(Last Updated on June 10, 2022)
As I’ve written this post, all of my family’s belongings were loaded onto a 26’ moving truck and taken to our new home in another state!
After searching online for co-ops and extracurricular activities near our new home, I realized firsthand how helpful it is when bloggers share their favorite local homeschooling resources!
So, before my family leaves the northwest Chicago suburbs, I want to post a “brain dump” of all the northern Illinois homeschooling resources I’ve found over the years. We’ve been parenting and homeschooling here for over a decade and have collected a list of awesome co-ops, support groups, nature centers, field trip ideas, and more!
Keep in mind, this isn’t a complete list by any means. But I’m hoping something listed here will be helpful to any parent in the greater Chicagoland area.
All the groups on this list are ones I’ve either used myself or have had personally recommended to me by a friend. You can check out sites like thehomeschoolmom.com for more ideas.
Whether you’re new to Illinois or have been here a while, check out the links below to get connected to the thriving (and rapidly growing!) homeschooling community in the Chicago suburbs!
Co-ops & Support Groups
There are many types of homeschooling groups in the Chicagoland area. If you’re looking for one, first think about what kind of group you need. A parental support group? A laid back co-op with elective-type classes? A structured private-school-like experience? A hybrid school where the school decides the curricula? Research multiple options to find the best fit.
- Barrington Area Homeschoolers – BAHS (Northwest Suburbs)
- Christian Homeschool Arts & Music Program – CHAMPS (Rolling Meadows)
- Christians United for Better Schooling – CUBS (Chicago)
- Classical Consortium Academy – CCA (Multiple Locations)
- Classical Conversations – CC (Multiple Locations)
- Godly Influenced Fine Arts Training – GIFT (Hampshire)
- Greenhouse Christian Co-School (Wheaton)
- Heritage Home School Workshops (St. Charles)
- Home Oriented Unique Schooling Experience – HOUSE (Multiple Locations)
- Homeschool Enrichment Achieved Respectfully Together – HEART (Barrington)
- Homeschool Kingdom – HSK (Medinah)
- Learning Tree (Cary)
- The Learning Vine (Naperville)
- Olivewood Academy (Elgin)
- Scholé Academy (Multiple Locations)
Extracurricular & Academic Activities
The best way to find out about extracurricular clubs and activities for homeschoolers is to ASK! As an introvert, I’ve learned if I can summon the courage to speak up, other homeschooling parents are happy to share great local resources they’ve found!
- 4-H Clubs
- Chicago Astronomical Society – they host nighttime stargazer events among other things
- The Christian Family Gavel Club – a student version of Toastmasters for students ages 12 to 22 – contact fiedlerkim [at] gmail [dot] com for more information
- Christian Youth Theater – CYT
- DuPage Area STEM Expo
- FIRST Illinois Robotics
- Great Midwest Train Show
- Illinois Science Olympiad
- Judson University – youth summer camps, concerts, plays, and other special events
- Northern Illinois Home Educators Regional Science Fair
- Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club
- Scripps National Spelling Bee
- Trail Life USA – scouting troops for boys
- War History Simulations – for students ages 12 to 18 – contact fiedlerkim [at] gmail [dot] com for more information
- West Suburban Homeschool Band – excellent band for all skill levels
Downtown Chicago Adventures
I’m listing the downtown Chicago activities in their own section since Chicago is kind of its own separate world to many of us in the suburbs.
I’ve always been one of those scaredy-cat suburbanites who tries hard to avoid driving downtown. But, if you live anywhere near Chicago, you really should try and brave the traffic and crowds to check out the amazing museums and sights in the big city at least once in a while!
One option my kids always loved was taking the train to Chicago for a field trip and then stopping at a “train restaurant” on the way home. The Choo Choo (Des Plaines) and 2Toots Train Whistle Grill (Bartlett) were two of our favorites that deliver your meal on a model train!
A lot of the downtown museums offer free days or special educational/homeschooling discounts, tours, and classes – so be sure to call ahead and find out about current deals before you go!
- Adler Planetarium
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours
- Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum
- Field Museum
- Lincoln Park Zoo
- Lyric Opera of Chicago
- Museum of Science & Industry
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
- Shedd Aquarium
- Sightseeing – Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), Millennium Park, John Hancock Center & Willis Tower observation decks, Navy Pier, The Magnificent Mile, Buckingham Fountain, etc.
