Many homeschooled students have come to Shimer. There are several reasons for this. Many have decided that they’ve gotten along just fine without lecture halls so far, and prefer our small, discussion-based classes. Some are drawn to the rigor and content of our Great Books curriculum. Last but not least, many seek the kinship available in a community of learners who all approach life with curiosity.
Despite being in such a large city, Shimer is a small school. With just over one hundred students, we are a tight-knit community. You are never lost in the crowd as a Shimer student, whether in your small, discussion-based classes, or in the dorms in the evening—but you can lose yourself in the city’s virtually boundless opportunities whenever you like.
As a homeschooled student at Shimer, you will meet people like you. We mean this in the most essential way: the students you meet here will care about education and leading an examined life as much as you do. They will both challenge and support you. Shimer students wouldn’t learn nearly so much from each other if they all came here with all the same beliefs and thoughts—but through their common belief in shared inquiry and dialog, they help each other to understand the books they study, the ideas they encounter, and even themselves.
All Shimer students, whether homeschooled, publicly schooled, or privately schooled in any number of formats, have in common an unusually strong love of learning. While here, Shimer students are not autodidacts—though many of them started out that way. Instead they have the great advantage of being among others who are reading the same books and grappling with the same concepts. This allows Shimer students to ask questions, hear different viewpoints, seek clarification, and find unexpected meaning in passages they initially weren’t drawn to. Through this process, they learn to articulate their own opinions, and construct the basis of new ones with the help (and criticism) of friends.
Academics at Shimer
What are the Great Books? Always original sources, and never textbook summaries. Texts that are foundational to our culture, which are so rich that readers continue to find new insights upon reading and re-reading, whether they were written yesterday or centuries ago. Examples: Homer’s Iliad. The Bible. Plato’s Republic. The Federalist Papers. Euclid’s Elements. Augustine’s Confessions. Aristotle’s Physics. Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Darwin’s Origin of Species. Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women. Einstein’s Relativity.
These books are voices in the Great Conversation—the conversation Western civilization has been having with itself since it began. It’s a conversation that asks the fundamental questions about human life. What is the life most worth living? What is the nature of freedom, and is freedom always a good thing? How can I know whether I am leading an ethical life? And when you study and discuss the Great Books, you’re not simply a spectator. You’re participating in that conversation.
So, are you interested in the American founding? In the scientific method? In philosophy? Read more about our curriculum.
The Logistics of Coming to Shimer as a Homeschooler
To apply to Shimer as a homeschooled student, we need your application, narrative transcripts, at least two substantial writing samples, and a letter of recommendation from someone who is not your relative—a tutor is best, and coaches and bosses also work well. We will also need whatever graduation credential your home state requires of homeschoolers prior to your enrollment.
Shimer offers both need- and merit-based financial aid. You and your family must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to apply for financial aid at Shimer. You should plan to do this the January before you enroll in college. We will do our best to make it affordable for your family to send you here, whatever the level of your need for help. We match outside scholarships up to $2000.
Finally, each year we hold the Michel de Montaigne Scholars’ Competition, in which at least one full- and one half-tuition scholarships are awarded to applicants on the basis of a day or writing and discussion similar to that which Shimer students undertake every day—with no reference to past academic history.
If you are interested in learning more about Shimer, we strongly encourage you visit us, speak with our students, faculty, and staff, and sit in on one of our classes. You can email us to arrange a visit. We’re also happy to discuss any questions you may have on the phone or via email, and can set you up to correspond with a current Shimer students.