Kids in Cohousing

Features for children, and all others actually

If you’ve ever found parenting challenging (said with a wry smile)… and you have the time to read this (wider smile)… you may have landed in the right spot. Yes, every generation of parents absolutely face their own peculiar set of challenges, but today’s seem particularly daunting, at least to this particular first-time parent.

Any of these concerns sound familiar? How, in the world, can I:

  • Reduce screen time and increase real-life, in person, interactions to combat my child’s seeming sedentary isolation?
  • Develop and protect the mental health of my child, especially to somehow avoid the increasingly all too common issues of anxiety and depression?
  • Provide them with a truly quality education, one that’s affordable, inclusive and challenging?
  • Meaningfully do my part to help ensure that there’s still a healthy planet around for them, so that they may live a robust, healthy, wonderful life?
  • Develop their interpersonal skills, to best prepare them for the road ahead?
  • Better take care of myself, since all my energy currently goes towards my children?
  • Come anywhere close to doing all of this!?!

Historically, the answer to these challenges was met with some variation of the familar: “It takes a village to raise a child.” But, today it seems harder to find that willing, capable village. When parents do search, one potential answer is found today in the growing number of over 165 cohousing developments in the US (with another 140 in various stages of development.)

Yes, it’s a rather bold claim, that somehow a type of housing development, this idea of cohousing, might uniquely be able to help address any or all these parenting challenges. In fact, cohousing started, some 5 decades ago, as a way of creating a better childhood for children. Well, here’s how there might really be something to this… that where you live and how live there… can absolutely help:

Making relationships at any point in life is difficult, but I feel especially isolated now as a parent? How can cohousing help?

As with many challenges, simply simplifying things can help, a lot. In the case of relationships, in cohousing they’re simplified by proximity. It’s easier to be a genuine neighbor, if you actually see your neighbor. Then, imagine if you were confident that your neighbor actually wanted the same thing you did, a genuine, robust neighborly relationship. This is the simple magic sauce of cohouisng. You’re well on your way to meaningful, truly supportive relationships, if the people across from you desire the same thing.

From the outside, this building looks like any other condo, how specifically is the building designed to foster relationships?

A cohousing development will usually reduce the square footage of private space to increase the square footage of meaningful, unique common space. We certainly do this here. Our common space is a total of x square feet located on the top floor. It has a large kitchen, designed with the intent to have some arrangement of recurring meals together. Specifically for families, there’s a dedicated children’s play room, with toy storage. There’s a significant outdoor garden.

And, there’s the usual building communal space… to watch or listen to entertainment, read, play games, or simply relax on the outdoor patio. But, the simple difference here is that we actually intent to regularly use this space together. Again, the magic sauce, intent.

How does our location, Oak Park, IL, significantly aid the search for quality schools?

  • School Rankings: The system is organized around its high school, Oak Park & River Forest HS, designated by the state as an “exemplary” school… meaning it ranks in the top 10% of all high schools in IL… with a 95% graduation rate and 55% AP participation. https://www.oakpark.com/2022/11/01/community-support-makes-oprf-exemplary
  • Diversity: Oak Park is known for its diverse community, and this diversity is reflected in its public schools. Our schools have a reputation for promoting inclusivity and broad cultural awareness.
  • Community Involvement: The larger Oak Park community places a strong emphasis on education, so there’s active community involvement in supporting the public schools. Local organizations and parent groups work together with the schools to enhance the educational experience. This might be best exemplified by the award winning Collaboration for Early Childhood https://collab4kids.org Then, there’s the equally strong arts and sports programs sprinkled about town.

Speaking of education, what will my children learn from living in such a setting?

If you believe the best education comes from exposure to diverse ideas and beliefs held by diverse people, you will find that very mix between our walls.

Not surprisingly, our community already includes many families and individuals who have lived lives that have always, to some degree, valued relationships, community and the greater good, even before they were ever introduced to the idea of cohousing. As a result, among your neighbors, there are several educators, from early education right on up through higher ed. More than one are very civic-minded, being longstanding members of various Oak Park organizations.

Your child would grow up in this truly diverse community… diverse in terms of professions, race, religion, and national cultures. While some here have valued Oak Park so highly they’ve called it home for their entire lives here, others hail from both coasts and even beyond.

For kids, this translates into meaningful, trusted, caring inter-generational relationships… with many adults, but also, wonderfully, with kids of various ages.

Specifically, schools have commented that kids raised in a cohousing setting, not surprisingly, are particularly adept at sharing, problem-solving, conflict resolution and group decision-making. That they’re very open and confident kids, since they can actually have more independence, being allowed to move around alone in a large safe setting.

 

You promised me cohousing could help save the planet for this child I love. How so?