- Wrigley Field Tours
Field Trip Ideas
There are so many options for field trips around this area! Besides the ones listed here, you can find more at www.fieldtripdirectory.com or by asking other homeschoolers for their favorite suggestions.
- Amazon Tours (Multiple Locations)
- Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont) – educational science tours and classes
- Cantigny Park (Wheaton) – gardens, museums, and military tanks on display
- Cook County Farm Bureau (Countryside) – educational classes and events about agriculture
- Drury Lane Theater (Oakbrook)
- Fermi Lab (Batavia) – educational science tours and classes
- Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture Tours (Oak Park)
- The House on the Rock (Spring Green, WI) – very unique museum/estate tours
- LEGOLAND Discovery Center (Schaumburg)
- Long Grove Confectionary (Buffalo Grove) – factory tours
- Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament (Schaumburg) – such a fun field trip!
- Rochelle Railroad Park (Rochelle)
- Taliesin – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Estate (Spring Green, WI)
Northern Illinois is blessed with a number of amazing, high-quality children’s and themed museums. If you plan on going more than once, definitely look into the membership options.
- The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn (Oak Lawn) – a little smaller than the DuPage & Kohl Museums but still a lot of fun, especially for the younger crowd
- Circus World (Baraboo, WI)
- Discovery Center Museum (Rockford)
- DuPage Children’s Museum (Naperville) – one of the best kids’ museums in the area
- Illinois Railroad Museum (Union)
- Kohl Children’s Museum (Glenview) – another one of the best local kids’ museums
- SciTech Museum (Aurora) – it looks like the museum itself is closing its doors, but the owners plan to provide educational STEM resources of some kind in the future…
- Volo Auto Museum (Volo)
Nature Centers, Farms, & Zoos
It seems like every town and county around here has something to offer for the animal and nature lovers in your family!
- Big Run Wolf Ranch Wildlife Refuge (Lockport)
- Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground (Schaumburg) – connected to Spring Valley Nature Center and Heritage Farm
- Brookfield Zoo (Brookfield) – this is a big place, be sure to bring a stroller for the littles
- Chicago Botanical Garden (Glencoe)
- The Children’s Farm at The Center (Palos Park)
- Cosley Zoo (Wheaton) – a smaller zoo, perfect for younger kids
- Crabtree Nature Center (Barrington Hills)
- Didier Farms (Lincolnshire) – our family’s favorite pumpkin patch
- Goebbert’s Farm & Garden Center (Multiple Locations)
- Indiana Dunes State Park (Chesterton, IN)
- Johansen Farms (Bolingbrook)
- Little Red Schoolhouse (Willow Springs) – no longer just a small schoolhouse, this place now has a pretty substantial nature center building plus walking trails
- Morton Arboretum (Lisle) – expansive and amazing children’s nature playground and activity areas
- Royal Oak Farm Orchard (Harvard) – our family’s favorite apple orchard
- Sonny Acres Farm (West Chicago)
- Spring Valley Nature Center (Schaumburg) – connected to Bison’s Bluff Playground and Heritage Farm
- Starved Rock State Park (Utica) – beautiful hiking trails and waterfalls
- Warren Dunes State Park (Sawyer, MI) – makes a great day or weekend trip
Historic Farms & Tours
These places overlap with the “Nature Centers & Farms” but I’ve made them their own category because they focus on preserving the historical aspect of their buildings/site (think Laura Ingalls Wilder and churning butter and all that).
- The Grove (Glenview) – especially check out their Homeschool Week programs (typically in March)
- Heritage Farm (Schaumburg) – connected to Bison’s Bluff Playground and Spring Valley Nature Center
- Klein Creek Farm (West Chicago) – we loved their “Barn Raising” field trip program
- Naper Settlement (Naperville)
- Old World Wisconsin (Eagle, WI) – you can easily spend an entire day here – it’s a little far but worth the drive
Amusement Parks, Waterparks, & Other Fun Places
There are so many fun places to take your kids around here! Call ahead to find out about group and educational discounts and special homeschool days/offers.
