This is the VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT.
A new school year has begun in America. But some children do not go to school. Instead, they learn at home, usually with their parents as teachers. Educational companies, libraries, school systems and the Internet provide families with teaching material.
Homeschooling is increasingly popular. Homeschooling groups estimate that two-million children, around two percent, learn at home. The last government estimate was eight-hundred-fifty-thousand in nineteen-ninety-nine. Current numbers are not expected until next year.
Some parents choose homeschooling because of their religious beliefs. Others say it provides more time for the family to be together.
Many parents also believe homeschooling avoids problems of a lot of traditional schools. One problem is classes with too many students.
Critics, though, say children need to attend school with other children to help them learn things like social skills. They also say that some homeschooled children do not get a very good education.
All fifty states and the District of Columbia permit homeschooling. Some, however, require more preparation by parents or testing of children than others do.
Homeschooling is as old as the country. In farm areas, people often lived far from a school. Then, in eighteen-fifty-two, the state of Massachusetts passed the first law to require children to attend school.
The public education system grew. By the nineteen-sixties and seventies, however, some Americans believed that traditional education was not helping their children. So a number of parents began homeschooling.
Homeschool expert Linda Dobson says some parents began to teach their children at home when some religious schools closed. This happened after changes in tax laws in the nineteen-eighties. Since then, she says, more people have joined the movement -- rich and poor, and people from many races, religions and political beliefs.
There is even a National Home School Honor Society. Membership is based in part on the same tests that students take in school.
Homeschooled children go to college and have also won top competitions. These include this year's National Geographic Bee. Fourteen-year-old James Williams knew that the Indian state of Goa is a former colony of Portugal.
This VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT was written by Jerilyn Watson.