Homeschooling 10 years in

On the tenth anniversary of  the September 11th attacks on America when there were memorials and reflections upon the day and what it meant to the world I paused in my reflecting to recall how I felt that day about homeschooling. It was my daughter’s official 5th day of homeschooling kindergarten. We were making green play dough when the news of the awful destruction happened. Our whole family and neighborhood went in to shock and mourning for many weeks, but for one minute while the news sunk in I took a deep breath and was grateful to have both of my young kids by my side throughout that day and the days to come.

Now ten years truly have gone by and during that vast expanse of time we have encountered all other sorts of feelings about homeschooling. We have struggled to find curriculum that would make our lives easier and failed, we have created our own curriculum from following our kids’ interests and we have taken full advantage of what life in the city of Chicago has to offer homeschooled kids. It took a few years to slough off the fear that we were missing something, to relax about sometimes missing something and focus instead on living and experiencing the moment and learning what we would from it. That might sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but consider how one spring we took our nine year old daughter,and our 5 year old son to Madison Wisconsin to attend a zine festival. She had just gotten excited about reading and writing. My husband and I had always been excited about zines, and had made many over the years. We all needed a weekend getaway. It was a perfect unschooling adventure.

We took a bunch of copies of our zine Relaxed Homeskool and my daughter took a bunch of copies of a zine she and a friend had made titled The Stereotype. We met several amazing zinesters, attended workshops, made friends, and connections. As a result of one of those connections my daughter’s writing was later published in a book, she was invited to read an excerpt of her work at a public event and she attended a gala opening night of a movie. She wasn’t even 10 yet. My husband and I didn’t fare quite so well, but what I recall most from that weekend was talking to the man in the booth next to me about life. He had a great zine and told us about his wife and son in Iowa. When I asked why they weren’t there he explained that they were taking their black belt test that weekend. He said in his town there were two options for kids, you could take karate or piano. My brain quivered. Do you mean to say that those were the only weekend classes I inquired. No, those were the only classes. Ever. I quickly flew my brain back in time to my younger years growing up rural and by the seaside. There were a few karate and dance places. But mainly there was my bike, the woods, a beach, a puddle with tadpoles, a treefort. The options were many but all natural and without scheduling overlaps. I had been under the false assumption that this kind of life no longer existed. People told me this all of the time. Even from the rural place I grew up. No one lets their kids play outside and do things anymore. Its too dangerous. I had spent the better part of the year in Chicago sifting through emails about all of the things my child could do in the homeschooling community. She could be in Girl Scouts (we went for that and got a little nature fix after all. But I also got to be a girl scout leader for 3 years). She could take a ballet, modern or bellydancing class. Clay, circus, Lego engineer, science experiments, open gym, drama, Spanish, book club, field trips up the wazoo, archeology digs,knitting, art, guitar lessons, piano lessons, soccer, dodgeball, karate, bike riding club and sea scouts. To name just a few.

We tried a lot of it and made a bunch of homeschooling and unschooling friends that helped me work my way through my own philosophy on educational and practical experiences. But the truth is, that there were times when I felt exhausted from the back and forth commutes to each activity. There were times where we ate in the car or had squabbles over getting out of the door in time to make the class. There were times my kids didn’t want to attend a class but we had paid so we were committed and going. My son sometimes suffered from being dragged around to my daughter’s activities rather than having time to explore the world in his own time and space. What I learned from the zinester that day was that life didn’t have to be breakneck just because it could be. Having many choices had led me to feel that life was richer and deeper and more full of potential. But it also made me try too hard to do everything and be everywhere so that my kids wouldn’t miss an opportunity.

That was the biggest lesson homeschooling taught me in Chicago. Slow down. Allow yourself and your kids to unschool, unfold and find their own passions. Don’t sign them up for everything but don’t hide away either. And although my children rarely get to ride their bikes though woods to a treefort they built themselves, I took a long view of what was so powerful about those experiences I had as a child-the fact that I was on my own sometimes, able to think, explore and learn from my own actions how the world worked.  I tired applying those opportunities to my children’s city life. As they grew older that meant letting them have a lot of say in what they wanted to learn about, trusting them to make independent choices and to move around the city independently. Ten years of coaching is what homeschooling my kids has amounted to in order to raise free thinkers who are not afraid to go for what they want. It hasn’t been all smooth and simple, and who knows if it will be a complete success but it really has been a great adventure, even for the the facilitator that is me.  Although I have listed many things for homeschoolers to do in Chicagoland over the years and will continue to, I hope you and your family will find things on that list the things that give your children more autonomy and strength.


