To many modern children and teenagers, the homeschooled kid is something of an enigma. Do they ever leave their house? Is there something wrong with them? How do they make friends if they can't go to school?
Truth be told, the majority of homeschooled children are no different from those who attend public and private schools. And while some are pulled from other schools due to disabilities, a good number of their parents simply think their educational needs will be better met at home. Homeschooling can come in many forms, from literally being taught by a parent to a co-op that hires teachers for their kids.
Homeschooled kids do not show up in media very often, but when they do, they are usually shown as either socially inept nerds
or religious fundamentalists
(as of 2007, 72% of American parents who homeschool list a religious motivation) who have been sheltered by their paranoid parents. While some homeschooled kids fit these stereotypes (the term 'homeschoolers' in some parts of the homeschooled community refer solely to children fitting this stereotype; in other parts of the homeschooled community 'homeschooler' is a self-identity for anyone homeschooled), not all do. In Real Life
, there actually are homeschooling-parent-led networks of homeschooled kids who get together with other homeschooled kids for events just to offset this sort of social issue, though each homeschooling family's involvement in that sort of thing varies.
Usually when homeschooling does come up, it is either by having a stereotypical homeschooling character introduced or by having the main characters attempt homeschooling themselves. Usually, neither turns out well. Occasionally the Moral Guardians
will be pro-homeschooling. The Final Boss
of a Spelling Bee
is often a homeschooled character.
Examples of homeschooling characters:
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Anime and Manga
- Son Gohan from Dragon Ball Z but it's justified as his family lives in the middle of nowhere and his brutally long training sessions made him unable to get any other kind of education. Hilarity Ensued when world peace finally allowed him to attend a normal school. Gohan is very kind, friendly, and innocent into his teenage years, so this is a pretty positive example of the case.
- Alex from the OEL Nightschool is homeschooled by her older sister, Sarah, for very good reason. Sarah frequently tries to convince Alex to enroll in the titular nightschool so she can socialize with kids her age, though.
- Homeschooling is forbidden by law in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, as it will only give the cultists a legal bonus when converting new members.
- In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry Potter had to be homeschooled through his pre-Hogwarts for being unable to stay awake during regular classes.
- Most The Sentinel fanfiction has Blair homeschooled before entering Rainier University (a thinly-disguised University of Washington) at sixteen.
- In RV, The kids of the other family that Robin Williams' family keeps running into are homeschooled, heading for university within the foreseeable future.
- At the beginning of Mean Girls, Cady has a voiceover talking about how she knows people think all homeschooled kids are nerds (illustrated by a girl with mega-braces at a spelling bee spelling "xylocarp") or religious nuts (a family of redneck boys, one of whom explains how God created guns "so that man could fight the dinosaurs, and the homosexuals"), but she is neither of these things.
- Bethany Hamilton in Soul Surfer, and her best friend Alana Blanchard. Both girls are competitive surfers, and the best waves are during school hours.
- Several of the children in the documentary Jesus Camp, very decidedly in the "religious fundamentalists" category. We see snippets of some of their lessons, including a Creationist video cheerfully informing them that Science Is Wrong.
- In Gone, Emily and her brother, Brother. Well, before the FAYZ, anyways.
- In Harry Potter, Word of God says that many Wizard families homeschool their children before they can attend Hogwarts, including the Weasleys. Most of the usual factors of this trope are averted, however.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it was stated all Wizard families were allowed to keep homeschooling their children instead of sending them to Hogwarts, although few, if any, did so. It became forbidden when a Voldemort-controlled Ministry declared Hogwarts attendance mandatory. The option was presumably restored after Voldemort's downfall.
- The backstories of several characters in the Elemental Masters novels include being taught at home by tutors who were themselves Elemental magicians. But between the time period and the social class of most of those characters, having a private tutor would have been seen as normal. (Having the lessons include Elemental magic, not so much — but that was the main reason for the tutor. Putting a magically-gifted child in a Muggle boarding school is just asking for trouble.)
- Necessary in Galaxy of Fear, since the Arrandas are traveling too much, and later are also too on the run from the Empire, to be schooled normally. DV-9 and later Hoole do their best.
- In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a kid named Fregley. He clearly suffers from some sort of Ambiguous Disorder on the autism spectrum (odd ways of expressing himself, no concept of societal norms, supposedly very smart but unable to cope with a school environment), and was put in home schooling after first grade. Every once in a while he gets taken to school functions and creeps the other kids out.
- In Nim's Island and the accompanying movie, Nim clearly doesn't attend school—the general consensus is that she must be homeschooled.
- In Diana Wynne Jones's book "The Game", the main character is homeschooled.
- Saturday Night Live: The TV show "Quiz Bowl" pitted a group of public school kids against some homeschoolers.  
- Very extreme example in Law & Order SVU, where two brothers are homeschooled because their obsessive, possessive and controlling mother wants them until her complete control. She winds up manipulating the older boy into killing his own brother to keep social services from taking him away.
- The episode did include one normal homeschooled girl to pay lip service to how this trope isn't always true (indeed one of the antagonists of the episode was a lawyer who automatically decided that the villain was being persecuted because of this trope).
- .... But at the same time, the episode also went on a short tirade for how homeschooling is dangerous since the state can't check up on what parents teach their children or hold them up to any educational standards, so they're not being guaranteed a quality education (as if that's a given if you go to public school).
- Cougartown featured a trio of homeschooled kids who have a creepy, Children of the Corn vibe to them. They make chalk drawings on other people's driveways, and woe to those who dare hose the drawings off.
