Raising a family is serious business.
As a parent, your job is to teach, protect, guide, and develop your children in every area of their lives.
The task can be daunting. There will be challenges. It won’t be easy. Some days, it will be really, really hard. And, those will be the exact days your employer (The Child) will show you the least amount of gratitude!
Nonetheless, you will persevere. I assure you.
And, if you sign up for the wild ride that is parenthood, I implore you to find a place like this – Highland County, Virginia.
Trust me. I’ve done it myself.
1. YOU ARE SAFE HERE, AND YOUR CHILDREN ARE SAFE. This community takes care of its own. Once you move here, you are embedded in our community. We watch out for one another. In most cases, the only scary things moving around here after dark are opossums and skunks.
2. YOUR CHILD HAS A FACE AND A NAME HERE… NOT A NUMBER. If you elect to send your child to Highland County Public Schools, rest assured his or her teacher will know them personally. Class sizes are very small. My older daughter graduated in a class of 16. My younger daughter marched through her commencement with 10 classmates. Your child has a great chance at a good, solid education here.
3. THERE ARE PLENTY OF THINGS FOR KIDS TO DO IN HIGHLAND COUNTY. Everyone thinks life here is dull and boring because it is rural. Life here is what you make it. You can live in peaceful, uninterrupted bliss. Or, you can engage your child in a myriad of organized activities for all ages. Within the public school system, there is a variety of clubs and sports programs. There are church activities and Bible schools in the summer. We have 4-H and Girl Scouts. Sunny Stables and Sullystone Stables offer courses in horsemanship. With regard to the arts and culture, there are other learning opportunities here, such as the Little Switzerland Cloggers, the Allegheny Mountain String Project, and programs by the Highland County Arts Council in addition to private piano lessons offered around the county. Plus, the Highland County Public Library is a treasured resource for all families including programs for youth during the summer months. The Highland County Recreation Commission operates the local pool, complete with swimming lessons. In the past, the Rec Commission has also offered other sports programs for children, such as Pee Wee Basketball and Cheerleading and Youth Soccer.
4. IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN, AND THEY PARTICIPATE IN ANY OF THE ABOVE-MENTIONED ACTIVITIES, YOU’LL MOST LIKELY GET TO KNOW THE FOLKS RUNNING THE PROGRAM AND OTHER PARTICIPATING FAMILIES. THAT’S WHERE YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM BEGINS! As mentioned above, families help families around here. Need help getting your child to and from an activity? No problem… you and another parent can take turns dropping off and picking up. And, that’s just the beginning. Once you get to know other families, you will find many ways to support one another. This also emphasizes the importance of the concept of community to your child. The good news is they will carry this out into the larger world and use it throughout their life. It is one of the many unique and unspoiled characteristics of a youth spent in Highland County.
5. IF YOU ARE SO INCLINED, TAKE YOUR FAMILY TO ONE OF OUR MANY CHURCHES OR FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMS. You will instantly become family! Most of our churches have shrinking congregations with very few children. I did this with my daughters. The older members of the congregation were delighted to have youngsters visiting the church again. They were happy to see us every Sunday morning and always encouraged us to return the next week.
6. LIVING HERE, YOU ARE FREE FROM A LOT OF THE WORRIES OF THE LARGER WORLD. Here, it is much easier to focus on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being of your family. You will be busy. It will be hard at times. Raising a family isn’t all daisies and sunshine! No matter where you live, you will be tested, and there will be challenges. But, there’s just something a little sweeter about getting through the hard times here.
7. YOUR CHILDREN WILL LEARN THE VALUE OF WORK AND MONEY. Most families here live from week to week. Most children are aware of that. They realize families work together to manage a household. In general, they want to help with the work because they want to be “Big.” And, while that can be aggravating at times, it is a wonderful quality to use to teach self-confidence and a good work ethic. In addition to helping out around the house, young people can also take advantage of some job opportunities in Highland especially through the Youth Employment Program at The Highland Center. They’re not going to strike it rich, but this is a great place for young people to start working.
8. YOUR CHILD WILL ABSOLUTELY ENJOY AND LOVE THEIR CHILDHOOD IN HIGHLAND COUNTY. (Even if they might not realize it until they’re older.) Raising a family in such surroundings is a blessing indeed. As a single mother, our finances were rigidly structured. (In other words, we were broke.) But, it simply doesn’t matter here. Most everyone here is working hard to make a living and provide. We really are not worried about keeping up with the Joneses! My daughters knew we didn’t have much money. More importantly, they came to understand early that our happiness didn’t depend on the amount of money in our pockets. Children can enjoy the richness of childhood here even if their family has a low income. My daughters are grown now, and they both look back on their childhood with incredible fondness. I am so grateful for that.
9. IF YOU NEED HELP WHILE YOU’RE RAISING YOUR FAMILY HERE, DON’T HESITATE TO ASK. Reach out to the Highland County Department of Social Services. Not only do they offer state and federal programs to assist you, but they may also be able to refer you to some local resources for child care and firewood for the winter. Plus, the folks at Highland Children’s House, Highland County’s child care facility, will be happy to provide more information about their services.
10. IT IS JUST EASIER TO LIVE HERE. Fresh air. Sunshine. A cool breeze on a hot day. Full moons and snowfall. Rain to quench the Earth. These are all things that are easier to appreciate in Highland County. If you have all these things, what are you missing? Noise, crime, hustle and bustle, crowded schools, and cranky neighbors in the apartment next door. Well, we might have some cranky people… but we only have a few apartment buildings in the whole county. Some with only three or four units. Also, stoplights. You would be missing stoplights. We have one intersection with a yellow, caution light that blinks. That’s it.
Highland County … pure and simple.
About the Author
Crysta Stephenson grew up in the Meadowdale and Vanderpool areas of Highland County. She loved it so much that she returned to raise her daughters on the family farm, Glenwood. She received a B.A. in mass communications with a minor in history from Mary Baldwin College. For 13 years, she honed her journalism skills as a staff writer and editor at two small Virginia newspapers. Her second career - also lasting 13 years - focused on managing two small historical museums here in Virginia. These days, she juggles lots of odd jobs including writing and museum assignments that give her time to enjoy life and admire the accomplishments of her daughters, Rebecca and Suzanna, and play with her grandmutts, Alex and Snoopy. She splits her time between her family home in Highland and her apartment in Augusta County.