Are you a family considering rural homeschooling your kids? Maybe you live on a farm far from the city. Or maybe you live in the wilderness of Canada’s far north, as we do. While rural and remote families may have many different reasons to homeschool, we all have one thing in common. The challenges.
Yet many families manage to live, work, and homeschool far from the services, support, and amenities of Canada’s major cities.
If you’re considering homeschooling in a remote rural location, it’s important to understand the challenges you could face.
Here are five common challenges of homeschooling families living in remote and rural areas, along with some creative solutions that work for our family.
5 Rural Homeschooling Challenges:
“But don’t your kids get lonely? And what about socialization?”
As a homeschooling family, you’ll get used to hearing comments and questions like this all the time – no matter where you live. Many people wonder if homeschoolers lack the opportunity to socialize with other kids. And when you’re a rural homeschooling family, loneliness and isolation for both children and parents can be an issue. In fact, isolation may be the most common rural homeschooling challenges you’ll deal with.
Over the past several years I’ve homeschooled our two youngest children in a rural setting, a city, and a small town (yes, we’ve moved a lot). Living in the city and town it was easy to arrange casual play dates with neighbourhood kids or other homeschooling families. Now that we live almost 40 minutes from the closest city, I have to be much more intentional about finding social activities for the kids, and also for me. Here’s what I’ve learned.
What to Do When You Feel Isolated as a Homeschooling Family
Find the Closest Town
The best cure for isolation is connecting with other people. But when you live far away from others, this is hard. As a homeschooling parent, you’ll have to be proactive about finding activities and groups in any nearby villages or towns. And you’ll have to accept the fact that as a parent of a rural family, driving kids around until they can drive themselves is a fact of life.
Look for playgroups, church youth groups, library events, or a Girl Guides or Boy Scouts organization for your kids to join. Not only will this give them a chance to enjoy time with other kids, but it will also give you a chance to talk to other adults – homeschoolers or not.
Our kids enjoy a pretty active social calendar. But they’re dependent on me to drive them into town two-to-three times each week, weather permitting. And as we’re a homeschooling and homesteading family running a home-based business, I welcome the chance to chat with other parents when we go into town too.
Look for the Closest Homeschool Group
This may be easier said than done. But be persistent.
When we lived in a small town in Northwestern Ontario, I spent months trying to find any other homeschoolers in the area. Through the local library, I heard about a casual Christian homeschooling group. But it was across the border in the United States – northern Minnesota.
Eventually, I connected with one of the mothers on Facebook and we soon became part of the group, enjoying weekly homeschool gym dates “across the river”.
Some homeschool groups don’t meet in person. Instead, they offer a valuable way to connect online with other homeschoolers. Sometimes, just sharing a good or bad day, and asking for recommendations or ideas in a supportive group of other homeschoolers, can help you feel less isolated as a homeschooling parent.
Looking for a homeschooling group in Canada? Check out this big list of local homeschooling Facebook groups – Canadian Homeschooling Support Groups in Canada. Or if you want an online group, try The Canadian Homeschooler Facebook group.
If you’re homeschooling in a rural area in the United States, take a look at the HSLDA’s homeschool organizations listed by state.
And if you can’t find a local homeschooling group in your area? Start one. Set up a Facebook group (make sure it includes your region in the name) and post a flyer at the closest grocery store and library.
In our current home in the Northwest Territories, we belong to a homeschool group in the closest city – Yellowknife. The girls participate in weekly homeschool gymnastic classes. And we get involved in extra seasonal activities like baking gingerbread at Christmas and painting Easter Eggs in the spring.
We’ve also made friends with a couple of other homeschooling families that include children of similar ages. When the weather’s good we’ll get together for playground playdates and picnics.
Stay In Touch Via Phone, Letters, Skype & Social Media
Today’s technology can help your rural homeschooling family connect with family, friends, and other homeschoolers across the world. And if kids (or mom) are feeling lonely, it’s simple to make a call, send a Facebook message, or hop on Skype or FaceTime.
We try to schedule regular phone calls for our kids to talk to our extended family members in southern Ontario. We also stay in touch by writing and receiving old-fashioned letters as part of our homeschool Language Arts activities.
