Home schooling's appeal spreads to mainstream

Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:15am EDT
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By Lauren Keiper

BOSTON (Reuters) - Studying at Harvard, meeting for group French lessons, volunteering at a hospital and spending a day in the wilderness are just a glimpse into a typical day of home schooling, which looks dramatically different today from just a mere decade ago.

Once considered distinctly Christian, the movement is deepening its mainstream roots, experts say.

While a majority of home school parents still cite religion or values as a top reason for keeping their children out of public schools, home-school education has been increasingly appealing to a broader audience.

The ranks of home-schooled students swelled to more than 2 million last year, by some research estimates, compared with about 850,000 home schooled a decade ago.

"It's a mainstream option now for most Americans," said Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, which compiled the latest home school data.

Home-school families include varied religions, members across the political spectrum, a range of income brackets and parents with different levels of education, Ray said.

Home schooling is no longer "seen as fringe at all," he said.

Among the reasons for choosing home education cited by secular parents are strengthening family ties, providing more time for children's interests and developing individualized curricula -- reasons that resonate with religious families pursuing home education as well.   Continued...