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Unschooled Kids Learn by Following Their Own Interests

According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 1.1 million children were home-schooled in 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is up from 850,000 in 1999 and represents a 29 percent increase.  Education experts estimate that about 10 percent of the home-schooled population is "unschooled," meaning that there might be as many as 110,000 young people being educated in this way.  A significant part of the growth in home schooling has been among Christian conservatives who shunned public and private schools for reasons that included curriculum, school violence and social trends. These parents often seek highly structured curricula suited to their conservative beliefs.

"It is not suited either to all kids or all parents," said Tom Hatch, a professor at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City. "It requires students with considerable curiosity and independence, who come up with and get interested in questions and can sustain some interest in them."

"I don't think you can apply that to all schools," said Hatch in defense of traditional schools. "It's so hard to predict what opportunities and interests students will have in 20 years, or what the job market will be like in 15 or 20 years from now. I don't think anybody, schools or parents, can base their instruction primarily on that."

This article appeared in the October 22, 2006 edition of the Standard Times. page