Not long ago, someone asked me in a comment why anyone might consider homeschooling their children if there are good, government-funded religious schools - such as in Israel - schools where a child is supposedly safe from bad influences that can be found in secular schools. I answered in the comments section, but decided this is important enough to elaborate in a separate post.
I do agree that usually, religious schools provide better spiritual environment, and are in general preferable to secular schools. However, I cannot say religious schools cancel all doubts and worries of parents who might consider homeschooling.
The first, very simple thing I must point out is that the assumption behind the question is that a religious school is automatically compatible with out spiritual values and what we would like our children to be taught - which, of course, isn't necessarily so. Certainly, there are many religious schools of all kinds in Israel, and some of them might have a program which doesn't clash with our belief system; but if you remember we live in a rather remote area - so it's not like we'd have an unlimited number of schools to choose from. In fact, I doubt parents around here can even choose between two religious schools!
Schools, by their very nature, can do little to change the problems we see with the very concept of organized school: bulky and inflexible methods of teaching directed to occupy large groups of children as quietly as possible; lack of adaptability to the individual child's needs; wasting lots of time on discipline, answering questions, reading out names, shifting between classrooms, going to and returning from breaks - all the little annoying things that prolong "formal" lesson-time and leave little time for creative exploration and spontaneous learning; isolation of the child from children who do not belong to exactly the same age group (isn't it ridiculous that if you are in third grade, you will be laughed at for making friends with someone in second grade?). The religiousness of a school does nothing to change any of the above.
A few more words about the incredible waste of time that goes on in schools. No one really plans to do anything about it, because schools, especially for younger children, aren't geared to be effective - on the contrary, the children must be occupied for a decent number of hours to get them off their mothers' hands while the mothers are out there working. I believe this is one of the reasons children are often given such boring, mind-numbing, paper-shuffling, unnecessarily time-consuming work.
And finally, a bit about the dangerous assumption that children who go to religious schools are immune to negative worldly influences - not so! Often, they are just better hidden and hushed up, especially in boarding schools, which are a common option for teenage boys. We know teenagers are especially prone to worldly temptations, and tend to go through a few turbulent years - but take a teenage boy, give him good, creative work and exercise, encourage contact and friendship with people of all ages, and it might be balanced out. Take the same boy, and put him in a place where he contacts no one but similarly impulse-driven teenage boys, without individual adult attention - and the consequences might be disastrous. If you think I'm exaggerating, I'm not. I know for a fact terrible things have happened in certain good religious schools for boys - precisely because of the fact that so many teenage boys were locked up together and away from their parents - such as extensive use of pornography and even fostering of homosexuality. School just couldn't provide the necessary balanced environment.
Keep in mind I'm not saying homeschooling is the one and only option. I'm simply trying to illustrate my point that a parent who considers homeschooling might easily think it's the best alternative even if religious schools are available. Ultimately, it's our responsibility to train and bring up our children, and we should plan and act accordingly.