- Atcher Island Waterpark (Schaumburg)
- Blackberry Farm (Aurora) – this could go under “Farms” or “Historic Farms” but it’s got so many activities, I think it fits best in this category
- Congo River Adventure Golf (Hoffman Estates) – one of our favorite mini-golf places
- Enchanted Castle Restaurant & Entertainment Complex (Lombard) – awesome place for birthday parties
- Family Aquatic Center (Palatine)
- Family Aquatic Center (Wheeling)
- Kane County Cougars (Geneva) – local baseball team, family-friendly games and theme nights
- Mountain View Mine Adventure Mini-Golf (Des Plaines) – our other favorite mini-golf place
- PGN Fun Village (Hickory Hills)
- Pinstripes (Multiple Locations) – when my kids were younger we enjoyed their mom & tot daytime bowling deals
- Pirates’ Cove Children’s Theme Park (Elk Grove Village) – perfect for elementary-aged kids
- Raging Waves Waterpark (Yorkville)
- Santa’s Village Amusement & Waterpark (East Dundee)
- Schaumburg Boomers (Schaumburg) – local baseball team, family-friendly games and theme nights
- Six Flags Great America (Gurnee)
- Silver Birch Ranch (White Lake, WI) – youth and family camps and retreats
- The Water Works (Schaumburg) – great indoor option for the winter
- Xtreme Wheels Roller Skating Center (Crystal Lake) – check for monthly homeschool skate discount days
Open Gym & Athletic Programs
There are dozens of park districts and private gym-type places that have homeschool P.E. programs in the Chicagoland area. The ones I’m listing here have had quality programs I’ve used in the past for my own kids (but that’s no guarantee that they will in the future, especially post-pandemic).
If you’re looking for gym options for your kids, call your local park district, YMCA, private gymnastics studios, swimming facilities, and places like Urban Air or Jump Zone. Many of these kinds of places have discounted daytime classes for homeschoolers or they might consider creating a program if there’s enough interest.
- Campanelli YMCA (Schaumburg) – we loved their Homeschool Gym & Swim program
- Crossroads Christian Youth Center Homeschool Sports (Location Varies) – sports teams and camps
- Flying High Sports & Rec Center (Countryside) – we’ve liked their gymnastics open gym program
- Kids Bowl Free Program (Multiple Locations)
- Royalty Gymnastics Tumble Dance & Parkour (Huntley) – they setup a custom gymnastics open gym time for our homeschool group
- Schaumburg Park District Homeschool Programs (Schaumburg) – we attended their Homeschool Gym & Turf program for years and they even bought additional sports equipment for our group at our request
- Streamwood Park District Homeschool Gym & Swim – at one time they hosted an Open Gym & Swim program but park district classes change regularly – check their program for current class offerings
- Vertical Endeavors (Glendale Heights) – ask about their Homeschool Discount Days
- Winfield Park District Open Gym – this park district has hosted daytime Open Gym programs
Just FYI – if you’re new to the area and you’re used to skiing in actual mountains, don’t be fooled by the names of these places. Compared to Vail and Breckenridge, these ski “mountains” are more like mole hills. But, they’re still fun, family-friendly places and they’re especially great for kids or skiers who aren’t quite ready for the Rockies.
Some of these ski facilities have homeschool specials but I’ve found they don’t always advertise them on their websites. Call before you go to make sure you’re getting the best deal you can!
- Cascade Mountain (Portage, WI)
- Chestnut Mountain Resort (Galena)
- Villa Olivia (Bartlett)
- Wilmot Mountain (Wilmot, WI)
Volunteering & Service Opportunities
One of the benefits of the homeschooling is the flexibility to use traditional “school hours” to spend time volunteering and helping out in the community. Your local township, village, church, or library would probably know of many more options, too.
- Habitat for Humanity (Multiple Locations)
- Feed My Starving Children (Multiple Locations)
- Phil’s Friends (Roselle) – they provide support and hope to those affected by cancer – even young kids can help volunteer by coloring cards for patients
- Food Pantries (Schaumburg Township and many others) – you can find more at foodpantries.org
- Willow Creek Care Center (South Barrington)
I’m not going to try and list all bazillion libraries in the Chicagoland area. But there are a few I thought I’d mention because they had a special feature or I’ve known them to be extra helpful to homeschoolers.
But don’t feel limited to these few libraries! Just call the ones nearest to you and ask them if they have any homeschool classes, daytime educational programs, or if they’d be willing to give your family or homeschool group a private tour. In my experience, they’re generally very accommodating if you just ask!
