Editor’s note: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, educational entrepreneurship has boomed nationwide. New Hampshire has experienced significant growth in the number of entrepreneurs and innovators willing to take on the daunting challenge of building a new educational ecosystem. This year, we’ll be highlighting some of the people and organizations that have begun expanding the education marketplace in the Granite State, as well as the obstacles they face in creating non-traditional learning environments. We start with Becky Anderson and Prax Village, a Seacoast community for home-schooling families. We hope you enjoy these profiles and stories of market innovation.
Prax Village: A thriving co-learning community
By Becky Anderson
Prax Village is a community of liberty-minded homeschooling families in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire. After two full years, our current member base includes more than 100 kids of all ages, from about 50 families. But Prax Village looked much different when it was established in the autumn of 2020.
A small group of like-minded families had collectively purchased and, through many volunteer hours and efforts, renovated a private community center that we call the Praxeum. The building and beautiful outdoor space on our property were used for charitable events, meetups, classes, and co-working. The Praxeum’s founders were at different stages in raising our families, yet we found ourselves always returning to a common goal: to form a support network for parents navigating the choice to raise our children outside of the conventional school system, and a strong, trusted social group for our kids as they grew.
In 2020, government-imposed COVID restrictions unceremoniously canceled many of our extracurriculars and homeschool groups, while also closing homeschoolers’ typical gathering places like libraries, museums and indoor playgrounds. Many new and long-time homeschoolers felt displaced and found themselves searching for in-person opportunities. Kids (and parents) really missed interacting with each other in a normal and natural way.
We already had a location, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome, and knew it was the right time to share it with more families, so Prax Village was launched. For an affordable monthly fee, members had just a couple of opportunities per week to meet at the Praxeum, along with seasonal special events. We trusted that this simple start would grow into richer and more robust offerings, and it has.
Through steady and organic growth, Prax Village has become a community that has greatly exceeded our initial expectations and continues to evolve and improve.
Prax Village members include kids from babies to teens, and many types of homeschoolers: brand new and seasoned, religious and secular. A wide array of educational philosophies can be found here. Many members join after moving from other states to New Hampshire for its high quality of life and increased personal freedom. Because we share common principles of liberty and a desire to raise responsible and thoughtful individuals, our members make up a strong and supportive community despite our diversity of educational styles.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and energy of parent volunteers, Prax Village now offers multiple classes and clubs five days a week, with a year-round calendar of 8-week sessions. We owe our success to members’ generosity with their time and knowledge. Over the past year, the schedule has included Spanish, soccer, book club, chess club, LEGO club, multiple art classes, music appreciation and chemistry — and that’s only a partial list!
We aim to cater to a wide variety of interests, from weekly Toddler Time for ages 2-4 with rotating parent leaders to a multi-year academic deep dive into Greek classics for ages 11 and older. Most families come to the Praxeum one, two, or three times a week for the supplemental classes that interest them most, and our 8-week sessions give everyone a chance to try out different things and maintain a flexible schedule.
We have established our own unique set of seasonal traditions — a Valentine Exchange, Freecoast Egg Hunt, Midsummer Potluck, Halloween Trunk or Treat, and Enlightenment: A Winter Solstice Celebration.
Organizers also create fun opportunities around the region exclusively for Prax Village members, like our field trip to the New Hampshire Farm Museum or sailing classes with the Gundalow Company. We have held food drives and toy drives, and seasonal clothing swaps with leftover clothes donated to the Pass Along Project. We are even beginning to see more time carved out for parents to connect and recharge, like Ladies’ Book Club and Anarcraft meetups.
In September, we tried something new and, for one weekend only, we transformed the Praxeum into Prax Museum: A Pop-Up, Hands-On, Kid-Made Science Center. Prax Village members invited friends, family and fellow homeschoolers to explore physics, chemistry, light, electricity and other amazing natural phenomena by interacting with dozens of exhibits and demonstrations. Popular exhibits included the impressive full-room pinhole camera, the Bernoulli blower, colorful shadows, and tricky goggles that turned the world backwards and upside down. Every exhibit was an opportunity to play with science and learn together.
Prax Village differs from the typical homeschooling co-op. We avoid long waitlists and limited enrollment. Because we are able to adjust our programming choices according to size and member demographics, new families can join at any time. We don’t provide core academics, as we understand that the parent is the expert in their children’s unique learning needs.
We aren’t a drop-off program. In part, this decision was made to avoid regulations and licensing, but by including parents in all that we do, we encourage strong friendships to form between whole families rather than only the children. Our large, weekly, unstructured gathering is an important social time for parents and kids alike.
With so many families leaving the public school system in search of other educational options, this is an exciting time for homeschoolers, and New Hampshire is the best place to be! Prax Village is positioned to continue leading the way as a community for liberty-minded homeschoolers in our state. If you would like more information about Prax Village or to become a member, visit https://praxvillage.org.
Becky Anderson is founder of Prax Village Homeschool Community.