While my spouse and I dream of moving to a farm property, we’re concerned about how our suburban kids will adjust to a rural schools. Do you have any advice for easing the transition and tips for commonly overlooked issues?
First off, your family will undoubtedly be warmly welcomed and embraced by your new school system. With enrollments generally declining in rural schools, new families bringing fresh faces and warm bodies into the classroom typically encounter administrators and teachers willing to go out of their way to help make the adjustment comfortable.
That said, there are some differences you’ll find in a rural school district, particularly related to bus routes.
Longer Bus Rides
Gone are the days of a short walk or bike ride to school. Your kids’ commute time to the classroom could last an hour or more each way. Time on the bus depends greatly on where you’re located on the bus route. If you find your farm is the first early-bird pickup in the morning, see if you can negotiate a reverse bus route on the way home so your kids would be the first drop-off.
You could drive the kids to school, but that leads to a bigger question: Why did you move to the farm in the first place? Most likely it was because you wanted to get out of the driving and commuting habit and be able to spend more time developing your farm operation. When you add up the round-trip drive time to make two trips into town, plus the gas and wear-and-tear on your car, is it worth it?
Mixed Age Groups
Most likely, there will be one school bus coming to your house that will be filled with kids of all ages, from kindergarten through high school. It’s something for you and your kids to be aware of if they were used to being on a bus with similar age groups.
Making The Transition
Don’t forget the advantages of rural school-bus routes: Buses pick up right at your driveway, and during inclement weather, your road might rank one of the first to plow, as school-bus routes have priority.
The key to a successful transition is understanding and working with the needs and personalities of your individual kids. Does your daughter have a harder time making friends in new situations? It might be better to time the move when she would be changing to a new school, such as from elementary to middle school, to ease the move. Because rural schools have lower populations, there are usually plenty of opportunities to join various sports and extracurricular activities. Encourage your child to connect with a few activities right away to avoid feeling isolated and out of place.
A positive perk for kids can be to have something to personally look forward to when the farm move is complete—something that perhaps they weren’t able to do back in your urban or suburban days, like raise their own flock of chickens or take care of a larger pet dog. Even something that you didn’t have space for before, like a trampoline, adds anticipation and appreciation to the farm move and gives kids something to look forward to and enjoy on a daily basis.
This article appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Hobby Farms.