This week, I am delighted to present a series of guest-posts by urban homeschoolers in Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Buffalo. I hope you'll check in to see how other families approach city homeschooling. Today's post was written by Brenna Gisbson Redpath at Urban Homeschoolers who shares her insights about homeschooling in Los Angeles.
I find myself saying a lot these days “Los Angeles might be the best place to homeschool on earth.” I know – it’s not exactly the ideal vision of bucolic simplicity… But I really do feel lucky to be living in the urban sprawl of LA during my family’s homeschool days, for so many reasons.
Obviously - there’s the weather. Warm and sunny days makes gathering in large groups outdoors easy to count on. Most support groups in Los Angeles center around weekly or bi-weekly Park Days where scads of families get together to play and visit. Classes are often held in parks too. I find that my family spends a lot of time outdoors, in the grass, under the trees.
Then there’s the staggering number of homeschoolers in our area. The California Homeschooler’s Network website lists nineteen different support groups in the LA area, and this doesn’t even begin to be a real count. That adds up to a lot of people, and a lot of diversity. All kinds of people for all kinds of reasons are teaching their own in this city.
With so many of us, there are countless opportunities to take classes, join clubs, go on fieldtrips… I often joke about how the biggest challenge with socialization around here is learning when to say “No, we’re actually staying home today!”
In Los Angeles, as a homeschooler, it’s easy to find your tribe, and as veteran homeschooling mothers know, finding a tribe becomes much more important as children get older. My children are 13 and 10. My son is a teenager, and my daughter is a social butterfly. As much as I love sitting on the porch reading a book aloud for hours on end, my children are having none of it these days. They need groups.
As I sit here writing this blog, I can hear my daughter vocalizing her kicks in her girls-only self-defense class. My son is next door getting ready for his scriptwriting class. This is all happening at Urban Homeschoolers, a homeschooling resource center that a group of us moms opened this year. We have classes two days a week, focusing on Middle and High school ages. It’s a classic example of seeing a need and filling it. We’re meeting our own, and our children’s, changing needs. I think it’s a great example for kids to see.
The further I go down this urban homeschooling road, the more I realize just how valuable so many aspects of this lifestyle choice are. I come from small towns in the south. People knew each other, and took care of each other. People spent time on the porch, visiting and chatting. Mothers knew each other’s children, and looked out for them. When I moved to the big city I mourned that loss. I assumed that I would never have my grandmother’s kind of life. Now, in some ways, I do. I am part of a community, knitted together in a wonderful way, and I’m so very grateful. When a catastrophe (or even a stumble) strikes one of our group, we spring into action, organizing dinner delivery, offering childcare, filling in the gaps. And of course, since we’re so family-centered, our kids watch all this community first-hand. It’s another opportunity to teach your beliefs, by example, every day.
Besides all this, we just have so much FUN!! Our group holds family dinner dances, talent shows, craft fairs. We take the train to Santa Barbara, go family camping, and meet at the beach all summer long.
People choose to homeschool for so many varied reasons. Most families I know soon realize that it’s not a choice about school. It’s a choice about lifestyle, and priorities, and balance. It’s about family.
I often think that I have the best homeschooling family in the world, and I hope that everyone reading this blog thinks that they do too.
Brenna Gibson Redpath and her family have been homeschooling from the beginning of time. Not really - it just feels like that some days. Although she grew up in Arkansas, she has lived in Los Angeles for 25 years. She strongly believes that our greatest weaknesses are also our greatest strengths, and so we're better off feeling kindly towards all parts of ourselves. In 2009 the Redpath family sold everything they owned, and traveled for a year and a half to Eastern Europe, Europe, North Africa, and South America. They chronicled their journey in their award-winning website, From Here To Uncertainty.com. Brenna and her partners currently own and operate Urban Homeschoolers, a resource center for homeschooling families, located in the Atwater area of Los Angeles.