Tuesday 7 February 2012

Fuel for School

As you already know, we live in the middle of nowhere.
Not too far away, just in between everything else.

Remote is great if you like the quiet and the stars.
There are, however, disadvantages when it comes to civil infrastructure.
School is one of those disadvantages.

We knew when Auren was still just a baby, that we wanted him to go to the schools in Haliburton.
Strictly speaking, we reside within Peterborough county.  That means that his schools should be Buckhorn primary and Lakefield secondary.  
But the Haliburton schools are much closer physically.  We didn't want him to endure an agonizingly long ride on the bus every school day for more than a decade.  So we enrolled him in Haliburton knowing that we would have to drive him part of the way.

Auren is picked up and dropped off in Gooderham which is about 23km round trip or ten minutes one way.
That means that he is in the van for ten minutes with us and then another 25 minutes on the bus.
I'm pretty sure that he prefers the bus ride over the van ride.

Our commitment is that twice a day we travel in order to get Auren to and from school.
I don't like burning the fuel.
The time I don't mind spending.  I consider it an investment in his education.
The alternatives are too weak to seriously consider.

I don't know how far they would send a bus from the south.  I suspect that they would expect us to drive him out to the end of our concession road.  And then he would spend too much time on the bus; much of it with no other kids.
The other option is homeschooling.
That has been a debate in this household for quite a long time.
That would save on the driving, but it would trap Auren here.  
I believe that he needs to get out and experience a daily change of people and scenery.
I've been out there lots already.  I'm ready to be trapped here.

So we'll drive him to the bus stop.  I am thankful that we don't have to drive him to the school.

Long ago, there was a school just up the road from here.
I mean up the concession road; about one kilometer.
It would have been closed when the people left this area.
Just like the the primary school in Gooderham that's been closed due to lack of enrollment.

I would like to see the rural landscape re-populated with homesteaders.  I think that we would breathe a collective sigh of relief as de-centralization relieved the pressure in the cities.
Maybe then we'd see de-centralized schools where children didn't need to travel so far to be educated.  
Schools where children could still learn valuable social skills while bearing individuality in the absence of mass education.


  1. I've read a few entries on your blog for the first time today and I'd like to compliment you on your choices. I'm very far from that place (both geographic and life) but I have a real interest on the subject, since I have big concerns about the economic and lifestyle model we live in the western world. I'll follow your blog with real interest! Thank you for sharing your experience and for being so honest and clear on some delicate subjects such as slaughter or money (actually I don't have a real issue with the first one because my family lived in a rural area and I've always watched my grandparents butcher pigs, chickens and other animals. And a traditional pig slaugther in Portugal is a really scary businness...) Thanks again!

    1. Hello Teresa,
      Your interest gives me hope that we can stir up some long overdue change.

  2. Andrew
    I have been mulling over how to respond to this post...
    Firstly I respect your decision to enrol your child in school.
    It was a difficult decision I had to make over 20 years ago for my son and a few years later reconsider for my daughter too.
    Both of my children have been homeschooled all their lives. They learned to read and write at the kitchen table...we lived deep in the forest.... How did we make the choice that we did?
    Yes there was the school bus issue for us too...it's a long drive for a kid every day when you live at what would have been the far end of their run... but also there was the school system itself. We were very influenced at the time by books written by John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and Wendy Preisnetz.
    What about the socialization issue?
    I think this question was first asked by school boards concerned about losing students to the home school movement along with the head tax that each student present in the system generates. To be frank the socialization issue is a myth.
    What about the driving?
    Get ready to become the "Gooderham Taxi Service". School or no school once your kids get out there they will develop a desire/need to get to clubs, friends, birthday parties, events....you won't believe how long and almost endless this list of places to drive becomes. Don't worry it only lasts until they are 16 when they start to drive themselves!
    How does homeschooling work?
    Well there are as many answers to this question as there are homeschooling families out there. Basically it reduces down to parents helping their children become numerate and literate with parents assuming the role of teacher and then the role of the parent switches to that of a facilitator, facilitating the interests of the children. The children will teach themselves through their own interests. It's true!
    What happened to my children?
    My son at an early age became interested in community radio and then worked at a professional radio station for a few years around the age of 15 until he began a career in the car industry. Now at 20 he is living quite successfully on his own selling Jaguars and Land Rovers in Toronto (just having moved from selling Audi's). He did this on his own. I see vehicles in the light of utility where as he sees them as art. His fascination with vehicles developed at an early age and now it is a career.
    My daughter has become a very well followed artist/photographer.
    What do we think now after having been through the whole process?
    We were "homesteaders" before anyone popularized the term. It's been a hard go. "Homesteading is a hard life" and "Homeschooling" is equally so. The two activities certainly compliment one and other. We are happy we did both and for our kids it was well worth it.
    Should everyone homeschool?
    Certainly not. It would be wrong to say so...life is a complicated thing...people make choices...what works for some doesn't for others
    This is what I did.

    1. Hi Martin,
      I have heard many success stories regarding homeschooling. We are still fence-sitters on that subject. I shouldn't have been so flippant by suggesting that homeschooling doesn't foster social skills.
      Our decision has been made much easier because of the quality of schooling that is available to us. Auren's elementary school is replete with competent and passionate staff as well as top notch equipment and learning materials. There is also french immersion beginning in senior Kindergarten, in which Auren has been enrolled.
      I also believe that it is crucial to supplement the public school education with 'at home' learning. Kira and I strive to continue learning everyday. Education shouldn't stop when the kids leave the school halls.
      I would still like to see the little schoolhouses again, but as Canadians continue to leave rural life for the urban sprawl, that idea is just a dream.

  3. Martin! We had the pleasure of meeting Martin, Michele and their wonderful daughter Astrid this summer!
    What a small world! They were the family who quieted any and all last doubts we had about homeschooling and speak of them often.
    I wanted to share this little video I just spotted on Facebook this morning after reading this post last night. Mike really enjoyed it as did I.
    Just sharing, hoping we don't appear pushy or one sided ;)