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The Changing Face of Home Schooling

Parents who home-school children increasingly are white, wealthy and well-educated - and their numbers have nearly doubled in a decade, a new federal government report says.

What else has nearly doubled? The percentage of girls who are home-schooled. They now outnumber home-schooled boys by a wide margin.

As of spring 2007, an estimated 1.5 million, or 2.9 percent of all school-age children in the USA, were home-schooled, up from 1.7 percent in 1999.

The new figures come from the U.S. Department of Education, which found that 36 percent of parents said their most important reason for home-schooling was to provide "religious or moral instruction"; 21 percent cited concerns about school environment. Only 17 percent cited "dissatisfaction with academic instruction."

Perhaps most significant: The ratio of home-schooled boys to girls has shifted significantly. In 1999, it was 49 percent boys, 51 percent girls. Now boys account for only 42 percent; 58 percent are girls.

That may well be a result of parents who are fed up with mean-girl behavior in schools, says Henry Cate, who along with his wife home-schools their three daughters in Santa Clara, Calif. "It's just pushing some parents over the edge," says Cate, who writes the blog "Why Homeschool".

Home schooling has grown most sharply for higher-income families. In 1999, 63.6 percent of home-schooling families earned less than $50,000. Now 60 percent earn more than $50,000.

Cate says many highly educated, high-income parents are "probably people who are a little bit more comfortable in taking risks" in choosing a college or line of work. "The attributes that facilitate that might also facilitate them being more comfortable with home schooling."

Among the other findings:

-- 3.9 percent of white families home-school, up from 2 percent in 1999.

-- 6.8 percent of college-educated parents home-school, up from 4.9 percent in 1999.

Michelle Blimes home-schools her three daughters in Orem, Utah. Initially it was for academics, and now she sees social benefits. "They should be able to enjoy playing and being kids before being thrown into the teen culture," Blimes says.

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