For new and seasoned homeschoolers there is nothing more renewing, encouraging and exciting than the annual homeschooling conference. Here are 2 that are enjoyed in the Midwest:

In Home Conference
Chicago, Ill.
March  15th-17th

Unschoolers’ Waterpark Gatherings
Sandusky, Ohio
Jan.23rd-Jan. 27th



Homeschool Circus Arts Class

The fist session of the Homeschool Circus Arts Class was very successful with over 30 kids participating.  There is a great group of kids from 6 year olds to teenagers.  The kids are broken down into smaller groups to work on skills with multiple coaches.  The second session begins next week November 4th.  You child is welcome to come and try out a class for free to see if it is a good fit.  If your child decides they like it, then you can register for the 6 week session.

This class is for students who want to pick up overall skills of the circus. Everything from juggling, aerial trapeze, acrobats, hand balancing, mini trampoline, clowning, object balancing, aerial silks, diablo, plate spinning and much more!

The class is apporpriate for boys and girls of all ages.

Ages: 6 – 18

When: Fridays 10:30-12:00
Session 2: November 4-December 16 (6 weeks with one week off for Thanksgiving)

Cost: 1st child per family $135, 2nd child per family $120, 3rd child per family free.

To register for class please just show up on the first day of class and make payments to MSA Circus Arts.

MSA Circus Arts
1934 N. Cambell
Chicago, IL  60647

There are so many talented teachers looking to work with homeschooled kids. Here is one who is offering some good stuff! Please contact her at the email address she provides.


“I’m new to Chicago, a recent Michigan transplant. I was so excited to see your blog is back on board, because it looked like a good resource.

I am a home school graduate (2002). While pursuing my degree in English, I began teaching classes and offering private tutoring for home educators. I focus on writing, but also teach literature classes. Somehow, without quite meaning to, I’ve now been working with home educators for more than eight years. I wanted to make your support group aware that I am available if you’re interested in classes, or if any of your members are looking for writing tutors.

Some of the classes I’ve offered in the past include: Poetry, Essay Writing, Creative Writing, Make a Book, Drama, and Public Speaking. I’ve worked with students aged four to twenty. I especially enjoy reluctant writers.

In addition to classes and lessons, I also offer a free workshop for support groups: “Tired of Fighting About Writing.” The two hour workshop gives strategies and tips for making writing more enjoyable for everybody. If you’re interested in such a workshop for your support group, do let me know.

I can be contacted at: Msmeganwriting@gmail.com. If you like, feel free to forward this email to any one you think might be interested.


Thanks so much.

Megan Donahue



These classes are offered by Gene booth, a respected teacher and well loved by the teen unschooling crowd.Please do not try to sign up via this blog. Read the whole entry and at the bottom you will see his contact info. Thanks!

“I’m offering two classes for homeschoolers starting in late October: a U.S. History class and a Poetry class, both of which combine critical thinking and academic rigor with high, student-centered activities. See below for details, and let me know if you have questions or want references from parents or students I’ve homeschooled before.
Thanks,Gene Booth

1 U.S. HISTORY THROUGH ART Students will study American history using the lens of period-specific artworks from a variety of disciplines (including music, film, painting, architecture, textiles, sculpture,dance, literature and poetry). The historical period will be chosen by the students before the class begins. Student assignments will alternate between typed papers and art projects. Students are required to buy both volumes of Howard Zinn’s A Young Person’s History Of The United States. In addition, they will read primary source texts from the period in question. The class will culminate with an art show on Friday, January 27, where student projects will be exhibited and discussed. 
This class costs $180, which includes $20 for the culminating event. 
The entire amount is payable in advance. Students will pay for their own supplies. 
This class runs for ten weeks, in two sections. 
SECTION 1: 15-18 year-olds Thursdays, 9:30-10:30 AM, 
October 27 to January 19 (no class on 11/24, 12/22 or 12/29) 
SECTION 2: 11-14 year-olds Mondays,10:00-11:00 AM, 
October 24 to January 16 (no class on 11/28, 12/26 or 1/2) 

2 POEMLAB Students will develop a portfolio of original poems on personal and social-justice themes. They will become familiar with each of the phases of writing poetry: draft, revision and performance. These skills can be applied to any kind of writing, particularly self- and peer-editing, and the performance aspect greatly improves public speaking. They will be exposed to a broad range of contemporary American poets, and asked to incorporate elements they find there into their own work. Students are required to buy Mary Oliver’s excellent A Poetry Handbook, which will be used throughout the course. The best poems from each student will be collected into an anthology and published in February 2012. The class will culminate in an event on Friday, January 27, where students will perform their work. This class costs $220,
which includes $20 for the culminating event and $60 for printing. 
The entire amount is payable in advance. Students will pay for their own supplies. 
This class runs for ten weeks, and is open to students aged 13-18: 
Thursdays, 10:40-11:40 AM, October 27 to January 19 (no class on 11/24, 12/22 or 12/29) 

Location: I’m located on Chicago’s northwest side at Belmont and Pulaski, near the Milwaukee bus and the Blue Line.

