Late to this discussion, but thought I'd chime in since we homeschooled until just this year, and my older son just started 4th grade at public school. Here are my thoughts on this:
First, we have never experienced true bullying, either hs'ing or at school. I assume we're talking about teasing, etc. In that case, we encountered it both homeschooling and in school. So far we have actually had worse incidents with homeschooled kids - I found that while many of the kids are truly lovely, there seemed to be a trend for parents to kind of check out and let their kids run wild, and then when there was an incident, I was the only parent there to deal with it. Now, one of the benefits of hs'ing was that I WAS there to deal with it, but it got exhausting, and after awhile we stopped going to park days after numerous incidents that were really upsetting.
We also had problems with a boy who was in a co-op that my son was in for a year and half (we hired a Waldorf teacher, the parents weren't there). This little boy was very verbally manipulative, and very pushy and insulting towards my son. My son complained about it constantly, but even when it happened right in front of his mom, she ignored it. My son one time even approached his mom and told her that her son was grabbing the frisbee and not letting anyone play with it, and she told my son to just ignore him. Yeah, that helps, when her son is ripping the toy out of everyone's hand. I wish I had been more on top of it, because my son ended up eventually blowing his top and throwing a rock at the kid. Then of course everyone got really excited about what my son had done, even though up until then (and since) he had never hurt another child. I of course came down hard on my son, and he was truly disappointed with himself and very apologetic, but there was no acknowledgement from the other parents of their child's part in it. We weren't the only family to have trouble with this kid, either. Another family stopped attending because of him.
The problem with hs'ing social groups is that there are no rules, really. Every family has their own rules, their own methods of discipline, and their own version of what is a problem. As a parent who pretty much is always paying attention to my kids and has very little tolerance for meanness, from any child, even my own, this was a big problem for us, and even before my son asked to start school we were starting to avoid most of our local homeschool social gatherings.
Now my son is in public school, 4th grade. He has complained about being teased, but more of the generic kind - nothing directed specifically at him, nothing heinous about how he looks or acts or anything like that. He's explained it as he'll say something that is wrong, one kid will kind of mock him, another kid well say "ha ha." That kind of thing. There is one little girl that has just been on him from day one about every little answer he gets wrong in school (even though he's getting all As and Bs). This kind of stuff drives him crazy, and I am not there to do anything about it. Even the teacher doesn't want to hear about, and now he's caught in the trap of being a tattletale if he goes to an adult.
But, while I hate that he has to endure any of this, I do think it falls under the realm of normal kid teasing, and my son is still happy and enjoys school, so I think it's one of those things he's just going to have to learn to deal with. And I am there quite a bit, actually. I help serve lunch one or two days a week, and hang around the playground area before and after. I'm there at pick up and drop off, and hear a lot of what goes on. I volunteer at many events and hear the kids interacting with each other, and I honestly have yet to hear or see an interaction that I thought was truly mean or problematic.
Ultimately I think it's really the luck of the draw. In my experience, your chances of dealing with being teased or encountering mean kids is just as high with homeschooling as in school. Benefits of homeschooling are that you are usually there to deal with it, and you can leave if you want. (However, depending on your hs social scene, this could mean that all of a sudden there very limited social opportunies for your kids). The pros of school are that there are a general set of rules that all the kids have to work under, and in my experience the school takes actual bullying very seriously. We always know we can leave school any time, and if it got bad, we would.
Also, I wanted to make two more points: There is definitely more about what's cool or not in school than there was homeschooling. No doubt. Also, thus far, both my son and I made better, more deeper friendships from our homeschool group that we have thus far in school (although it's only been 3 months). But again, luck of the draw - depends on the families in your hs group, and the families at school.
I wanted to add, that overall, I still prefer the lifestyle of homeschooling. When I think of bringing my kids home (we still don't know if we will continue with school or not) I'm excited about everything but the thought of having to deal with the social groups again. But, this is because of just a few kids who are always at every event, and my general fatigue with dealing with those particular families. But I didn't want my post to sound discouraging of homeschooling in general. It's fantastic, and I highly encourage it!
Edited by oceanbaby - 12/1/10 at 9:15am