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Old 04-26-2009, 07:54 AM
 
60 posts, read 119,595 times
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This is going to be long, but please be patient! My husband and I are looking to move to GR from metro NYC. We have seven kids and homeschool them. We have been seeing a realtor, but wanted to get some perspective from people in town: we're considering a move to either East Grand Rapids or greater Forest Hills (Ada, Cascade, Lowell) and were wondering if any of you had preferences. We currently live in the suburbs, and love the community feels, walkability, neighborhoods of it. We also like East Grand Rapids because of its close proximity to downtown and its attractions that we will use for homeschooling (museums, zoo, libraries, etc.) On the other hand, if we move to the Forest Hills area we will be buying a middle sized farm, which we would also love, and think taking care of the plants and animals could also be beneficial to our children's education. So here are my questions:

I know both areas have exceptional public schools: are the communities therefore averse to homeschoolers? Are they "homeschool friendly"?
East Grand Rapids seems to be almost built around its schools; do you think we would be left out or looked down upon for homeschooling? Would it be harder to meet people in Forest Hills if our kids didn't go to school? Which area do you prefer? Is the commute from the Forest Hills area too bad? Are Reeds Lake homes worth considering if we have a cottage in Ottawa county?

Also, if you have any knowledge on the Christian Schools, that would be very helpful!

Thank you so much for any advice you might have!
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Old 04-26-2009, 09:48 AM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,870 posts, read 17,737,702 times
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Because Forest Hills is such a family mecca, I've found there's really only a few ways to make friends here: 1) through school and your kids' activities 2) through neighborhood events (and your nearby neighbors) 3) through church (if you're religious).

I think you might find that on a small farm in FH, you're going to feel pretty cut off from people, without having your kids in the local schools and without the benefit of having nearby neighbors. If you can afford a home on Reeds Lake, I think that would be ideal. It provides a total learning environment for all kinds of science related topics, plus instills a sense of conservation/stewardship of nature (and you can fish, waterski, or just putt-putt around the lake). In addition, the Reeds Lake trail around the lake is a great outlet for physical activity. Plus, much of your amenities are within a walk/bike ride away.

Not bashing FH at all. If your kids are in FH Schools and you live in one of the many big neighborhoods, it's pretty idyllic. Even many of the gated communities seem to be very family friendly, which you wouldn't expect.

As far as commutes go, you won't find anything here in the area that is more than 20 - 25 minutes from downtown or the airport.

Last edited by magellan; 04-26-2009 at 10:24 AM..
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:02 PM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,017,993 times
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I agree with everything said by Magellan.
Do you mind if I ask why you're homeschooling? Not because I disapprove but because it's not really all that common in the 'burbs you mentioned.

Both FH and EGR are defined (in community terms) more by the public school district boundaries than by their residential definitions. In fact, FH is a school district (not a town, township, etc). I have to admit, I don't know any homeschoolers in either area but I'm sure they exist. I would imagine in those two areas you're going to have an overwhelming majority of people sending their kids to the public schools. That's a primary reason families locate there.

The reason I asked "why" on homeschooling is this: If you're a Christian family and doing this for religious reasons, you should look west of town (Holland, Zeeland, Hudsonville). There is a thriving homeschool community in those areas. We have friends (multiple families) homeschooling kids in Holland and they talk about get-togethers, events, fieldtrips, etc. that are organized for the troops of homeschooled kids from the area. I would imagine there's a lot of that in metro-GR too, but probably much less in EGR/FH than in other areas.

In terms of the community, Magellan correctly points out that you can easily meet people through your neighborhood or church (if you go) in either community.
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:32 AM
 
60 posts, read 119,595 times
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Thank you both so much for your help. A few more questions and some answers:

My family homeschools for many reasons. It would take much more than a post to answer They are mostly principle based reasons (we do not believe in the compulsory schooling system--please don't take this to be any kind of offense to people who send their kids to school; most of ours do!), but it really boils down to this: educational freedom for our children and lifestyle freedom for the family. However, we do want our children to participate in the town sports and eventually to take classes part time either in a local college or the high school (and possibly qualify for high school sports...those are legal issues we will be looking into, though). For that reason, we do want to be in a district with well-respected schools. Additionally, we have lived in two towns in our area now (Fairfield County, CT): one with exceptional public schools, and one with schools that were shoddy, if I am being generous. We found much more in common in the town with better schools, because we found most of these parents placed more value on their children's education, as we do. (To clarify, both towns had relatively similar home prices and demographics, so this is not a statement on people who cannot afford the costs that tend to come with impressive schools.) We will also be looking into enrolling our children for part-time classes at Grand Rapids Christian High, so I was wondering if anyone knew what the kids are like there, educational quality, etc. in comparison with East Grand Rapids and Forest Hills.

