Homeschoolers are a growing bunch there are an estimated 1.5 million in the U.S. today, and the number is expected to double by 2010. Parents take on this enormous task for many reasons, from religion to dissatisfaction with local schools. Whether you're trying to decide if you're up to the job, or you're already making homeschooling a daily reality, the following books will give you tips and ideas for making the task easier. No matter what your educational philosophy, you're bound to find plenty of golden nuggets in these new titles.

A GREAT PLACE TO BEGIN exploring the topic is A Parent's Guide to Homeschooling: Expert Answers to Tough Questions About Home Schooling (Parent's Guide Press, $22.95, 306 pages, ISBN 1931199094). Written by veteran homeschooler Tamra Orr in a question and answer format that makes the text highly readable, the book is filled with interesting tidbits and plenty of great, basic information. (Did you know that Ansel Adams, Mark Twain and LeAnn Rimes are among the many famous people who have been homeschooled?) Chapters include "How do I get started?" "Where can I find help?" and "What about the teen years?" Other nuts and bolts issues, such as the legalities of homeschooling, are also covered in this comprehensive volume. CHRISTINE FIELD LEFT A CAREER as a criminal prosecutor to homeschool her four children, and she readily admits, "My days are so much more complex than I ever dreamed they could be as a stay-at-home mom." In Help for the Harried Homeschooler: A Practical Guide to Balancing Your Child's Education with the Rest of Your Life (Shaw Books, $13.99, 278 pages, ISBN 0877887942), Field concedes that her educational choice has resulted in personal sacrifice. But the rewards, she says, far outweigh the price. Using humor and biblical teachings along with examples from her own experience, Field presents solutions that will help overwhelmed parents maintain their sanity. She also guides readers through some of the toughest conflicts presented by teaching at home. Topics include how homeschooling can affect marriages, homeschooling through personal crises and dealing with student-siblings of various ages.

WHAT MAKES THESE FAMILIES TICK? "Are home-schooling parents superhuman, always patient June and Ward Cleaver types?" Rhonda Barfield asks in Real-Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home (Pocket, $14, 299 pages, ISBN 0743442296). Barfield, mother of four home-schooled children, was astonished by the diverse lifestyles and educational philosophies she found when she interviewed 21 families in 18 states. Here's a book of interest to anyone, whether you simply want a peek into the lives of different families or you're looking for tips for schooling at home. Each profile includes a photo, advice from the families and a list of helpful resources. Fascinating as well as informative, the volume offers an in-depth look at the homeschooling experiment. Without promoting any particular curriculum or religious views, as many homeschooling books do, Creative Home Schooling for Gifted Children: A Resource Guide by Lisa Rivero offers numerous resources as well as short quotes and insights from homeschooled children and parents. It's a big book that addresses a multitude of issues, such as socialization and intellectual needs, varied learning styles, practical matters for parents and grade levels and standards. Full of well-organized information for any parent of a gifted child, the book includes reading lists and a fascinating unit that shows how entire areas of study can be organized around themes (like baseball) that will appeal to kids. From parents to teachers to camp counselors, this is a great guide for any educator.

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