I was recently asked what I think is important to me as a mom when it comes to where I choose to live and raise my family. After putting some thought into it, I was able to sum it up in one word: Diversity. No, I don’t really mean ethnic diversity, although, I am all for living in a diverse culture and ensuring that my children grow up knowing and befriending people of many different races… but what I’m really referring to is diversity in a much broader sense of the word.
The world we live in is rapidly moving into an ever-changing modern age. It believe it’s important for children to know and at the very least to be familiar with the modern world/technology. However, as one who grew up just before the “tech-takeover,” I see incredible value in what would now be considered an old fashioned way of living and thinking. I want my kids to experience life without a device in their hand and a screen in front of their face. I want my kids to know the peace and freedom of being outdoors for long periods of time and away from the busy “rat-race” the average family runs in every day. I believe raising a child in a place where he/she can be exposed to and have opportunity to experience both worlds (high tech/no tech), makes for an incredibly well rounded child with a very diverse skill set…something that becomes very attractive to many employers.
Urban vs. Rural
Here in Southern Oregon, we are blessed to live within a 60 mile radius of some very big extremes. I’ve had friends and co-workers who put on their mud boots to go out in the field to move pipes at 4:30 in the morning, then put on their business suit and head to the office in the middle of downtown Medford. I currently have a friend studying online to become a Nurse Practitioner, working full time in one of our large, modern hospitals, and she goes home each day to their farm. Recently, over a span of 3 days, she assisted three of her goats in delivering kids (baby goats). She builds fences, collects dozens of eggs each day and chops firewood. This is just an example of the amazing opportunity we have here to be who we want to be and not much to hold us back! I believe these opportunities for our children to see and experience various ways of living are critical to their growing up into healthy, functional adults.
Country vs. Culture
Another aspect where diversity reigns is the opportunity to experience both the rural/country living mentioned above as well as the “finer,” more cultured things in life. Again, we are blessed to be able to drive 20 miles or less to see world class theater and stage performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Britt Gardens. Fine dining restaurants abound as well as high class tours at local wineries and historical sites. Children and teens are often exposed to some of these cultured environments through school events as well, in fact, my oldest son is a freshman and will be taking a field trip to see Julius Caesar at OSF next month. On the other hand, children can just as easily experience a more rustic, country side of life by participating in Southern Oregon’s thriving 4-H program, attending one of many local Rodeos and visiting, volunteering and even working any of the hundreds of local farms. Again, all within 60 miles or less.
One of the more serious and critical decisions a parent makes is regarding their child(ren)’s education. Children are incredible, gifted and unique individuals and I have strong opinions about the need for options in their education. Not all children are wired to sit in a classroom at a desk for 6 or more hours a day. Southern Oregon has some great options in this regard as well! Our public schools are always–often proactively–looking for ways to grow and improve including starting a Magnet school (using a holistic and modern approach to education) as well as sponsoring a number of charter schools which offer alternatives to a 7 hours a day/5 days a week school approach. We also have excellent private schools and a growing number of independent homeschoolers and homeschool support groups. The State of Oregon is quite supportive of all educational choices and does not hold heavy requirements over parents and students wishing to pursue alternative methods of education and/or opt out of routine testing, etc. This opportunity for educational diversity is a critical issue to many parents, myself included.
Lastly, I believe all of these other facets of a child’s environment would be of much less value if the economy, including the housing and job markets were unfavorable. Living in a place with competitive employment opportunities and comfortable, affordable housing in safe neighborhoods are definite factors most parents consider when choosing where to raise their child(ren). Southern Oregon scores high in these areas for my family and I think most of my fellow residents would agree. The job market is growing and expanding rapidly and new homes are popping up every day. Having grown up in Southern California, I personally, feel extremely safe in our town.
Parenting is hard. I currently have a child in just about every stage: baby, preschool, elementary school, middle school and high school. I change diapers and then brace myself while teaching a child to drive (!!!!). I teach ABC’s and help with Algebra. I am only one person. My husband is only one person. We have decided that we need to do whatever we can do to help give our children a leg up in life and to provide opportunities they need to be successful in their future. Living in Southern Oregon was one of those decisions. Southern Oregon may not have it all, but in my opinion, it sure comes close.
Blog by Becky Abrams