Famous Homeschoolers

Many U.S. Presidents were home schooled, among them:

George Washington, 1st President, 16th taught by his mother, father, and brother

John Quincy Adams, 2nd President accompanied his father to France at 11

Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, mother of John Quincy was taught by her clergyman father and in visits to her cultured grandparents who had an extensive library

James Madison, 4th taught by his grandmother until age 12

Zachary Taylor, 12th taught at home by a tutor

Millard Fillmore, 13th attended school for short periods; studied the Bible and a hymn book at home (those were the basic texts of that time)

James Buchanan, 15th learned arithmetic and bookkeeping in his father’s store

Abraham Lincoln, 16th taught by his stepmother

Andrew Johnson, 17th apprenticed to a tailor, learned to read at 18

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th taught by private tutor, at 19 was sent on the Grand Tour where he learned a few languages

Woodrow Wilson, 28th taught at home by his father in a home full of books, in the company of cultivated minds, until he entered college; didn’t learn to read until age 11 “What need was there to read when I could spend hours listening to others read aloud?”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd taught at home by a governess

Other Founding Fathers

Benjamin Franklin six months of schooling at age 8; worked in father’s candle shop at 10, father taught him to love good books, at 16 his first essay was published

Alexander Hamilton, statesman, politician taught by his mother and a clergyman, worked in a general store from 12 – 16, then entered college

Patrick Henry, Revolutionary leader informally taught reading, arithmetic, Latin, Greek ancient history by his father “Give me Liberty or give me Death.”

George Mason, Revolutionary statesman taught by his mother, occasionally tutored, studied law from an uncle who had a library of 15000 volumes Other Famous Non-Schoolers

Famous People

Ansel Adams, photographer “. . . had difficulty adjusting to traditional schools. His father decided to teach him at home, and the next years were extremely fruitful. Learning experiences were always tapped into the young boy’s intrinsic interests and ranged from playing the piano to visiting an exposition. Years later, after he had become internationally known for his creative photography, Adams paid tribute to the courage of a father who was willing to take risks, to listen to that “different drummer” unique to each child. In his autobiography, Adams wrote: ‘I am certain he established the positive direction of my life that otherwise, given my native hyperactivity, could have been confused and catastrophic. I trace who I am and the direction of my development to those years of growing up in our house on the dunes, propelled especially by an internal spark tenderly kept alive and glowing by my father.'”

– Reader’s Digest

Louisa May Alcott, author Little Women educated by her father

Susan B. Anthony, women’s rights leader home schooled by her father

Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of telephone no interest in formal studies; taught by his talented mother

William Jennings Bryan, orator, statesman until age 10, taught my his mother who stood him on a small table to recite his lessons

Pearl Buck, author, Nobel & Pulitzer prizes taught by her mother until she started formal school at 17

William F. Buckley, political columnists taught at home by parents and tutors, father taught him politics at the dinner table

Andrew Carnegie, steel manufacturer Refused to go to school at age five so his parents kept him home. An uncle read to him out loud. After three years he went to school, but quit a 13, later to become one of the world’s richest men.

Charles Dickens, author, A Christmas Carol couldn’t afford school; “passions for reading were awakened by his mother” who also taught him English and later, Latin

Thomas Edison, inventor of light bulb, phonograph When the teacher called him “addled,” Edison’s mother told him that her son had “more sense in his little finger than you have in your entire body.” She took him out of school and taught him herself, making learning fun for him. She bought him books of experiments; then he went off on his own. Later, he hired a staff of educated scientists to work on the electric bulb, finally firing them all and figuring it out himself.

Robert Frost, poet, Pulitzer prize winner disliked school so much he became physically ill; what schoolwork he did was done at home until he passed the entrance exams and entered high school.

General Douglas MacArthur, WWII and Korean War taught by his mother until 13, then tutored; entered West Point with highest entrance exams ever reported

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist “Some years we went to school. Other years we stayed at home and Grandma taught us.” “On some days she gave me a set of plants to analyze; on others, she gave me a description and sent me out to the woods and meadows to collect examples, say, of the ‘mint family.’ , , , She taught me to read for the sense of what I read and to enjoy learning.” “Grandma . . . . seldom took more than an hour a day and left me . . . much time on my hands while other children were in school. One of Margaret’s oldest friends told her in later years, “In my house I was a child. In your house I was a person.”

– Larry M. Arnoldsen, “On Human Learning,” UHEA Newsletter, April 1991

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author, Little House on the Prairie

Brigham Young, Mormon colonizer, founder of 200 towns and villages 11 days of formal education Most of the above information was taken from

An “A” in Life: Famous Home Schoolers
by Mac and Nancy Plent, 732-938-2473

The book can be ordered from:

Unschoolers Network,
2 Smith Street,
NJ 07727

for $9 plus $1 postage & handling.

“The one outstanding and impressive fact that did leap from the pages was that there was a strong and loving figure, usually a mother, father, or other family member, who spent time with that person during their childhood. With some notable [self-taught] exceptions….it was a person, not a school, that made a difference in the lives of these famous and successful people.”

– Mac and Nancy Plent

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