9 Reasons to Get Homeschooled

CBC

Due to the global pandemic, many children around the world have found themselves in either “remote learning” or homeschool experiences. It’s has been a fact of life for kids worldwide as of late, but most of those kids found that they couldn’t wait to return to everyday life at school. However, in the new series Homeschooled, creators Karen Knox and Gwenlyn Cumyn look to explore the lives of the kids who homeschool and what happens to that unique teen experience when it collides with mainstream education. 

Homeschooled centers on two homeschooled 16-year-old intellectuals, Farzanah (Eman Ayaz, Ghostwriter) and Greta (Veronika Slowikowska, What We Do in the Shadows), as they set out to make a documentary that showcases what home education is really like. Things take an unexpected turn when Farzanah decides to suddenly enroll in a “real” high school. All episodes of the series will be available to stream in Canada on Friday, March 25 on CBC Gem. Knox tells The TV Junkies that “it will eventually be available in America,” and that they are “in talks with some very good streaming services.” So viewers can expect the series to make its way to the U.S. hopefully in late spring/early summer. 

Homeschooled is created, directed, and executive produced by Knox and Cumyn. Knox, has served as showrunner for two seasons on both Slo Pitch and BARBELLE, and recently saw her directorial debut feature Adult Adoption premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival. Cumyn will be appearing in and showrunning the upcoming second season of Slo Pitch. Their production company Boss & Co., which they run along with Michael Schram, is devoted to making exceptional content, often centered around the female or LGBTQ+ experience. They recently spoke to The TV Junkies about Homeschooled and we’ve got a few reasons below why you won’t want to miss checking out this new series.

Not your typical homeschool experience

Homeschooled was partially inspired by Cumyn’s own experience with home education, which she says “gave me such an opportunity to be purely myself without the judgments of regular school. It really did manifest in some bananas creativity at home, including making our own Harry Potter movie.” She said it was those kinds of experiences that ended up being “a big inspiration for our lead Greta Hansen’s passion for film and wanting to make a documentary.”

Cumyn also wanted to use the series to showcase many different types of homeschooling, as “there’s almost no universal homeschooling experience.” Knox added that “historically, homeschooled kids have been portrayed as freaks or extremely religious people who have no social skills. All that happens and they exist, but there are also really interesting, intelligent, precocious homeschoolers as well. We definitely wanted to showcase that and the sophisticated side of education.”

Protagonists we rarely get to see

As Knox and Cumyn developed the show more and more, they realized “how cool it would be to create a show where the protagonists were nerdy, young girls.” Knox said they again drew on their own experiences, as “Gwen and I were both full-blown nerds at the age of 13/14. I got cool later, but I was definitely at the book club and making weird movies.” Seeing characters like their teen selves isn’t something either had seen much of on TV or film. “We didn’t feel like there was a lot of representation of that specific kind of protagonist. Napoleon Dynamite was a reference for us when we were creating the show – that anti-hero, but comfortable with himself weirdo – but we didn’t see that in a female way.” Knox likens Homeschooled to Rushmore, “but instead of Jason Schwartzman, there will be two 16-year-old girls engaging in the pastime of endearing teenage art-making. It’s always humiliating, but we’ve all done it!”

Creators Gwenlyn Cuymn and Karen Knox

Yes, it’s YA but also for everyone

Homeschooled is Cumyn and Knox’s first series targeted at a young adult audience. “In other series that we’ve created, we’ve always been so close to the demo and age we’re creating for,” explained Knox. In order to make things relevant for younger viewers, Knox said they “had to spend time on TikTok.” She admits that “Gwen is more of a TikTok head than I am, but I’ve recently gotten all up in it.” While the challenges existed to create a story for younger audiences, in the end, Homeschooled really is for anyone who has been a teen and through those awkward years. Cumyn says, “the only thing we could do is think ‘would we, at this age, have wanted to watch this?’ Then we’d put in some more relevant references.” Knox agrees that “that was the gold standard we held ourselves to when making the series.”

