If given the choice, the time and the financial means, would you ever consider home schooling your children? It's a trend that is on the rise, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Daryl Bowers is the director of Interior Distance Education of Alaska (IDEA), a home-school program in the state with about 4,600 kids from 2,200 families. Bowers said IDEA experienced its largest season of growth last year.

"Home school is growing in Alaska by leaps and bounds," Bowers said. "In home school you're allowed to provide a customized education for your child. So you can move your child forward at exactly the pace that's right for them. You can slow down and place them at exactly the level they need to be and it allows a customized education for their child. So while we might see classroom sizes expanding around the state, in home school it's pretty much one-on-one. And that's very appealing to a lot of families." 

In 2016, the Anchorage Daily News reported that because of Alaska's relaxed laws around home schooling it is hard to calculate exactly how many children in the state are home schooled. The same state statutes don't list requirements for parent qualifications, instruction time or assessments. 

"How Alaska handles home schooling has attracted both support and skepticism. Those in favor say the law successfully upholds a parent's fundamental right to educate their children, but critics argue there needs to be some form of oversight," the article states.

Amber Vazquez moved to Anchorage from California and thought she would try home schooling for one year. Vazquez now has four children and will be starting her ninth year teaching from home. 

"I was very nervous," Vazquez said. "I actually kind of stepped back thinking, 'I can't do this' and I sent my daughter to public school for two months thinking I can't do this. I pulled her out realizing that wasn't my heart's desire. I can do this."

Vazquez says she reached out to as many people as she could that did home school. She says finding those families helped her move forward. 

"In the beginning, I said I'm going to home school for one year and I can't home school two kids," Vazquez said. "My son is one year younger than my daughter. But, we've just kinda kept going and going. I feel as I go, every year it kind of changes. The family dynamics have changed as I've added more children. As they have gotten older the curriculum has changed, but it has just worked out for our family." 

Vazquez's neighbor, Sarah Millar, noticed how well home schooling was working and the freedom it gave Vazquez's family, which prompted Millar to explore the IDEA Curriculum Fair.

"I love the flexibility, I kind of like the whole idea of having more quality, family time," Millar said. "We want more freedom to travel and just make our life about educating our children rather than her being gone at school all day then rushing to basketball and soccer. Just kind of, for more a peaceful educational experience I guess."

Bowers said it's that higher quality family time is a big incentive for parents to choose a home school path.

"When families send their kids to school, they really get them back at the end of the day when everybody is tired, everybody is worn out and kids often have homework," Bowers said. "Homeschooling allows families to be home at the best part of the day."

If families choose to participate in a charter or correspondence school, the State of Alaska offers financial stipends for education expenses. According to IDEA's website, families in its program — which is officially recognized by the state as part of the Galena City School District — are eligible to receive an allotment of around $2,000 depending on the child's grade level.

More information on alternative school options is available on the state's website and on the IDEA Curriculum Fair website.

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