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Homeschooling is an alternative form of education in which parents or guardians bypass the public school system and teach their children at home. In some states, homeschools are considered private schools. Common reasons to choose homeschooling include opposition to the public school curriculum, the desire to add a religious perspective to curriculum and the desire to increase the amount of individual attention given to a particular child.

It is difficult to obtain accurate homeschooling statistics, partly because many conservative proponents of homeschools are fundamentally opposed to any government involvement in them, including the administration of censuses and surveys of homeschooling activity. In fact, perhaps the most visible advocate for homeschooling, the Home School Legal Defense Association, states that it "opposes any method to track or register homeschooling by the federal government." Notwithstanding these challenges, a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 1.5 million students received homeschooling in 2007.

Homeschooling regulations vary from state to state. Oklahoma, Missouri and New Jersey have only minimal requirements, for example, while New York's, Rhode Island's and Pennsylvania's requirements include parental notifications, state tests, professional evaluations and curriculum approvals.

There is particular tension concerning state test policies. Parents argue that government-sponsored tests assume each student has followed a specific curriculum and that cooperating with such testing means losing the freedom of curriculum that homeschooling provides. On the other hand, states feel responsible for ensuring that all school-age children receive an adequate education and argue that requiring homeschooled students to take a state test provides a reasonable amount of accountability for performance. As the homeschooling population continues to grow, it is a tension that is sure to increase in intensity in several states.

 

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