There's a lot of truth in that statement. I wrestle with the whole "appearance of school" in our homeschooling every day. When you grow up without knowing homeschooling is even an option, when you are a product of a strict system of education that thrives off multiple dry textbooks and monotonous classroom lessons, your view of what homeschool is supposed to be is skewed.
When you start your journey into homeschooling you are running against the grain, though these days that isn't as true as it once was. The style you choose varies, usually based on the homeschoolers you make friends with. When we started out (a good 17 years or more ago), I knew just a few homeschoolers. One group used a Bob Jones in-home satellite classroom approach. The days were strictly scheduled, there were lesson tapes to view with classroom tutors and so forth, tests to be done on time and mailed off for grading and proper credit, strict attendance procedures to adhere to...a distinct air of private school to the whole experience.
There was another group, branching out from satellite schools and using texts like Saxon math, Alpha Omega LifePacs, ACE School of Tomorrow curriculum. Most were still pretty strictly scheduled, but not to the extent the Bob Jones crowd was. Most had a designated 'school room' and were very much a school-at-home group, with little flexibility in their daily routine. You certainly weren't going outside in the neighborhood during 'school hours' or even scheduling appointments or errands during the time when children were expected to be 'in school'. Even in more relaxed, free homeschooling states, parents towed the line of keeping their homeschool efforts in match step with the government system around them.
You had the more hardcore Classical Education group, teaching the Trivium, children learning Latin not so much as an aid to grasping the true foundation do English as a language, but learning Latin as a full language in itself.
Another group still embraced a much more a 'free spirit' homeschool environment. These were the very few Charlotte Mason folks I knew of, a few followers of the Robinson Curriculum, and the Unschooling crowd just emerging with a title for their unencumbered approach to home education.
When we pulled our oldest from the government system in 6th grade, I was immediately bullied by the system as to how inadequate my own simple education was, how ill-prepared I was to be teaching a child any useful knowledge, and how I needed to submit to those who had been specifically trained in the higher educational system otherwise my children would perish into oblivion and flounder with substandard knowledge and even lower skill levels.
As a result, I grabbed an almost perfect duplicate of the texts my oldest used in the public school and we set about doing 'school at home'. I duplicated the scheduling, we had breaks between 'classes' and the whole thing. He played his school at home part well enough to convince his Dad to put him back into the public system for 7th grade. The school district though, decided he must have had a year-long vacation and would need special attention to be brought "up to speed" in order to assimilate back into their ranks. A few tests and it was apparent their concern was unwarranted and he was allowed to be a 7th grader. Part of his assimilation was that I attend what they called Parent Enrichment Training once a week at the school, led by a 'professional in child development'....who we found out was not even a parent herself, but simply a child psychologist who happened to have a couple nieces and nephews. The class was a very "I'm Ok, You're Ok" psychology approach and taught that parents and children are equals on all things, be your child's best friend, get down on their level, learn from them thru their eyes. We were being taught Dr Phil philosophy before Dr. Phil was even a name.
We were out of there without even considering looking back before he reached the 1st quarter report card. Now what?
We went with the Alpha Omega LifePac approach to schooling. Even followed their suggested scheduling and daily routine plans. We did attempt our church's private school option for a while, but in the end that wasn't going to work any better than the public school option. They were very big on homeschooling...as long as it was done under their guidance, and in their building.
We moved on from AO to their Switched-on-Schoolhouse, then into Christian Light Education workbooks. After years of the workbook venue, we settled into another textbook approach, using Rod & Staff almost exclusively. We taught reading with Learning to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Alpha Phonics, and stock workbooks and flash cards from Walmart. Our homeschool was still just that...a school at home. The only thing we didn't do all those years was buy 'real' school desks and set up a miniature classroom in the house.
Ok, confession...I have always wanted to have our own little red school house...a nice, one-room school area set up off a trail in the woods, quiet and secluded from the everyday routine of the house itself. I still want that. I want everything in one place...our book shelves, our printer, our arts and crafts...instead of scattered throughout every room in the house. But that is all part of what makes up our home school experience I guess. The 'school' isn't a specific area...it's the entire HOME experience of all those minutes and tasks that make up our day, from feeding goats in the barn, to scrubbing laundry at the wash tubs, to sweeping the floors.
The past handful of school seasons, we have more fully embraced a Charlotte Mason style of learning. I have learned, albeit slowly, that a textbook is a great tool, but it certainly isn't the only tool. We keep textbooks around to keep my attention focus on what I consider core areas, namely math and English lessons. Everything else is free flowing thru good, solid books for referencing and reading aloud, lapbook and notebook creating, hands-on projects and adventures. Looking back on our years of homeschooling, we have always leaned toward real books as a heavy learning tool. Even when the oldest was in the public school arena, we would supplement those homework assignments by going farther with them on our own and crafting various home lessons, projects, and scrapbooks of our knowledge as we learned more. It's only been the past few seasons I have really grasped the truth of what Charlotte Mason was talking about for our educational adventure. It doesn't have to be textbooks and quizzes, with a reward of a field trip scattered here and there after some arbitrary lesson number is reached. Life teaches in more ways than a textbook ever can. There is math everywhere, even in mopping a floor. Grammar can be taught thru the regular use of real language in everyday conversation, in real books, and in quiet contemplative moments.
Will we totally ditch the textbooks here? Alas, probably not. Old, ingrained habits are marrow deep and so hard to shake free from. But we are freeing ourselves bit by bit every day we shed the textbooks in favor of a new adventure outdoors here. This simple truth is we can always find great books to read about and learn from, but experiencing those lessons is where the real education lies.
The strength of the education you give your child lies in the ideas you put before them, and not in how many hours they spend filling paper with answers.