Dear History Detective,
I would like to reply here as I was personally homeschooled through high school. Trynity7 did a fabulous job. The subject of homeschooling is a hard one to detail in a paragraph or two.
On the subject of curriculi in this case your interest is history. I think unintentionally you hit on why most of us want to homeschool- our inspiration so to speak. Most elementary and high schools have strict curriculums that provide no alternate textbooks. Most of the time the whole subject matter is not even throughly covered. It is impossible to do with 20 students of varying aptitudes. You have no time to develop much of an interest before you are off to the next lesson. With only one student, the world is your school ground. Explore, research, go beyond is what we encourage. To love learning, to desire to learn more and above all to think.
Most homeschoolers do stick with a textbook that mirror their beliefs in the early years. These are not the years for critical thinking rather laying a firm foundation. We still supplement though in many ways. We cook food according to the culture. We rent books from the library about subjects that the children find interesting. We tour museums that feature the culture or period we are studying. We put on plays with each being a significant character from the period. We start detailed timelines and add to them throughout the school years. We encourage them to develop a deep understanding of the time - the political climate, the weather, the arts, the music, the way they educated, religous preferences, the heros, the way they dressed, and yes the facts and dates. I challenge you to find this in a traditional school. There just is not the time for much beyond the facts. And I doubt most elementary teachers know much more than that. (this is not a knock against the teacher. Goodness knows the work they have to do to impart what they can.) By the time they reach high school, most homeschoolers have studied ancient and modern civilization two or three times. Now is the time to encourage them to read the published articles, books, and documentaries. They have the basics now go deeper into the different interpretations. Many hs interested in history are taking university or community classes by high school. Some do not. But the time of Christopher Columbus, Genghis Khan, the Tudors, and even Jimmy Carter are alive for them.
History is often what we base our unit studies on, and something many homeschoolers are passionate about. However we are equally passionate about science, math, and literature. (Unfortunately, I have always hated Grammar and find it the hardest to impart with enthusiasm.) With science, many homeschoolers purchase chemistry sets, microscopes, and even animals to dissect. We run around culturing everything in our vicinity, take fingerprints and studing them, put cells, plants, blood, insects, hair etc under the scope. We raise butterflys, watch ant farms, have gardens, go bird watching, go to every museum we are ever near, visit the zoo and then do detail studies on the animals we are particuarily interested in. We go tree and plant typing, insect hunting, and spend hours under the stars for a science class at night. Many a homeschooling mother has walked into her kitchen to start lunch only to find a chemistry experiment being conducted.
With literature, we put on Shakespearean plays by fourth grade, are reading Dickens by second, and Poe long before high school. Once you give a child an appetite for good literature and poetry, your only job is making sure it is appropriate for their emotional developement. We have poetry reading at least twice a week starting with nursery rhymes in preschool.
Math is daily living. We teach fractions as they help us cook. Learn to count to twenty as we walk up the stairs. Sort buttons and play with the abacus. Do rote tables at the top of our lungs as fast as we can and fall down laughing when we are done. And yes we do use a carefully researched math curriculum. Often different for each child.
Many a mom has stayed up hours getting that geometry problem worked out in her own head. If not there is always the computer program, her daughters friends dad, the homeschooling message board, or the tutor listed in the homeschool group newsletter. Most likely though her son/daughter will not even ask for help after reading the material. By high school, they figure out most things on their own or research until they do understand the concept. You are pretty much there to provide the praise. Independent learning has been established. Of course, you still quiz and test as they are adolescents.
Many children take music classes and our personal favorite activity is finding instruments from normal items then composing and performing with our own "orchestra". Every once in a while it even sounds good. LOL They study artists and composers. Learn a foreign language and often study Latin also. I do not know why, but most serious homeschoolers do.
And the best thing about this is that they sit down for strict work maybe three hours a day four days a week. That is plenty of time for one child. However, you see them at the computer and ask what they are doing. "Oh I was really interested in (insert preference) that we touched on today. I wanted to see what this site says about it." Or you call your daughter six times before she answers. She is reading one of the twenty books she picked up on turtles. Her new interest. Your topic of conversation over the dinner table is The Merchant of Venice, and your mouth fall open to listen to your childrens analysis. Your toddler is groovin to Saint-Saens while your baby sleeps to the Brazilian CD you picked up while studying that country. Not that they do not enjoy video games, movies, television, and talking on the phone. It just that to most homeschooled children school is fun. It is not 8 hours of torture followed by two more of homework. My son cheers when I tell him it is couchwork time. I am not kidding.
Now is this the life of every hs. NO! But many it is. I know countless hs families to which this is normal daily life. Yes there are those unfortunately who seek to mimic public and private schools with set hours, little diversity, many worksheets, and one textbook to teach American History or Natural Science. And we all have bad days when we do not want to do anything. We have family arguements and have to make them redo their math problems. But you hit on the reason why most of us choose to homeschool. You cannot really learn out of one book that skims over the basics from that one authors point of view. And in my opinion, the majority most definitely will not learn to crave knowledge in such an environment.
I hope this helps. It just struck me as so ironic that what you were questioning is the basis of many a homeschoolers choice to homeschool. I firmly believe that it is the right choice for my family. However, I just as firmly believe that what is right for us might not be right for the next person.