Steven: What's summer vacation?
Connie: You know, when school gets out for the summer?
Steven: I've never been to this... how do you say... school? How does it work?
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? And that most offensive of questions: do they have lives?
Truth be told, homeschooled children are (at least for the most part) typically no different than those who go to regular schools such as public schools or private schools. While some kids are placed in special schools due to things like disabilities, a good number of their parents feel that 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.
Compare Embarrassing Relative Teacher, which is about parents being actual schoolteachers.
Examples of homeschooling characters:
- Son Gohan from Dragon Ball Z, due to living in an isolated mountain clearing; when he chooses to go to a formal high school, he has to fly to the nearest city every day. He fits the stereotype of being incredibly sheltered, to the point that he doesn't seem to understand that baseline human teens can't jump twenty feet in the air unassisted, but he's kind and friendly enough that people are mostly willing to overlook his oddities.
- Erich Frühling from The Heart of Thomas has spent his childhood at home with private tutors. As the New Transfer Student at a boy's boarding school, his classmates find him spoiled, rude, and overly attached to his mother. Another student has to intervene when Erich's first encounter with Corporal Punishment ends with him attacking the teacher.
- Alex from the OEL Manga 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.
- In Tokyo Ghoul, Ghoul children are unable to attend school and as such, any education they receive comes from their families. As a direct result, suspicion of home-schooled children is heavily enforced with CCG actively encouraging people to report home-schooled children to them as potential Ghouls. Touka and Ayato, Nishiki, and Hinami are shown learning what they could from a combination of second-hand books and lessons from the people around them — Touka is shown struggling to adapt when she attends a normal High School, while Nishiki does well once he gets into a local university.
- In Kick-Ass, Mindy a.k.a. Hit-Girl didn't go to school and was raised as a Tyke-Bomb by her dad. She does join a school at the end of Volume One, after her father bites the dust and her nemesis is defeated.
- James-Michael in Omega the Unknown is raised in the mountains by his parents, who are secretly robots, and we are then treated to his experiences moving to NYC's Hell's Kitchen where he attends a rather terrifying Inner City School.
- Princess Sally suffers this in Sonic the Hedgehog during the time the Freedom Fighters were made to live "normal" lives. This is promptly done away with very quickly.
- Robin: Tim Drake's best (civilian) friend Ives started being home schooled since he picked up lime disease and was also incredibly bored and unchallenged with the curriculum at the public school he had been attending. When his mother forces him to take an equivalency exam to re-enter the Gotham public school system he doesn't miss a single question and notes how ridiculously easy it is.
- 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.
- The protagonist of The Dream Journal is confirmed to be homeschooled in the first chapter.
- The children in the Gensokyo 20XX story Gensokyo 20XXV are homeschooled and this is justified, being an Apocalypse Anarchy, in that the kids are taught at home because A) there isn't that many schools ,B) the ones that are around aren't very safe (Word of God says one had bullet holes in the walls, another had a body buried underneath it, and one was in a waste dump), and C) many of the teachers are closer to that of students than they are teachers (as much of the population would have died because of the nukes, fallout, or nuclear winter).
- In the Kill la Kill fanfic The Outside, Ryuuko is implied to be homeschooled, as her only source of education is from a tutor, Aikuro, and Satsuki doesn't allow her outside. Like some portrayals of this trope, the former hasn't had too much socialization; however, that's because her sister doesn't allow her outside.
- Later on, we find out that Satsuki was homeschooled, too, however, this is justified, as she was sick quite often and suffers poor health, thus she would have a tutor (rather than deal with absences and such).
- Aiden and Michelle, the fraternal twin children of Ash and Misty in Pokémon-fanfiction stories by nyislandersgirl, were homeschooled up until they finally became Pokémon trainers. Ash and Misty decided on this because Michelle is pretty advanced for her age and Aiden, though certainly more intelligent than their dad when he was their age, tended to struggle with things like schoolwork.
- Aiden and Michelle's younger sister, Elizabeth, on the other hand, ended up going to a regular school instead of being homeschooled like her siblings—specifically, she went to a special private school for children who planned on becoming Pokémon trainers once they turned ten.
- One More Time, One More Chance discusses this. Compared to Ryuuko being bullied, getting into fights, and dealing with terrible staff, Satsuki considers this as a better alternative. Confirmed in chapter 12, where Ryuuko gets tutor. However, this is meant to be temporary, as Satsuki intends to send her to regular school.
