A: Does your proximity to your children’s school affect your children’s lives as well as yours? You bet! Your children’s social lives are greatly affected by the distance you must travel, but unlike families from 20 to 30 years ago, you have realized that the replacement for in-person friendships is online interaction. And that’s not so great, is it?
For as long as children have been going to school, they have been traveling significant distances to get there, by walking miles or sitting on long bus rides. As our country and educational system have grown, we have opened and closed schools to accommodate ever-changing populations. And if you choose a private or magnet school, you may face the challenge of a long distance as well as few school friends in proximity.
Back in the day, even children who didn’t attend the local school went outside and played with the neighborhood kids. And because children didn’t sit on gaming devices, they roamed neighborhoods and found other children to play with, no matter where those children went to school. You had school friends and neighborhood friends, and it worked out nicely for everyone.
Now, throw in a long commute, busy schedules and technology, and your children are doing a lot of sitting around.
So, should you move? It is absolutely an option, but let’s look at some others:
Have you considered significantly limiting the technology to allow for other activities? Aside from weekends, it isn’t like you are trying to fill hundreds of hours between the end of school and bedtime. Between Apple’s newest Screen Time function (which allows for restrictions on apps and shows time on the device in general) and Circle Home (which also helps manage phone habits), there are a number of simple and effective ways to control the amount of time spent on apps and games. It isn’t easy, but it is possible for your children to spend a little bit of time on technology and then just . . . play. The boredom may be excruciating at first, but your children will find a way to be creative.
Have you considered an activity closer to home? A recreational team? Taekwondo? Art? Swimming? There must be something to do around your house, or something between your house and the school. This would accomplish two things: First, the children would not be on tech 24/7, and second, they would meet other children. Finding activities near your home could get pricey and tiring, but it’s much cheaper than moving.
Or, could you host more play dates at your house on weekends? Offer to pick some children up so their parents don’t have to drive both ways? I am not suggesting that you need to do this every weekend, but you could create an easy schedule to host play dates at least once a month.
I am also wondering: Are you sure you’re dedicated to this school for the next six years? If you had asked me where my kids would be in school six years ago, I never would have guessed they would be where they are now. Life, learning issues, social issues, giftedness, complete school administration meltdowns — these are just a few challenges you could face that would change the trajectory of your children’s academic futures. Moving because you are absolutely sure you will be at that school for the next six years is a bit of gamble.
I am trying to offer alternatives to moving, because that is a big decision. If you create your list of pros and cons and there are numerous reasons to relocate closer to the school that don’t have to do with the school, then go for it! You may find a different type of community, more children, more resources and a house that suits your needs, and that could be a great decision for your family. But unless there is a compelling reason (learning needs, specialized schooling, etc.), relocating just to satisfy your children’s social needs is a dicey move. Zoom out and look at all of the options in front of you, and place your own needs (work commutes, etc.) high on the list.