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The Best of Homeschooling NYC: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Unity BJJ School

June 8, 2015

Though roadschooling, worldschooling, USA RV travel, and splitting time in two locations may sound like a pretty awesome way to grow up, one huge, if not gigantic challenge our family faces is making commitments to long-term activities and educational programs.

For several years now, my oldest has begged to take martial arts classes.  However, splitting time between two primary locations, along with other travel, has made finding a training program incredibly difficult.  Outside of the Big Apple, we have (and I’m not exaggerating) three martial arts programs to choose from–with a few more options if I could get over hauling the kids 45+ minutes in the car each way to practice.  Coincidentally, practices at these schools conflict with at least one of my children’s regular activities. Sure, I could limit my children’s activities and prioritize martial arts above the other activities or educational classes, but I want my kids to pursue those activities or classes and receive martial arts training.  Specifically, I wanted them to learn Jiu Jitsu.

In New York City, there are tons of martial arts schools, all featuring different styles, reputations, and typically hefty NYC price tags.  Finding a financially viable option for training four children is no easy task.  Go ahead and check out some of the scary rate pages of some of the schools in and around Manhattan. I have a hard time understanding how people in the city can comfortably chug $20 shots of liquor (the same ones that would be a fraction of that outside of NYC), let alone pay outrageous fees for kids’ classes, especially ones where my kids are treated as numbers (or maybe worse, a place focused on rewarding kids with colorful belts, rather than ensuring they have a thorough skill set and experience in self-defense) in a business where money is so blatantly the only and obvious goal.  Maybe that’s just the New England, practical, Country Girl in me, who believes in supporting businesses and people who exude bigger, brighter and more heart-led objectives.

Well…one day it happened.  Sometime ago, I stumbled upon an online mention of Unity Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in New York City.  I’m pretty sure I saw the name on a homeschool Yahoo list, but only recently looked up the school.  As soon as I found the Unity Website my heart skipped a beat!  Not only do I think the website looks pretty fabulous, and I have a thing for black and white photo heavy themed websites, but I saw HOMESCHOOL CLASSES.  What?!?!  Did I win the martial arts education lottery?  It seemed that I discovered a school with flexible scheduling that wouldn’t force my children to pass up other activities which are often offered at traditional afterschool class times.

Love At First Sight

I couldn’t wait to schedule a visit to Unity.  Our first visit was to Kids Class on Saturdays.  We were greeted by Ana, and immediately felt welcome at Unity. We were surprised and thrilled to learn that there was another homeschooling family training there that at the same time.  That was pretty cool because in NYC, it’s not everyday you bump into other homeschooling families, unless you are attending a dedicated homeschool event.

unity jiu jitsu

It was obvious from the start that Unity Jiu Jitsu is different from most, if not every place in NYC.  Maybe it’s because Ana herself was homeschooled and hails from New England (if you’re from New England, I know you had to have just smiled reading that), or because she and her husband and their close-knit training circle are totally serious about Jiu Jitsu and improving lives through the sport. Clearly, this is a place where everyone who wants to seriously learn the sport is welcome.

From the Unity Website:  “We run a top-notch Jiu Jitsu academy in the heart of midtown in New York City. All of our instructors are still actively and successfully competing at the highest levels of the sport. Our dream and goal is for Unity Jiu Jitsu to be a school where, male or female, a serious student training only at our academy can become a World Champion; where a student in their early teens can come and experience all the benefits of a martial arts lifestyle; where a hobbyist can come and enjoy themselves while exercising and learning; where everyone comes together in a family-like atmosphere, with the mutual goal of improving their Jiu Jitsu, and allowing Jiu Jitsu to improve their lives.”

Whatever it is about Unity, it was love at first sight–or first class–for my entire family.  The kids are psyched for classes and before falling asleep ask if they get to go to Jiu Jitsu in the morning, which makes me a very happy homeschooling mom because I know that it seems like we’ve found a great fit for our family.  What makes me even happier is that Unity understood our crazy lifestyle and financial constraints of martial arts training in the city, and came up with an arrangement that will work for our family. Not only am I totally grateful to Unity already, but I’m overflowing with gratitude that our family stumbled across this martial arts Gem in the heart of Manhattan, after years of trying to figure out how to bring Jiu Jitsu into our children’s lives.

If you’re looking for quality homeschool Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes in the city taught by world class athletes and champions, and classes in a laid-back, comfortable environment, you really should check out this place.

Happy Wandering!  Happy Homeschooling!


P.S. Happy reader, so you know, no compensation was exchanged for this post.  If you’re a regular Wanderschool reader, you know I strongly believe in supporting businesses that aren’t afraid (and actually strive to make it the heart of their business) to go the extra mile for people and the community.





Free and Inexpensive Homeschooling in NYC

June 7, 2015

We’re taking a short timeout from our 50 States Tour to spend a few weeks in NYC, catching up with the people, places, and things we love most about The Big Apple.  We’ll be back on the road soon, but in the meantime, we’re soaking up as many cool classes and educational opportunities in the city as possible.

I’m continually amazed by the plethora of free and inexpensive opportunities and experiences that are available in New York City for kids and families–ones that make for well-rounded and fun homeschooling, not to mention happy, willing, and eager homeschool students (and a happy homeschooling mom).

