May this list of brilliant homeschooled scientists, mathematicians, inventors, writers, poets, musicians, sporting greats and politicians throughout the centuries serve to inspire parents to take the plunge into home education.
Gandhi once said, “There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.”
His words epitomise the power, beauty, and duty attached to the vocation of home education.
From hands-on home education, to being tutored and self-taught, homeschooling is a growing global phenomenon, with a wide-reaching impact.
Charlotte Mason called it self-education, with the view that self-directed learning was the ‘only possible schooling.’ Anything else, Mason said, was a ‘veneer imposed on the surface of a child’s face.’
The many stories below will empower those brave parents who accept the challenge for their children.
1. Bindi & Robert Irwin
The Crocodile Hunter’s highly successful Australia Zoo heirs were homeschooled throughout their school years. According to Yahoo Sports, home education allowed ‘flexibility for their wildlife and media commitments.’ Steve Erwin’s youngest, Robert Erwin graduated at age 15, in 2019.
Country music legend Slim Dusty was born in Kempsey, New South Wales in June 1927. Raised on a dairy farm, and inspired by the folk song and fiddle skills of his father, Kirkpatrick taught himself to play music while listening to a portable record player and radio.
Australian soprano Joan Sutherland (1926-2010) was taught music by her mother up until she was 19. In her autobiography, Sutherland wrote: ‘The greatest joy of all was to sit with my mother when she did her vocal exercises.’ From age three, Sutherland ‘was able to imitate her mother’s scales, and exercises; learning songs by ear, and later singing them with her.
6. Banjo Paterson
Andrew Barton — Banjo Paterson (1864-1941) — was an Australian poet, soldier, lawyer, and writer. Born in Orange, New South Wales, Paterson was educated by his mother, Rose. His grandmother, Emily Mary Barton, also a writer, helped ‘nurture Banjo’s talent.’ Paterson features in the Australian $10 dollar note.
7. Mary Helen MacKillop
Australian-born Sister Mary MacKillop (1842-1909) was a woman’s rights advocate and educator. Mackillop was educated at home by her father, Alexander. Mary never ‘attended high school, yet her biographer states, Mary’s education was regarded as being of superior quality.’
Chisholm is remembered today for her women’s advocacy and service to the poor, especially immigrants.
9. Jessica Watson
Australian sailor Jessica Watson, the youngest to solo circumnavigate the globe, was home-schooled for five years while living on board a boat with her family. During her solo circumnavigation, Watson continued to homeschool, while also maintaining a blog.
10. Julian Assange
Controversial founder of Wikileaks, Australian Julian Assange, ‘was educated via homeschooling and correspondence courses.’ The Generation X new journalism maverick was homeschooled by his non-conformist nomadic parents, who ‘didn’t believe in formal education.’
11. Eddie Koiki Mabo
Indigenous activist Eddie Mabo (1936-1992) was raised by his uncle and aunt after the death of his mother. They taught him Malo law and Meriam custom. He was tutored in English by one of his formal schooling teachers, which helped Mabo as a community leader.
Martyred anti-Nazi theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was homeschooled by his mother Paula. According to the epic 600-page authorised biography by Eberhard Bethge, Paula ‘gave her children their first schooling’ until the family moved to Berlin.
14. Charlotte Mason
The British-born Mason (1842-1923) was home-educated. Later becoming an educator, Mason created the Charlotte Mason hands-on learning teaching method, which emphasises reading, writing, and experience.
15. Joan of Arc
French heroine Joan was home-educated by her mother, Isabelle. Although it is likely Joan, a peasant, never learned to read, Joan was as proficient with a needle and thread as she was a farmhand.
16. Amelia Earhart
Female flying pioneer Amelia Earhart and her sister were home-educated up to the age of 12. Her sister recalled how important books and animals were in their lives, stating they both could read before they were five.
17. Gloria Steinem
Feminist Gloria Steinem learned to read because of her nomadic family’s love of books. Though formally schooled, Steinem’s “life on the road” experiences as a child meant her childhood education shifted between unschooling and attending a school.
18. Condoleezza Rice
Stateswoman Condoleezza Rice’s parents were hard-core educators, with a love for God, family and country. Rice was taught at home by her mother for two years, which Rice says, ‘launched her academically.’
19. Clara Barton
Clarissa Barton, pioneer teacher and founder of the Red Cross, was home-taught before attending school. A good portion of her education derived from her much older siblings, one a teacher, another a mathematician.
20. Helen Keller
Left deaf and blind from a fight with an illness, Keller was tutored at home alongside institutional learning. Keller likened her home education to Israel escaping Egypt; learning was ‘a power divine touching her spirit and giving her sight.’
Edwards is largely regarded as America’s first theologian. He had the benefit of his father’s tutelage, and that of his older sister’s, who with the oversight of his mother, participated in his home learning.
23. Dwight L. Moody
Somewhat educated by his widowed mother, Moody’s son recalled that his dad was taught to ‘both work and go without things.’ Despite the deprivation, Moody ‘left home at 17, a capable correspondent.’ He remained close to his mother throughout his life.
24. Hudson Taylor
Home-educated Chinese missionary Hudson Taylor rejected Christianity in his teens. He later became a pioneering missionary after reading a tract in his family’s library.
