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'Do-It-Yourself' Home Schooling Growing In Silicon Valley

SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) -- An education method traditionally used by some religious groups or other groups is growing in popularity, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Think about school, and most of us imagine a classroom packed with kids. But whether it's practicing French online with a native speaker, or keeping the beat in the garage during music class, parents are embracing a new kind of school, the do-it-yourself kind.

"I think it is a revolution," parent Lisa Betts-LaCroix said.

KPIX 5 talked to families who took their children out of traditional schools. Just don't call this homeschooling.

"What we probably don't do is spend a whole lot of time at home alone," said parent April Peebler.

The parents come up with the curriculum, while their kids take classes, tailored to their individual needs and interests.

"We have a Shakespeare class with San Francisco Shakespeare. We do math more intimately. Small group learning we realized is really effective," Peebler said.

The hope: that these young students won't burn out; and that they'll want to learn for life.

"I do believe that we are going to be lifelong learners in the future. I believe we're going to be needing to recreate ourselves all the time. When the world is moving as quickly as it is and changing as quickly as it is, we're all going to need to learn new skillsets," Betts-LaCroix said.

The kids are officially enrolled in a public school charter that offers independent study.

The phenomenon is quickly growing.

"I was surprised to learn there are actually eight charter schools that enroll students from our communities here in the Bay Area into virtual or cyber or independent or home study schools," said Margaret Raymond, research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

Raymond says many of these schools measure up, even exceed California's academic performance standards.

"Which suggests that for these parents and their students they're actually getting the model that seems to work for them," Raymond said.

And, with more than two million children now learning outside a traditional school in the United States, these parents believe eventually everyone will benefit.

"The better we can make learning in our little corner of the world, the more we encourage change and development and growth in the other ones too," Betts-LaCroix said.

Because the students are enrolled in a public charter, parents have access to public money. They can use it to help pay for approved expenses like textbooks, tutors, and group lessons.

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