One of the great things about human beings is that we all have our own interests and strengths. One of my sons loves building things. His brother likes writing funny stories. Schools are designed to make a group of unique individuals do the same thing at the same time. As much as possible, the goal is to get the same answer and achieve the same results as the rest of the group. True, the right teacher can make any subject interesting. But for most students, school is where you&#39;re expected to do what everybody&#39;s doing, whether you like it or not.<p>Most schools are built around competition. Students who get the highest scores get special recognition. Sports teams are idolized. Rivalries with other schools -- and even between grades in the same school -- can become heated. Ranking and grading on a curve drives <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/print?id&#61;132376" data-type="externalLink" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-ordinal="1">students</a> and teachers to cheat. And it undermines the cooperative skills schools claim to be teaching.</p><p>The most important things in school aren&#39;t necessarily important in real life ... and vice versa. It doesn&#39;t matter if you&#39;re a nationally-ranked horseback rider -- you&#39;re not a top athlete if you don&#39;t play a school sport. Your science videos can get millions of views on the internet -- but <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/science/sylvia-todd-science-star-tinkers-with-the-idea-of-growing-up.html?pagewanted&#61;2" data-type="externalLink" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-ordinal="1">your classmates may not even notice</a>. When only a narrow range of achievements are celebrated, kids can get the message their talents don&#39;t count.</p><p>In my state, at least, homeschoolers have to pay for all their own supplies and classes. But ever see the shopping lists teachers send home? News reports say back-to-school supplies and clothing cost families <a href="http://blog.nrf.com/2013/06/26/parents-preparing-their-back-to-school-budgets-with-caution/" data-type="externalLink" rel="nofollow" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-ordinal="1">around $700 a year</a> -- and rising. That&#39;s not counting fundraisers, trips, activity fees and more. A &#34;free&#34; public school education can end up costing more than doing it yourself.</p>Homeschooling parents need to spend a certain amount of time helping their kids learn concepts and find information. But parents of school kids also put in the hours, often spending their free time after work helping children with their homework. Then there are school events on evenings or weekends, meeting with teachers, advocating for their kids before committees and administrators, volunteering as a classroom parent, working with parent-school groups -- the list goes on and on. No wonder some parents of schoolkids complain the only time they get to spend with their kids is doing work the school foists off on them.Nearly all parents have problems from time to time with their kids&#39; schools -- but few will talk about it in public. Why? They don&#39;t want the teacher or administrator to take it out on their child. I would be very uncomfortable placing my children in an environment where I or they were afraid to speak up whenever we saw problems.Parents need to be advocates for their kids. In school, that often means fighting with school professionals over the best way to help their kids learn. Families of kids with special needs say it can take weeks, months or years of meetings and phone calls to get the evaluations and services their kids require. For me, it was easier to devote that energy to building my own environment of support for my kids&#39; learning styles.<p>Many capable and intelligent kids don&#39;t do well on standardized tests. And students who get high scores don&#39;t necessarily know how to apply what they know in real-life situations. Today, when parents, teachers and school boards are choosing to <a href="http://www.fairtest.org/get-involved/opting-out" data-type="externalLink" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-ordinal="1">opt out</a> of standardized testing, homeschooling provides a refuge from the madness.</p><p>Rise before dawn to get my kids out of bed, dressed, fed, properly equipped and out the door every morning? No thanks. My life&#39;s a lot less stressful without worrying they&#39;ll miss the bus -- plus, my kids have always had time to make their own breakfast and lunch, to boot. And don&#39;t forget those studies that show <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/new_scientist/2013/04/teenage_sleep_patterns_why_school_should_start_later.single.html" data-type="externalLink" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-ordinal="1">letting teens sleep in</a> improves academic performance and reduces depression.</p>Like many kids, my children learned some things more easily than others. &#34;I can&#39;t do something different just for your child&#34; is a common response when parents ask teachers to help their kids work at their ability in all subjects. Schools have to serve a large number of students of varying abilities, all at the same time. Homeschooling makes education more personal -- and more effective.