The American educational system has often been criticized for its shortfalls and mistakes in judgment and planning. When parents lack confidence in the school system to provide the education they want their children to have, they often turn to private schools or charter schools. But private schools can be prohibitively expensive, and charter schools are still governed to some degree by the state department of public instruction. So home schooling is becoming increasingly popular among parents who have the time and resources to devote to it.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 1.5 million American children were home schooled in 2007. The U.S. Department of Education says that the definition of ‘home schooled’ children includes students whose parents claim that they are schooled in the home for at least part of their education, instead of at a private or public school, and who were not enrolled for more than 25 hours a week if they attended school part-time. Students who were temporarily schooled at home because of illness were not considered to be home schooled.

The Department of Education also studied why parents chose this option. One of the primary reasons was they wanted to provide their own take on moral, ethical, or religious instruction, which would be different from the approach taken in public schools. The most popular reason parents offered was that they were concerned about the general ‘makeup’ of the population at public schools. A small percentage of parents were not satisfied with the academic curricula available at public or private schools.

Every state has its own requirements and laws applying to home schooling, so it is vital for any parent considering this to do their homework first. In some states, parents must meet certain minimum educational achievements such as a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some home schools must be inspected for fire safety. Most must keep accurate and thorough records proving completion of coursework, and many states require annual achievement testing to ensure children are staying on track with education as regularly as they would in a public school. There is a great deal of variance from state to state, so it is critical for parents to find out the requirements that apply to their particular situation, by contacting the local state department of public instruction. That office will also be able to supply a list of support groups, providers of home schooling teaching material, and other resources for parents.

Despite the challenges of home schooling, it is fast becoming more traditional, and can be enjoyable, creative, and memorable for children as well as parents. When carried out successfully, it can often be more successful and well-rounded than other educational options. But because a child’s education is extremely important to success as an adult, the decision to home school should be carefully considered, and approached with confidence and commitment.

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