- Glitched Miko AU: Miko unlike the rest of her siblings is homeschooled.
- In RV, The kids of the other family that the family of the dad played by Robin Williams 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.
- Amélie in Amélie was homeschooled as a child because her father believed she had a heart deficit and shouldn't be with other kids.
- In The Story of Luke, Luke was homeschooled after his grandmother Maggie pulled him out of the special school because they were treating him like an idiot. Unfortunately, this means he didn't graduate high school until he was 24, because Maggie got sick and had a hard time teaching him.
- In A Brother's Price, Jerin and his brothers are homeschooled. This is unusual, most boys in the setting are implied to get no education at all. The princesses, of course, have private tutors.
- In Gone, Emily and her brother, Brother. Well, before the FAYZ, anyways.
- And Orsay.
- 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 becomes forbidden when a Voldemort-controlled Ministry declares Hogwarts attendance mandatory. The option is 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.
- A later book introduced Maddox, another homeschooled kid with No Social Skills. He spends all his time building Lego sets and practicing his violin, and his mother doesn't allow him to watch TV or play video games. When on a "playdate" with Greg, he refuses to talk to him the entire time, and goes completely nuts when he sees Greg start to play a video game.
- 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.
- George in the first book of The Famous Five series. Then she goes to boarding school later.
- Lyra from His Dark Materials has aspects of a homeschooled child. She lives in Jordan College and is taught whatever the Scholar of the week decides to teach her, but she has no actual official schooling.
- Dian Curtis Regan's Monster Of The Month Club: Main protagonist Rilla Harmony Earth started being homeschooled because of her mother's beliefs (Sparrow Earth is a "back-to-nature" type), though she does get together with other homeschooled kids for field trips and special events.
- In the Shadow Grail series, Spirit White had been homeschooled prior to her parents' and sister's deaths and getting sent to Oakhurst Academy. Spirit and her sister Phoenix had originally attended the local schools, but as the school system wasn't very good, their parents eventually pulled them out and started homeschooling them by the time Spirit was due to start high school.
- The House With a Clock in Its Walls: In the fifth book of the series, The Vengeance of the Witch-finder, the nearly blind Bertie Goodring is homeschooled by his mother, a former governess, due to his special needs. As Bertie proves, Mrs. Goodring is a very good teacher. It's never said if he's still homeschooled after the operation that restored his sight at the end of the book.
- Trueman Bradley was homeschooled by his grandfather, a retired police officer, who taught him everything he knew about detective work.
- My Sweet Audrina is this. Her father gives her a vague explanation of her being too special to go to school like her cousin Vera does, but the n truth, he's protecting her from interacting with her assailants or classmates who could reveal the truth to her.
- In Minion, Michael is homeschooled post-adoption because his father, a Reluctant Mad Scientist regularly employed by mobsters and supervillains, avoids anything that will leave a paper trail. Well, Dad's a genius, so it's not like Michael is getting a bad education. He has to keep studying through the summer, though.
- In Rogue, Kiara becomes one after she's expelled for hitting Melanie Prince-Parker with a tray. Her tutor Ms. Latimer teaches her for a few hours a day, but other than that she's free to research whatever she wants. She learns a lot more quickly by herself than she did at school.
- In MARiiMO, Tammy's parents pulled her out of the system because her boredom and anxiety at school were affecting her mental health. Even at home, she struggled to learn anything that didn't involve her obsessions, cheated on tests, and happily dropped out at soon as she turned sixteen.
- Saturday Night Live: The TV show "Quiz Bowl" pitted a group of public school kids against some homeschoolers.  
- An intense example in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where two brothers are homeschooled because their obsessive, possessive and controlling mother wants them under 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 doesn't portray reality entirely accurately (indeed one of the antagonists of the episode was a lawyer who automatically decided that the villain was being persecuted because of this trope).
- ...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.
- 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.
- The children of Raised by Wolves are all home schooled, though the fact that we never see them being taught anything makes it something of an Informed Attribute.
- The children on the series Promised Land were homeschooled by the mother, though not out of personal or religious reasons—the family traveled around the country helping people and therefore never settled anywhere long enough for them to be properly enrolled in school. Once the family permanently settles in a community, this changes.
