Homeschooling: the "rural vs. urban" debate


The debate about which is the best environment for homeschooled children – rural or urban – has come up on the homeschooling forum at MDC. I like perusing the blogs of homeschooling families and I’d have to say that many of them, particularly among the unschooling crowd, hail from rural areas. I just assumed that the desire to unschool goes along with other crunchy tastes like growing one’s own veggies, living off the grid, sustainable living, etc. But I’ve come to appreciate that unschooled kids spend much more time at home than schooled children (notwithstanding the usual socialization questions posed by the ignorant masses). So perhaps their home environment matters more, in that sense.

On the MDC debate there does not seem to be a consensus. But I wonder: does the fact that one is homeschooling add any further weight to the issue beyond personal preference? I believe it does, but not in the way one might think.

Those of you who read my other blog will know that our family has been trying to decide where to live in order to provide ourselves and our homeschooled children with a lifestyle that suits our needs. Our 950 sq ft downtown apartment in a dense, yet green, urban neighbourhood has served us well for the past 3 years. But my kids need more space now, both inside and out. They don’t really need access to homeschooling programs because they are still young. They also don’t need much socialization due to temperament and behaviour issues. So a rural house seems a good choice for us.

But in just two years I will have 5 and 7 year old. What will they need? And what about when they are teenagers? What programs will they want to pursue, what resources will they need, and how readily will those resources be available if we are living in a rural area? Whereas schooled kids’ needs don’t really change from K to grade 12, those of homeschooled children do (from what I can tell so far).

So I think that the “rural vs. urban” debate depends not just on a family’s general preference, but also on the age and stage of the children. And of course, their temperament. Some kids thrive on social interactions with their peers, are “friend-oriented”, and get lonely and bored without other companions. Other kids, like my daughter, enjoy solitary play and are not overly concerned with “hanging with friends”. Additionally, what are the children’s interests? My daughter is totally into nature and natural science, so obviously a place where she can explore the outdoors is optimal. Other kids may be more into role-playing or organized sports – their need to be closer to urban centres may be greater. My son seems to be very kinesthetic in his energy expenditures. That’s fancy talk for “he’s destroying our apartment”. The child needs a yard. But my friend’s boys can handle a day indoors without mayhem.

The point of this post is that, for homeschooled kids, these needs have to be met more in the home environment than for schooled kids whose needs are met in the classroom (or not, as the case often is with school). Thus our considerations are a bit different, and I think it ends up being more than whether you consider yourself a City Mouse or a Country Mouse.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Homeschooling: the "rural vs. urban" debate

  1. Shawna

    Hmmmmmm, I have to think about this one as I do see some valid points, but question others.

    I am not so sure that homeschooling and unschooling families have more or less to consider when choosing location for living, other than the obvious–consideration of schools.

    Probably of utmost concern would be employment for any family as an income must come in whether a family homeschools, unschools or sends their children to public or private schools, including families that are completely self-sufficient and 100% self-sustaining or self-employed…but all of the other considerations are their for all sets of families in some degree…and maybe that way your main point: the degree of these considerations.

    At least these considerations were there for us and I have public schooled six children and am now homeschooling one.

  2. Cheryl

    Interesting debate. I personally think that kids are better off in a rural setting (no big surprise there). My kids have certainly benefited from all of the great things that Vancouver has to offer, but it’s nothing that they couldn’t have taken in during a day trip. I think that, especially where we live, there are so many artistic and interesting people in the rural areas that there’s no shortage of fun and educational things for kids to do. We chose Bowen for our big move because of its vibrant artistic community as well as its proximity to the city. I’m really hoping that it’s the perfect balance, and that we’re not running back to the city bored to tears within a few months!

  3. katharine

    We’re lucky to now have both an urban apartment and a country home. We get to walk to violin and choose from a million programmes for the children then on the weekends we have the luxury of getting lost on our own land.

    Each kid is different, each family different. The amazing thing about homeschooling is how it goes everywhere and anywhere.

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