As families choose the house in which they will live and begin to lay down roots, they seek to both nurture the minds of their future little ones and to feed their own perpetual desires to learn and grow as adults. Many are perplexed by the age-old question, “Are the suburbs our best option as the place where we should raise our family?” Unquestionably, the city’s endless opportunities for intellectual, artistic, and athletic pursuits help to mold well-rounded children while keeping parents engaged in all manner of parenting rituals and civic pursuits. The most common reason that families cite for not choosing the city has to do with the cost. While it is hard to argue that the city is less expensive, much has been written on the subject and interesting points have been raised including the lower cost of transportation, with suburbanites spending up to 15% of their incomes on commuting costs and even more when one considers expenses associated with bridges, tunnels, and toll roads. Energy costs are also higher in the suburbs as a free standing home is much more expensive to heat and cool than a city condo. Solving the school algorithm is paramount for young families and while strong suburban school systems are a powerful draw, many people are pleasantly surprised at the options that are available within city limits. In addition to the many private schools which operate in our city, there are also three phenomenal exam schools, Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and The John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science. Boston’s 25 charter schools are another excellent alternative for our city’s children. Applications can now be made to as many of them as you would like in streamlined fashion by going to ApplyBostonCharterSchools.org. They are 16 Commonwealth charter public schools, each with its own character, identity and special focus. At Bostonschoolfinder.org, one can also make an application for the METCO program under which many of our city’s children live in Boston while studying in a suburb nearby.
Parks and Recreation
What makes Boston so ideal for families with children? It caters to the pedestrian and two-wheel enthusiasts alike. The recreational areas and accessible green spaces are dispersed with purpose throughout the city. An interesting factoid to consider is that all Boston residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park. When the summer sun sets, many of these parks are utilized by Boston ParkARTS as sites for hosting free neighborhood concerts. The genres widely vary, from a Tom Petty cover band to Berklee College of Music composer Jacques Schwarz-Bart. There is no better vessel through which to introduce a child to the song “Free Fallin’”, than Mr. Petty himself. In terms of green space, Boston is blessed to have the Esplanade that runs all along Boston’s Charles River. The Esplanade’s expansive three-miles are dedicated to nurturing the natural fauna of the city and fostering community through shared space. Whether it’s reading a book on the dock or sailing at the Community Boating facility, the Esplanade offers educational, cultural, and recreational activities at each river bend. Even the Boston Pops can be found serenading park guests at the Esplanade’s Hatch Shell pavilion. Other lushly city landscaped spaces include the Public Garden, Boston Common, the Southwest Corridor Park, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Children raised in this environment can be considered fortunate beyond measure!
The Boston Children’s Museum is the most incredible resource for children and indelible memories are embedded at the indoor sock skating rink and the Polar Playground. The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), a majestic structure and a prominent center of artistry and expression, is also a place where many of our city’s children can be found in the Museum’s classrooms. Professional artists host studio art classes and workshops where students are encouraged to, “question, explore, experiment, and solve problems as they create and interact with art.” High-school students can further hone their artistic identity through Summer Intensives hosted by the MassArt Art Museum (MAAM), a five-minute walk from the MFA on Huntington Avenue. MAAM is Boston’s newest teaching museum and operates under the credo that it is “always free, always changing, always welcoming, always evolving.” While the Museum of Fine Arts will teach your family about the greats, MAAM will open your mind to thought provoking visionaries at the forefront of contemporary art. The Science Museum is another standout with many exhibits curated with children in mind.
Boston Ballet, BCA and SOWA
The Boston Ballet sits on picturesque Clarendon Street and its Children’s Program offers a world-renowned opportunity to be trained by the ingenious creatives of our time. The ballet building forms just a part of the creative cluster that includes Boston’s Center for the Arts and Cyclorama, the site of fairs and exhibitions throughout the year. SOWA district and its year round Sunday afternoon flea-markets is the site for fun food trucks and burgeoning galleries. Local artists and merchants sell their boutique products while the smell of perfectly roasted coffee and pastries waft in the air. It’s a true Boston delight.
Theatre and Music
The Huntington Theatre at Calderwood is a favorite South End destination for families as well. An afternoon at the play would be an outing that even the kids would consider a great alternative to time on the iPad. Many children benefit from the Huntington Education Department’s free theater classes hosted at Calderwood. The Boston City Singers is a creative youth development program focused on the important stuff, such as diversity, inclusion, respect, innovation, community responsibility, and of course, chorus. The organization has extensive travel opportunities across the globe. The Boston City Singers could very well grow your child’s perspective on the world and their role in it.
World Class Tech Training
Mentioning Boston without the word technology would be an oversight that may upset our friends over the bridge at MIT. For parents looking to get their kids engaged from an early age in the ever-expanding world of technology, not even Silicon Valley could rival the city of Boston’s learning opportunities. Boston Tech Moms, a self-proclaimed “parent’s guide to raising a future techie” connects families directly with engaging STEM programs. Have your children learn the code behind their favorite computer game or software; that’s Boston. Tech Moms can be the conduit through which children can gain exposure to some of the world’s brightest problem-solvers. Boston’s 35 colleges and universities make it a global academic center, providing opportunities for children to pursue opportunities in virtually every field.
Resources and Support
GardenParents, formerly GardenMoms is an amazing platform on which to connect with other city parents on topics ranging from childcare to social events and much more. One could argue that much of what the city has to offer can be enjoyed from a home base that is just a few miles outside. Nothing compares, however, with the vitality, energy and opportunities for growth, education and enjoyment that families can experience living smack in the middle of it all.