by Michael Kabel

    Are you raising your baby in the city or the country? What the about the suburbs?
    It's true that where a child grows up has a powerful (if often implicit) effect on their personality, their outlook on life, and certainly their education. Experts agree that finding a balance between the cultural offerings of the city and the comparatively healthier climate and atmosphere of more rural settings is the optimum choice for raising a child.

    But how much time in each should you include in that ratio? How much city living is necessary to round out a child's education, and how much time in the country ensures the child's health?

    Unfortunately, this is one of those parental dilemmas that doesn't have the standardized answer and guidelines set up by doctors or government research. How much time you spend anywhere is a function of how much time you have to spend with your children. Especially for double income families whose calendar is already filled to the tipping point, finding time to go back and forth can add even more pressure. 

Living just enough for the city

    If your family lives in a rural area or suburban "bedroom community" adjacent to a larger metropolitan city, you're uniquely situated to take advantage of a city's advantages without dealing with its downsides. Most major metropolitan cities offer access to museums, points of historical and cultural interest, and specially designated children's museums that teach kids about natural sciences, industry, and commerce. 

    Taking children to such exhibits may seem somewhat dry and pedestrian on the surface. But beneath that surface rests a fantastic chance for children of all ages to connect with the world around them. Historical landmarks, cultural museums, and metropolitan festivals show them their heritage and give them a sense of place and even purpose. They also nurture the imagination and provoke a greater sense of curiosity in your child - which in turn leads to better enthusiasm about their education. 

    Going into the city makes for a great weekend excursion, too, and affords quality time that's become all too precious for parents and children alike. 

Heading into wide open country

    For urban and suburban families, a day trip into the country affords a nourishing and recharging change of scenery and opportunity for exercise. The autumn time is an especially good time to drive out and observe the changing of leaves. 

    Families can organize the day in country by arranging to visit a state or national park, which can provide safe and convenient parking and basic facilities. In the spring and fall, many are host to fairs and cultural festivals that celebrate a specific group or event. Most parks are free or charge or require only a nominal parking fee, making them inexpensive but no less valuable. 

Summertime fun

    Though not the subject of public fascination that they were in previous decades, the annual summer camp is another great way for children to concentrate their outdoor experiences into just a couple of weeks. As in times before, camps offer a variety of recreational activities and instructional classes; some specialize in a particular skill set that ties into their academic pursuits (band camp, math camp, et cetera). 

    Parents should research the camps thoroughly though, gathering recommendations and independent testimonials, before choosing the best camping experience for their child. 

    For educational value close to home, many universities, public museums, and other institutions offer summer and holiday short courses and mini-seminars that teach children something specific about the arts or science in a condensed amount of time. Some offer remedial tutoring of basic scholastic skills, as well.