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Belvidere/Rockford, IL--thoughts?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
We're thinking of moving to Belvidere, IL (just east of Rockford) but I'm not really sure what's there. It was recommended by two separate people as a place with decent access to homeschooling resources and the benefits of a small city (Rockford) while still being a short day trip to Chicago. Dh works out of the house and his company offices are in Mettawa/Vernon Hills and downtown--but he almost never has to go. So no biggie.

We're planning a trip in October-ish but I'm trying to get a feel for the good, the bad and the ugly of an area.

We are secular homeschoolers, non-vaxing, food-growing (including keeping about 8 laying hens that we know we may have to part with), organic food eating, etc. We like having a YMCA around for swim classes and if there's a nature center or a few museums and a really good library--we're set.

I'm also a little worried about schools (if only for resale value of whatever home we buy) but someone said Belvidere had good schools.

post #2 of 28
I am no expert, but the Rockford area of the state is not known for being a desirable area to live. Maybe things have changed for the better recently, but it has always been somewhat economically depressed.

And from what I understand it is not very progressive and I doubt grocery stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joes have made it out that way. Maybe there are some decent small stores to purchase organics from (unless you have a heated greenhouse and can grow your own year-round), but I would definitely research anything that is important to you very thoroughly.

It would be a good 2 hour drive to Chicago, so I wouldn't count on making a lot of day trips there necessarily.

And if some reason your DH had to start going into the office, that commute would be very undesirable.

Again, I am no expert on the area, but from what I know and from a few visits there, I would not move to that area of the state, particularly if my DH's job was based so far East.
post #3 of 28
Rockford on a weekend with no traffic would be about 1 1/2 hours to downtown. The Chicago area is rarely traffic free once you hit the O'Hare area. So even 2 hours would be good time. Add bad weather and that Rockford to downtown is an easy 3 or more hours
post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hmmm... the commute is non-issue and 2 hours is still okay for day-tripping; but yeah--I'm trying to get a feel for what it's like.

I thought Rockford was a bigger city (not bigger than Chicago of course, just having more to offer than Belvidere).

Lack of a nearby Whole Foods WAS concerning (and what prompted this post). I detest them for not carrying more organics, but we need them once/month for allergenic foods that are cheaper to buy there than online. And we don't bother with TJ's because outside of produce (that we've always had a coop for) there's maybe 4 things we can buy there (the stuff they carry is heavy in soy and we're allergic). But yeah--makes you wonder what the area is like.

post #5 of 28
If you only need it once a month, access to places like Whole Foods from Rockford would be doable. They are building a big one off I-90 in Schaumburg which is about an hour or so from Rockford.

My friend works for a big corporation based in Mettawa and was promised full-time telecommuting when the company moved offices (northward) a few years ago. She is "lucky" to be able to work from home 2 days a week because they changed their minds. We live in the far western suburbs and the commute from here is 2 hours each way most days and is killing her.
post #6 of 28
I live in Machesney Park which is just north of Rockford. We are headed to Belvidere today, actually.

Things I know or have heard about Belvidere...
They have some really nice parks there and a really good park district.
They just built a couple new schools (grade school and H.S.) and already seem to be at capacity.
Very lovely downtown area full of local businesses.
Great 4-H program.
The library is small, but very nice. I think they have access to books from other libraries through inter-library loan, though.
They have a YMCA, but I have never been there.

In Rockford...
We have an awesome children's museum that is currently being expanded. Other cool museums as well. Most have classes/ programs for homeschoolers.
Lots of homeschooling groups and resources.
No TJ or Whole Foods. Most people shop Woodmans, though the produce there is nothing to write home about. There are several CSA options and farmers markets around.
It can be difficult to find a doc that will let you do non-vax, but I know plenty of people that don't (including us). It has never been a problem.

