There’s one thing about Ilvermorny that just doesn’t work, and that’s the idea that all young witches and wizards in North America go to the same school. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine parents from my state (Texas) sending their kids to boarding school in Massachussets, not to mention how big a magical school would have to be to serve all of North America. I enjoyed reading about Ilvermorny, but it shares a common flaw with the rest of the Magic in North America series: it vastly underestimates the size and diversity of the United States.
I think that in a more realistic magical North America, there would be at least half a dozen schools, if not more. Ilvermorny for New England, and another for the Midwest. One in the Deep South formed by Civil War era witches and wizards who refused to send their kids “up north” for their education, and a historically black school left over from the days of segregation, because it’s not realistic to think the worst parts of our history wouldn’t touch the magical community as well. A school in California for students from the west coast, and a school in Kansas for the central part of the country. Of course, Alaska and Hawaii would have their own, and as someone who lives in Texas, I can assure you that we would, too. And that’s not even starting on Canada, which I imagine would also have its own schools.
How might these American schools be different? First of all, no houses. I know, it’s fun to think about which house you would be in, but houses are not common in American schools. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had never heard of them before Harry Potter. I can buy into Ilvermorny having them, because it was founded by an Irish woman who had always dreamed of going to Hogwarts, but I can’t imagine them being common throughout the U.S. The schools also wouldn’t be castles, for obvious reasons. I think you might be more likely to find American schools of magic hidden behind innocent-looking shops the way that Diagon Alley is hidden behind the Leaky Cauldron, or even masquerading as ordinary private schools.
I also think that some American schools might not be boarding schools, because much like the idea of school houses, boarding schools are much less common here and most people don’t “go away to school” until college. The distance would be a problem, but we’re talking about wizard families, so there are ways around that. I can easily imagine American parents dropping their kids off at school each day by side-along apparition, or flying them in on brooms. Maybe there could even be an equivalent to a school bus that picks up the kids from muggle families and those whose parents don’t have the time to take them to school themselves.
And finally, I suspect homeschooling would be far more common in America, especially if there’s only Ilvermorny for the entire country. Homeschooling is very popular in some parts of the muggle United States, and the lack of a nearby school of magic would only increase that. Of course, that doesn’t fit with what Rowling has said about Rapport’s Law and students not being allowed to carry a wand outside school until they turn seventeen, which make the magical education process seem very strict and centralized, but that in itself doesn’t seem realistic for America.
It’s not that I don’t like the idea of Ilvermorny. I’ve wondered ever since I first read the Harry Potter books whether there was a school like Hogwarts in America. But it doesn’t quite work for there to be one school, a boarding school like Hogwarts when most American students go to day schools, with four houses in a setting where that’s almost unheard of, serving all the young witches and wizards across a vast and diverse continent. I can easily imagine kids from England and Wales going to school in Scotland, but it’s harder to imagine kids from California and Texas going to school in Massachussets, so I would rather think of Ilvermorny as one of many American schools of magic, perhaps the most well-known, but certainly not the only one.