A Douglas County home-schooling expert says the movement is growing, and a new report from the National Center of Education Statistics backs up the assertion.
"I think people know at least one person home-schooled at this point. It was a lot different when I started. People thought you were crazy, and that's not the reaction now. It's a growing movement," said Cathy Barfield, a Lawrence resident who with her husband, David Barfield, coordinates Teaching Effective Academics in Christian Homes, a resource for home-schoolers in Douglas County.
According to the center, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, almost 1.1 million students were home-schooled last year, their number pushed higher by parents frustrated by school conditions and wanting to include morality and religion with the English and math.
That's a 29 percent increase compared with the estimated 850,000 students home-schooled in the spring of 1999.
In perspective, the 1.1 million home-schooled students account for a small part -- 2.2 percent -- of the school-age population in the United States, young people ages 5 through 17.
In surveys, parents offered two main reasons for choosing home schooling: 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.
Barfield said she wasn't surprised by the national increase. She began home-schooling her daughters in 1989 because she wanted to make sure she passed along her Christian values while providing them the benefits of one-on-one instruction. She also liked teaching.
It's uncertain how many Douglas County schoolchildren are home-schooled. Barfield said about 130 people were connected to her group.
When a family decides to home-school, it is required to register as a nonaccredited private school with the Kansas State Department of Education. The department reported 347 nonaccredited private schools registered in Douglas County and 12,580 statewide. There are no sanctions against people who don't register, said Education Department staff attorney Kevin Ireland.
In the government's view, home schooling 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. Overall, more than four out of five home-schooled students spend no time at traditional schools.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.