I've always lived in this area and really like it, so I guess I don't have anything to really compare it to. Still I wouldn't be interested in moving! HTH! Enjoy your visit in October and make sure you visit Edward's Apple Orchard while you are here! It will be the perfect time of year!
post #7 of 28
IMO, I would move closer to the far northwest suburbs, if you can. Consider areas like Crystal Lake, McHenry, Richmond, Johnsburg, Ringwood, Spring Grove, Bull Valley. They have rural areas, but you might have better luck finding homeschoolers. You would also be closer to Vernon Hills.
post #8 of 28
I actually live in Cherry Valley which is right next to Belvidere and Rockford. While I did live in the Chicago subs for a few years after college, I was born and raised in Rockford. I think some of the above posters aren't giving the area a fair chance. The price you’re going to pay out for a house with some land is going to be better than the subs. Do you want to be closer into town? Because if you don’t, there are a few places and other small towns close by where you should be able to have some land and keep your chickens. We actually live in a subdivision so no chickens for us - but my dream would be to have a small farmett (some chickens, goats, garden, ect). Like Stugroupie said there are allot of great things to do with kids in the area - including lots of parks.

I work in Hoffman Estates so I make the drive every day. It usually takes me anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours with the typical being just about an hour. My sister is living downtown Chicago - we have made it there in good traffic in a 1.5 hours on average it takes around 2. Something else that hasn't been mentioned yet is - depending on how close you live to Harvard there is a Meta Train station that you could take down town and skip driving altogether. Oh and my in-laws live in the Joliet area - that takes us about 1 hour 45 minutes driving time (just about any way we go)

I personally shop at Woodman's and Choices Natural Market. We are on a restricted diet due to allergy/intolerances (as in we avoid Milk, Eggs, Soy, Corn, Gluten, Peanuts, Oats, Canola and some others) and I am very happy with the selection I have. In fact this past weekend we took our girls to Lego Land and Dad didn't pack enough food so we had to stop at a Dominick’s to find something to feed them - totally not happy. Luckily they did have some Applegate farm turkey and we had some grapes and carrots, but the prices are much more and the brands we like are harder to find around here.

There is a chapter of Holistic Moms Network in Rockford - I always want to go but it’s hard with commuting. I know from reading the Community/Park District activities calendar that comes out twice a year there are tons of activities for homeschooled kids. I wish I could stay home and homeschool my girls but I work and my husband stays home. While he is incredibly smart and great with our girls he is not organized enough to homeschool - plus he really just doesn't want to do it.

Also like Stugroupie - I am I'm not interested in moving away from the area. I do wish the schools by me were a little better but for now my girls are going to Spectrum School. Oh yeah also school related - I think homeschoolers can take classes at Keith Country Day School (a private college prep school).

Well good luck in your decision. I hope you enjoy your visit - I and second the going to Edwards Apple Orchard (in Poplar Grove and Rockford) or Curn’s Apple Farm (Rockford)if you are coming out in the fall. I'm sad this year we won't be able to have apple cinnamon donuts they are so good.
post #9 of 28
After I posted I realized you’re in NJ – is that right?

Well in that case here are some links that will make it easier for you to check out the area.

Local Food Directory: web http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/winneb...oads/16715.pdf

Choices Natural Market (they will special order items – but you may have to buy by the case based on what they need to order or what co-op they order from): http://www.choicesnaturalmarket.com/...66DA666A0F3E9E

Woodman’s Grocery Store (A few people have told me they will order items if specially requested and if requested enough will begin to stock. Their natural foods section just keep growing and growing): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodman's_Food_Market

Award winning Children’s Museum: http://www.discoverycentermuseum.org/

Natural History Museum: http://www.burpee.org/

Belvidere YMCA: http://www.belviderefamilyymca.org/

Belvidere Facts: http://www.ci.belvidere.il.us/cityinfo.htm

Belvidere Park District: http://www.belviderepark.org/

Rockford Park District: http://www.rockfordparks.org/

RockValley Community College (Check out the community section – they have a starlight theater and lot of other programs): http://www.rockvalleycollege.edu/

Rockford Wildcats Cross Country Running Club: http://www.wildcats.rockriver.net/

Coronado Theater in Rockford: http://www.coronadopac.org/

Edwards Apple Orchard (they have two locations 1 in Poplar Grove and 1 in Rockford. The Poplar Grove location is bigger) here are some reviews and information. They don’t have a website I can find. http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3714168459

Curran’s Orchard: http://curransorchard.netfirms.com/

Midway Village: http://www.midwayvillage.com/

Keith Country Day School: http://www.keithschool.com/

I don’t know much about the homeschool organizations in Rockford but a quick google search for Rockford Homeschool just turned up a whole bunch of hits.

