I wish that I felt able to homeschool -- or, more likely, unschool -- L, my six year-old. I have in mind two or three short posts talking about why I think that and I why I don't actually do it, and this is the first.
It seems to me that if you have serious concerns about what is, about the ways in which our lives and our world are socially organized, then you also have to have serious objections to compulsory mainstream schooling.
It does not take much exploration of mainstream discussion of schools, either in the present or back when the current model of mass education was first being instituted in the 19th century, to see that one clearly intended result of the school system is to help reproduce what is and to help youth fit into it. The great educational reformers of the 19th century often saw compulsory, state-run schooling as important for producing a working class that met particular moralistic standards of conduct and behaviour and that met the needs of employers in other, more practical ways. Much of today's debates about education also use the language of "labour market needs" and even "individual opportunity" to talk about taking the haphazard cacophony of potentials and impulses in any random sampling of youth and ease that into adulthoods that meet the needs of elites and do not challenge dominant social relations. If, as I said, you object to the violence inherent in the way those social relations are currently organized, you also have to have some concerns with how those social relations are reproduced and the mechanisms by which people are trained to accept them. Schools are far from the only such mechanism, but they are certainly one of them.
There are a number of ways in which this happens in schools. The formal curriculum, the social organization of schools and consequent hidden curriculum, and the immense social pressures on and in any mass institution not to challenge dominant norms all play a part. Youth are relentlessly exposed to discourse and ideologies that both organize and obscure the relations that comprise how things are, which in turn supports the reproduction of how things are. Many youth also experience material consequences of schools being organized in these ways. For instance, mainstream schools are frequently sites where kids of colour experience interpersonal and systemic racism, queer kids are made unsafe, sexual harassment and more subtle forms of sexism are ubiquitous, and so on. Kids who are privileged in those areas and others, on the other hand, have that privilege reinforced and normalized. And all kids experience the organization of the institution and its pedagogy in ways that trains them to obey arbitrary authority and to do pointless work when ordered to or for a reward, and often they emerge with the autonomous joy of learning with which children enter the world battered, if not broken. This happens unevenly, and it reproduces class and other inequalities by pushing different kinds of relationships to learning, to authority, and to work, on different groups of kids, but it is broadly harmful to one degree or another.
Of course it isn't that simple. This is, after all, a short post, a summary. There are educational contexts that are better and worse. The school system is not monolithic. There can be quite cool experiments within the context of mainstream schooling. As well, children and youth are not passive agents, and they take up and resist these things in various ways, and find strategies to co-opt the good things that schools can offer while resisting the harms. I also want to emphasize that this is not meant as teacher bashing -- there are definitely things that individual teachers and teachers as a group can reasonably be held accountable for, but there are many passionate and committed teachers that skillfully use the constrained space in which they work to do positive things with youth. As well, mainstream rhetoric around educational reform is often grounded in attacking the ordinary folk who work in schools -- I can clearly remember the right-wing attack on education by the Ontario government of Premier Mike Harris in the late '90s and the success that the Tories had in getting otherwise smart, fair-minded people to buy into the idea that teachers are the problem with the school system. I don't buy that.
Nonetheless, and without yet making any claims about how we can individually and collectively respond to it, I am pretty firm in my conviction that the social organization of mainstream schooling is a major problem that requires attention.