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Opinions on homesteading with an only child...  RSS feed

 
Posts: 6
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Hi All,

My wife and I are considering selling the suburban home (including the .11 acre of land upon which it sits) to move to a homestead. As this has always been a dream of ours, doing so wouldn't be the slightest problem except for one HUGE concern... I have a 6 year-old who's an only child. If moving him to the middle of nowhere would result in a lonely and unhappy childhood, I simply won't do it. He's too important to us.

I'm open to the possibility, however, that it wouldn't wreck his childhood. So I'm hoping for some opinions and advice from those who have experience raising only children far from other kids.

Our current home is a childhood Wonderland. On any given day, there are no less than 20 kids playing within a hundred feet of our front door. Mine is the local house where all the kids congregate. He never has to walk more than 30 seconds to be having a blast with his friends.

Thoughts?

Thanks.
jeff
 
                  
Posts: 114
Location: South Carolina Zone 8
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Jeff I was an only child in the middle of nowhere and we moved out there when I was 6. I did however got to a public school with kids my age and participated in many activities, birthday parties and such. I also ever so often went over to my friends or my friends came over for the day (and when that happened the bonus was we all went into the woods to check my minnow traps and run wild). This is much the same way we raised our 2 girls although even more difficult as they went and are going to a magnet school outside the area they live in so their friends are from all over the county and not a few miles away. It is difficult on children (even with 2 they don't always play well together) not having someone to play with on demand however having woods and such to run (especially for a boy) and room to have special places to play unlike the city (my girls loved having room to run) makes up for it. Looking back on my life which mirrors the situation you are talking about I would not have traded where and how I was raised for a life surrounded with kids every day. In fact I think living how I did and having to entertain myself versus having others to have fun with has helped me be a lot more creative in solving problems than others raised in town or the city. Now today is not the same as it was when I was growing up and people across the world connect with each other on a daily basis. Looking at my girls' case they have the internet (which I did not) and are able to interact with their friends from school daily after school and weekends. In fact the other day my oldest was playing a game with her best friend who lives like 20 miles away. They had voice chat going and were talking and laughing with each other as they played which in truth is more than I see them do when together in real life. In fact they are somewhat reserved, shy, and quiet in person. She also the same weekend drove to meet her boyfriend (about 25 miles) and went shopping and to the movies (which is similar to doing the same with friend when she was younger although we provided transportation back then). It is a bit harder living out here on my youngest because she is somewhat a social butterfly however she even says she would not trade having friends around her for the simple joys of living out here and having her chickens, ducks, garden, and wildlife.

The key is providing chances for your child to interact with other children while at the same time them knowing this is not an everyday thing because we do not live close to them. You also must provide things (not I did not say toys) to do to keep themselves entertained. When my girls were younger I put lag bolts into a big oak tree like stairs and hung a rope so they could climb into the branches. The oldest built her a "nest" one summer and spent a lot of time reading and enjoying nature in it. The youngest preferred being in her hidden "garden" under the bushes. Both relied heavily for entertainment on something I think a lot of kids these days do not use and that is their imagination.

I will say it is going to be a big adjustment but he is still young and able to make it and in fact will most likely love it. If he were say 11 or 12 it might be harder especially being the new kid at school.
 
Posts: 44
Location: Bucks County, Pennsylvania [zone 6]
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Kids are adaptable. It's sad that my wife and I have observed many kids in our [suburban edge] area who have lost the ability to play because they are raised with too much electronics, television, computer, interactive games, etc... we both interact with lots of kids and sometimes have to re-teach them to use imagination.

I grew up in a rural area and can remember my days before I had any siblings, I was a happily independent child. Some kids are not, I'm sure you know your child better than I do.

If you do make the move, make sure you involve your son in some sort of at least weekly play dates, or some sort of other interactions with kids. Attend a church, go to a library, go to a playground. Find opportunities for him to be a kid with other kids. Like I said also, a good dog can make a heck of a companion for a kid in a rural area - too.

If your question is "can it be done?" the answer is "yes."
If your question is "is it the right thing for us?" I don't know the answer.

Could you do a "trial run" and rent in a very rural area for 6 months and see how it goes? Commuting might be hell, but it could give you an idea of how you all adjust and if you can swing a cheap rental [I'd look for the cheapest possible for a short term trial run] while maintaining your current home you could even move back very easily if it doesn't work out.

A 2 week vacation to a remote destination might be a cheaper [tho possibly less reliable] trial run, also.
 