Ok so that should help you out a bit. Good Luck with your decision.
post #10 of 28
While I don't know much about Rockford or Belvidere, I do live about 30-45 minutes away from those places and I love where I live! (I am about 30 minutes NW of Schaumburg in Algonquin.) I have certainly been to those places and it's not as if they are wartorn or ghetto.

Given your lifestyle and the fact that you would be looking for a house with some land and more open spaces, I think you're definately on the right track in looking in that area. And I certainly wouldn't call the area "undesirable"!

Perhaps you might expand your scope by looking in areas like Marengo, Hampshire, and Woodstock, all places with plenty of open land left and a reasonable cost of living.
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
*deep breath*

We've been in our current house for 5 years too long attempting to find that perfect place (in NJ) that has some land, but isn't too far from civilization.


Lots to consider, I guess. Does anyone know how active the Rockford HMN chapter is? I know it's young (less than 5yo) I'm in NJ where it started so even the early chapters are only 5-6 years old, but really active... and I belong to two of them.

But seriously... thanks. And if you guys think of anything else, let me know. Schaumburg is another one of his office locations but I don't know if it's a "touchdown point" (a place that counts as "being in the office" if he needs to go in).
post #12 of 28
I'm a member of HMN. It is really active. They had three events just this week. There was a potluck on Tuesday (or maybe Wednesday? I didn't go), a park play date yesterday (we did go) and a moms night out tonight. Haven't decided about that yet. We'll see how I feel later. Anyway, it is quite active and we have a large core group of members. Coops for Frontier and Country Life Natural Foods, too. HTH!
post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by stugroupie View Post
i'm a member of hmn. It is really active. They had three events just this week. There was a potluck on tuesday (or maybe wednesday? I didn't go), a park play date yesterday (we did go) and a moms night out tonight. Haven't decided about that yet. We'll see how i feel later. Anyway, it is quite active and we have a large core group of members. Coops for frontier and country life natural foods, too. Hth!
post #14 of 28
We just moved from Rockford last July. We hated it. The children's museums, Dr. Baer (Chiropractic), Woodmans, and children's farm in far west Rockford were the only good things. There is a good doctor southeast of Belvidere, too.

There is also horrendous gang crime, constant shootings/stabbings/murders, insanely high cost of living, poor healthcare access if you are on medicaid, terrible OB selection (one CPM though illegal in IL, midwife). I had no luck finding homeschool resources, but I lived in the west of town and it was hard to get to the nicer areas for get togethers. The schools (public) are not good and I pulled my kids right before they were supposed to start after an article in the paper describing how improved their school was going to be after having only one stabbing and bomb threat on the first day the year before.

I never knew anyone to have a good thing to say about the area. The housing market is all torn up but still insanely high priced, IMO for a house that isn't falling into the ground. We looked for a year before we decided to move somewhere affordable and safe. I wish people would have told me any of these things before we moved here. I'm from Cincy and so crime was not new to me, but the disastrous race relations problems, rampant crime, and high COL were not what I expected that far from Chicago.
post #15 of 28
ok - so KittyWitty is right if you live on the west side of Rockford, but since you are talking about the far East side it isn't the same. Oh we use Bear Chiropractic too. I'm not sure where you moved from but I work in the Chicago subs and I think Rockford COL is better in comparison.

Here's a couple other sites to use during your information gathering search.