- Addison Public Library – in the past they’ve always had a large assortment of toys, puzzles, and educational games to check out
- Barrington Area Library – this library is like a mini kids’ museum with toys, puzzles, activities, iPads, and even an indoor slide
- Elk Grove Village Public Library – this library has a nice play area, fun classes, and they’ve hosted homeschool events in the past
- Johnsburg Public Library District – Johnsburg has an extensive homeschool resource library and hosts regular homeschooling seminars and used curriculum sales
- Schaumburg Township District Library – we’ve enjoyed the young children’s play area, “tween” and “teen” sections, and the growing collection of games and education kits available for checkout
- Wauconda Area Public Library – they’ve been very accommodating for our homeschool groups and had a great “behind-the-scenes tour” with automated book sorting machine
There are too many of these to list by individual town – but, in general, cities and villages in the Chicago suburbs have a lot to offer families. Call your local village office to find out what’s going on near you throughout the year.
- Parades, Festivals, & County Fairs – we especially like the 4th of July parades in Carol Stream and Warrenville, the mid-summer parades in West Chicago and Streamwood, and the Christmas parade in Wheaton since they’ve all regularly included the West Suburban Homeschool Marching Band
- Public Works Events – for example, Palatine’s “Big Trucks” or Schaumburg’s “Public Works Open House” (both usually in May) are great family-friendly, educational events
- Fire Dept. Open Houses – look for these especially in October which is National Fire Safety Month
- Police Dept. Open Houses & Student Police Academy – Check with your local police department to see if they offer any events like this – even if not, they might be willing to setup a special tour for your family or co-op group if you ask
Seasonal Special Events
A lot of the places I’ve mentioned decorate and have special events at Christmastime. Here are a few places that have particularly amazing Christmas events.
- Brookfield Zoo (Brookfield) – Holiday Magic event
- Klein Creek Farm (Wheaton) – Christmas on the Farm tours
- Morton Arboretum (Lisle) – Illumination event
- Museum of Science & Industry (Chicago) – Christmas Around the World event
- Wheaton Christmas Parade (Wheaton) – traditionally, the West Suburban Homeschool Band is the featured band in the parade
- Winterfest (Lake Geneva, WI) – amazing ice and snow sculptures and activities
Illinois Groups & Conferences
If you’re new to homeschooling or need some new ideas, consider attending a homeschool conference to be encouraged on your homeschooling journey! I also recommend bringing the homeschool skeptics in your family (spouses, grandparents, etc.) to these conferences since they have a way of changing people’s perception of homeschooling in a positive way!
- Chicago HS Network – one of many groups you can join to get in the homeschooling loop
- Great Homeschool Conventions – GHC (Multiple Conference Locations)
- Illinois Christian Home Educators – ICHE – this state-wide support group in Illinois also hosts an amazing annual homeschooling conference
- Teach Them Diligently – TTD (Multiple Conference Locations)
Reading Incentive Programs
We’ve found some fun reading incentive programs local to the northwest and surrounding Chicago suburbs. Many libraries also host summer or year-round reading incentive programs. And, if your kids are like mine and already love reading, then why not get some bonus freebies for something they’re already doing!
Illinois Homeschool Connections
I’m sure there are many other homeschooling experts in the area, but I’ve met these specific people personally and they’re all a wealth of information when it comes to homeschooling in Illinois.
- Leslee Dirnberger at Aspire Education
- Kathy Wentz at Johnsburg Library
- Kirk Smith and the staff at Illinois Christian Home Educators – ICHE
General Homeschooling Links
These final links aren’t specific to Illinois. But, if you’re new to homeschooling, they might be helpful as you research homeschooling laws, curricula, and general home education info.
- Homeschool Legal Defense Association – HSLDA – legal information about educating your kids at home
- National Home Education Research Institute – NHERI – stats and research about homeschooling
- Rainbow Resource Center – online store for all things homeschooling
- Homeschool Classifieds – sell and buy used homeschooling curricula
- Cathy Duffy Reviews – helpful reviews of hundreds (thousands maybe?) of homeschooling products
- Think About Homeschooling: What It Is, What It Isn’t, & Why It Works – I may be biased… but I’d say this book is a must read for anyone who homeschools or is considering it
If you’re new to homeschooling or to the Chicagoland area (or just need a few fresh ideas), I hope this list has given you a good start at finding some helpful homeschooling activities and connections!
And, remember, if the first group or resource you try isn’t a good match, don’t be discouraged! Just like shopping for new shoes, sometimes it takes a few tries to find a good fit.
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