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?
- Austin, Texas
- Chicago, Ill.
- Oakland, Calif.
- Anchorage, Alaska
- Decatur, Ga.
- Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Boise, Idaho
- Springfield, Mo.
- 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?