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.