My rural elementary education

I grew up in rural Minnesota, about 10 miles outside of the ‘big’ town where I eventually attended junior and senior high school. My parents rented an old farm house surrounded by empty barns and concrete feed lots long-since retired from use. My nearest neighbors lived more than 2 miles away. Balancing this physical isolation was the limitless opportunities for free play in groves of trees or open, monoculture fields of corn or soybeans. While homeschooling our children now, I think back upon my elementary school days at the small local school with 9 kids in my class and around 50-60 total in 3 classrooms for grades 1-6. Because it was so small, we all had recess together and play was always with kids older and younger. Class time was structured and taught by strict teachers that did not suffer fools. Given where we lived, most of us had a lot of time alone but I never felt isolated. It was a nice balance. This came crashing down when it was time for the move to the big town. Only after being in much larger classrooms and getting kinda lost in the shuffle, do I remember hating the fact that I lived so far away and dreading summer break when I would be missing out (on what, I don’t know). I think a big part of what changed (but I didn’t realize at the time) was the lack of interactions with kids of different ages. I was happiest in the smallest of settings socializing with kids of all ages. That was the most fun for me, and I think I learned a lot, both academically and socially. Fast-forward to today, and I think the idea of presenting opportunities to our kids to play and interact with people of all ages is a pillar of our educational philosophy. I really believe that something is lost in the vast ‘monoculture’ classrooms and schools today where it’s easier than ever to become isolated and your interactions with students of different ages is scarce.

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