The mother of modern nursing received tutelage from her father, who took a special ‘interest in guiding her education through history, math, philosophy, and literature.’ Homeschooled at an early age, Nightingale ‘viewed her call to reduce human suffering’ as directed by God.
27. Sir Ernest Shackleton
Education was a major part of the Shackleton household. The Antarctic explorer was taught by a governess in a lively house. Shackleton’s parents were enthusiastic educators challenging their kids to learn more.
28. Andrew Carnegie
American steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie recounted how he was taught ‘many things’ by his widower uncle. Although Carnegie attended school, he described himself as ‘combative,’ benefiting more from his uncle’s daily tuition
29. Sandra Day O’Connor
The first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice in the United States, O’Connor is among the Calvert homeschool alumnae. She was educated on a ranch; O’Connor’s mother took a key role in her early schooling.
American founding father Alexander Hamilton’s (1755-1804) first teacher was his mother. After her passing, the orphaned Hamilton was befriended by Reverend Hugh Knox, who taught him religion, math and science, while encouraging Hamilton to read and write.
Playwright and left-leaning political activist George Bernard Shaw’s education included being ‘educated at home by a clerical uncle.’ Not being fond of formal education, Shaw concluded his schooling at age 16.
40. Laura Ingalls Wilder
Of Little House on the Prairie fame, Laura Ingalls Wilder spent her childhood years moving from town to town. Her parents homeschooled her whenever school attendance was impossible.
Noah Webster, famous for the Webster dictionary, was also an abolitionist and author. He was ‘tutored by Reverend Nathan Perkins,’ and homeschooled in ‘religious principles.’
43. Phillis Wheatley
Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was a slave and abolitionist homeshooled by the Wheatley family. Wheatley became an accomplished poet. After the publication of her book, Wheatley was freed by the family.
44. Robert Louis Stevenson
Author of Treasure Island and other phenomenal literature, Robert Louis Stevenson’s formal education coincided with family travel. Long bouts of illness meant some of his schooling was carried out at home.
45. Bertrand Arthur William Russell
Renowned English atheist and philosopher Betrand Russell was sent to live with his grandparents after the early deaths of his parents. Bonding better with his young grandmother, Russell was tutored, then homeschooled by both an uncle and an aunt before beginning formal education
46. Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter was homeschooled for the majority of her schooling years. Taught by governesses, the Peter Rabbit creator wasn’t keen on formal education, saying,
‘I’m glad I didn’t go to school, it would’ve rubbed off the originality.’
47. Charles Dickens
Though he was largely self-taught, with some formal schooling, Dickens’ mother was his first teacher. She encouraged her son ‘through [the kind of] careful teaching which sparked his imagination.’
48. Hans Christian Anderson
Hans Christian Anderson was homeschooled, giving the Danish children’s author ‘reading abilities and intellectual skills.’ From a poor family, Anderson’s home life also influenced his future accomplishments.
English writer Tolkien and his brother were tutored at home by his mother in between formal schooling. According to biographers, Mabel Tolkien transmitted to Tolkien a love of learning.
51. Virginia Woolf
Prolific English author and early feminist Virginia Woolf spent the majority of her schooling being educated at home. Alongside governesses, the ‘main part of Woolf’s teaching’ was carried out by her parents.
25-year-old American Olympic gymnast Simone Biles began homeschooling in high school to meet the rigorous demands of her athletic schedule. Biles is regarded as one of the best gymnasts of all time.
54. Tim Tebow
Tebow, an author and NFL athlete, is a home education graduate. Reflecting on his schooling, Tebow wrote, ‘one of the things I loved about being homeschooled was being able to focus on the things I was passionate about.’
Sons of a pastor, the Wright brothers were schooled early by their mother, Susan. Thanks to her efforts, they could read before formal schooling began. Orville was homeschooled until the second grade.
75. Alexander Graham Bell
By all accounts, the inventor of the telephone was educated up the age of 11 by his mother and his highly educated father. Bell also played a key role in the development of sign language, and the life of Helen Keller
76. Thomas Edison
Inventor extraordinaire, Edison’s mother pulled him from school after an altercation with his teacher. His mother, a former teacher, took on his instruction via homeschool.
Soichiro Honda (1906-1991) was self-taught; the Japanese industrialist and founder of Honda was never formally educated. Through working with his father, a blacksmith, Honda learned a love for mechanics.
America’s first president left school at an early age to run his late father’s farm. Washington taught himself through a mi of observation and reading.
89. Abigail Adams (née Smith)
Abigail, the wife of John Adams, the second President of the Unite States, not only homeschooled their own children, she ‘was educated entirely at home.’ The astute first lady could hold her own in any debate.
90. James Madison
Not living close to a school, the parents of the fourth President of the United States educated their kids at home. After a stint in boarding school, he returned home to be tutored.
91. John Quincy Adams
The sixth President of the United States, son of Abigail and John Adams, travelled with his statesman father besides being schooled at home by his mother.
92. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, had little formal education. Although he was mostly self-taught, Lincoln’s parents had a profound impact on his thirst for knowledge
93. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
Winner of the 1906 Nobel Peace prize, Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, earned his homeschool stripes by way of tutors.
Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.
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