I have never gone to public school.
Not preschool, not kindergarten, not elementary school, not junior high, not high school.
And I have no regrets.
To answer your preliminary questions: no, I don't usually do my school in my pajamas, although it does happen occasionally (I mean, wouldn't you every once in a while?). Yes, I have friends — really, really good friends who I often see three or four days a week. Yes, I leave the house every day. No, I do not only wear cardigans and long skirts. Yes, I get to participate in a graduation ceremony. And no, I don't regret never attending a public school.
Here are some reasons why homeschooling is the best:
1. It allowed me to get the education I want.
Although I took nearly all of the same classes as my peers in public schools, homeschooling allowed me to emphasize the subjects I wanted to emphasize and focus on the learning styles that best suited me. Because I was the fourth child in my family to be homeschooled, my parents were homeschooling pros and knew exactly what curriculum and programs were best. I like to think I got the cream of the curriculum crop. I got one-on-one attention from the best teacher out there (my mom) until I hit junior high and high school, at which point I got to join my friends for classes and try out new learning styles.
2. It taught me how to take initiative.
Especially in high school, when I wanted to take a particular class that was not being offered in my homeschool community, I had to seek out a place to take it. Whether this was at our local community college or through an online university or through a course my dad and I created ourselves, I learned how to research, compare options and if a good class wasn't already out there, to create it. This habit of taking initiative transferred into other areas of my life, including finding community service opportunities and a part-time job, and it made applying to colleges and scholarships that much easier.
3. It exposed me to a variety of educational contexts.
I attended an arts school once a week for four years. I took online AP classes. I went to my friend's house for her dad's chemistry class. I took community college classes in high school. I sat in my living room as my dad taught history class. And each of these different contexts taught me adaptability, reminding me that learning is not always done in a traditional classroom, and classes are not only linked by a crowded school hall.
4. It allowed me to spend more time with my family.
When you have 30 minutes of free writing time around the office table with your sisters, or when you snuggle up next to your mom to read the next history book, or when you do science experiments with your dad, or when you present your school reports to your entire family in the evenings, there is no way the relationships in your family won't be strengthened. And yet somehow, we weren't too tired of being around each other to dread playing soccer together in the evenings, or to not enjoy family movie nights, or to not create home movies and go on field trips and put on talent shows.
5. It didn't stifle my love of learning.
Rather, it fueled it. Because I was given so much autonomy in my homework and classes, I discovered the joys of truly learning something for myself. I set and achieved personal goals. I remember sitting in on a high school class that my dad was teaching for my older sisters when I was 13, and asking if I could complete the assignments he had given them. I do not say this to sound like an over-achiever; I say it because I truly loved learning. I was not seeking to please a new teacher or get ranked top of the class or have bragging rights over my friends. I just discovered early that the ability and the opportunity to learn is a gift and, quite frankly, a phenomenon. I attribute much of that discovery to homeschooling.
I do not think homeschooling is for everyone, and I am not saying that going to a public school means these things are not possible. But personally, I believe that homeschooling gave me the best chance. And I still got to participate in science fairs and school plays and prom and graduation.
I still got into every college I applied to. I just also got the added bonus of flexibility, deeper family relationships and frequent trips to Disneyland, which I fully count as field trips, because if you know any homeschoolers, you know that they can make anything an educational experience.