Some recent articles on homeschooling show a shocking lack of exposure to the homeschooling community. Here is my response to one article. From what I see, our family's results are the norm where homeschooling is concerned. In fact, I think we could do better than this. I think most families who put their minds to it could homeschool-- or afterschool-- with success.
Update: Well, I think I may have put my foot in it. I need to qualify my previous statement. When I said "put their minds to it", I meant that educating kids this way with success will require a significant shift in paradigm for most of us. I know it did in my case-- in fact, my paradigm is still being shifted as we head into the high school years.
I mainly used Triss as an example in this note because she is our kid that is the most 'finished' in terms of education, although I don't consider any of us finished getting an education, including myself.
As a mother who has homeschooled her three children from the beginning (my oldest is almost fifteen), I take issue with the lack of proof you provide. I have not done a scientific study on homeschooling-- from reading your post, I see you have not either-- but can share my own experience.
Cost: We are not wealthy-- we land just above the median income for our state-- and yet are able to provide an excellent learning environment for our children. All of my kids read above grade level, play musical instruments (two of my kids play multiple instruments), sing, act, write stories for fun, enjoy nature, like swimming and gymnastics and calisthenics, and do well on standardized tests. I provide for the kids' outside classes by teaching piano in my home (either bartering classes for lessons or using my income to pay for classes). As you can see, homeschooling on a shoestring has not hampered our learning environment.
Time: It does take a lot of time to educate children, but our family has chosen to do this with our time. If I weren't teaching the kids, I might be out in the workforce-- yes, even teaching other people's kids. I might be doing the same thing for a living, and then coming home at the end of the day needing time to decompress and reconnect with my family-- and might be obligated to spend that time helping them with homework rather than connecting on a personal level-- having to fix supper and keep up with laundry on top of being gone all day. Since I am home for at least half of almost every day, I am able to integrate housekeeping into my teaching day-- not to mention having three great helpers! Sounds like an advantage to me!
Parents inability to instruct: Despite my lack of a college degree, my kids are getting a good education, even to the point of being competitive with their public-schooled peers. My oldest competes (and places) in regional science fairs with middle school students from private and public schools across our metro area, and has even participated in the state competition. She has been recognized by a couple of scientific societies not affiliated with homeschooling, and has already been invited by a college to consider its science program when she moves on to higher education. This despite the fact that my background is in music and not science. DH's background is theater arts. Go figure.
You also wrote, "Most of the time, there is not a set routine." I would be embarrassed to put such a statement into an article without providing statistics, or at least anecdotal examples. In our case, we do have a set routine, and, even more importantly, my husband and I have firm expectations where the kids' work is concerned. They are given assignments and trusted to carry them out, and experience negative consequences if those assignments are not completed. This is remarkably similar to how things work in the 'real world'.
Lack of contact with other children (learning how to socialize): My kids have contact with other kids every day of the week-- through outside classes, church and playing in the neighborhood. Yes, they have even been teased and bullied. I am thankful for their attitude when neighbor kids make fun of them-- they laugh! Laugh. And invite the kids to play, diffusing the situation. (Sometimes the other kids want to play and become friends. Other times they are nonplussed and leave.) My kids do not get uptight about fads and trying to be like all the other kids, but they do enjoy other kids. This attitude is prevalent among the homeschooled kids I know (and I know more than five homeschooled kids).
Lack of interpersonal and communication skills: As I pointed out above, the kids are involved in a number of outside activities. In fact, my oldest has been invited several times to assist in teaching and day camp situations because she is so good with children. Other kids enjoy playing with my kids because of their creativity and easygoing natures. Grown-ups like my kids because they are polite and respectful. As the girls get older, I find they are wanted everywhere. They are able to communicate through both writing and speaking, and are not shy about saying what they think.
Lack of mentors: As my kids get older they are forming relationships with other adults independent of mine and my husband's relationships. My oldest has friendships with her acting teacher, a mom in the neighborhood she babysits for, her Girl Scout leaders, and her Spanish teacher, as well as numerous other adults (family, church friends) she can confide in. Several of our church friends are teachers in the public schools, and one is a counselor, and they all provide support for us. We are also members of the local homeschool support group and belong to online communities, which involve both kids and parents.
Being overprotected from the real world: We have chosen to expose our children to the ills and ideas of this world gradually, first through carefully selected books and experiences, and eventually broadening into full knowledge. At age fourteen, my oldest has had both tutoring and classroom experiences, is exposed to current events, has an opinion on many of the questions of the day, has stood up to bullies, has been involved in public service projects, volunteered at the public library, co-taught classes (of mostly public schooled students), given public speeches (once to a group of more than one hundred adults and children), and been subjected to adjudication of her work by independent panels of judges (once in oral interview form).
As you can see, our homeschooling situation is quite different from what you describe, although I concede that we are only one family, and are not finished with our homeschooling "experiment". I recommend you review the scientific method and do more research before making assertions like the ones above. Obviously, your sampling of homeschoolers is too small.