unhealthy sheltering home schooling families, and there were grave consequences. It’s a shame that one example was able to sour my perceptions. Thanks for this.

  3. I will have to put that on my books to read list…I love the analogy~ I wish that I could so explain myself as eloquently as this when explaining our thoughts on this subject to friends and family.

  4. I’m homeschooling my two daughters and my husband and I were just discussing how to prepare them for “real life” and this has really clarified that issue for me. I will definitely read the book.

    • Rina says:

      I’m glad that this helped you… the book actually wasn’t about homeschooling, it was just a fictional story but I loved this part of it. :)

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