Ten MG Books Featuring Homeschoolers by Carrie Cox
The task of tracking down novels featuring homeschoolers was more difficult than I expected. Focusing on middle grade—because it’s my favorite—weeded out a few picture book titles, and wanting to pick books that would be available for school libraries left out several e-books and self-published titles that have popped up in recent years. But what I found is a solid group of books for my fellow Nerdy Book Clubbers, with themes as diverse as homeschoolers themselves. In alphabetical order by author’s last name, here’s what I’ve found.
Skellig by David Almond
A gloriously odd little novel that won a Printz Honor is almost poetical in rhythm and message. Michael, first person narrator, explores his new home while dealing with his grief over his ill newborn sister and his emotional parents. Enter Mina, the insightful homeschooler next door, and Skellig, the mysterious man in Michael’s dilapidated garage. Between his budding friendship with Mina and the mystery of Skellig’s transformation, Michael navigates the rough waters of heartache.
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
The third person narrative of Piper McCloud has a timeless feeling until the Chapter Four, when the news trucks, scientists and government agents arrive. Unlike the other homeschoolers on this list, Piper is schooled by her parents to hide her unique abilities from the world. Yes, she flies—it begins with just levitation—and she lands right in a secret government school for other “special” kids. Comic book and science-fiction fans will be pleased with this adventure.
The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank
This book is the purest homeschooling book I’ve read to date. Main character Katya wants to homeschool and her parents let her try—so long as she sticks with their planned lessons and school-like assignments. Katya wants more freedom, and with the help of new homeschooling friends she discovers while roaming the neighborhood during school hours, she seeks to enlighten her parents to gain her own educational freedom. Besides a host of interesting characters, this book opens the door to explore how individualized education is the key to a successful homeschool experience.
Schooled by Gordon Korman
There’s plenty of laugh-out-loud humor in this hippy love fest. On the surface, Capricorn Anderson seems like a page out of a stereo-type manual on homeschool kids (complete with a hippy commune), but Cap’s naivety and love will win over any haters. Schooled helps readers see beyond the surface issues of middle school and focus on what really matters.
Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
This book is super cute and exciting. It’s the youngest reading level out of the list and the illustrations are a perfect fit sprinkled throughout the pages. Nim’s ingenuity is believable and her daily tasks are comparable to Island of the Blue Dolphins for readers that might be turned off by the classic—sad, but possible.
Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen
This is part of the Hatchet series, featuring plane crash survivor Brain. This time around, the main character is sixteen and he’s enjoying a solo canoe trip during late summer in the north woods. The only mention of homeschooling is in Chapter Two, which the narrator mentions that Brain “brought some paperback textbooks with him…” Brian’s experiences in this book are nature and science lessons for the reader as we follow his journey to discover the mystery of the injured dog that befriends him. Brain’s Hunt is not for the faint-of-heart—the circle of life and then some.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Leo Borlock is the perfect narrator for the epic event of Stargirl meets Mica High School. I felt like I was watching a train-wreck while reading—captivated by the larger than life antics of Stargirl (hello ukulele in the lunch room!) and aching for Leo to man-up when he doesn’t always chose to act in the way that I would like him to. It’s a thought provoking novel on the pains of conformity and the often cruel social pressures experienced in youth.
Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Stargirl Caraway is currently my favorite homeschooler voice in fiction. I loved seeing things from her perspective through her letters to Leo in this novel. This book shows that homeschoolers are not anti-social: they can reach out to all ages and form friendships with a diverse group of people. If my daughter can grow-up to be a tiny bit like Stargirl, I’ll consider her to be a homeschool success story.
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
When most people think of homeschoolers, they think of eccentric people—both the parents and children—and Safer is just the eccentric twelve-year-old that fits in that mold. Georges, the POV character, is adjusting to life in a new apartment as well as other life issues and it’s his experiences with Safer that force him to seek, and speak, the truth for the first time.
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
This homeschooling family has something for everyone: from science fanatics to artists of all mediums. The Applewhite family is so unconventional, not even their own daughter, E.D., feels like she fits in. Throw juvenile delinquent Jake Semple into the mix and you’ve got a hilarious read about a one-of-a-kind family that takes education to a hands-on approach, every day. There is a sequel, Applewhites at Wit’s End, but I haven’t read it, YET.
If you know of more homeschoolers in children’s fiction, I’d love to hear about them.
Carrie Cox is a writer and homeschooling mother of three in Mobile, Alabama. Previously, the California native dabbled in substitute teaching and ran the children’s department at the local bookstore. You may follow her literary journey at www.authorcarriecox.com and on Twitter @wonderwegian.