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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I cannot think of a title.

This has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but if you have not seen The Tempest at CalShakes (That's the nickname of the California Shakespeare Theater)... I really, really liked it and you should see it.

Anyway, here's what I was meaning to write about. As summer comes and I graduate from homeschool, I've been thinking a lot about homeschooled characters in YA books. I have read a few books about homeschoolers over the years: Stargirl and Schooled, and for littler kids there's the Amy Hodgepodge series (I read the first book when I was younger, only because it had a homeschooled heroine, and hated it) and Ida B. And I feel like there's something really wrong about the way that the authors of these books portray homeschoolers, especially in Stargirl and Schooled. The main character in Stargirl is an eccentric teenage girl who has been homeschooled her entire life, plays the ukulele, wears long white dresses, acts totally goofy a lot,  changes her name to silly things like Pocket Mouse or Stargirl whenever she wants to, carries a pet rat on her shoulder, takes homeschool classes like "Elements of Nothingness" and "Gnomes", and has a really hard time fitting in when she finally goes to public school. The main character in Schooled is a boy named Capricorn who grew up homeschooled on a farm, has long dreadlocks, is obsessed with the Beatles, and has literally never known anyone except for his grandmother. When Capricorn ends up going to public school, he seems really stupid: he doesn't know what a loudspeaker is, he hears two kids calling each other "doofus" and "butt-face" and assumes that those are their names, and when he finds a spitball in his hair he decides that there must be so much paper in schools that wads of it accumulate in the air.

Jerry Spinelli and Gordon Korman (the authors of these books) do not seem to understand that most homeschooled kids are actually normal kids who happen to have a somewhat different education than the others. Not nutty kids with no social skills who like to meditate, and not isolated hippies. It really drives me crazy. I would understand if these characters were portrayed as being an unusual sort of homeschoolers, but it really doesn't seem like the author thinks that. Besides, these books make up too large a percentage of books about homeschoolers-- there are only around five total books about homeschoolers that anyone has read. The authors of this sort of books would have us believe that most homeschoolers are like that.

Ida B is much better. The main character, who has the same name as the book, is a quirky although realistic character. I barely remember Amy Hodgepodge at all, but from what I can remember, the story starts on the day she goes back to school. She fits in just fine, aside from a little bit of fairly typical fifth-grade drama. And in these two books it's not really the characters that bother me. It's the fact that all of the books about homeschoolers that I've read involve a homeschooled kid starting school. I'm not saying that it's not exciting to start school after homeschooling-- hey, I'm doing it myself in 2 and a half months-- but really, every single story is about that. All these books about homeschooling are school stories. You would think, from reading them, that the most interesting thing about homeschooling is what happens when you finally go back to school, and that nothing interesting ever happens in the homeschool world. This is not true. If this were just a subset of the books about homeschoolers it would be fine, but it's not. It's all of the books about homeschooled kids and teens that I've read.


  1. Oh! I saw the Tempest! It was sooooooo good...

    I agree about homeschooled people in these books so much! I actually enjoyed Stargirl the first time I read it, not really thinking about the homeschooling component of it, but it seems like everywhere you turn— in books, movies, tv shows, even people— there is some utterly stupid stereotype about homeschoolers. Argh...

    sorry for the long comment; i rant about this a lot =)

  2. My brother and I actually wrote to Gordon Korman about Schooled a few years ago and got a rather rude/clueless reply back... *facepalms*