Registration: Please contact me with the names and ages of your kids to reserve spots; then send checks made out to Gene Booth by October 20, to Gene Booth, 3331 N. Karlov Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60641. 

Background: I have been an educator for ten years, half in public and alternative schools as a Social Studies teacher, the other half doing arts programming for After School Matters and youth leadership development for the Alternative Schools Network. I’m convinced that for students to learn the coursework must begin with an investigation of what the students care about, and that the goal of education must be to foster an ability to critically question and assess the real world. 

Contact: Feel free to call or email me with questions: (312) 493-9736, gene.booth@gmail.com.”

Back in the unschool saddle!

Dear Readers,
It has been several years since I posted here. For many reasons, one of which was a big move (still in city limits I’m proud to say) and some lifestyle changes (like grandma moving in part time and a new dog, an endless stream of visitors, a new job for me and the mind numbing allure of facebook) I stopped blogging at Chicago Homeschool Habitat for awhile.Okay, a couple of years. To be honest, I didn’t think it would matter that much if I stopped. Unlike my personal blog (which I also stopped) which had a pile of committed readers, this was just a place where I put news about what is happening in the Chicago homeschooling world. I got very little feedback about it and began to wonder if it was even useful to anyone. The people who I knew who homeschooled didn’t often use it and I had to hound them to give me information about their homeschooling classes and events to post here.They used their listserves to communicate.
After two years of not thinking about it my husband noticed that this blog is getting over 33,ooo hits a month. To be certain many of those are just spambots looking for a way to infiltrate and increase sales of whatever, but when I went sifting through the hundreds of unmoderated comments today I noticed a pattern of people who wanted the homeschooling world to know about the classes they offer, and new homeschoolers who want to connect with other homeschoolers and/or homeschooling classes. So maybe I was too hasty in signing off here. I have approved any comments that seem genuine and if one of them is yours I apologize for the delay. I will spend time trying to answer each of them over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, if you are a homeschooling resource of some sort I recommend you email the details of what you are offering and how to contact you. Here is my current email address kimATkimzyn.com. Change the AT to the corresponding symbol. Trying to avoid those spambots again!

Fall Classes with Orion

Epic Classes, at Ethical Human


Orion Couling

Start Time:

Friday, October 9, 2009 at 10:00am

End Time:

Friday, December 11, 2009 at 3:00pm


Ethical Humanist Society




Announcing Fall 2009 Stage Combat and Theater classes with Orion Couling!

All classes and final performance held at the Ethical Humanist Society, 7574 N Lincoln Ave, Skokie IL, at the corner of Lincoln, Howard and Skokie Blvd.

Friday Afternoons October 9th thru Dec 4th, no class October 30
Performance Dec 11, Dress rehearsal Wednesday Dec 9th, time TBA

Battle Chess

Be part of the most epic game of chess that has ever been played! Learn stage combat choreography as you play the parts of battling bishops, roaring rooks, conquering castles, knights, kings and of course the queen. In performance the audience will be able to move our ensemble and literally play the game with the actor’s as pieces! Participants in this class will learn partnering skills, multiple weapon forms, critical thinking and problem solving. Students will be able to keep their prop.

Fridays, 12:00-1:45pm
Ages 8 and up
Price $175.00, Includes props fee.

Dragon Fighting

If you have dreamed of picking up a sword, you have dreamed of fighting dragons; time to make both dreams come true! Learn the essence of stage combat by battling a massive red dragon. This class will focus upon the actor’s ensemble, for there is no way to bring down the mighty beast without your friends. Great class for the beginner in stage combat or the stage. Students will be able to keep their prop. Dragon mythology and story generation will be highlighted too!

Ages 5 and up
Price $120.00 Includes props fee

Disney’s Jungle Book (the Musical)

The jungle is jumpin’ with jazz is this exciting Disney classic! Join Mowgli, Baloo, King Louie and the gang as they swing their way through madcap adventures and thwart the ferocious tiger, Shere Khan. Specially adapted from the beloved film, this musical includes all your favorite Disney tunes, like “The Bare Necessities,” and “I Wan’na Be Like You.” With colorful characters and that toe-tapping jungle rhythm, The Jungle Book KIDS is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for audiences of all ages.