This past week the Wanderschool kids participated in a number of incredible opportunities and enrichment activities.  Nearly all of the activities were free!  I even snagged a free outdoor yoga class on the lawn of a park with a lovely view of the Statue of Liberty!


Some of these opportunities included free ping pong and games in Battery Park City, juggling classes in Bryant Park, and a free martial arts intro class.

sketch class nyc

The kids also participated in a landscape sketch class, an open play & reading hour program, and an arts & crafts class, where the youngest Wanderkids made mock telescopes and binoculars.


The kids also attended what they think was the best ever magic show EVER performed by Magic Evan at a library as part of a New York Public Library Summer Reading Kick-Off.  He was pretty awesome, and I’d hire him in an instant if I believed in keeping up with the NYC Jones’ when it comes to kid birthday parties (I’m a simple pizza and cake or cupcakes kind of mom).

We also checked out the free Ms. Frizzle and The Magic School Bus exhibit in Bryant Park.  The kids enjoyed checking out the science exhibits aboard the bus, but it was slightly unfortunate that we were ushered through so quickly as the kids were incredibly eager to read and learn about what they saw, such as the (um…dead) Tarantula and the parts of the ear display.

Of course, they also scored free doughnuts as part of World Doughnut Day!  We also finally scheduled a free visit to Sony Wonder Technology Lab!

To think that these were just a few of the free offerings that the kids participated in, and that there are SO many opportunities that await discovery, is slightly overwhelming (it’s impossible to squeeze everything into the calendar), but nevertheless incredibly exciting.

I could easily spend a whole day (and sometimes it seems I do) just researching on my computer or phone cool and fabulous homeschooling opportunities, activities, and events.  Finding awesome free events is like icing on a cupcake.  It’s super sweet and there’s the inevitable, and highly addictive, sugar-like rush that comes with scoring a learning opportunity for cheap or free!

If you’re looking for free or cheap NYC homeschooling opportunities, some of my favorite resources include:

* Mommy Poppins
* The NYC Homeschool Yahoo Group List
* The Park Slope Homeschool Yahoo Group List
* Red Tricycle
* Museum of Modern Art
* The Metropolitan Museum of Art
* New York Historical Society
* Time Out New York
* The events sections of all those free little newspapers that appear in boxes scattered around the city.

Happy Wandering! Happy Homeschooling!


Roadschooling Vermont’s Beautiful Burlington

May 25, 2015

Roadschooling takes a bit of faith.  You’ve got to trust that kids naturally want to learn, explore, and challenge themselves. You’ve got to trust that even when there isn’t tangible evidence of progress, such as a completed worksheet that can be scored or analyzed, that your child is indeed learning.

When you’re homeschooling on the road, on extended travel or just for a day, you sometimes have to keep your fingers secretly (or not so secretly) crossed behind your back that at the end of the day your child will have a little extra knowledge, a new idea, or a new concept tucked away up under his or her skull.

For us, homeschooling on the road is a mindset.  Every stop along the route, every moment, every discussion is an opportunity for learning.  It’s not that we’re “doing school” the whole time when we’re on the go, but we view life and our travels as one big learning adventure.

Homeschooling on the road is a mindset

Our recent trip to beautiful Burlington, Vermont is a good example of our one big learning adventure approach to education.

We woke up ready for adventure!  We started the day with a morning stop for yummy garlic bagels (a scrambled egg with Vermont Cabot Cheddar Cheese for gluten-free me).  🙂   We then took off to the ECHO Science Center on the Lake Champlain Waterfront.  The kids had fun touching sea stars, learning about water and the formation of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, checking out barnacles attached to bicycles, and playing with the sand contour/watershed exhibit.

echo science center unnamed

After our ECHO visit, we went to Orange Leaf on College Street…yummmm!  The learning adventure here was learning about measurement and independence in self-serving ice cream and scooping toppings.  The little guy is always thrilled when he can pull the ice cream control handle and serve himself.

orangeleaf tea

We then went to Dobra Tea on Church Street for afternoon tea.  The kids love visiting the Dobra tearoom when we visit Burlington, since they can sit on floor cushions in the little platform rooms and sip tea on tables that are just the perfect kid size.  Wandertween was disappointed to learn that Dobra was out of hummus, since she loves the hummus and veggie platter. Next time! However, she and the other kids were happy to sip the Eastern Winds Tea (a blend of jasmine, rose petals, violet leaf, rosehips, hibiscus, cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, star anise, and cloves) and enjoy Dobra’s delicious rice.  There’s always so much for the kids to gain from the peaceful experience of going to Dobra, especially educationally such as about teas, culture, and customs.


After some window shopping on Church Street–and a longer visit to Lululemon so I could try on some cute yoga tanks, we headed to the Burlington Police Station to pay a parking ticket (ugh…patient parenting through a temper tantrum clearly doesn’t always pay…we arrived back at the car just as the meter reader slapped the ticket on the windshield…if only I had just picked up the little guy and ended his not-so-peaceful protest and carried him, I would have had an extra $15 to put toward another cute yoga tank, but I’m sure the City of Burlington can put that cash to good use).  🙂

Lots of learning opportunities in this part of the day!

We had lots more roadschooling fun later in the day, but that’s for another time….