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As a 10-year-old reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I had but one wish: that I, too, would soon receive an owl from Hogwarts, a letter of acceptance that could rescue me from my boring life as a Muggle. It wasn’t just Harry’s magical adventures that appealed to me. It was his schoolwork: Learning to turn beetles into buttons with Professor McGonagall and befriending hippogriffs with Hagrid sounded like a definite step up from arithmetic and American history. (I even threw a Hogwarts-themed party in which my friends and I completed fictional assignments while my mom did her best impersonation of Professor Trelawney.)
Now a group of intrepid Harry Potter fans have made my childhood wish come true, creating a website called Hogwarts Is Here, where you can take free, online classes in the same subjects studied by Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
The website works as a sort of cross between a MOOC (massive open online course) and an RPG (a role-playing game, like Dungeons & Dragons). You start by creating an account and choosing a house. (No sorting hat here, unfortunately.) I went with Ravenclaw, which seemed fitting for an optional intellectual endeavor. I wasn’t alone in that decision: Ravenclaw is the second most popular house (after Gryffindor, of course) and has the most house points (which you gain by completing assignments).
Once you enroll at the virtual Hogwarts, you can join a dorm, buy books from Flourish and Blotts, and even write for The Daily Owl. Though you might be drawn in by these social trappings, the curriculum itself is surprisingly rigorous. As a first year student, you are expected to complete seven courses: Charms, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Herbology, History of Magic, and Transfiguration. Every course consists of nine lessons, each of which involves a written introduction, some supplemental reading, and a number of assignments.