Homeschoolers In Fiction

The inspiration for this post comes from an article in the sadly now-defunct Secular Homeschooling Magazine. In it, Deborah Markus discusses the portrayal of homeschoolers in children’s and YA books. My post focuses on my specific experiences as a homeschooler trying and usually failing to find good books about others like me.

Quick, name a famous homeschooled character from any book at all!

You can’t, can you?

That’s not entirely surprising. We’re not in very many books.  Even when a book does feature homeschoolers (let alone portrays them well), it’s usually not well-known. (There is one big exception but I’m not sure most people realize the characters were homeschooled. Hint: It’s a series.) In all my wanderings about the library, I don’t think I’ve ever stumbled across a book with a homeschooled main character. I’ve always had to purposely look for them. It frustrates me. We’re not that weird. I know we only make up something like 3% of American schoolchildren but it’s not that uncommon to meet a homeschooled kid, so why shouldn’t it be that way in fiction?

What qualifies a character as homeschooled? Obviously if the book/author says they are, then they are. But what about books like Little House on the Prairie? Laura and her sisters didn’t attend school all the time; were they sometimes homeschooled? I would say no, at least not in the modern sense. Nowadays homeschooling is unusual but a few hundred years ago it was normal, so generally characters in historical fiction (or fantasy) don’t counts as homeschoolers.

Some of my homeschooled friends love Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl books, but I don’t. I’m not a huge fan of Spinelli’s writing anyway but I gave them a try – and gagged the whole way through. The writing is like bad poetry and the main character is a pet-rat-owning, pioneer-dress-wearing, clueless-about-the-real-world freak. It’s funny; in real life all homeschoolers are often assumed to be ultra-religious but in fiction it’s presumed that 28861889we’re all hippies. If you found Luna Lovegood irritating then you will want to hurl Stargirl off a cliff. I don’t care if people wear pioneer dresses in public or don’t watch TV, but could authors please stop giving homeschooled characters all the quirks? Spread them out over all the characters!

There are two authors I want to pitch off a cliff: Christopher Paolini (but you already knew that) and Gordon Korman, the writer of Schooled. His main character is a boy who’s lived his whole life in a commune but eventually has to attend public school where (of course) he has no idea how the real world functions. He’s never handled money or eaten a pizza or seen a spitball. A few years ago my brother and I actually wrote to Korman to see if he had something against homeschoolers or was just stupid. It turns out it’s the latter, as his reply stated that he’d received similar letters from other homeschoolers and he had no idea why we were all so mad about the number of stereotypes in Schooled. I don’t even know why I still have a copy of that book. Maybe someday it’ll be so cold that I can burn it for warmth.

My favorite book about homeschoolers is Ida B… and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan. Ida has to attend public school after her mother gets cancer and her family doesn’t have time to homeschool her in between doctor’s appointments and whatnot. Ida is smart and goofy; she reminds me of myself a little bit. I love that this book shows the good and bad sides of homeschooling and school. I can’t remember if Ida returns to homeschooling at the end but I think she might, which doesn’t usually happen.

Unfortunately, Ida is also nine years old. I like little kids, but where are the books about homeschoolers my own age? Plenty of families choose to continue homeschooling through high school. I want to see them in books – besides my own, that is! Most of my characters are homeschooled not because I’m trying to say grand things about homeschooling or even just have a little more diversity, but because it’s convenient. My characters are too busy traveling all over the world or assisting famous scientists in their research to be tied down to school schedules. I don’t feel bad about using homeschoolers because it’s easy since I know what it’s really like to be one. I’m sure books written by homeschoolers about homeschoolers exist, but I’ve never read any.

What homeschoolers have you found in fiction? What did you think about them?

P.S. Those famous homeschoolers are the Weasley kids from Harry Potter. Real live proof is here in this interview with J.K. Rowling. It’s also mentioned in Deathly Hallows that before Voldemort came to power a second time, wizarding families had the option of homeschooling their children instead of sending them to Hogwarts. To me, his banning homeschooling is even worse than the attempt to kill baby Harry! Just kidding.

