But there are families who homeschool because they think that the public schools are being forced to teach to the tests, rather than teach to the natural curiosity of their kids. Here in NYC, there are homeschooling networks that spend a huge amount of time doing hands on projects in museums while their classmates are taking notes. I certainly see the appeal of that.
NYC offers many things that most other locales cannot.
Some parents homeschool because their kids have special needs that they think are not adequately addressed in overcrowded classrooms. Some parents homeschool because they are concerned about safety in the schools. Some parents do crazy things, like pull their kids out of school for a year or two and travel the world.
I must admit that it has been many years since I last visited NYC (and my last visit was for very atypical reasons for visiting NYC), but as far as safety is concerned it seems crazy to me that somebody would be concerned about NYC schools. I'm sure that NYC has problems like other cities, but I was amazed at how friendly NYC residents are. Parents in NYC allow their kids to go to school at surprisingly early ages riding in city buses, taxi cabs and the subway -- things that so many parents in the suburbs would be horrified to do. I think most NYC neighborhoods have a better sense of community and watching out for neighbors and the kids than most suburban areas in the US.
Suburbia seems to be the largest social threat in America.
I think about all the homeschooled kids in Jesus Camp, and I go nuts. But there are circumstances in which I think homeschooling is the right choice for some families.
My ex-wife wanted our daughter to attend a private school, and all but one that we visited were religious-based (Christian, of course) and I was vehemently opposed to private schools for various reasons. When I was told at the Catholic school that we were not allowed in the school beyond the wrought iron gate at the daily drop-off point, I told them "hell no". (I would have told them "hell fucking no", but I was showing respect.) The local baptist school required that we regularly attend their church, and of course, at least for me, that was not going to happen for any reason. The Adventist school had a specific 1950s moment when they explained that the extra-curricular activity for the boys was to play basketball and the extracurricular activity for the girls was to be the cheerleaders for the boys as they played basketball -- the ex-wife immediately short-circuited. Except for the year in kindergarten, our daughter has attended public schools and she has gotten a great education, but we helped a lot, like we would at any school. Socially-speaking, she has been exposed to other kids from a wide variety of backgrounds, countries, languages, etc. 54% of the students at her high school are of some minority and there are 37 languages spoken by those students. She has friends from Africa, Thailand, Korea, China, Japan, Poland, Germany, Egypt, Iraq, Mexico, El Salvador, Panama ... The private schools would have offered exposure to a predominantly white, middle-to-upper class set of kids that couldn't be more homogenous unless they were polygamous Mormons. The future is in the mix of the former, not the blandness of the latter.