This special version of the show will include mask work, dancing, acting and singing essentials!

ages 5-17
Price $175.00

To register please print and mail the attached registration form with a check made out to Orion Couling to:

Lori Upchurch
2724 N Meade
Chicago IL 60639

Registration deadline is September 25th. If you register before September 18th you get a free child’s ticket to the Tall Ship Windy, sailing daily from Navy Pier through September 30th.

Multiple child family discount available. First child pays full price, additional siblings 50% off class price.

Limited volunteer/barter opportunities available. For information about this and with any other questions, please contact Lori Upchurch at lojo@speakeasy.net

For more information about Orion Couling, and all class details, please visit www.northsideunschoolers.org/orioncoulingdrama

Interested in being part of a once a week homeschool co-op, conveniently located in Oak Park? The Community Co-op for Near West Homeschoolers offers classes in Studio Art, PE, Writer’s Workshop, Science, Tot PE, Tot Art and more!

Families attend together and parents lead classes. The co-op offers educational enrichment, social opportunities, and hey, parents and kids love it!

Fall session starts September 17th! The last day for registration is September 3. Limited spots available in some age groups, don’t delay!

Complete information and registration forms are available online:


YMCA homeschool Swimming class

High Ridge YMCA
2424 W. Touhy Ave. (entrance off of Western Ave)
Chicago, IL. 60645
Swim Director : Christina Aguirre

Friday Afternoons
Session 1 – September 25 – October 30
Session 2 – November 6 – December 11

Homeschool Free Swim 11:00 am – 1:00pm
YMCA Members – Free
Program Members – $80.00
If you are registered for swim lessons you do not also need to pay for
the open swim period, you only need to pay if you do not want to take
lessons, but would like to join in the open swim.

Parent Tot Lessons 11:05am – 11:30am
Ages : 6 months – 3 years
YMCA Members – $52.00
Program members – $104

Pre School Lessons 11:00am – 11:35am
Ages : 3 years – 5 years
YMCA Members – $62.00
Program members – $124

Youth – Teen Lessons 11:45am – 12:35am
Ages : 6 years – 15 years
YMCA Members – $72.00
Program members – $144

To Register, stop by the front desk.

If anyone is interested but feels that they can not afford swim
lessons, you can apply for a scholarship, just ask at the front desk.

Science and Math Mondays

Please forward where it is appropriate to do so:

Science and Math Mondays with Kathy Wentz

I have two openings for teens interested in joining a small group of
other teens on Mondays for semi-private tutoring, small group projects
and field trips designed to meet your math and science needs. All
activities and instruction will be planned according to individual
student needs.

Days will usually be from 10:00 to 4:00. On days when the weather is
good we will take a few hours and head out to do field work at Volo Bog,
Glacial Park, Moraine Hills State Park or any one of the other amazing
natural areas in the Chain O’Lakes area. On days when the weather is
poor we will stay in and work on individual or small group projects,
vocabulary, and math skills (Algebra with fractions and Geometry are
currently planned).

We will also have a field trip approximately once a month and it can be
assumed that the hours of those days will be longer than on other
Mondays. As each trip is planned an announcement of the dates and times
will be made and individual students can then decide if that trip is
something they want to participate in. Student input into the field
trips will be highly encouraged.

Students are asked to commit to an entire season (fall, winter,
spring). Students that complete three full seasons (one year) will be
given a certificate indicating 1 full credit of high school science and
1 full credit of high school math completed in McHenry County, IL. The
exact course names of the credits will be determined by the student
because the exact topic and level of study is determined by the student.

Homework will be assigned. Homework will vary from student to student
and will be based on their projects and goals.

Cost: $30 a week plus any additional costs for supplies or field trip
expenses Supplies will vary from student to student and might include
anything from bacteria cultures to advanced dissection specimens and can
be split whenever two or more students want to do a group project.
Field trip expenses might include train fare downtown or museum
admission where I am unable to gain us free entry. (Note: I am very
frugal and do promise to keep all additional expenses as low as I can!
As many of you know, I already own a lot of science equipment!) All
additional project costs will be cleared with the parent first!

If interested, please contact me directly and we will set up a time to
get together and discuss your needs and goals.

P.S. We already have one student coming in at the Fox Lake train station
so picking up two instead of one at that time/location is not a problem
– and they would usually have each other to ride with. <grin>

Kathy Wentz <kwentz8992@comcast.net>

Educator, Tutor and Public Speaker
Where will I be teaching/speaking next? http://www.KathyWentz.blogspot.com
Educational Consultant for <http://dynamiclearning411.com>
Homeschool Parent Advisor for <http://www.johnsburglibrary.org>
Web Administrator for <http://www.illinoishouse.org>
Unschooling List owner <http://ulfaq.home.comcast.net/ULfaq.html>

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