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The way I look at it, church is a safe place to practice the "one anothers" that Jesus taught. Then we go into the real world. That's the first and most important protection your 16 year old will have - a mind and spirit firmly grounded in truth, self-worth, ethics, and compassion. I think most homeschoolers would agree that five years old is too young to turn them out into a hostile, R-rated world (which many public school Kindergartens have been for years). 16? Well it depends on the child, but from what I've seen, many are ready to tackle the challenges.
I am a strong believer in self defense courses. Particularly those that teach you to fight with nothing but what God gave you - fists, feet, elbows, knees, and teeth. Weapons and mace can always be taken away from you and used against you, and aren't allowed in most social settings anyway (even in Texas, where, as was so aptly said in the movie "Miss Congeniality," - "Even my florist has a gun").
I can't tell you how much learning to defend myself reduced the fear factor for me when I was a teen, and how much weight that took off my parents. Especially since I'd already been to Deer Creek Junior High in Littleton Colorado, where (in 1981 I think) some kid had been shot (funny how that didn't come up after the Columbine massacre nor the more recent slaying - all three gunmen had gone there). Especially when there were drug deals going down openly at my high school and the smell of pot was common. And I didn't even have Jesus then. Did anything happen to me physically? Only once, and every kid took warning from that and left me alone (at least physically). God was looking out for me even though I didn't acknowledge Him.
There's a missionary family I know who's in an environment where it's common for children to be abused in the worst way. Before they entered that mission field, the family had been "into" martial arts. Their little girl (8? at the time) could and still can take care of herself quite nicely. After demonstrating how, she said, "And even if something were to happen, I know I still have Jesus."
Sounds a bit like public school, I'd say...
I say 16 is pretty old, so I find this post a little ridiculous. I took a sign language course at a community college, and no ex-cons sat next to me. It depends on which classes you take and what kind of town you live in.
Ex-cons are just people who have made bad decisions--maybe they'll have valuable wisdom to pass on from that experience. Grown teens will have to meet all kinds of people sometime, and the best thing about homeschooling is it cuts out that herd mentality of public school, meaning just because they meet an ex-con doesn't mean they'll transform their personalities and become criminals. And if you're worried about the ex-con doing something, remember that community college is a public place, that lots of creepy things are done to people by people they knew and trusted, and that you should prepare your child in self-defense and junk anyway.
No need to be scared of community college!