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Now Available to Pre-Order: Our High School Curriculum

Now Available to Pre-Order: Our High School Curriculum

The first installment of our high school curriculum is available for pre-order now. (We kind of love it, and we hope you do, too!)

At Home with the Editors: Amy’s 9th Grade Reading List

At Home with the Editors: Amy’s 9th Grade Reading List

Our 9th grade homeschool reading list is heavy on U.S. history and literature, with an effort to bring in diverse voices and stories. (Plus lots of physical science and a Studio Ghibli lit class!)

How I Use My Bullet Journal for Our Homeschool’s As-We-Go Schedule

How I Use My Bullet Journal for Our Homeschool’s As-We-Go Schedule

My homeschool organization method: A bullet journal and an as-we-go planner than lets me keep up with what we've done instead of trying to anticipate what we're going to do.

How Unschooling Shaped My Social Life

How Unschooling Shaped My Social Life

We’re all familiar with the tired old myth of the “unsocialized” homeschoolers, spending their days locked inside, interacting only with their family members. I’ve certainly spent my fair share of time disputing these myths (earlier this year I even wrote a post addressing every possible misplaced socialization criticism I’ve ever heard). Yet while there are plenty of wrong ideas on home education and socialization, I find myself pondering how unschooling has impacted the friendships I make and the communities that I’m a part of now, as a 20-something adult.

Like many homeschooled families, when I was young my family participated in a range of activities, from homeschool coops to French classes, group hikes to choirs. What set us apart from many other home educating families in my area at the time was just how much input my sister and I had in the activities and outings we were involved in, and on whether we stuck with those activities. I knew that my mother would step in when asked (and occasionally when not asked!) to help solve a problem—such as when the musical director of a production I was involved in was trying to use me, a “good” kid, as a human buffer between the two most disruptive children in the group—and that if there wasn’t a good solution that I was free to quit. If I didn’t like a group of kids, or found that certain adults treated me and other children unfairly, I was never forced to spend time around those groups or individuals.

That doesn’t mean I never had to deal with bullies or other unpleasant people, or that I didn’t on occasion feel trapped by commitment into continuing to participate in something that made me unhappy. What it does mean, though, is that I was never subjected to the type of forced association faced by children in school, who often have little to no recourse when faced with regular harassment and even physical violence from other students, or teachers who treat their students badly. It seems to me that too often children learn early on that they just have to suck it up, no matter how toxic an environment is or how frightened they are about seeing people who have harmed them in some way. They learn that they can’t act on their own feelings or judgement about a person or situation in order to protect their emotional or even physical safety. My feelings were treated as important by my parents, and my judgement was trusted (with plenty of discussion and guidance from them). As a consequence, I feel like I never had to learn, as an adult, to trust myself and my instincts. I already knew how to do that.

In my teen years, and now as a young adult, I often marvel at those who are dating people they don’t like very much just because they don’t want to be single, or hanging out with groups of people who make them feel bad because they just don’t want to spend time alone. I’ve grown up in such a way that, barring the occasional bad decision, I generally surround myself only with people who I genuinely like, care about, and who make me feel good about myself. And when I’m not spending time with people, my introverted self is mostly okay with being alone or with family. It’s not that I don’t sometimes feel lonely, or experience the struggle of meeting new people at an age where it’s  no longer easy to find “peer groups,” or that I don’t sometimes find it hard to join new groups because of plain old shyness. But I do feel that I’m good about setting strong boundaries with less pleasant people, being choosy about the communities I become a part of, and surrounding myself with people who make me happy.

I feel like I never had to learn, as an adult, to trust myself and my instincts. I already knew how to do that.

It’s always hard to know how much to attribute to unschooling, since by the very nature of such a personalized education, my life and my experience is pretty unique to me, my family, and my geographic location. Perhaps no matter what education I’d experienced, I’d have reached the same conclusions that I have now. I think that being able to grow as I did with so much freedom in my interactions, so much trust in my choices, and so strong a message of how well I (and others) deserved to be treated, definitely had a positive impact on how I build (or find) my social life now.

I guess what I’m saying is that, contrary to what many people seem to believe, I think unschooling actually helped me to develop healthy social skills. I genuinely enjoy meeting new people, but I’m very grateful for also having good boundaries, strong feelings about mutual respect, and the strength to walk away from individuals or groups that are causing harm in my life.

That’s the type of socialization I want, and the type of socialization I hope many other life learners can develop through our marvelously self directed, trust-filled, and respectful upbringings!

The Best Cities for Homeschooling Families

The best cities for homeschool families 2014

What kind of cities do homeschoolers love? It’s a little presumptuous to pretend that we speak for every homeschooler everywhere with this list. Your off-the-list city may be the perfect place for your family to homeschool—and we’re certainly not going to argue with that! But we do think some cities are just more homeschool-friendly than others, and whether you’re looking for a spot for your next urban vacation or seriously considering a big move, knowing what cities offer some of the best resources for homeschoolers can be a benefit. So we sat down with a mountain of spreadsheets and data on everything from the cost of groceries and number of homeschool co-ops to the average library wait time and number of local chess clubs to find cities that make homeschool life a pleasure. We started out with the assumption that homeschoolers want to live where it’s easy to homeschool, so we weeded out states where the laws require homeschoolers to jump through hoops. You won’t find any cities where students have to submit portfolios or get curriculum approval on our list. (It’s not that these laws are bad, but if you don’t have to deal with a bunch of busywork, why would you?)

Next, we looked at the number of homeschool groups, classes, and activities in those states, zeroing in on the cities that offered lots of opportunities to homeschoolers. We got in touch with homeschool groups in each of the cities that made our top 50 list and asked real homeschooling families “Hey, what’s great and not-so-great about your city for homeschoolers?”

We also considered the extracurricular options each city offered. We know how important robust library systems are for homeschoolers, so we considered the American library Association rankings for each city. (We also checked the number of copies and hold times for three books that often show up on homeschool reading lists—The Well-Trained Mind, Amazons and Swallows, and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths—and gave bonus points to cities where libraries had regular free community programs.) Independent bookstores, performing arts venues, independent movie theaters, and other cultural attractions also factored into our rankings. We also weighed green spaces—public parks, protected forests, trail networks, bike trails, waterways, and other spaces that encourage outdoor activity.

Practically, we know that homeschoolers are often stretching one income, so we looked for cities where the cost of living was affordable or where a high cost in one area was offset by other factors, like low unemployment, cheap public transportation, or lots of free resources. We looked for cities where families could comfortably manage with one car. And, of course, because community matters, we looked for cities with a high percentage of residents younger than 18.

Some of the cities seemed obvious—with its chilled-out homeschool laws and easygoing vibe, how could Austin, Texas, not end up on our list?) Others surprised us. (Springfield, Missouri? Really?) Some cities we really didn’t want to cross off the list. (Dear Portland, please stop requiring homeschoolers to take standardized tests because you are practically perfect in every other way. Sincerely, the Editors.) But what struck us the most as we put together this very opinionated and obsessively researched list is how lucky we are to live in a world where so many great homeschool cities exist.

So what cities made our top ten list?

  1. Austin, Texas
  2. Chicago, Ill.
  3. Oakland, Calif.
  4. Anchorage, Alaska
  5. Decatur, Ga.
  6. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  7. Des Moines, Iowa
  8. Boise, Idaho
  9. Springfield, Mo.
  10. Edmond, Okla.

For the full article (and the details on what makes each of these cities so great for homeschooling families), pick up a copy of the fall 2014 issue of home/school/life magazine. And feel free to share your opinions in the comments: What's your favorite city to be a homeschooler?