                        
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Some  thoughts, 1) have you talked to him at all about it?  Does he already have any interests that could be nurtured in such an environment?   The local 4-H group can be a great group for kids and they cater to a wide variety of interests. Is he open at all to the idea of moving out to a rural area or is he hostile and angry at the very thought? How well does he handle change?

2) Is the  spot you are thinking of going to truly that isolated or just "in the middle of nowhere" compared to where you are now? It's surprising sometimes how many people live in an area which looks pretty isolated.  Back in the day when I used to umpire softball one tiny community which had a small store with a gas pump and apparently about 4 houses used to field three women's and 4 men's softball teams and I don't know how many kid's teams.  They were VERY competitive..and they were all local people.  Every time I drove through the area I wondered where they all came from. 

3) If moving to this place meant there would be NO interaction with other kids..no public school or groups that he could participate in, then would it be a reasonable thing to look for a different place slightly less isolated? To go from  having masses of kids around all the time to having NO access to other kids at all is likely to be pretty difficult. I think that would be quite a bit more difficult than growing up in that situation from the beginning and I suspect there would be some unhappiness, probably justified.

As far as THAT goes..If it's truly that isolated...have you considered how well you and your wife will be able to handle it? It's really not easy for most people to feel isolated, especially if they are used to being in the  middle of things. Cabin fever most certainly does exist. If the two of you are also used to having lots of people around then don't discount how difficult you all  might find adapting to being without that web of social support and interaction after a few months. 

4) Kids ARE adaptable and it wouldn't be fair to him if you and your wife have truly wanted to do this for years and you don't because of him..that is putting way too much responsibility on him.  My opinion fwiw is that you should try to find a place that allows him to still have some friends his own age at least through school and perhaps a group or two of some sort.. here , e.g., it seems to be mostly snowmobiling and hockey all winter. 

You could even start some sort of group yourself  if there isn't anything around.already.  It sounds as though you like kids and get along with them..if there isn't anything in the area then start something that might appeal.  A gymkhana club or even a trail riding club if there is interest in horses for example. Do the Boy Scouts still exist? Virtually nothing required for that in terms of equipment  cost.  When the group is well run the kids have a blast and learn lots as well.  Lots of possibilities.

Good luck.
 
pioneer
Mother Tree
Posts: 10536
Location: Portugal
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Kids are all different.  I'm a bit of a hermit and my son is definitely of the same tendency.  When we bought the place in Portugal my son was 7 years old and we turned the whole experience into an adventure.  We bought a van big enough to sleep in, took the ferry out of the UK and toured round France, Spain and then Portugal until we found the 'best' bit, in our opinion.  Then we visited a few little places that were for sale and involved him totally in the 'decision' process. 

The first place we looked at was too small, too near the village, and too tumbled down to really suit us, but he was happily exploring it and imagining himself doing all kinds of things there.  We managed to drag him away to look at a bigger place further out of the village which had an intact roof and a good water supply.  I much preferred this one, as did my other half, and we basically agreed, quietly, that this was the one, but then encouraged my son to really let his imagination run wild with all the things he could do on the place.  When he'd got himself nicely carried away with plans for dinosaur parks and donkey stables and underground laboratories and tree houses, we called him up and asked him if he'd like us to buy it for him so he'd be able to do all those things he was dreaming of.  His eyes lit up, so we told him to 'ask the lady' (estate agent) if we could have it, then when we bought it we put the place in his name with my partner and I both having lifetime use. 

The result is that he's totally bonded with the farm, and although now he dreams of different adventures involving going to the States, or the Amazon rain forest, or Australia, his roots are definitely on the farm and he'll always have it as his base, his roots to return to. 

We were careful not to choose a place too isolated though.  There is a railway very close, within easy walking distance, so he'll always be able to get on a train to 'escape' if he feels the need (he's fifteen now and might soon start getting 'itchy feet', and conversely no matter where he is in the world he'll be able to find his way back again pretty easily.  We're also only about ten miles from a city, so he doesn't feel like he's 'stuck out in the sticks', but rather that he's somewhere nice and quiet where he can do what he likes, when he likes.  Attitude is important to how a kid interprets stuff - it has to feel like an adventure and a challenge, but not a trial.  It should feel like freedom, not isolation.  And they need to feel involved and that they chose to be there, not like they were dragged there. 

