I was in public school from pre-school until the end of ninth grade. After that my parents pulled me and my little sister and brother out of school and homeschooled us. We had an online curriculum. It is . . . Ohio's? "school at home" program but they have a program for students in other states as well. I taught myself everything, with some help from my mom and a LOT of help from Google. Each subject was divided into however many long weeks school is (I can't remember right now. I think 18?) and each lesson was supposed to cover a week's worth of material that you would learn in public school. I would read each lesson and then had questions to answer over it and there was a midterm and a final. So here are my thoughts . . .
I love homeschooling. It was great for me. I am very much a self-taught person so the system we had was natural to me. Even now that I am in college I pretty much ignore my professor for most subjects and teach myself out of the book. I was able to go my own pace (very fast) so I wasn't bored in school. I was also able to do a LOT during the day. I ended up working at a pre-school once or twice a week and moved from just a "teenage helper" to a substitute teacher for them. I also picked up a nannying job for a while and then a full time job at a sub shop. I also danced a minimum of twelve hours a week. None of that would have been possible if I had been in school. I think that homeschooling also prepared me for college in the sense that if I did not know the answer to, for example, a calculus problem, I was on my own. My mom and dad did not remember calculus from when they were in school and I was a grade above my public school friends. My only answer was to use Google to find practice problems, help forums, etc. until it clicked. That's a lot what college is like, and I feel like I am a lot better prepared for that then a lot of the other students I know.
However, my younger sister and brother are struggling with it a lot more than I am. They need a lot more guidance from a teacher figure, but they have trouble listening to my mom in that sense. A lot of fights used to break out in our house because we had all been around each other so much and my mom was trying to teach my sister algebra and my sister wasn't understanding. I think that my brother especially, who got pulled out of school before he had really been taught how to formally write a paper, really lacks the writing skills that are going to be necessary in college. Furthermore, because the curriculum we have is AWFUL, my sister especially is really struggling to learn the more complicated math subjects like trig and calculus.
So, my advice would be to find a REALLY good curriculum. And when your child is old enough, listen to what they have to say about the curriculum. I told my parents over and over that the one we were using was pretty much worthless, but they just didn't understand or listen. Also, keep them really involved with a very diverse group of people. My brother and sister are part of a homeschool band and everyone in that band is very . . . sheltered. The only people they hang out with or even know are other people in that homeschool band. Homeschooled kids definitely do not have to be shy or quiet or anything, but I think part of heading that off comes from keeping them involved with lots of different groups, lots of different people.
Lastly, you mention that "a lot of kids were cruel." I would just keep in mind that whether or not they are in public school, some day they are going to come into contact with these types of people. If you keep them TOO sheltered they are not going to be able to deal with the real world. Imagine what would happen the first time someone offers them drugs or alcohol at a college party or something and they've never heard of the stuff or don't know the dangers.
Anyways, sorry for the super long post but overall I think homeschooling is a GREAT idea as long as you do it right. In fact, if you want to get a jump start on your kid reading, I can find out what book my parents used for me and my siblings. We were all reading before we even started kindergarten and are all still great readers today. That's about the best jumpstart you can give a kid!