Where to move beyond the Bay Area with a teen

Looking for suggestions of places to move to (within California or to another state) with a top notch high school option (public or private), beautiful open space/nature (we hike and mountain bike a lot), nice people and more affordable housing.  It's overwhelming (after living here for 55 years) to consider all the options and we would really appreciate any ideas.   Also any input on how to decide if it's worth it to stay (we rent in Marin and the pandemic has made it so much worse).   Lastly how disruptive is it to move a kid between middle and high school?  Is that a reason alone to tough it out?  Thanks so much for any thoughts.

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This may sound crazy but New Zealand is where several people I know are relocating to! It is currently the envy of the world (0-2 Covid cases in the entire country!)

New England is looking very attractive as the region is performing well in virus management. Public schools are very strong across the board and so many amazing colleges in the region. Private schools are also plentiful. In CT, literally every other town seems to have a private school. (I went to a boarding school in CT.)

How disruptive it may be depends largely on the kid’s personality. It’s harder for introverts who don’t have a natural platform for social grouping based on interests. 
 

The weather and lack of sunlight could be an issue if you are born and raised in CA. I personally vowed never to shovel snow again, so I am staying in CA.
 

Our friends moved to Montana with Middle and high school aged kids. They report how happy kids are with the huge house and backyard with horses and whatnot. It sounds lovely and I fantasize about life in Montana...

I’m really into Ashland, Oregon! I went there once and loved it. Some snow in winter and hot summers. Very outdoorsy and artsy. Also mellow and the real estate is very affordable. I’m at your age and tired of worrying about money. I’m also looking for a slower paced life. 
Not sure how schools are though, and diversity. But since it’s a college town it might be okay. Will also be checking out Bend, Medford and areas around Portland-all  pretty affordable. Camas Washington is across the bridge from Portland and pretty cute. Our friends live there and there son got into U of W from an extremely good high school.

You don’t say how your kids are doing but I imagine they are, to some degree, struggling with the same issues that my middle school age kids are dealing with: battling social isolation  and anxiety, fear of the upcoming school year, sadness at missing out on important life experiences and rites of passage. For our family, this would be a bad time to voluntarily uproot everyone; the kids are clinging to whatever sense of normalcy and routine they can (my 12 y.o. completely fell apart when I mentioned getting a new sofa). Also from my perspective from Oakland, Marin seems pretty great: you have great schools and immediate access to beautiful nature for hiking/mountain biking etc which is important to you. Yes it is expensive and I’m sure there are intense social pressures generated by the extreme “haves” to be quarantining in opulence. But if you have the means to stay put, I think this is a very hard time to be starting over in brand new place, especially for most teens. 

Im going to eagerly be following this question as I’ve been wondering this long before covid. It’s just so expensive. I’ve had a good friend recently move to Ithaca, chosen for beauty and liberal politics. If I had to move today I’d choose Vancouver bc it rivals the Bay Area for beauty, progressive politics, lifestyle. Not to mention that cost of college and healthcare once you’re an established resident is practically free in comparison to the states.   Also my oldest daughter lives there which would make it a little easier for her little sister to leave friends behind. She’s going into 8th. I think like you, if you’re going to move a kid away do it at a transition. Like you, it’s about the only thing that would hold me back.

My only comment is about moving between middle school and high school. That happened to me (moved to S. Cal. from Oakland) and it was dreadful. Between culture shock and not knowing anyone, and as someone else mentioned, being a bit of an introvert, it was a horrible experience. My younger brothers fared better because they had more years to establish friendships before high school. Unless you're pretty outgoing or very involved in sports or something similar, it's hard to make friends at that age when everyone is cliqued up. I personally also had an extremely difficult time with the lack of diversity in the new place. Hopefully your kid can be part of this decision; their buy-in would obviously make a big difference. One thing to consider: with a lot of people fleeing the high prices here now that permanent telecommuting is possible for so many, rents are going down -- 11% in SF so far, hopefully other Bay Area counties will be go down too. Good luck!

We moved to Maine and love it! Great schools, and if you live in a town with a small enough population not to have its own high school (not uncommon, even 15 minutes from bigger cities like Bangor) you can choose any high school you want, including private schools, for free. There's tons of nature, the friendliest people as a whole I've met in the U.S., and housing is totally reasonable. We moved between elementary and middle school, and our child thinks it's WAY better here than CA. As for how disruptive it'll be for your child, talk to him about it. Seriously, it's much better if he's part of the decision, in an age appropriate way (ie., he doesn't get to choose if or where you move, that's clearly the parent's job, but he can have input on what he'd be looking for. It may be stay close to his friends, it may be nature like you, may be a place he can play on the basketball team, etc. Listen to him and use some of his thoughts to guide you, then let him know how you listened to him when you tell him your decision). Our main downside to Maine is the lack of diversity- it is the Whitest state in the U.S., but if diversity is important to you, the Portland area has some.

Our neighbors just moved to Idaho.  And we have other friends who have  moved to Las Vegas, Reno, Oceanside and Hawaii.
How disruptive for your child?  Depends on personality.  We have one kid who desperately wanted a change. and did so by switching high schools.  Worked well for her.  Other two other kids just when with the normal school flow.  Or last kid, just wanted out of school.  Took classes at the community college and graduated from high school and year and a half early.  Have you asked your kids.

Do you want to move out of the country?  Croatia and Montenegro are beautiful and affordable.  People there are friendly and nice.  Living outside the US would give your kid an opportunity to see a  perspective on life and the world from another cultural aspect.  You can buy a brand new beach front condo in Montenegro for 100,000 Euros in around Tivat.

Other neighbors have places in Vietnam, Costa Rica and Mexico.

You have lots of choices.