A growing number of parents are choosing to turn away from public and private schools and instead educate their children in their own homes, commonly referred to as "homeschooling." According to the U.S. Department of Education, an estimated 1.5 million students (1,508,000) were homeschooled in the U.S. in 2007, up substantially from an estimated 850,000 in 1999 (a 74 percent increase during that 8-year period).
While homeschooling gives parents much more control over how their children are taught, it is subject to varying degrees of state regulation. Additionally, homeschooled children do not often have access to traditional school activities and facilities (such as sports and related equipment).
In general, the makeup of a home-schooling family is fairly traditional. Most of these families are two-parent families, and most of them have three or more children. Typically, one parent works while the other assumes the primary role of teacher, although the other parent may also be involved in the education process as well.
The most common reason parents give for home-schooling (a reason voiced by nearly all of them) is that they feel they can provide a better education for their children at home than the schools can. They may feel that the local school's curriculum is inadequate, or that it focuses on the wrong areas. Some parents feel that traditional schools fail to teach values to children; they school their children at home to provide a strong moral education. Or they may school their children at home for religious reasons; they may feel that the public school system is too secular for their tastes.
A small number of parents turn to home schooling because they cannot afford to send their children to a private school. Additionally, some students may have difficulty learning in a traditional classroom environment, but thrive at home.
In some cases, parents who homeschool their children seek and receive a degree of public school support in the form of supplies, curricular assistance, and allowing homeschoolers to participate in the school's extracurricular programs. Frequently, the parents of homeschoolers do not avail themselves of these resources, preferring to keep the education centered around the home classroom. In many communities, parents of homeschooled children network with others in order to provide such extracurricular activities and to share resources (often through cooperatives).
Additionally, there are a number of companies and organizations offering curriculum and other materials for the homeschooling community.
Home-schooled children are of course required to demonstrate that they are learning at the proper educational level, and parents are expected to provide structured classes, homework, tests, and projects. But the manner in which these standards are regulated varies greatly from state to the next.
For instance, Arizona does not require any type of assessment or standardized testing for homeschooled students. But Colorado requires homeschooled students to keep certain academic records and to take state-mandated assessment tests. See Education and Homeschooling: State Laws for a state-by-state directory.