"Clearly there is an appropriate kind of sheltering. When those who are opposed to homeschooling accuse me of sheltering my children, my reply is always, 'What are you going to accuse me of next, feeding and clothing them?" ~R.C. Sproul, Jr.
In The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer says,
But it's important to understand what socialization means. According to the dictionary, socialization is "the process by which a human being, beginning in infancy, acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of his society." . . . Who teaches all this?
This last question gets to the heart of the matter of socialization. Bauer goes on to state that there are many agents of socialization and that the absence of a school setting doesn't mean that our children won't be socialized. Our children are exposed to an abundance of opportunities to learn socialization: church, sports leagues, co-op classes, travel, etc. Many of us aren't sheltering our children from the outside world; we are carefully selecting how our children are taught the rules of society.
When people ask the question, "Aren't you sheltering your child?" They are often referring to the world of public school. Bauer points out that this atmosphere is not the optimal one for socialization:
[School] is a very specific type of socialization, one that may not prove particularly useful. When, during the course of his life, will he find himself in this kind of context? Not in work, or in family life or in his hobbies. The classroom places the child in a peer-dominated situated that he'll probably not experience again. . . . Peer dependence is dangerous. When a child is desperate to fit in--to receive acceptance from those who surround him all day, every day--he may defy your rules, go against his own conscience, or even break the law. . . . The antidote for peer-centered socialization is to make the family the basic unit for socialization--the center of the child's experience. . . . [But] the trend in our culture is to devalue--even bypass--the family as a basic unit of socialization. But it's within the family that children learn to love by seeing love demonstrated; learn unselfishness both through teaching and through example (choosing to teach a child at home is unselfishness at work); learn conflict resolution by figuring out how to get along with parents and with each other.
By educating our children at home, we decide how to socialize our children. We are not simply allowing them to experience the status quo, nor are we trying to isolate them. We are selecting with care those habits, beliefs, and knowledge to which we hope are children will adhere. Just as we differ by not participating in public school, so too will the end result of our socialization differ.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
I don't think it's by accident that shelter is a part of the trio of basic needs of human beings, along with food and clothing. Our homes provide a buffer to protect us from bad weather, and the family as the main unit of socialization protects us from the ill winds of today's culture.