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Famous Homeschoolers: American Presidents

by David Engle | Jul 14, 2023 | 5 min read

You may have seen our comprehensive list of famous homeschoolers, or our list of famous homeschooled entertainers and athletes and wondered why and when they were homeschooled. Turns out, many of them chose to be educated at home for the same reasons you decided homeschooling was the best form of education. Some people on this list were bullied, some disenchanted with their local school systems. Others were prodigious athletes or performers who needed a flexible schooling schedule to complement their rigorous training regimens or job requirements. As you learn a little bit about each person’s story and accomplishments, you may be surprised by how well you can relate to some world-renowned personalities. And who knows? Someday you may make the updated version of this list!

In this post, we’ll take a look at a few famous homeschoolers who became American presidents!

John Adams

Our second president learned to read at home before he learned lessons from The New England Primer with a handful of local children in the kitchen of a neighbor. At 14, John Adams prepared for college with a private tutor and enrolled at Harvard College at age 15, deciding to study law. He attended the First Continental Congress in 1774, signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and traveled to France and the Netherlands during the American Revolution in hopes of gaining colonial support from those countries. After the Revolution, John Adams served as George Washington’s vice president and became the second U.S. president in 1797.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson and his three sisters were homeschooled by a family tutor. Beginning at age nine, he received lessons in Latin, Greek, and French at the home of a minister. At 17, Jefferson attended William and Mary College and, after two years there, decided to study law in Williamsburg. Later, Jefferson became a member of the Virginia legislature and a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775. Jefferson is famous for being the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He later served as America’s secretary of state and vice president. Jefferson became the third president of the United States in 1801. Jefferson was also instrumental in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States. He also founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and even designed the original buildings.

James Madison

Before becoming one of American history’s most notable Founding Fathers, James Madison homeschooled in Virginia. After his home education, Madison attended The College of New Jersey at Princeton before his election to the Continental Congress in 1780. In May 1787, Madison attended the Constitutional Convention, whose representatives gathered in Philadelphia and ultimately created the Constitution, which embodies the principles on which America was founded. By the end of the convention, Madison was widely considered the most constructive member of the convention. He also helped ratify the Constitution in 1788 and helped lead the Democratic-Republican party with fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson in 1790. When Jefferson was elected president in 1800, Madison was by his side. As secretary of state, Madison helped Jefferson complete the Louisiana Purchase. Madison was elected president in 1808 and re-elected in 1812, though his presidency was challenging–in large part because of the War of 1812.

Theodore Roosevelt

As a child growing up in New York City, Theodore Roosevelt homeschooled in part because of his struggles with asthma. He was a very intelligent child and upon completion of his homeschool studies, he enrolled at Harvard University. After Harvard, Roosevelt studied law and was soon elected to the New York legislature. He also served as president of the New York City Police Board and was an assistant secretary of the Navy. During the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt was lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment, and he rode his wave of popularity to become governor of New York In 1898.

His quick political rise continued when he became vice president of the United States in 1901. AfterPresident William McKinley’s assassination later that year, Roosevelt succeeded him as president. In 1904, he was elected to that office. During his time as president, Roosevelt helped facilitate the construction of the Panama Canal, preserve the country’s natural resources, and establish national parks and monuments.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The president known as FDR, arguably one of our nation’s greatest presidents, received his entire formative education at home thanks to his parents and private tutors. Upon completing his homeschool studies, FDR attended Groton preparatory school before earning a degree from Harvard in only three years and studying law at Columbia University. He began his political career in 1910 when won the election for the New York State Senate. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Roosevelt as Secretary of the Navy, a position he held until 1920. He returned to New York and won the governor’s race in 1928 and again in 1930.

By then, FDR had built an impressive national reputation and won the presidency over Herbert Hoover in 1932. Roosevelt fought through the Great Depression by implementing his New Deal programs and won re-election in 1936 and 1940, becoming the first and only president to serve more than two terms. Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S.’s entry into World War II in 1941. During this time, he created an alliance against the Axis powers. By 1944, FDR’s health started to fail as a result of the war. In 1945, he suffered a massive stroke and died at the age of 65–just months before the victory over Japan.

James Garfield

Born into poverty, James Garfield was a home learner until he attended Geauga Seminary at age 16. He eventually enrolled at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he graduated with honors in 1856. In 1859, Garfield won election for State Senator in Ohio and served in that role until 1861. Later that year, he joined the military and served for more than two years. In December 1863, he was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served from 1863 to 1879. He then won a Senate seat in 1879 and the Republican presidential nomination in 1880. Garfield won the presidential election and was sworn in as the 20th president of the United States in 1881.

As president, Garfield appointed many African Americans to positions in his cabinet. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the opportunity to make more of an impact as president. He was shot in the back on July 2, 1881, by Charles J. Guiteau. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, arrived in an attempt to detect the bullet inside President Garfield with a new metal-detection invention, but failed in his effort. On September 19, 1881, President James Garfield died of his injury, only six months after he was sworn in. Chester A. Arthur, Garfield’s vice president, assumed the presidency.

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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