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Millions of children won't be getting on buses this fall

This fall, as moms and dads around the country are getting backpacks stuffed with pencils and notebooks and scissors and glue, ready for their children to take to school, a rapidly increasing number of families are sending their children … nowhere.

Instead, more and more parents are opting to educate their children at home. In fact, statistics show the number of homeschooled students in the U.S. has nearly doubled over the past 10 years, making learning at home the fastest growing form of education in country.

“Homeschooling grew from 1.7 percent of the school age population in 1999 to 2.9 percent in 2007, a 74 percent relative increase over 8 years,” states Dr. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute.

And according to a NHERI fact sheet, those percentages have continued to climb. NHERI estimates the homeschooling movement has been growing at 5-12 percent per annum over the past several years, a quicker clip than private schools are growing, while public schools are seeing their percentages decline.

The total number of students now forgoing school buses for learning at home is best estimated in the neighborhood of 1.9 million – 2.5 million children.

“The increasing popularity of homeschooling should not come as a surprise,” claims a statement from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, a popular periodical for home educators. “Parent-led, home-based education is now bordering on ‘mainstream’ in the United States.”

The claims are backed up by statistics from the U.S. Department of Education.

According to reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly three-quarters of all students between the ages of 5 and 17 were in public schools in 1999, but that number has dropped to 70.6 percent by 2007.

Where did those students go?

Private schools, according to the data, saw about a 14-percent hike in attendance, while the homeschooling numbers jumped over 70 percent.

Other statistics over the same time period show even bigger increases in homeschooling rates among Hispanic families (91 percent), two-parent households (97 percent), children of college graduates (87 percent) and households making more that $75,000 per year (338 percent).

The numbers also show an increase in families choosing to homeschool their children through high school, rather than simply during the elementary years.

“Homeschooling high school is no longer uncharted territory,” explains the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. “There are a multitude of homeschooled graduates who are bearing fruit in the workplace, in the military, in their families and in colleges across the country.”

Gena Suarez, publisher of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, said in a statement that she is not at all surprised by the increased popularity of homeschooling: “During the past 30 years, homeschooling families have proven that parents can do a better job than the public school – socially and academically. Homeschooling works; everybody wins.”