- When Bill turned Jessica into a vampire on True Blood, one of her first reactions was: "No more homeschool?" When assured that this was the case, vampirism didn't seem like such a bad thing to her.
- On the Reality Show 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggar family homeschools all 19 of their children (even through college). They fit the stereotype of the religious fundamentalist children, since they don't believe in birth control (hence the 19 kids), make all the girls wear skirts, don't watch TV and have limited use of the Internet.
- In Transhuman Space, homeschooling (by means of an AI tutor) is the norm. It's mentioned that (most) parents are aware of the importance of socialisation, and there are various places and events for kids to do so. The supplement Personnel Files: School Days 2100 is set in a "normal" (by 20th century standards) school, and specifically notes that this is an unusual situation.
- Homeschool Winner from Homestar Runner is portrayed as one of these (and an exceptionally intelligent one, at that) in the DVD special, Why Come Only One Girl.
- In the webcomic Li'l Mell, a kid called Homeschool Joe appears in two storylines: "The Horror of Rukavina Caverns" and "Homeschool Joe Goes to School" (in which Mell brings him to school as a Show and Tell exhibit). He's depicted as a bright but nerdy kid who speaks mostly in factoids about his current field of study: bats in the first storyline, George Washington in the second. The same character, much older, appears in college in Smithson, another comic by the same writer.
- The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon begin with the titular hero's first day of public school after having been home schooled his whole life.
- Dumbing Of Age, the latest addition to the Walkyverse, has Joyce, who describes herself as the most-socialized member of her homeschool group. She very much fits the 'fundamentalist' stereotype, though she's also a protagonist and treated sympathetically.
- South Park: two homeschoolers enter the South Park Elementary spelling bee and win. The older brother then decides he wants to go to public school. Hilarity Ensues, of course, along with An Aesop (Family unfriendly?)
- Total Drama Island: One of the contestants is Ezekiel, who was home-schooled, depicted as a non-social and a sexist. He was the first to be kicked off. And don't even ask about season three.
- Ted from Daria, who served as the title character's Boy Of The Week in the episode "The New Kid." His odd quirks made everyone think he was in a cult at first, though ironically made him (somewhat) popular by the end of the episode.
- My Dad The Rock Star: Willy and his sister were homeschooled until the beginning of the series, when their parents stopped living on the move and decided to enroll them in a regular school.
- Patti Mayonaise in the Disney episodes of Doug is a mostly positive example (the only negative aspect being that Doug doesn't get to see her as often) Subverted near the end of Disney's run when her dad gets hired as a full-time teacher at Doug's school, and she winds up back with the other kids.
- In another Jumbo Pictures and Disney program, PB&J Otter, none of the kids are shown attending school at all, nor is a school ever even mentioned , even though the program depicts a Slice of Life focused mostly on kids that are from around three to eight. Therefore, it seems likely that they're homeschooled and/or self-taught and the reason it's never mentioned is the media taboo on homeschooling. (The same company would later created a Christian program called HoopDogz for direct-to-DVD, though Otter never featured overtly Christian messages, but still the types of Aesops that many Christians [and many good people in general] would agree with.)
Examples of attempts at homeschooling:
- An episode of My Parents Are Aliens had Brian try to do this with Josh after falling foul with his teacher. It didn't last very long as Josh found Brian's Biology lesson stupid.
- Buffy suggests homeschooling as an option when she's expelled from Sunnydale High ("It's not just for scary religious people anymore!"), but the idea is never pursued.
- Angie tries to do this with Carmen in The George Lopez Show after she leaves her public school and dosen't succeed very well.
- In Desperate Housewives, Gabrielle temporarily has to deal with homeschooling her daughter. Though she is completely inept at it and ends up letting her cleaning lady teach instead.
- Owen Cronsky in Less Than Perfect was homeschooled by his parents, and there were a few jokes made about it(like Claude and Ramona being surprised that he had an actual graduation ceremony), but it's still one of the more positive examples of this trope, as Owen turned out fairly succesful from the experience.
- A story arc in Baby Blues had the kids requesting to be homeschooled.
- Curtis was homeschooled for a short period of time during a suspension from school.
- Marge tried this in The Simpsons when Bart got expelled (ironically for something he didn't do). She even converted the garage into a classroom (which resulted in Homer almost running over Bart twice). Actually sort of a strange example: Bart started doing much better academically, but a Reset Button Ending allows him to go back to school, and for some reason Marge decides to send him back instead of continuing to teach him.
- In another episode, Bart tricked the teachers into declaring a strike. Milhouse's parents hired a tutor to educate him.
- After the Channel Hop to ABC Saturday Mornings, Doug had Patti Mayonaise being homeschooled by her Dad for half of the day. Unlike most examples this was actually portrayed as successful.
- In the Family Guy episode "E. Peterbus Unum", Lois tried to teach Meg and Chris after the U.S. army blockaded "Petoria." Chris got sent to his room for passing a note saying that Ms. Griffin was hot.
- In "Foreign Affairs" Peter tries to homeschool them again, but sends them back when it turns out that Chris had learned nothing from the experience. Of course, this isn't so much because of homeschooling per se as the fact that it's one ditz trying to teach another.
- In an episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot, Wakeman tries to homeschool Jenny. Jenny goes with it, thinking she won't have to do any work, but it turns out that Wakeman has a classroom set up for her and she has even more work to do as usual. She ends up missing her friends and goes back to Tremorton High.
- Angela Anaconda once claimed to have caught agoraphobia so she'd never have to go to school ever again. Being homeschooled and having less time with her friends made her confess and accept punishment for having lied.
- South Park: Eric Cartman once tried to enjoy the perks of homeschooling (namely not having to go to school).