My husband and I are Christian, and would like to attend church--do any of you know of some churches we could scope out? We like low-key, volunteer friendly. While my family is CRC and conservative, we are used to an East Coast culture, and are therefore pretty averse to a homogenous and/or zealot environment. This is not to be taken as any type of sweeping statement about the towns you suggested west of the city, but that is the impression we got from our realtor. Any clarifications?

Lastly, homes/home prices: we much favor older/older looking homes. While we might buy in EGR, we are more likely to buy a nice property and tear down or build in Ada/Cascade,etc. All the houses we have been shown on Reeds Lake looked very '60's/70's and 90's. Are there any old homes on the lake at all? Would it be worth it to buy one and tear down? Is renovation/building very unpopular with the neighbors? Also, my husband and I have been tracking prices in GR for a few years now, and thought we would be sitting in the cat bird seat with the recession and sharp decline of home prices (we have been renting for two years and saving). We have not seen much of a fall in real estate in GR, though. What's up with that? Were they just affected earlier with Michigan's depression, or am I totally blind and the prices have gone down?

I know that was a lot of info. Sorry! Thank you all so much.
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Old 04-27-2009, 10:31 AM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,870 posts, read 17,737,702 times
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The choice for homeschooling and wanting to live in a good school district makes sense. I always wondered why people would live in Forest Hills and then pay heavy tuition to send their kids to Ada Christian School. I guess that's why.

It's too bad that more people from the SW side don't participate more here, as suydam and I both live on the East side of Grand Rapids (FH and EGR). It'd be interesting to hear their take of the "homogenous" nature of those areas. I only go by what I hear, and it may be a perpetuation of an unfair stereotype.

As far as churches go, that's a tough one. If you like a more contemporary church atmosphere, I've heard that Keystone Community Church on Spaulding Ave is pretty cool. Mars Hill in Grandville is a bigger church with a contemporary reputation (driven by their pastor and writer Rob Bell).

Renovation/tear down? I don't know, but I think that's becoming a very hot topic of controversy in EGR, as it is becoming more prevalent. I think most of the homes on Fisk and Reeds Lakes are 60's, 70's era because that is when that area took off. Some of the best homes I've seen though are 60's contemporaries on lakes with a complete gut/rehab to modern finishes. Then you preserve the character of the neighborhood, and don't tick off the neighbors. Insignia Homes does a lot of that:

Insignia Homes

Another good link:

Showcase of Remodeled Homes (http://hbaggr.com/EVENTS/ShowcaseofRemodeledHomes/tabid/90/Default.aspx - broken link)

Pricing? We never had the run up like other parts of the U.S., so we didn't have the plummets in values either. Some areas hard hit by foreclosures for sure (Southeast Side GR), but not so much EGR, FH. Maybe 10% drop in values or so (?) I don't know about Rockford and other areas. We just had an appraisal done on our FH home for a refinance and it came back about 10% higher than we expected.
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Old 04-28-2009, 08:34 AM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,017,993 times
Reputation: 236
Quote:
Originally Posted by pooches9 View Post
Thank you both so much for your help. A few more questions and some answers:

My family homeschools for many reasons. It would take much more than a post to answer They are mostly principle based reasons (we do not believe in the compulsory schooling system--please don't take this to be any kind of offense to people who send their kids to school; most of ours do!), but it really boils down to this: educational freedom for our children and lifestyle freedom for the family. However, we do want our children to participate in the town sports and eventually to take classes part time either in a local college or the high school (and possibly qualify for high school sports...those are legal issues we will be looking into, though). For that reason, we do want to be in a district with well-respected schools. Additionally, we have lived in two towns in our area now (Fairfield County, CT): one with exceptional public schools, and one with schools that were shoddy, if I am being generous. We found much more in common in the town with better schools, because we found most of these parents placed more value on their children's education, as we do. (To clarify, both towns had relatively similar home prices and demographics, so this is not a statement on people who cannot afford the costs that tend to come with impressive schools.) We will also be looking into enrolling our children for part-time classes at Grand Rapids Christian High, so I was wondering if anyone knew what the kids are like there, educational quality, etc. in comparison with East Grand Rapids and Forest Hills.