- Dharma of Dharma & Greg was homeschooled, and quite well-adjusted at that. It usually comes up when she laments the things she missed out on riding the school bus, going to homecoming, etc although one episode has her realise that the "History" lessons that her father taught her weren't as true as she thought.
- Syd, Elena's significant other on One Day at a Time (2017), has been homeschooled all their life. They're pretty smart, and very nice, but even more socially awkward than Elena.
Syd: My only classmate is my chinchilla. And Roxie's a total mean girl! I don't care if you have any friends.
Elena: Aww, I don't care if you don't have any friends!
Syd: ...We should probably make some friends.
- 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.
- The short-lived WB sitcom The O'Keefe's was about homeschooled kids trying to adjust to life, though some critics felt that the show was making fun of the whole idea of homeschooling.
- One of the families in Wife Swap was teaching their children this way, believing that public school was too harsh and cruel an environment. Unfortunately, they appeared to be doing it in a very lackadaisical way—no set schedule, lesson plan, etc. The wife from the other family was unable to convince them to enroll the children in school, nor convince them to have a more structured curriculum.
- 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.
- Asia Ellis in morphE. She tried public school. It didn't work out.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hayden Bliss of the Imprint Chronicles has been homeschooled all of his life, kept in solitude by his father until he finally ran off at the start of the comic.
- 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.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace's cover story when she started school was that she was home schooled by an elderly woman.
- Emil from Stand Still, Stay Silent was educated by private tutors and able to tailor his curriculum. Something was quite obviously done wrong, because his grades dramatically dropped when he entered the public school system after his family underwent a Riches to Rags episode (Emil blames the school system for this). He also doesn't know any Icelandic, that universe's Common Tongue, that is supposed to be a mandatory subject for academics. Among the six main characters, Emil comes across as third most educated at best, behind The Medic (who doesn't have an actual doctorate) and a Finnish desk worker just a couple years older than he is (Finns are supposed to not be that well educated in this world), who both know Icelandic among other things that Emil does not. The three that are less educated than Emil didn't get an academic education to speak of.
- Disney High School begins with Quasimodo and Rapunzel (who are step-siblings in this story) joining the titular school after being taught by Frollo and Gothel their whole lives.
- One comic in Kevin & Kell revealed that George is homeschooling Francis, due to Francis being too unpredictable (being the Token Human in a Funny Animal world) for normal schools to cope with.
- South Park: two stereotypical "sheltered 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 a (Family Unfriendly?) Aesop that homeschooling is bad because kids need to socialize more.
- Total Drama:
- One of the contestants is Ezekiel, who was homeschooled, depicted as having No Social Skills and being an Innocent Bigot. He was the first to be kicked off as a result of his cluelessness. When he became an Ensemble Dark Horse, the writers brought him back just to have him go insane and (literally) mutate into a barely-sapient, antagonistic feral child.
- Cameron, due to being a Bubble Boy, was homeschooled prior to joining Total Drama. While he is naive to ways of the wider world and lacking in social skills like Ezekiel, he is depicted as an immensely intelligent Nice Guy who makes it to the final two.
- Shawn, who in many ways seems to be a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Ezekiel, is often said to be homeschooled (due to being a paranoid apocalypse prepper), but this may be a case of God Never Said That. Unlike Ezekiel, he's treated sympathetically and makes it to the final two.
- Ted from Daria, who served as the title character's Guy of the Week in the episode "The New Kid." He's about as smart as Daria but far more friendly, though clueless about social interactions. 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 Serenity 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. The two adjust pretty well to their new lives and are able to interact with their fellow teens as normal kids would.
- Patti Mayonaise in the Disney episodes of Doug is a mostly positive example, as she starts being partially-home schooled without it damaging her social life—the only negative aspect being that Doug doesn't get to see her as often. Near the end of run, her dad gets hired as a full-time teacher at Doug's school, and she winds up back with the other kids.
- Word of God describes Steven Universe's title character as homeschooled, but it's a bit of an odd example—the Crystal Gems don't seem to know what "school" is, and just kind of teach Steven informally. While ridiculously friendly, he's not really overly-sheltered, since we see him interact with the local kids all the time.