Boone County: http://www.boonecountyil.org/
Winnebago County: http://www.co.winnebago.il.us/
post #16 of 28
While there are areas of Rockford that are undesirable, most people moving to the area wouldn't choose to move into those neighborhoods. I don't believe the crime in the Rockford area is any worse than any other large city. Rockford may have a small town feel, but it is the 2nd largest city in IL.

My husband and I did live on the NW side of Rockford for about 5 years before moving to Machesney Park. The houses are small, but very affordable. The neighborhoods are diverse and well cared for. In general, we really liked our house and where we lived. We moved Machesney Park (just north of Rockford) to be closer to dh's mom after his dad died.

There is a homeschool group that meets on the W/ SW side of Rockford, on 6th Street. Lots of families from all over the area go there. There are also a few public libraries in that area of town. The public transportation goes by all those places.

I'm sorry you had such a bad experience, Kittywitty, but I still believe that *most* people in the area are happy here.
post #17 of 28
I grew outside of Rockford, between there and Rockton. It was a nice place to grow up but of course that was many years ago. My father still lives there, on the East side of the city. We visited a couple years ago and really enjoyed the Science museum.

I saw Edwards Apple Orchard on the list above. Every fall, my family would travel to the apple orchard to buy lovely fresh apples, play with in the petting zoo, and eat delicious cider donuts! My mouth waters when I think of those donuts!

Thanks for the memories!

By the way, there are some beautiful parks in the area as well and Rockford used to be known as a tree city. Not far, in southern Wisconsin, you can find some lovely areas too. And Chicago is close enough to enjoy the museums and other cultural activities.
post #18 of 28
Anyone have a link for the Holistic Mom's Network? I am from the area (Sterling) but no longer live there. But my sister who deos I think would really like to join.
post #19 of 28

The next meeting is on August 19 at 7pm. They meet at Just Goods on 7th Street. Parking is in the rear of the building.
post #20 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hey all... I just wanted to say THANK YOU again to everyone. We just made a trip to IL (a little delayed due to some issues with the relo) and found a place to live in Rockford. We attended the InHome homeschooling conference in St. Charles and found that there were actually a lot of things we wanted resource-wise in Rockford.

So we found a duplex & assuming the deal actually comes together, we're planning to live in the larger unit. It's ideal because we can get TO IL, live in Rockford, but be free to move somewhere else without the duress of having to sell the duplex (it's currently rented for enough to cover all the costs--we've been landlords before so this isn't daunting for us).

It's walking distance to Sinnissippi Park.

If this falls through, we are also looking in Poplar Grove (which is still drivable to Rockford for the homeschooling resources) or Belvidere.

I have to say that kittywitty's post about how high the COL is in Rockford is absolutely not what we have been finding. We did some looking in Rockford, Belvidere, Naperville, Aurora, the "lakes" (Grayslake, Lake Villa, Round Lake, etc.) and found that Rockford was infinitely cheaper by and large if only in terms of housing cost. Taxes everywhere in IL are ASTOUNDING... and I say this coming from NJ which is usually known for having some of the highest taxes in the country (as a state--second only to Long Island, NY). Your taxes are less than what I pay, but as a percentage of the value of things, they are infinitely higher. So my house in NJ will sell for roughly around $400k with an $11,242 tax bill; but I'll be buying a home for roughly $153k with a $5,300 tax bill. So yeah, my taxes will be lower; but proportionate to the value of the home--they will be much higher in IL (and no, that doesn't include the owner occ exemption on the IL place). And you tax FOOD!!! In NJ we just increased sales tax from 6% to 7% but we have never taxed "necessities"... so food and clothing (but not accessories--i.e. belts--just actual clothing and I think shoes) are not taxed. I WAS glad to see that at least food is at a lower rate!

So I don't know if we'll stay there but it's ideal because we can move to IL, be relatively comfortable space-wise without having to rent storage, greatly reduce our monthly outgo and figure out where we REALLY want to be for a year or two.


We're due to be out in IL no later than 9/1. Can't wait to meet some of you!
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