My husband and I are Christian, and would like to attend church--do any of you know of some churches we could scope out? We like low-key, volunteer friendly. While my family is CRC and conservative, we are used to an East Coast culture, and are therefore pretty averse to a homogenous and/or zealot environment. This is not to be taken as any type of sweeping statement about the towns you suggested west of the city, but that is the impression we got from our realtor. Any clarifications?

Lastly, homes/home prices: we much favor older/older looking homes. While we might buy in EGR, we are more likely to buy a nice property and tear down or build in Ada/Cascade,etc. All the houses we have been shown on Reeds Lake looked very '60's/70's and 90's. Are there any old homes on the lake at all? Would it be worth it to buy one and tear down? Is renovation/building very unpopular with the neighbors? Also, my husband and I have been tracking prices in GR for a few years now, and thought we would be sitting in the cat bird seat with the recession and sharp decline of home prices (we have been renting for two years and saving). We have not seen much of a fall in real estate in GR, though. What's up with that? Were they just affected earlier with Michigan's depression, or am I totally blind and the prices have gone down?

I know that was a lot of info. Sorry! Thank you all so much.
There are old (like the 1910s and 1920s) on Reeds Lake, but they very rarely go up for sale. They also have fetched very high prices (thinking over $2M) when they do go up for sale.

Prices: Prices have fallen in some areas, but not much on lake frontage (so if you're looking at Reed's Lake, for example, I doubt there's been a drop-off). In addition, I don't think EGR/FH have had decline's at the same rate as other areas.

If you like East Coast Culture, I think you'll find EGR to your liking. It's a midwest town, but there are many East Coast transplants. I think my city councilman grew up in Virginia, we have neighbors from Boston and New Haven and it's fairly common to send kids to college at East Coast schools (consequently you see stickers on cars from schools up and down the coast).

In terms of tear-downs in EGR, you need a large lot. If you have that, you're fine. They are sticklers for set-back rules here. If you're on a small lot, the set-back rules will pretty much define the footprint of your house. Similarly, they've been trying to put through re-grading rules that reduce the "house-on-a-hill" syndrome that we were seeing for a few years (people wanted walk-out basements so they were taking previously "flat" city lots and building them up enough to do that.. "ugly and unfair to neighbors" was the cry). I'm not sure where that stands. There are also height requirements I think... so you cannot build a 4-story vertical house on a tiny lot. That said, there are some builders (Insignia Homes, Battle Construction are signs I see everywhere) that seem to know how to work the system to produce some great results. There are tear-downs that fit right back into the neighborhoods going on right in a few places right now in fact.
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Old 04-28-2009, 09:01 AM
 
Location: Denver
2,970 posts, read 6,360,061 times
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Calgary/Calvary (?) and Sunshine Church on the East Beltine are big Christian churches near EGR and FH.

Christian H.S. is very close to EGR too. (I used to live in EGR and if I ever move back to GR that is where we will buy again and raise our family! Love the area)
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Old 04-28-2009, 09:03 AM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,017,993 times
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Churches: Really depends on what you want. As others have pointed out, some are very contemporary, some are traditional, some are conservative, some are more progressive.

What are you after? There is certainly no shortage of churches in GR.
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Old 04-28-2009, 04:14 PM
 
Location: Cumming, Georgia
808 posts, read 2,970,308 times
Reputation: 334
When we first moved to Ada Township, we lived next to a homeschooled family. The wife was a former FHPS teacher, she stayed home to raise 8 kids. I do not know many homeschoolers especially in good school districts like EGR or FH.

My wife and I recently re-fi'ed our mortgage last month, our appraisals came back and showed that our value has gone up since we built the house 5 years ago.
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Old 04-28-2009, 06:06 PM
 
302 posts, read 534,537 times
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We live about an hour north of Grand Rapids and homeschool our kids. We love this area for homeschooling. The kids attend a wonderful band program in Wyoming at the homeschool building. The building has ongoing coop classes, band, pe, a library and a bookstore with just about anything you'd want to buy for your homeschool. There are many large families that participate in the activities there. As I said, we live north of GR so we only participate in the band program but it is top notch.
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