Hello! We are a homeschooling family of four contemplating a move from Portland to Philadelphia in January. Anyone living in Philadephia who would be willing to talk to me about neighborhoods, homeschooling, parks, other concerns about living with young kids in Center City? What's the Philly kiddo scene like?
Contemplating a move to Philadelphia (Center City) with my family. Feedback/advice?
Read the newspapers ,The Inquirer, or go to phillynews.com or org (don't remember)
I was a hs teacher in Phila for 30 years. There are lovely parts of center city, but Phila is dangerous place. There is a lot of diversity here-Russian immigrants, hispanic people,Asian, Afro-American. Each has their own gangs, that kill each other or fight!!! In CC(center City) there are drive by shootings, INTO HOUSES!!!, and when a kid on the street robs your iphone he also kills
If you have an automobile accident, the police will not come to make a report, it's not important enough! CC is a beautiful place in certain areas, but given the choice I would go elsewhere, especially with children.
Also, the streets are dirty., School District is going broke AND sales tax is 8% and you have to pay extra for trash collection. Oh, did I mention that buildings are falling down??? (check the news)
I do not live in the City. I live in a surrounding suburb, Willow Grove. Very nice.
Please think long and hard before bringing your family to this city. I wish you very good luck. gail demarco
I have a 5 yr old and have lived here, car-free, for 12 yrs. Its a wonderful area to raise kids, and the biggest issue that drives families away is the public schools, which is not an issue for you. Yes, Philadelphia is a big city with tough areas, but I've never had any safety issues. There are lots of great areas for families, and it depends on your budget. We lived in Queen Village for a long time, but now own a house in Passyunk Sq (traditionally South Philly, but included in the Center City District study area from a demographic point of view). This area is more affordable for us, and filled with young families and old-timers and lively parks. I have preferred neighborhoods in town mostly based on my biases of playgrounds, markets, and restaurants (I like Washington Sq West, but can't afford it), but I also have friends that happily live in quieter areas (Southwest Center City, for example). There are active homeschooling groups, but I don't have any personal connections there but I occasionally cross paths with groups at our neighborhood park. I think West Philly has some well-established homeschooling groups too, and is very livable.
If you have specific neighborhoods in mind, I'm sure folks will chime in. I have a very friendly kid, and we can show up at any park at any time of the day and find kids to play with. We have favorite destinations all over Center City (easily strollable, but also frequently on Septa busses, subway, regional rail) and no matter where you land, you'll find family-friendly amenities.
Many families love the Art Museum area, aka Fairmount. We have some good friends there that will sing its praises (and who will be better infomed of the hyperlocal resouces). But its not a good fit for our family (although it would make commuting easier to school for us. . .). Pros (IMO): proximity to Fairmount Park, Art Museum (right now with excellent kids exhibits), Whole Foods, parkway attractions like Franklin Institute, main branch of Free Library. Generally very nice housing stock. The dining scene is only okay compared to rest of city. At least one of the nieghborhood parks has had a complete overhaul recently. Cons (again, only my opinion!): the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is a real mental divide. The city is trying to "activate" this area with more programming, with some great results (Sister Cities Park and The Oval), but the neighborhood is generally separated from the rest of the downtown. Many of the other neighborhoods flow into one another with less dramatic streets separating them. A couple of weeks ago I brought my son to the main branch of the Free Library and I was "surprised" by how close it was. It just "feels" so much further away because its on the other side of the Parkway, and when I spoke to some friends about this, they all admitted to rarely crossing for the same reason. I can stroll for a couple miles from my South Philadelphia neighborhood to Old City, for example, and don't need to cross any big roads and can just meander. On the other hand, to walk to the Art Museum area, I need to visualize where I'm going beforehand, and that amount of planning takes some of the pleasure of the city out of it for me--and may be a bigger reflection of my personality than the quality of the destination. I'm a flaneur, by nature.
Philly has a wonderful, warm, active homeschooling scene. I participated in a group in my hood when we lived there (we've since relocated to VT). We lived in Pennsport/Queen Village, and found it to be very family-friendly: walkable, plenty of parks and coffee shops, some nice parenting/playgroups, etc. It's easy to get to the museums on the other side of town by car or bus. Good luck!
You may not want to read what I have to say (because I'm not in CC) but I am homeschooling in PA, which the PA Home Education Law covers Philadelphia, w/ one small stipulation that I don't know because I don't live there. If you haven't been to askpauline.com yet, I'd highly recommend you visit this site & read the law at least a handful of times before you commit to moving to PA. We have one of the most cumbersome, restrictive laws in the nation, unfortunately. I believe that since Philadelphia is the largest district, they aren't as difficult to deal w/ as some other districts w/ the resources to annoy home educators, but they still request things outside the scope of the law.
Feel free to PM if you'd like more info. On the askpauline site, there will be links to groups for homeschooling across the state; there's likely ones strictly for Philly there. Talking to some home educators may be helpful.
Best wishes on your decision!
In addition to Ask Pauline (a site with a great reputation), if you are more at the unschooling end of the spectrum, I know some folks involved with Open Connections. http://www.openconnections.org/ It is a hike from the city, and likely not an option for you without a car, but a source worth investigating. There is also the Philadelphia Free School http://www.phillyfreeschool.org/ and the Philadelphia Classical School opens this fall--a neighbor homeschooled her children and now is opening a formal school. The Art Museum has programs for homeschoolers (or has in the past at least) and I know I've seen programs at other institutions for homeschoolers, but can't recall more specifically now.
Your walkability questions: yes, you can absolutely cross the Parkway on foot; its just trickier than the simple gridded streets of the rest of the city. If you live away from the museum, it is easily accessible by bus. I take the 38 to the backdoor. There are busses to the zoo, but for the little ones, riding the 15 trolley is far more exciting. I take the Broad St subway and transfer to the trolley. From my neighborhood, its actually quicker to take transit rather than drive due to traffic and parking. The trolley drops you off at the front door.
Mt Airy: Fairmount is the most convenient neighborhood in Center City to NW Philly. My son will start school in that neighborhood in the fall. If you live right by a regional rail station (Suburban Station or Market East), taking the train is convenient. For us, though, after experimenting with a number of different bus and train routes, have decided that we'll need a car to drive him to school--our best run was by bus and that took an hour.
You should definitely visit Fairmount, but also consider Bella Vista/Queen Village, and the East Passyunk area (all have markets, libraries, parks, etc). Your budget will likely drive where you land. One real estate factor here is elementary school catchment. There are several highly-sought after public schools that significantly drive up real estate prices. In our case, we decided to buy a house in a decent, but less "hot" catchment, and without the crazy mark-up, so that we can use the "savings" towards an independent school. There are a million ways to balance the equation, but I just want to make you aware of why house prices can jump dramatically in just a block or two.
I do understand about the school catchment - we have the same situation here although also many charter schools so lots of folks send their kids out of their neighborhoods for school.
We are looking to rent a place in Philly, not buy, at least at first. Our budget is around