Faux-documentary is the perfect format

Throughout Homeschooled, Greta is working on a documentary about her and Farzanah’s experience. This faux-documentary format is perfect for the show and ends up bringing about many laughs. Cumyn adds that it allows for a “really quick and efficient way into the character behind the camera’s POV. The camera almost speaks for Greta, even though she’s not on camera, and that really appealed to us. It’s a fun and simple style to work with when you’re moving quickly.” While the format definitely helps the sometimes “indie-friendly” environment that had to happen behind the scenes, Cumyn also adds that she “can’t explain the math behind it,” but the faux-doc style “always makes things funnier.”

The show looks, feels, and sounds amazing

Homeschooled is described as an “arthouse comedy” and they aren’t kidding. The attention to detail, costumes, set decoration, and production design levels are operating at a very high level in this series. “One of the things that a non-negotiable for us was that we wanted it to look beautiful,” said Knox. “In our initial conversations with the cinematographer and production designer, they were all very aesthetically forward. We really wanted to pull off a style we hadn’t done before. We wanted it polished with some real attention to detail.” The finished result of all that planning and hard work really pays off and comes through for viewers, making for a very visually appealing viewing experience.

Homeschooled doesn’t stop at stunning visuals though, it really takes things next level thanks to the music. “Our composer, Erica Procunier, is just magnificent. She completely understood the aesthetic we were going for and really elevated it,” said Cumyn. Knox said she was “so happy with the show when we locked shot, but when I watched it back for the first time with the music, I realized it was a proper show. The score is exquisitely done and takes it to a totally different level.” Knox and Cumyn both credit Procunier, as well as editor Mina Sewell Mancuso, and the entire Homeschooled team for “understanding what we were trying to do.”

CBC Gem

The focus on female friendship 

When asked to describe the relationship between Greta and Farzanah, Knox joked that “we’ve been describing it lately as Portrait of a Friendship On Fire.” Though many shows such as Pen-15 and films like Booksmart are starting to change the narratives to focus on female friendships more and more, it’s still something that we here at The TV Junkies simply cannot get enough of. As Cumyn notes, “the story of female friendship, and a friendship breakup, is a rare relationship to see. We wanted to give space and time to that.”

It’s a family affair

“One of the cool things for me is that Farzanah is of Bengali-Canadian heritage,” Knox explained. “My sister-in-law is Bengali and my niece and nephew are Bengali as well. It was really important for me that there was some good representation of that culture in Canadian media.” Thanks to Farzanah and her storyline, that meant that Knox got her family involved in a real way on the show. Her sister-in-law served as the series’ cultural consultant and viewers can spot her niece making a cameo as a young Farzanah in one of the later episodes. “It was really cool to bring my family into the project in such a special way,” said Knox.

A strong ensemble cast

Slowikowska and Ayaz are wonderfully cast as Greta and Farzanah. From the opening moments of the show, it’s clear how strong the friendship between these two girls is and Slowikowska and Ayaz’s chemistry makes it look effortless. “We got super lucky with the casting,” said Knox and that led to “such good vibes on that set.” Along with Slowikowska and Ayaz, Knox said she is excited for viewers to see the rest of the cast as well. She explained that Homeschooled is actually “Kevin Healey, who plays Donald, big debut on screen. He is so sweet, and like his character, grew up in a small town. When he auditioned it was so clear to us that he was the one. We adore him and can’t wait to put him in more stuff.” Cuymn adds equal amounts of love for Logan Altman, playing Greta’s younger brother, simply saying “we just adore him”. Finally, while Cumyn didn’t want to give away any spoilers, but said they “got really lucky” with the chemistry not only between the two leads but with all the romances as well. Also not one to spoil, Knox agreed, simply saying “I don’t think we can talk about that, but we lucked out.”

They’ve already got Season 2 plans

“We would love to do a Season 2,” said Cumyn. In fact, Knox previewed that “we kind of tee up what we want Season 2 to be” at the end of Season 1. She explained that they “consciously set this show in 2019 because we didn’t want to deal with the pandemic. But we really want to set the second season in the pandemic and see what it’d be like. All of a sudden the homeschoolers are the knowledgeable ones so it’d be a fun reversal.” Knox added that “the change of the homeschool kids now being the ones who understand what’s up is an interesting twist. We want to make another season because it was so fun to make this.”

All episodes of Homeschooled will be available to stream Friday, March 25 on CBC Gem.