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More dissatisfied parents choosing to homeschool kids

By Associated Press
Published August 4, 2004

WASHINGTON - Almost 1.1-million students were homeschooled last year, their numbers pushed higher by parents frustrated over school conditions and wanting to include morality and religion with the English and math.

The estimate of students taught at home has grown 29 percent since 1999, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department.

In surveys, parents offered two main reasons for choosing homeschooling: 31 percent cited concerns about the environment of regular schools and 30 percent wanted the flexibility to teach religious or moral lessons. Third, at 16 percent, was dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools.

"There's potential for massive growth," said Ian Slatter of the National Center for Home Education, which promotes homeschooling and tracks laws that govern it.

"Homeschooling is just getting started," he said. "We've gotten through the barriers of questioning the academic ability of homeschools, now that we have a sizable number of graduates who are not socially isolated or awkward - they are good, high-quality citizens. We're getting that mainstream recognition and challenging the way education has been done."

The 1.1-million homeschooled students account for a small part - 2.2 percent - of the school-age population in the United States, young people ages 5 to 17.

Slatter said the new figures accurately reflect the growth of homeschooling, but underestimate the number of children involved; his group says it is 2-million.

In the government's view, homeschooling means students who spend at least part of their education at home and no more than 25 hours a week in public or private schools. More than four out of five homeschooled students spend no time at traditional schools.

A separate federal report showed a rising number of teenagers are skipping school for fear of getting hurt, even though reported school violence is down. That sense of anxiety - fueled by terrorism warnings, high-profile school shootings and a desire to keep children out of harm's way - probably has helped homeschooling grow, said Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists.

[Last modified August 4, 2004, 01:00:38]

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