School things they'll miss out on
My [schooled] older son sees school as a rite of passage, a common ground, a bond with others his age. No matter how awful it is, he thinks everyone should have the experience.
His belief also justifies his having had to go through the awfulness of it. If it's the journey not the destination that counts and if by not sending your other son to school you're saying there's nothing of value to be gained through the school journey, then what was the purpose of struggling through what he went through?
My mother maintains that the discussion after the book [in a classroom] is, in many ways, more important than the book itself.
I'd debate the more important part but I understand what she means. A discussion can give us other points of view and insights into a story that we might have missed on our own.
But I would say stimulating discussion would be part of a classroom in an ideal world. Reading in school should be like a book club where everyone shares similar taste in books and meets once a week to discuss their favorites. (And some libraries offer those. For older kids of course. Most 5 yos wouldn't be interested! And if they aren't interested to do it on their own, forcing it in school is a sure fire way to ensure they don't like reading.)
In PRACTICE school is nothing like that. And putting a child in school because an ideal school could offer fascinating discussion doesn't change the fact that kids spend the vast majority of their time in school sitting through things they have no interest in learning, or that are too hard, or too easy, or seemingly have no relevance to their world. And that's discounting all the time spent doing nonacademic things!
I'm trying hard, but I can't remember a single book or author I was introduced to in school that later became a favorite or was even remembered fondly. There were stories or books I'd read on my own that were reinforced in school (like having to read something else by the author.)
No, I remembered one. There was an excerpt from this really good translation of Beowulf in our English Lit text. I wish I'd written the translator's name down. Pretty sad commentary for 12 years.
I will definitely never read Silas Marner. I "read" it but eradicated it from my memory other than it was about an old guy and a little girl and lots of meanness and sadness. I even had a tough time watching the Wishbone version of it.
I might have picked up that Shakespeare anachronistically included clocks in Julius Caesar in school, but I'm not entirely certain I didn't read that in Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare. The discussions in school were entirely about things I didn't care to ask questions about (either before or after the discussions) or about things that I eventually stumbled upon on my own or reinforced things I'd already picked up on my own.
A lot of educators, I think, have a very idealized vision of what actually goes on in schools. They only see the programmed part of the environment: what information is provided and how it's structured. They don't see the teacher and kid factors. None of the great ideal programs work if the teacher is going through the motions and/or the kids would rather be doing something else.
And, yes, your son will get things out of books all on his own. More importantly he'll get the things that are meaningful to him not the things some expert picked out that he's "supposed" to get. Maybe a bug illustration in a book that's "supposed" to impart information about trees will catch his attention. The tree stuff may pass by him, but the bug may resonate. In school in theory the teacher should allow the discussion to go wherever the children's interest takes it. In practice the discussion would stay focused on what the book was "supposed" to be about because the teacher has specific things she must check off as having covered.
And this is worth 12 years of dull tedious classes while picking up the message that learning is hard, that you need to dress and act and think a certain way to be right?
And it's worth putting up with bullies and peer pressure and cliques and changing yourself to fit in? And it's worth taking the risk of not being asked to the prom?
Quite often a group of homeschooling parents will pull some formal dance together at the end of the year. (Anyone can do this! :-) Homeschooled kids can be asked by schooled kids. (Most schooled kids don't go because they aren't asked or they don't have a date or are too scared to ask someone.)
Prom may be a great reward for those few who went and enjoyed their time at the prom to cap 12 years of forced schooling but without the schooling to struggle through, it's not that big of a deal.
So not worth it.