Jay Mathews’ Class Struggle column this week looks at the issues surrounding homeschooling and is a good overview of this alternative to more formal (for lack of a better term coming quickly to mind) education structures. This is a movement that’s relatively small in the US but growing.

There are at least 850,000 homeschoolers in the United States, according to the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, but that estimate is five years old. Leading advocates for homeschooling, such as the Home School Legal Defense Association (hslda.org) in Purcellville, Va., say there are about 2 million homeschooled children today. From all the available evidence, I think it is fair to say that the number is well over 1 million. That is less than 2 percent of all the school children in the country, but it is growing.

As with most things in teaching and learning, however, "home schooling" takes many forms and means different things to different people. While some keep their kids home to "protect" them from social trends (both left and right), most simply think they can do a better job than the local public schools. In many cases they are probably right. Parents are better able to assess their children’s abilities and plan learning activities that best fit their needs and in that way are the best teachers possible.

On the other side, homeschooling is a major commitment of time and energy, even for one child. I’ve mentioned several times in this space that my sister homeschools her three kids and works very hard to create a program tailored to them. But she also doesn’t work outside the home and has a husband who earns enough to support them without a second salary. For most families in this country that’s not an option, however, and for that reason, I don’t think homeschooling will ever include a large percentage of students. But it’s one more alternative that makes up the education mix and needs to be supported by the community.

If you are homeschooling your kids (or have in the past), Jay would like to hear about your experiences. Read the column and then email or fax what you have to say.