You can't compare homeschooled kids to public school kids. The experience is so fundamentally different that no angle provides a satisfactory view to make an honest comparison. The way that schools "work" has no real bearing on how homeschooling works, so the results should be expected to be different. When you approach your children as learners and you haven't taken the role of teacher, when children are not taught to rely on a teacher to gain what they need to know, when kids are allowed to decide for themselves what they need/want to know, you understand that the old ways, the school ways, don't prepare our kids for what they need and will want or what we want for them.
Unschooling, it must be understood, is not about what we, as parents, want or expect from our kids. We do have desires and expectations for our kids and that should not be discounted. But more than anything, we want for our kids to be self-actualized, self-motivated and able to satisfy their needs personally. They must then be able to figure out their own needs because they learn early that they don't have someone hovering in the background to be ready in a moment to tell them. We do hover in the background because we are parents and love our kids. They do know that we are there, even if we hide just a little in the shadows. Our kids learn that we won't butt in, but we are always there, at any time that they need us. And that is one more thing they learn, when they want to do it themselves and when they need to ask us or anyone for help.
Some people, in arguing against homeschooling, worry that, without being forced, kids will never learn certain things that are such a big part of what is considered education. That, through the experience of many homeschool/unschool families, has been proven to be a nonissue. Will kids learn algebra or physics or biology? Yes they will if they want to. What if they just don't want to learn those things? First, we should question the true value of forcing these subjects onto every child regardless of the child's desire. I have no use for these things in my average day. Many of us never use those subjects ever. However, some people cultivated a desire for something in life that required the knowledge of those subjects. Homeschooled kids also have desires. As they grow and grow older, they are very much able to see what they want in life. They find it easy to pick up the subjects that relate to their desire.
In the end, I want my kids to know that there isn't much in this world they have to do. They will do what they want, and they will learn how to do what they want. Anything I child finds interesting is something they can learn from. Children, as they grow, learn what they are good at and what they love. I want my kids to have the time to cultivate their desires. I don't want their adulthood to revolve around doing things they hate because they have to. So I won't teach them that life is like that. I will let them learn what life can really be and what they can really be. Should I worry about their ability to motivate themselves? Should I care if sometimes they don't want to do anything? Will they ever learn to work or to work through unpleasant aspects to achieve a goal? Well, Big Brother took time to learn how to ride a bike. He didn't like a lot of what happened on the way to figuring out the whole speed/balance combo. He fell down a lot. He skinned his hands and knees. The pedals barked his shins a few time. He knows how to ride a bike though because he kept trying. He suffered through physical pain and mental frustration to work toward a goal that had value to him.
This post was inspired by both this blog, Ideas, written by David Friedman, and the comments to this blog. I found the blog through the Carnival of Unschooling.