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The home schooling industry

As trend picks up steam, businesses and services compete for piece of $650m market

NEW YORK -- Jill Nardini planned to home school her family even before she had children.

Nardini, 44, said she wanted to spend as much time as possible with her children. Her desire to teach her 9-year-old son Joey and 7-year-old daughter Jessie about their Christian faith also influenced the decision.

Though still rare, the number of home-schooled children has been rising for the last several years. In 2003, the last year for which figures are available, about 1.1 million students or 2.2 percent of children aged 5 through 17 were being home-schooled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That's a 29 percent rise from 1999.

Many factors are fueling the trend, experts said, including parents' concerns about the environment and academic performance in schools or a desire for religious instruction.

Whatever the trigger, there are many services available including magazines, curriculum planners, tutors, and specialized class programs to help home-schooling families. Eduventures, a research and consulting firm, estimates the home-school market is around $650 million, and has been growing about 8 percent in the last few years.

However, Wiley and others said catering to the market isn't always easy. Parents sometimes decide to stop home schooling or change curriculums. Wiley also noted distributing products through mail typically brings many logistical problems.

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