What do gymnast Simone Biles, writers Agatha Christie and Jorge Luis Borges, and architect Antoni Gaudí have in common? They were all homeschooled, for reasons varying from health, parents’ need to travel, parents’ preferences, or their specific learning needs.

Their success as adults makes clear that homeschooling can be effective, but their unique stories also point to two necessary conditions: A reason that makes homeschooling the best option for the student combined with the right resources.

The number of families homeschooling their children has surged in the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. An EdWeek Research Center survey of parents last fall found that 9% of parents who did not homeschool their children last school year planned to do so this school year. In an average school year, about 3% of students are homeschooled.