Ooops - that turned into a bit of a lecture.  It's all just my own opinion based on my own experience, but I'm really glad that we did it, and I'm totally convinced it was the best thing we ever did for my son.  But your mileage may vary!
 
                        
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What a WONDERFUL story!  What a lucky son you have!
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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No two children are alike.  "We" tend to generalize, and put kids in categories (only child, younger child = follower, etc).

Many times an only child (happens in the city also) will develop lesser "people skills", the ability to get along with almost anybody.  By the same token, an only child will often be better at solving problems on their own, being more independent due to their having to find solutions without outside influences.

If there are FFA, 4-H groups in your area, he will be learning many valuable skills and lessons (not strictly agrarian).  It is probably a lot healthier environment than many of the activities of city kids.  Rural kids do have their own set of pranks and ways to get in trouble, but generally, they are safer/saner than the city kids "distractions".

My sister's kids (there were 3, not "only children" moved rurally when they were young.  They all found good activities to keep them happily occupied.  None of the 3 currently live in a city, nor do they want to.  I believe that it develops a saner mindset than city raised kids.  They are not caught up in the credit card game, nor "keeping up with the Joneses.
 
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I can only speak from experience and mine was that being moved from a place where there were lots of kids to a place with few to none was heartbreaking for me with life-long impact. I remember that as a time of great, great sadness, when I was a few years older than your boy I contemplated suicide, I was utterly miserable and couldn't see the end of that road for myself. I resented my parents and I think it hurt our relationship forever to be honest.

As a result and also because my kids are very social themselves, I would never do anything of the sort to them. Never. If they were different kids, if they were less interested in friends and group activities etc, maybe I would consider it but there are two of them and even still I would hesitate to remove them from their peers and social groups.

But you have to do what's best for your family and make decisions based on what your child is like, we are all different after all.
 
Jeff Maurer
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Wow. Thanks to all for your candid remarks. I truly appreciate it.

I guess I'd like to address one of the questions that were asked:

I think I chose my words poorly in describing where we'd be moving. Likely, it would be near a town, probably within a few minutes by car. "middle of nowhere" was not accurate. It will just *seem* like the middle of nowhere compared to where we are now. My son will attend public school (he's too young for any time of magnet program as of yet) and is already involved in soccer, T-ball, gymnastics, and karate.

My chief concern, though, is that even a 5 minute drive requires Mommy or Daddy to arrange the date and take him to or host the play date. In my experience, play dates last an hour or two. Currently, he goes outside at 3 and stays out, playing with his friends until sundown, 7 days a week. I think he has much of the nature appreciation that some of you have described just in playing in the neighborhood. For instance, the last thing he was doing tonight before bed was digging up grubs under the cherry tree in our front yard. We have a veggie garden and a dog (no farm critters, though... evil HOA) In the Winter, he gets maybe an hour of TV a day. In the Summer, it's probably more like 15 minutes.

The thing that would disappear would be the freedom to play with his friends for as long as he wants to and whenever he wants to. That's the key issue here. This is the part that, to me, seems SOOOO important. But again, I'm open to the possibility that it's not.

I would appreciate additional thoughts.

Thanks again,
Jeff
 
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If I was in your shoes, I would move tomorrow.

The ability to have land, and orchards and gardens and self sufficiency, some space and some wilderness, and take an active role in saving the planet, are PRICELESS.  Working in an orchard and eating food that you can't get in a store, that changes a person in a fundamental way.  Of course, that's still possible (somewhat) on a tenth of an acre in the city, but not the same as the country.


Sure, make sure the kids are getting proper socialization with other kids, which you're doing already.

But hey, that's just me.  You gotta do what's right for you.  Some people love the metropolis scene.  I'm not one of them.

HTH,

troy
 
                        
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You lost me on that one.  I cannot understand why, unless living somewhere with major crime or traffic issues, anyone would drive a healthy, age appropriately capable 7 year old (or older) to a play date 5 minutes away. Karate, t-ball etc. , well, those things are time constrained and likely to be much further away and you likely want to watch anyway. But what's wrong with bicycles or even walking to get to a friend's house? So what if it takes 15 minutes instead of 5?

If you are worried about him getting lost or  not looking out for traffic, get a bike and go with him, drop him off, go do your thing and then bike back and get him. Good exercise for you and biking with kids is fun.  After a few trips you'll feel more comfortable knowing that he knows the routes, and is careful about traffic. Then you might send  him off alone and go meet him when it's time to go home and bike home together. Eventually you would feel comfortable with having him go off on his own. (Cell phones can be a comfort  to worried parents. I was astonished to learn that many of them these days use GPS to track and record their user's travels, though how easilly that info is accessed I have no idea.). 

