Our Homeschooling Origin Story


Or how we went from rural to urban to suburban homeschooling. You never know where life will bring you.

We started our homeschool endeavor in 2001, pulling our two oldest boys from the parochial school my husband and I had attended as children. The kids were starting second and fifth grades. We lived in a small town with miles of empty land for them to roam at the edge of our neighborhood. One was ahead, one was behind, you know the drill. I was spending time before school and after school teaching them. It suddenly occurred to me that I could do this at a more convenient time of day.

We did “all the homeschool things”:

Nature study at a pond that only a few families even knew about;

School at the river when the salmon were running;

Giant art projects in the driveway;

The dreaded mummified chicken.

Quite a few years later our location has changed a bit. Our eldest three boys have graduated, and with only two kids at home, we decided to try something completely different. We eliminated my husband’s long daily commute. We found a condo only two blocks from his office in downtown Chicago. It started out as a casual look just to see what condos even looked like. After all, someday when the kids were grown maybe we’d live in the city. A month later we were moving in. We exchanged our home in the suburbs for a condo half its size. What we sacrificed in space we have more than made up for in quality of life. I wondered if I could pull off all that the older boys had experienced. Would we be stuck inside? What about nature study?  Where would we put all our stuff?

Turns out it was a smooth transition. We went from two cars to one and then to none. One of the older boys needed to borrow our car, and as it turns out, we very rarely need it back. All our books fit, and two loft beds ensure that each kid has some actual personal space. We moved in at the beginning of one of Chicago’s coldest and snowiest winters to date.  Right away I was a fan of not having anything to shovel.

We have the privilege of being near some of the world’s finest museums. There is nothing like studying rocks and minerals and then running over to the Field Museum for an hour just to check their displays. All our science experiments, including one that required us to find a rock in the middle of winter, have been completed. We strapped on boots and walked around the block searching. On the way back we found some in the landscaping around our building — who knew? Nature is all around if you stop to look for it. All the museums in Chicago are incredibly supportive of homeschooling. The Museum of Science and Industry even grants homeschool families free entry.

Another benefit has been our increased fitness. Soon after we moved here, I bought titbits for all of us. All our errands are now completed by pedestrians. We walk two to five miles each day. We got ourselves an old lady-rescue rolling cart and are ready to go. We don’t quite fit the demographic of our neighborhood as most of our neighbors have pets, not kids. We get unsolicited directions all the time. In their defense, walking around on a school day with a couple kids practically screams vacationers.

We’ve witnessed both unbelievably funny things and horrifyingly sad things just while walking to the grocery store. Instead of viewing the less fortunate on a documentary, we see them on our corner and learn their names. When my big boys were small, and I let them go out into the forest all day with a packed lunch, it was a calculated risk. They were trustworthy, and our area was safe. Now we live in a city that isn’t always safe, and I have a teenage daughter who wants to take full advantage of city life. I prefer if she has a buddy with her. We’ve had no shortage of local friends who love spending the night in the city. Having teenagers as guests have been a blast. They find out-of-the-way quirky spots that I might have overlooked.

Now we are back in the suburbs not quite as far away as we once were, but far enough. We’re simultaneously remodeling it and caretaking for John’s dad, and we’ll stay out here for the foreseeable future. We are experiencing a sort of culture shock as

  1. It’s so clean out here.

  2. It’s super quiet all the time.

  3. No one asks us for money.

We try and get into the city once a week. Our condo is just rented out, so I feel good that when we are able, it will be there waiting for us. We miss it terribly. I’m anxious for the day that I can say we are moving home.