In addition to being intentional about staying in touch with family and friends, look for opportunities to connect with your homeschool curriculum families via social media. We’ve been using Sonlight for years, and I often chat with other Sonlight moms in a Facebook group, via on Instagram and on the site’s own forum.
#2. Access to Homeschool Teaching Resources
If you’ve spent any time looking for information on live homeschool teaching resources such as homeschooling conferences, workshops, seminars, etc., you know they’re mostly held in large cities. And if you don’t live near one of those cities, it’s more difficult (and more expensive) to get to them. Yet conferences can be a great source of inspiration, practical homeschool teaching tips, and also give you access to information on new curriculum.
Other than spending the time and money to attend one of these conferences, the next best option for a rural homeschool family is to enroll in an online homeschool conference such as the Canadian Online Homeschool Conference or Great Homeschool Conventions’ Online Homeschool Convention for Parents. And don’t forget to use the many digital resources available through Canadian and American homeschooling websites like this one, and on public education sites like PBS Parents Homeschooling: Tips for Getting Started.
#3. Extra Education Resources Unavailable
Another homeschooling challenge for rural families is access to special education resources. True, it’s a challenge for any family living in an area far from education specialists. Yet as a homeschooling parent, you have the sole responsibility to identify a potential need for special education resources for your child. And then you have to find and connect with the right individual or organization to get a referral to a specialist.
If you suspect your homeschool child has speech issues, learning disabilities, or other development challenges, start asking what’s available in your area. Check with your :
- family doctor or paediatrician
- local school board
- public health department
And keep in mind that you may find yourself travelling to see the closest therapist or specialist.
#4. Limited Extra-Curricular Activities
Another important rural homeschool challenge to keep in mind is that there may be fewer extra-curricular activities for your kids to participate in when you live far from a city or town. And those that are offered may not line up with your child’s interests.
In one small town we lived in, the only advertised extracurricular activities were karate or hockey. No formal music lessons, dance lessons, nor Girl Guides or Boy Scouts were offered due to lack of parent volunteers.
If it’s important to you for your kids to participate in extracurricular activities in addition to homeschool, you’re going to have to get creative and proactive. Try the following:
- Ask around – many rural areas and small towns don’t advertise music teachers, for example, because the local families already know who teaches what
- Ask the local school if your child can join an after-school club or sports team (if they have one)
- Take on a volunteer role (such as becoming a Brownie leader) in the nearest community so your child can participate
- Replace organized extra-curricular activities with outdoor activities you can do as a family, such as hiking, foraging, learning wilderness survival skills, fishing, or hunting.
- Organize your town trips! Schedule any out-of-the-house activities on the same day – especially if you’re heading to a town or city an hour or more away. Yes, this may mean you take one day off formal homeschool lessons to attend swimming lessons, hockey practices and Scouts meetings.
#5. Limited Access to Technology/Internet
In today’s world, the internet is a lifeline for many homeschooling families, no matter where they live. It can connect you and your children to other homeschoolers, help round out subject research and provide fun alternative learning options such as online courses and educational games. Yet affordable and accessible internet can be a major rural homeschooling challenge, especially if you live in one of Canada’s remote northern communities.
Talk to your cable or satellite and cell phone service provider first to find out what’s offered in your area. It may be that you’ll have to use your smartphone data plan for phone and tablet access.
In two of the areas we’ve lived in, we used a wireless internet hub with a backup battery. This lets us access the internet at all times, even if our solar panels or generators aren’t powering our home. If you plan to use any online resources or courses for homeschooling, get the best Internet package you can afford.
Yes, rural homeschooling has its challenges. Yet the simple truth is that homeschooling can be hard, whether you live in the city or in the country. By doing some research before you get started, and talking to other rural homeschooling parents, you’ll be better prepared to deal with each challenge as it arises.
Hello from the Top of the World! I’m Sarita from Off Grid Life. My family and I live off the grid in a cabin on a lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. I’m a freelance writer, homeschool mom, and when I’m not writing, reading, or teaching, I’m learning how to homestead off the grid.