Yes, that might require some time from either Mom or Dad (or both)  at least at first.  OTOH it's time he likely would remember as a gift; as far as I can see, many kids today mostly relate to their parents through demands..do your homework, hurry up, clean up your room etc. and not a lot of shared simple companionship.

I have to wonder if there is something more in your concern about such a move; it seems to me, frankly, to be much ado about nothing. You aren't talking about taking away all normal interaction with peers here, you are talking about having to learn how to plan and make choices. Both somewhat essential to learn at some point and hardly something to create angst in a kid. imo.
 
Jeff Maurer
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Again, my hope is to get feedback from people who have ACTUAL experience with this issue. With all due respect, speculating about something of this importance is not helpful to me nor my son.

When I said a 5 minute drive, I was referring to a best-case scenario where my son would, presumably, have a friend that lived only a few miles away. There is zero chance I'd ride a bike with him on the country roads where I live. There are people driving 60+ miles an hour down a two lane road. We'd both be dead the first week.

Currently we don't do play dates. There's no need to with all the local kids in the neighborhood. I'm just speaking from past experience (before Kindergarten) where a kid from his preschool would want to play after school. My wife and the other mom would arrange it. It would last an hour or two at most.

Where we are considering moving, the school district is very large and there is the potential that he would want to play with a kid 10 miles away. Again, no chance I'm putting him on a bike at 6 years old to ride 20 miles round trip on country roads with maniacal car drivers.

The reality of it (and the essence of this discussion) is, he will be stuck on our homestead unless we drive him to play with kids his age. He will be completely at our mercy for this and this is the conundrum for me. Shouldn't a kid's choice to play with friends on a whim carry some weight? He is, after all, 6. 6 year old kids aren't real big on planning more than about 10 minutes into the future.





 
                        
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I grew up as an only child with the closest neighbors a mile away and the closest friends my own age about 10 miles away.  Even then I thought I was very lucky and the only thing that would have made it perfect was if my father had not been rabidly hostile to the idea of a horse, although we had lots of space etc to keep one. Other kids might not have felt the same way.

It's difficult to have appropriate comments when you go from being  "isolated in the middle of nowhere" to having 60+ mile an hour traffic whizzing by your doorway.  Good luck with that.
 
                    
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Jeff,

It sounds like your plans are still pretty vague, but I do have one insight for you.  When I was seven, my single mom (who was born and raised in a major city in California) decided to build our own house in the mountains of Idaho.  She relied on books for construction knowledge, and my teen brothers did all the work.  Needless to say, it was a trial for all of us.

Physically, it was very demanding for my brothers, and all of us suffered from cold, hunger, and lack of medical care.  I still have a great deal of resentment towards her.  When she dies, none of us wish to live in the house because of the bad memories. 

So, if you do decide to go create a homestead in the middle of nowhere, my advice would be to make damn sure you are capable (your abilities and finances) of ensuring that your son will be warm, reasonably comfortable, well-fed, and have access to medical care if needed. 
 
Jeff Maurer
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Decision made.

We're gonna stay put until he's old enough to travel on his own. Whether that's at 12 on a bike or 16 in a car is anybody's guess but, for now, we're gonna keep him near his friends and do our best to live a green life in the 'burbs.

Thanks to all for the input. I sincerely appreciate it.

 
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
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No need to be hasty . I grew up where my elementary school was about 10 minutes driving, and grades 7-12 20 minutes driving, and had no problem.  He can go to friends houses after school on the bus... or vice versa, and then you or the other parent schleps them home.  Sleep-overs? fun stuff, I've even gone to school on friends' busses. Kids don't need friend hangout time every day, and soon facebook will be marketing to toddlers...  His friends will probably enjoy your ecological homestead and want to come over.  6 may be an easier age to move than 12 because that could be a tough time to be separated from long term friends.
 
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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we raised our ONLY child son in the boonies on our homestead..although he did attend public school by  bus

he was very independent and he is now 36 and has moved back by building a house next to ours..he loves it out here
 
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When I was 7 we lived in a close neighborhood and all the kids came over to play at our house.  Then when I was 8 we moved a little in the country.  About the same situation as you describe. 