*****Potentially simply link to new sustainability tab.*****

  • Most impactful, how the entire building itself is being built. It meets The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Silver rating. The NGBS rigorously defines what it means to be a green building, covering 6 areas of high-performance building practices:
  • Lot design and development
  • Resource efficiency
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy efficiency
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Building operation and maintenance
  • Secure bike racks to help enable regular biking.
  • Built-in, home electric car charging stations.
  • Living in a dense, very walkable urban environment, with a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Rooftop vegetable garden

I hear you say cohousing is genuinely supportive, simply neighbors helping neighbors, but what are some concrete examples of this as it relates to parenting?

It’s a lot of the predictable; it’s just that it’s all much more readily accessible and, most importantly, expected and desired. Again, the magic sauce: your neighbors expect to be asked for help; and, yes, they actually want to be asked. Helping each other with the seemingly mundane stuff of life in a way kinda sums up why we’re all here. And, ever notice how it’s usually much easier to help someone else than yourself?

  • A trusted babysitter?
  • Out of milk?
  • A quick ride here or there to make parental logistics work today?
  • Advice from another parent who’s definitely “been there before” on a particular challenge?
  • Help cleaning up yet another toy explosion?
  • Would simply just like to feel comfortable, confident in asking neighbors that genuinely care to keep a watchful eye for a time?
  • Need some time around actual adults for yourself, some way too rare self-care?

Toys, toys, toys. I’m already surrounded by them, and yet still somehow buying and acquiring more. Cohousing sounds wonderful, can it even help here?

Maybe. A frequent element in cohousing communities is figuring out how to best leverage shared items. It’s driven by a desire for a smaller environmental footprint, for help being less materialistic, and by basic sensible economics. Just as there’s no need for every household to own a vacuum or every tool, a lot of parenting and child rearing essentials can be shared or simply handed down.

I’m already maxed out by parenting, what if I feel as if I don’t have much more capacity to give a larger community?

Many benefits of cohousing highlighted here come directly from being a diverse, inter-generational community. That means we very much want, even need, families, with children of all ages, to feel warmly welcomed. That’s done, in part, by understanding the commitment and workload of parenting. Yes, we want to live among people committed to the potential of living together in a community. But still, how and when you interact with our larger community is flexible and determined by your availability and capacity, just as it is for everyone, everyday.

OK, I’m sold on cohousing, but why should I consider Oak Park specifically for my family? What does the larger community offer parents and children?

 

Parks – It’s in the very name!

 

https://pdop.org/parks-facilities

Sources:

“Does Co-Housing Provide a Path to Happiness for Modern Parents?” – New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/22/opinion/cohousing-mothers-pandemic-community.html

“Children need 100 parents”

https://gaiaeducation.medium.com/children-need-100-parents-bf224a7c2418

“The Cohousing Community That Saved Me From Parenting Isolation” – Romper

https://www.romper.com/parenting/me-my-co-housing-sister-wives

“I’m a single mom who shares a house with other single moms. My cohousing friendships deliver emotional support, good advice, and yacht vacations.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/cohousing-single-moms-living-together-became-best-friends-2022-3

KIDS IN COHOUSING

Cohousing – Benefits for Children, Teens & Families

  • Make friends and build connections in a caring space
  • Support your cohousers as they support you
  • Enjoy and learn from interaction with people of different ages

         Activities

  • Eating together
  • Playing games (e.g., ping pong, foosball, board games)
  • Watching movies and streaming shows
  • Gardening
  • Reading
  • Playing and/or listening to music
  • Relaxing – alone or with others

Locations

  • Communal Great Room
  • Outdoor patio and roof garden
  • Dedicated play area with toy storage
  • Quiet(er) room
  • Secure bike racks

 

And Nearby (2 blocks north & 2 blocks south)

 

  • Park (N) with intergenerational play equipment and adjacent adult

     outdoor exercise stations

  • Park (S) with standard youth playground and large ball field
  • Middle School (Gwendolyn Brooks) with basketball court and

         ball field

Why Oak Park

  • Excellent schools

                  District 97 – Grade Schools & Middle Schools

                  10 schools, 8 ranked commendable & 2 ranked exemplary

                  Optional Spanish bi-lingual program @ Lincoln School (OP Cohousing school)

                  District 200 – 1 High School serving Oak Park & River Forest

                  Ranked #34 in IL; Graduation Rate – 95%; AP Participation – 55%

  • Collaboration for Early Childhood – https://collab4kids.org/

                  Serving Early Learning, Health & Development, Family Engagement, &

         Community Engagement

                  Resources: Early Childhood Resources & Development Referral Directories

  • Arts Programs – Theater, music and dance studios in schools and community
  • Sports Programs – School sponsored and club programs available