15 Famous Homeschoolers: Past and Present

Are you thinking about homeschooling your child? Perhaps you’re 90% sure you’re going to jump in but would like one more piece of information to convince yourself to take the leap, or maybe you’re already on your homeschooling adventure and want to give your child something for motivation. 

We all know that role models can be advantageous for a child’s emotional development, and you will find no lack of them in homeschooled individuals. Some of them are the best in their craft, whether they be gymnasts, athletes, musicians, or inventors. Below is a list of famous homeschoolers as well as their stories and accomplishments.  We hope they comfort and inspire both you and your students.

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1. Simone Biles

Because of her demanding training schedule that required her to be absent from public school for months at a time, Biles was homeschooled starting at the age of 14. She did not participate in the social activities that came with traditional education and devoted herself to training six to eight hours a day. 

Today, she is known as one of the greatest gymnasts to ever live. She is the most decorated female gymnast with 32 medals from both World and Olympic championships.

Accomplishment: First woman since Ludmilla Tourischeva in 1974 to win four gold medals in a World Championship.

2. Thomas Edision

“My mother was the making of me…she let me follow my bent. If it had not been for her appreciation and her faith in me at a critical time in my experience, I should very likely have never become an inventor.”

As a child, Edison had a hearing problem that made it very hard for him to learn by traditional means (teachers went so far as to call his brain “addled”). Due to his health condition, his mother, Nancy Elliot Edison, decided to homeschool him herself. With the help of tutors, Edison was taught Latin, German, French, and taxidermy. 

Taxidermy in particular was what led to his passion for natural science. He also developed a love of reading. As an adult, Edison believed that hands-on experience was necessary for developing creativity, which of course led to him wanting to become an inventor.

Accomplishments: Contributed to numerous inventions including the phonograph, motion picture camera, incandescent light bulb, and telegraph.

3. Theodore Roosevelt

When he was young, Roosevelt also suffered from health problems including asthma. Because of this, he had to spend much of his time at home which eventually led to him being homeschooled by private tutors until the age of 14. In order to improve his health, he traveled frequently with his family and improved physically through outdoor exercise. This led to him becoming a naturalist. He later attended Harvard University.

Accomplishments: Became the 26th President of the United States. He used his authority as president to establish 150 national forests and five national parks. Roosevelt also oversaw the building of the Panama Canal.

4. Ryan Gosling

At the age of 10, Gosling was pulled out of school and homeschooled for one year by his mother, Donna Gosling. Ryan admitted in an interview that he had problems paying attention in class and would routinely get into fights. He recalled having symptoms of ADHD, but there weren’t any treatments for it when he was a child. 

Regarding his mother’s homeschooling, he is quoted saying, “My mother was so good at it she became a teacher.” Gosling also said that homeschooling gave him a “sense of autonomy” that he still has to this day.

Accomplishments: Nominated for two Academy Awards and won one Golden Globe for Best Actor

5. Florence Nightingale

In the early-to-mid 1800s, young girls in Nightingale’s generation were usually not sent to school if they came from wealthy families. They were only taught subjects like art and music, and were expected to marry a wealthy man and have lots of children. 

However, her father, William Nightingale, believed it was important for girls to have an education, and taught her Greek, Latin, philosophy, and history. When she became a teenager, she felt as if she had received a calling from God to help the sick and impoverished.  This led to her later becoming known as the founder of modern nursing. 

Accomplishments: Trained a team of nurses to care for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Was instrumental in improving sanitary conditions in military hospitals and creating a foundation for modern nursing practices.

6. Dakota Fanning

Fanning starred in her first film when she was five years old. Due to her acting career, she was taken out of school and homeschooled by her mother from Grades 2 to 8. Dakota did not enjoy homeschooling so much. In an interview, she said that one day, she woke up and realized she didn’t have any friends. 

Eventually, she attended a Los Angeles private high school that was more lenient about absences and allowed her to do her homework on the movie set. She later attended NYU in 2011. Unlike other people on this list, Fanning craved the more traditional school experience. 

Accomplishments: Nominated by the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor for the movie “I Am Sam” in 2002. 

7. The Hanson Brothers

The brothers Isaac, Taylor, and Zac were all homeschooled by their mother Diana in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Because their children were always on the road, the parents decided to homeschool in order to keep a tight family relationship. One of the brothers, Taylor, chose to also homeschool his five children with his wife Natalie. 

Accomplishments: Created music that is a blend of soul, folk, and pop. Eventually left their major label to create an independent label where they produced their own music. Became the first band to move their fanbase online with Hanson.net

8. Beatrix Potter

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

Potter was homeschooled by a governess (a woman hired to tutor and train a child in a private home) while her brother attended boarding school. During this time, she became best friends with her pets. She would spend hours observing and sketching them, which led to her becoming an illustrator and writer of children’s books. Potter recants that she had learned more from her own form of self-study than she ever could have from a school textbook.