I don't remember missing the time playing with the other children.  We got chickens, and a pig, and a goat, and a cow, and dogs, and cats, and ducks, and snakes, and turtles, and frogs, and lizards, and a pigeon that showed up in the garage.

We got to play in the creek, play in the barn, eat apples and pears out of the orchard, go exploring in the woods.

I would not change that experience for any other one.

Thanks,
Shawn
 
T. Joy
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I think it would be a pretty difficult transition to go from that much time outside with friends that often to the occasional play date. You never know though, he's young. This will certainly be a more difficult transition when he is older and has established even stronger ties with friends. The older they get, the harder moving is on them. My kids are 4 and 10, the ten year old is pretty much done with the vagabond life. We have to move again but it had better be the last time if I want him to not start hating me.

So if this is something you are determined to do I would not wait until he's older, sooner is better than later. Even though it would be very difficult for him I would do it now when he is still so flexible and adaptable.
 
John Polk
steward
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I would think early spring would be an ideal time to make such a transition.  There will be plenty of outdoor activities to keep a child occupied.  A move during the first fall frost could lead to a terrible case of cabin fever.
 
                                  
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Brenda Groth wrote:
we raised our ONLY child son in the boonies on our homestead..although he did attend public school by  bus

he was very independent and he is now 36 and has moved back by building a house next to ours..he loves it out here
[/quote

This is the draw back,      if he is so independent why in the ...............o never mind.

 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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why in the world did he build a house next door to us?? is that the question?

well he lived away from us for 10 years and he wanted to build a house, he bought a diffferent piece of land and then the expressway went through and basically stole it from him ..and we had land that we could give him, so we did..he built his house on that piece of land..

with both my husband disabled physically and mentally and myself partly physically disabled, I'm glad he will be around when WE NEED HIM
 
Jeff Maurer
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An interesting mini case-study yesterday...

I was planting some seeds in our garden and asked if my son wanted to join me, to which he happily replied "yes".

Now keep in mind he's six... We were planting seeds for about 10 minutes when 2 friends appeared. They, too, were interested in helping so I showed them what I was doing and they began to help as well. This lasted, oh, 4 or 5 minutes. Gardening time quickly became "digging up earthworm" time (which I was happy to watch). This also lasted about 4 or 5 minutes. Then it was, "ad, can I go ride my bike with Connor and Ethan?".

"Sure thing, Buddy. Have fun."

This was an in-my-face reminder that I'm an adult. He's a kid. My interest in gardening is a reflection of this fact. His interests (playing, primarily) are a reflection of his age. This 10 minute exercise yesterday really crystallized for me his preference.

At this point in our lives, my wife and my preferences are secondary to his. He gets one childhood. It will define the rest of his life. I had my childhood. I can be patient in the pursuit of my next adventure. If nothing else, I have 10 years to plan it so I should have things pretty well thought out before we take the plunge.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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How about if you had a property fairly near by.  Week-ends and "summer camp".
You could be slowly building it up while you are still young and energetic.  When you make the move, your food forest will be in place.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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when I said independent, and some people might not approve of it..my son rode his bicycle into town (6 miles) and took swimming lessons and tennis lessons in town and also helped take care of his grandmother in town when she broke her hip..

He also had a motorcycle when he was 13 and rode it to the tree fields to trim trees for income until he graduated high school ...which gave him enough money to buy a car when he was 16.

There were no other boys out here to play with his age but he didn't suffer from it

he knew safe places he could stop every 1/4 mile into town if he had problems ..but no one ever messed with him, NOW this would likely be frowned upon
 
Jeff Maurer
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Good idea, John. Thanks.
 
Posts: 508
Location: Eastern Kansas
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When my son was 5, he complained because his sister had girl friends in the area, but there were no boys. So, when he was 6, I enrolled him in scouts. It wasn't wuite enough, but it helped to make him have friends that he could invite over if I did the driving.

I have done an awfull lot of driving for my 2 kids over the years, as we live a bit out of the way.

On the GOOD side, there was a creek to play in, pets galore, and they love it here. They are in their late teens, and I think that it has been a good child hood for them both.
 
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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I was virtualy a single kid in the country. By time I was 8 the rutine when I wanted to go play with any friend within several miles was 1 call their place n make sure someone was home 2 hop on my bike 3 call home n let ma know I was there (or ask my buddies mum to call for me) play till we got bored or my buddy had to go inside then repeat the process back to my house.

I knew my.ability to go play depended on ma being sure she knew where I was so I didn't try any B.S.
 
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