-~-

This isn’t related to homeschooling but on the occasion of Liam, Head Phil reaching six hundred followers on his blog, some other bloggers and I wrote a story for him. Go check it out. Now. It’s hilarious and I’m rather proud of my crazy little bit. (My section is fourth from the top, in pink.) It was amusing to see how crazy the other writers made “me”. Gee, thanks, guys.

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, Homeschooling, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Homeschoolers In Fiction

  1. I thought you were perfectly in character all the way through. Me, on the other hand…

    The Beyonders trilogy has a homeschooled main character. Unfortunately, it wasn’t written very well, so it won’t be too memorable.

  2. Amanda says:

    I have been thinking about this SO MUCH lately. That’s why I’m writing the book I’m writing, actually: a lack of books about homeschoolers.

    I’ve actually read Ida B, but I thought it was…odd. I didn’t like it that much.

    And yeah, it was so interesting seeing how everyone wrote everyone! 😉 Robyn nailed Quirk and me.

  3. Linda says:

    I found your blog by looking up secular homeschooling. I though I would tell you about a website that I found called Homeschool Literature (www.homeschoolliterature.com). It is a site designed all around homeschoolers and literature. They have book lists by, for, and about homeschoolers. I was searching for some books for my 7th grade daughter to read that were appropriate to her life as a homeschooler and got some interesting homeschool literature choices. Hope this helps you!

    • nevillegirl says:

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH YES!!!!!!

      *clears throat and tries to look more dignified* Thanks, it looks great! Except for Paolini making the list of homeschooled authors. Oh, well. xD

  4. Miriam Joy says:

    Because I write urban fantasy, it’s usually fairly necessary for my characters to go to school to, you know, meet the crazy fairies who want to kill them or whatever. So I send them to school. These days I’ve been writing more and more stories with characters too old for school — my current project, they’re at uni, and that’s a fairly major plot point.
    I think as someone who has never been homeschooled, I’ve stayed away from writing it because I don’t really know what I’m doing at all, and although I do know some people who were homeschooled, they mostly turned out stereotypically weird 😉 So I’m a little afraid to write it in case homeschoolers would think I was stereotyping.

  5. matttblack42 says:

    I remember reading Schooled a couple years ago and I found myself wondering “Isnt this a *tiny bit* offensive to home-schooled kids?”

  6. Charley R says:

    Heh heh, I sympathise with you – I’ve got a similar issue with people portraying boarding school kids as either toffee-nosed snots or clueless fools who can’t handle the “real world”. Admittedly you don’t see a lot of these, so it’s not a huge issue, but it bothers me nevertheless.

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a “homeschooled” character in my books – possibly because I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction, and most of the characters I use in my own stories are adults and / or in a setting where they don’t attend school anyway. I shall keep an eye out for this sort of thing, though!

    • nevillegirl says:

      I’ve heard of the first stereotype – probably even read some books that have it. In my imagination boarding school kids sound all proper. Blame it on the Chronicles of Narnia. But the second doesn’t even make sense.

  7. emilyakatroll says:

    I forgot what his name was, but the main character boy in The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan was homeschooled.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Carter Kane. He’s not one of the better examples. :/ His version of homeschooling is his dad teaching him about sports stats and his favorite music. I have REAL schoolwork to do. xD

      • emilyakatroll says:

        That’s true. I didn’t think about that. 🙂
        Anyway, great post as usual! I’m one of those creepy stalker followers who never favorites or comments but reads every post. xD

    • nevillegirl says:

      Don’t worry, I don’t bite! I do that with other blogs too…

  8. Emily in the Emily the Strange was homeschooled, though she was a bit weird (obviously). I also have a book on my shelf called The Homeschool Liberation League, but I have yet to read it. And of course I have a story with homeschooled characters.

    But yes, I wish there were more of us in books. NOT the stereotypes. (Though I have been asked if my parents are hippies. I won’t even start on socializing.)

    I have no idea how my portrayal of you in Liam’s story was. Apologies if I messed it up.

    • nevillegirl says:

      I’ve heard of that book, but never read it.

      No, it’s fine – I loved how crazy I am. Were you the one who had me asking if a hamster was eating Brie on the roof, or whatever? Maybe that was someone else. Anyway, I say things like that in real life.

  9. Bethy says:

    There’s the King family in the Dreamhouse Kings

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