- In one of the tie-in comics, he tags along with Connie for a day at her school. Turns out he's educated way above his grade level, getting a nearly perfect test score.
- Steven Universe: Future explores this is some more detail: As an older teen, never going to school has somewhat lessened his ability to relate to new people his age. Greg allowed him to stay out of school because being half-Gem made him different than most kids, and may have been biased by not wanting to hamper Steven's freedom. In "Mr. Universe", it's one thing that makes Steven bitter about how Greg raised him.
- On The Wild Thornberrys, Eliza and Debbie are homeschooled because their "home" is an advanced RV the family travels around in while the parents record their own nature show. The idea of them going to a boarding school instead occasionally comes up—Debbie wanted to in one episode, then dropped the idea, and it was part of Eliza's story in The Movie.
- Otto Osworth from Time Squad is homeschooled by Larry when there is downtime from time-traveling. One can assume that this is also because Otto was illegally adopted and taken from the 21st century, and that would certainly make things more complicated.
- In the Origins episode of Miraculous Ladybug, Adrien was originally homeschooled prior to becoming Cat Noir, since his father Gabriel wouldn't allow him to attend public school, believing that it was "too dangerous" for Adrien to go outside the house without constant supervision. Given that the only friend Gabriel approved of was Chloe, one understands Adrien wanting to meet new people.
- A downplayed example in The Loud House is that Lola Loud, one of Lincoln Loud's many sisters, is only partially homeschooled rather than fully homeschooled, hence why previous episodes showed her attending a regular school alongside her siblings. Lola's homeschooled during the main competition season for the beauty pageants that she regularly competes in, so the homeschooling allows for her to have more time to practice and get ready for them—her parents are also pretty strict about her schoolwork during the time that she's homeschooled, because the deal they made with Lola is that even if she fails so much as one test, she has to go back to attending a regular school (pageant season or not).
- Carmen Sandiego: The titular character had a "revolving door of nannies" that taught her various subjects, since she was raised on an isolated island by the heads of a criminal organization. Said heads were also teachers at the island's Academy of Evil, and taught her various subjects as well (mostly about their respective cultures).
Examples of attempts at homeschooling:
- In Harmony (2016), Alexandra briefly homeschools Tilly after her last expulsion. But on a field trip to Theodore Roosevelt Island, some kids make fun of her while she's photographing the statue, and she gets so upset that she runs all the way off the island and almost runs into traffic before she falls and breaks her wrist. They give it another try after the failure of Camp Harmony, and this time it goes much better.
- An episode of My Parents Are Aliens had Brian try to do this with Josh after running afoul 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.
- The Simpsons:
- Marge tried homeschooling in "Whacking Day" when Bart got expelled (ironically for something that he didn't do) and rejected from several other schools. She even converted the garage into a classroom (which resulted in Homer almost running over Bart twice). Strangely, 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 go along with that instead of continuing to teach him herself.
- In "The PTA Disbands", Bart tricked the teachers into declaring a strike. Milhouse's parents hired a tutor to continue educating him. Once again it seemed to work really well, but didn't last beyond the episode.
- Family Guy:
- In "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 Peter doing the teaching.
- 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 ultimately 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.
- In the South Park episode mentioned above, a B-plot involved Cartman getting his mom to homeschool him. Of course, since his mom is an Extreme Doormat, he just winds up lounging in bed all day.
- Besides the title character of Steven Universe being informally homeschooled, "Mirror Gem" parodies the "attempted homeschool" plotline when Steven first hears about school from his Muggle Best Friend and tries to set one up with Pearl. They get all the supplies they need but don't know what to do with them, and give up after a few minutes. So Steven cheers happily for summer vacation.
- In the above-mentioned episode from The Loud House, Lola's siblings get jealous of her being homeschooled, noting how they all have busy schedules as well but still have to go to regular school—they convince their parents to let them be homeschooled like Lola is, but Lincoln and the rest of his sisters discover that being homeschooled isn't really what they imagined it to benote . They end up going to Lola for help on their weekly test, but this costs her the sleep she needs and she ends up failing her test (while all of her siblings pass), forcing her to go back to regular school as punishment. But in the end, feeling guilty about what happened, Lincoln and the rest of his sisters (after explaining to their parents about what caused Lola to fail her test) go back to attending regular school while Lola can continue being homeschooled without getting distracted by the rest of them.