LOS ANGELES – More parents are choosing the home over the classroom when it comes to educating their children.
But some say governments aren't making it easy to make sure kids get the proper education in the comfort of their living room.
In the last 20 years, the number of American children being educated at home has gone from around 25,000 to 1.3 million — 2 percent of the nation's student population.
The National Home Education Research Institute (search) says the number of students being homeschooled is growing at a rate of 7 percent to 15 percent a year. During the 1999-2000 school year, there were 1.3 million to 1.7 million children being taught at home in grades K-12.
Parents choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, including religious choice, safety for their children, lack of confidence in public schools and simply wanting to have greater control over their kids' education.
California mom Loren Mavromati, who teaches her kids at home, is unhappy with the state of public education these days. She chose to homeschool and said the state doesn't make it easy.
"The California Department of Education Web site says that if you're doing what I'm doing … it's illegal," Mavromati said. But she said of her children, "I think they're both doing well."
In fact, you won't find the term "homeschool" anywhere in the California educational code.
California last year tried to cut off money from charter schools that support homeschooling.
Parents in that state have complained that the government isn't funding homeschooling enough, while still holding students to the same academic standards as public school students.
Across the country, laws vary.
Thirty states mandate regular testing for homeschooled students; 42 states require a set curriculum; parents in Michigan who teach their own kids must first earn a teaching credential; and Georgia parents must submit a letter of intent to the school superintendent, must write annual progress reports, and must make sure kids take tests every three years. Another 40 states require no training at all.
On the federal level, no requirements exist for homeschooling.
Critics argue there should be across-the-board accountability.
"We saw one parent keeping a journal of what the child was learning during the week and it was the cat died, they buried the cat, they mourned the cat ... they ate lunch," said Delaine Easton, former superintendent of California Public Schools.
One suggestion is to require homeschoolers to use public school books and lesson plans. But parents insist they're doing just fine on their own.
"On average, home school children test in the 80th percentile, which is 30 percentage points above the median," said Michael Smith of the Home School Legal Defense Association (search).
The Christian Home Educators Conference (search) of Kansas points to research showing that approximately half of home educators have at least a bachelor's degree but many parents are homeschooling with only a high school education.
Research also shows that homeschooling families have a greater percentage of both gifted as well as learning disabled students than the national average.
And there are many homeschooling associations out there that act as a forum for teacher-parents to bounce ideas off of and to keep abreast of what various measures may be being debated across the country that could affect the way their kids learn.
Groups like the HSLDA exists to defend and protect the right of parents to direct the education of their children.
The Homeschool Resource Center (search) in Seattle, Wash., opened in 1998 to offer academic support to teacher-parents and is funded by state money. Parents, however, have to agree to follow "basic rules" of Seattle public schools.
The Mavromati family readily admits that homeschooling is not for everyone. But then again, they say, neither is public school.
"Everyday you read something about the public school system and you want to say 'Why are you bothering us?'" said Loren Mavromati.
In California, the latest craze is the California Virtual Academies (search) created by a slew of charter schools in that state. This allows students to use computers to do their work from home, and CAVA monitors their progress. Students take the same standardized tests as public school students.
Public educators insist their only concern is that every child gets a good education. Many say that as more parents pull their kids out of public school, confidence in that public school system quickly erodes and has a domino effect on other public policy issues.
"Homeschooling is a social threat to public education," Chris Lubienski, who teaches at Iowa State University's college of education, told Time magazine. "It is taking some of the most affluent and articulate parents out of the system. These are the parents who know how to get things done with administrators."
Some families have even been threatened with lawsuits for pulling their kids out of public school.
The Michigan Education Report notes that California alone has between four and six high-profile homeschool harassment cases each year, according to Cathy Cuthbert, editor of an online educational newsletter. Various harassment complaints have also been reported in states such as Tennessee and Michigan.
But homeschoolers say the issue is actually about money — every home-schooled child means fewer dollars in the public school budget, since the money follows the child.
"It's still money being taken away from the classroom," Terry Pesta, of the San Diego Education Association, told thesandiegochannel.com. "When supplies are bought in a classroom, it's not necessarily that just one student is using the supplies. A group of students, sometimes 30 or more, share in the supplies."
Fox News' Trace Gallagher and Liza Porteus contributed to this report.