Three famous home schoolers

by Mary Ann on October 25, 2010

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Alexander Graham Bell, inventor

“Teachers teach and students educate. Students are the only true educators…Education occurs when students get excited about learning and follow through….” A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille

As a young child Alexander Graham Bell and his brothers were educated at home by their father. Later he attended the Royal High School in Edinburgh, Scotland. However he left school at age fifteen. He was disinterested and exhibited lackluster grades and many missed days. His love lay with the sciences, especially biology, a love that he acquired while being taught at home.

After leaving school Alexander went to London to live with his grandfather. It was during this year that his love for learning was born. It was born during long hours spent in serious discussion and study with his grandfather. At age 16 Alexander became a teacher while also a student in Greek and Latin at Weston House Academy in Scotland.

Alexander Graham Bell became an eminent scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone.

Often when the subject of homeschooling comes up someone questions whether these children can and will learn as well as if they were in a more formal schooling setting. I found a wonderful quote that addresses just that topic. “Irrespective of circumstances, background, race, poverty, wealth, skin color, tradition, culture, religion, by choice or not by choice, home-education produces literate people.”

That has certainly been my experience and the experience of many others. However, it is instructive and inspiring to hear the stories of successful men and women who were educated at home. Let’s enjoy the stories of a few more home and self educated people.

Leonardo da Vinci images

Leonardo da Vinci, painter and sculptor

There is very little known about Leonardo da Vinci. He spent the first five years of his life in a small hamlet with his mother. Then he went to live with his father and grandfather. There Leonardo received an informal or home education in Latin, geometry, and mathematics. It is instructive to know that in these early core and love of learning years he did not show any particular signs of aptitude.

His love for learning was really born when he became an apprentice to the artist Andrea di Cione. In this workshop he was exposed to theoretical training as well as a vast range of technical skills including painting, drawing, sculpting, drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry.

By the time that he was twenty this self educated youth had qualified as a master in the Guild of St. Luke, the guild of artists and doctors of medicine.

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Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, general in the Civil War

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson had a difficult childhood. His father died leaving his 28 year old wife and three children in much debt. Her second husband did not like his step children. Thomas’s mother died of complications in childbirth.

While their mother’s health was failing and because of the animosity of the stepfather Thomas and his sister lived with their uncle who owned a grist mill. When their mother was dying they went home to be with her. At her death Stonewall was sent to live with an aunt. Her husband treated Stonewall as an outsider and heaped him with verbal abuse. After a year he left. He walked 18 miles through mountain wilderness to Jackson’s Mill, where he was welcomed by his uncles and he remained there for the following seven years.

Cummins Jackson was strict with Thomas, who looked up to Cummins as a school teacher. Jackson helped around the farm tending sheep, driving teams of oxen and helping harvest wheat and corn. Formal education was not easily obtained, but he attended school when and where he could. Much of Jackson’s education was self-taught. He once made a deal with one of his uncle’s slaves to provide him with pine knots in exchange for reading lessons; Thomas would stay up at night reading borrowed books by the light of those burning pine knots. Virginia law forbade teaching a slave. Nevertheless, Jackson secretly taught the slave to write, as he had promised. In his later years at Jackson’s Mill, Thomas was a school teacher.

When Thomas was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, he had difficulty with the entrance examinations because of the lack of opportunity and materials for study in his youth. He began his studies at the bottom of his class. As a student, he had to work harder than most cadets to absorb lessons. Displaying a dogged determination he became one of the hardest working cadets in the academy, and moved steadily up the academic rankings. Jackson graduated 17th out of 59 students in the Class of 1846. It was said by his peers that if he had stayed there another year, he would have graduated first.

Thomas became a Confederate general during the American Civil War and is probably the most well-known Confederate commander after General Robert E. Lee.

When we consider those who were educated at home or were self educated one thing is clear, children want to learn, can learn and will learn when given the opportunity to pursue their interests.
If you want to meet more home schooled people, here is a home schooled president and other successful home schoolers

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