Accomplishments: Creator of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. Illustrated and wrote 28 books that have sold over 100 million copies. You can listen to what’s happening currently with Potter’s books in this podcast.

9. Venus and Serena Williams

Both of the Williams sisters were homeschooled by their father Richard Williams so that they could practice their tennis for several hours a day. However, education was important to their father, so for high school, both sisters attended public schools. They have won a combined total of 120+ singles titles in tennis and have become household names. 

Accomplishments: Serena has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles while Venus has 7.

10. Tim Tebow

“A lot of times people have this stereotype of home-schoolers as not very athletic – it’s like, go win a spelling bee or something like that – it’s an honor for me to be the first one to do that.”

Tebow’s parents, Bob and Pam, are known as pioneers in homeschooling since they started educating their children back in 1982, long before it became popular. They decided to homeschool so that their children could establish a better relationship with God. In 1996, Florida passed legislation that allowed children that were homeschooled to play in school sports. In 2012, another bill known as the “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act” was passed that allows homeschooled children to participate in public school sports. 

Accomplishments: Became the first homeschooled student in the United States to participate in such activities. He is also the first Heisman Trophy nominee to be homeschooled. 

11. Alexander Graham Bell

“From my earliest childhood, my attention was specially directed to the subject of acoustics, and specially to the subject of speech, and I was urged by my father to study everything relating to these subjects.”

Bell and his brothers were homeschooled by their father, Alexander Melville Bell, who was a professor. When Alexander Graham Bell was 10 years old, his mother, Eliza Bell, began to go deaf. Because of this, his father developed a system known as “Visible Speech” to help deaf people who could not speak. This led to Graham Bell also studying sound and acoustics later in life. 

Accomplishments: Was credited with inventing the telephone and was awarded the U.S. patent for the invention on March 7, 1876.

12. Bethany Hamilton

Hamilton had always dreamed of becoming a professional surfer since she was a child. Once she finished the sixth grade, she started homeschooling through the American School of Correspondence until graduation. This gave her more time to surf since public school was in session during surfing hours. 

While out on the water when she was 13 years old, Hamilton lost her arm in a shark attack that led to her arm being amputated. Despite this, she returned to the water less than a month later and fulfilled her dream of becoming a professional surfer.

Accomplishments: Obtained 1st position in the Surf ‘n’ Sea Pipeline Women’s Pro Competition and the 2004 and 2005 NSSA National Competition. Author of her autobiography called “Soul Surfer”.

13. The Jonas Brothers

The brothers Kevin, Joe, and Nick were all homeschooled by their mother Denis Jonas from the time Kevin, the oldest, was in 2nd grade up until each one of them graduated. Their mother had several friends who had decided to homeschool their children and they convinced her to make the transition. The brothers formed themselves into a band in 2005 and released their first album in 2006 called “It’s About Time.”

Accomplishments: Winners of the 2020 Billboard Music Awards for Top Duo/Group, Top Radio Songs Artist, and Top Radio Song. Their band also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

14. Reid Barton

A mathematical prodigy, Barton had been homeschooled since the third grade. At the age of 9, a computer science graduate student was hired to teach him game theory, or the strategies and techniques people use to play and win games. By the time he was 10, he had scored a 5 on his AP Calculus exam, which is the highest score that can be earned. Now an adult, Barton has taught several Mathematical Olympiad training programs for high school students. He is currently a Mathematics professor at University of Pittsburgh.

Accomplishments: Won the AMS Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student in 2005. 

15. The Aldort Brothers

“We raise our children in real life, not in school and not as medical subjects. My children were never diagnosed with anything. I didn’t take them to diagnose their flu, their talents or their behaviors. I took who they are to be the wonder to respond to.”

Musical prodigies Lennon and Oliver Aldort were both taught music by their mother when they were children until they began learning how to play on their own without instruction. Their mother, Naomi, figured that if they went to a traditional school, it would disrupt their growth and they would lose their passion for music. She played classical music at home and regularly took them to concerts, making a point not to interfere with her children’s prodigal gifts and merely acting as encouragement for her sons. 

Accomplishments: Lennon Aldort composed his first piano piece at age seven and by thirteen had written two symphonies. Oliver performed in an orchestra for the first time when he was ten years old where he played cello and piano. 

The Point of This List?

One of the best advantages of homeschooling is that it fosters independence and allows for more individualized learning. The story of the Aldort brothers is particularly interesting because the mother allowed her sons to develop their talents naturally. With homeschooling, a child’s individual needs and preferences can be focused on directly, and this list proves that there is no telling how far you can take your child! 

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