We have always homeschooled. Our daughter is now sixteen and looking back I see how much homeschooling, especially with an only child, has always been a fine balance. Sometimes unschooling -- following the child's lead -- seemed perfect. There were many wonderful afternoons spent outside with magnifying glasses examining interesting objects of nature, lots of time spent playing board games, and learning crafts. Then as she grew older, there were doubts and uncertainty. Was she getting a "good education"? Maybe we should be doing more structured schoolwork. Then we would make schedules and plans, use math, grammar and spelling workbooks and try to incorporate more rigid learning. When we would start feeling constrained, we loosened up on the shoulds and have tos. Talking to other homeschool moms, I discovered the doubts and uncertainty we felt seemed to be a common thread in the homeschooling community. After a while, I learned to accept it as part of the process. We learned to listen to what we were feeling and changed as time required it, sometimes swinging more toward unstructured learning and then swinging back towards more structure.
Socialization was also a fine balance. We would be very active with homeschooling activities, play-dates for the kids and mom (and dad) visits for the adults, field trips, and classes. All of a sudden it felt like too much and we would cut back on outside activities to have more time at home. After a while, we would feel the need for more outside involvement and add back in more activities.
As my daughter grew older, her need for determining her own path increased to the point where she knew she wanted and needed a structured learning environment. She was beyond what we could help her with in many areas. Now our job as parents was to help her find the resources to learn what she needed. This ranged from tutors for languages, lab science classes at the junior college, and an online AP class through Stanford U.
Her socialization is now also her own. Like schooled kids, she makes her own plans and has a busy social life. Like other homeschooled kids, she has grown up interacting and being in groups of mixed-aged kids as well as adults. As a result, it feels normal to her to play with kids of all ages and she is comfortable in adult company as well.