Famous Homeschooled AuthorsLiterature is a subject not all homeschoolers get super excited about. It seems like one of those areas that are either hit or miss: kids either love it or hate it. Regardless of where your student stands on the topic, it might help to understand that some of these same authors they’re reading for literature were homeschooled themselves! We’ve collected a list here and recorded a little information about each, hoping your homeschooler can relate in some way.

Beatrix Potter

Born into a privileged family, Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) had several animals growing up. Among them, of course, were rabbits. These rabbits later appeared in her self-illustrated books, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She and her younger brother enjoyed drawing, sketching, and painting the animals in her care. Beatrix, having been educated by a governess, was especially encouraged in her drawings. When her family traveled to Scotland each summer, Beatrix had a chance to do what we’d call today “unschooling.” She was allowed to follow her interests and learned about the things she wanted to learn about. Because she also had an interest in botany, Beatrix also took an interest in drawing plant life, including fungi.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Known mostly for her children’s book series Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) began her writing career when was invited to submit an article to Missouri Ruralist. This led to her having a permanent column in the paper, which helped her family’s income. Though that income was helpful, her family’s income didn’t really increase until her Little House books took off. Interestingly, each Little House book was based on a time in Laura’s life. Because the family moved so often, Laura and her siblings mostly taught themselves and each other. Sometimes they’d attend schools where they lived, but for the most part, they were traveling homeschoolers.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was probably most well known for his Chronicles of Narnia series. He used philosophy and logic to prove his Christian faith and was a staunch supporter of Christianity. Though he is best known for his works of fiction, there was a lot of Christianity interspersed into his novels. As a young boy, he fell in love with Beatrix Potter’s stories and found himself drawing illustrations of animals as well because of her inspiration. Until age 9, Lewis was homeschooled by private tutors. This ended only because his mother passed away and his father felt he had no other choice but to send him to boarding schools.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) spent many of his childhood years either moving with his family or alone. Because of his father’s job, the family moved often, making traditional school difficult to keep up with. As a result, he was homeschooled for a good bit of time. Unfortunately, his father ended up in a prison and the rest of the family (not including Charles) moved to be closer to the prison. This lonely time period of his life not only colored his outlook on life but would also be present in many of his later novels. When his father was able to repay his debts, Charles was able to return to school but only for a short time. At 15, he was pulled out of school again and it was at this point he began work as a freelance reporter.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Most notably remembered for the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) was a huge supporter of feminism and women’s rights. Her activism got her a lot of negative attention, but she did not back down. Like many people of her time, she moved around quite a bit. In her case, her father left her mother (as a single mom to two) and her mom had to move around to make ends meet. As a result, Charlotte was homeschooled for most of her childhood.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was the youngest of three siblings. As a mystery writer, she went on to become one of the most famous writers in history. Her mother educated her at home and strongly encouraged her to write, since that appeared to be her passion. She even moved to Paris at age 16 to study vocals and piano. In her early 20s, Agatha began publishing many of her novels. Though she went through a tumultuous marriage, she emerged from it a more powerful writer than before.

Walt Whitman

Born in 1819, Walt Whitman was the second of eight surviving children born to his parents. Though his relationship with his drunk father was rocky, he was always close to his mother. As a young boy, he was quite fascinated with New York City and enjoyed riding the ferry back and forth. Since he had to drop out of school at age 11 to help support the family, he was entirely self-taught from that point on. At age 12, he apprenticed at a newspaper which is where he realized just how much he absolutely loved words – the way they looked on paper, the meaning behind them…everything. This apprenticeship was life-changing for him and is how he began his career as a writer until his death in 1892.

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Samuel Clemens (who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain) endured many things a young boy should never have to go through. Born in 1835, his family moved to Hannibal just four years later with young Samuel who was unsure of the move but obviously had no choice but to go along with his family. From ages 4-17, Clemens lived in Hannibal and saw some of the worst things ever, including watching murder right before his eyes. Some of these incidents were played out in his stories. Following the Civil War, Clemens – in his early 20s – headed out West, convinced that that was going to be the way he supported his family financially (which, at the time, no longer included his father since he’d passed away suddenly). When that didn’t pan out exactly as he’d planned, he married into wealth and finally had the opportunity to pursue one of his passions: writing. After living a life of tragedy (losing 3 out of 4 of his children and his wife), Clemens/Twain died in 1910.

George Bernard Shaw

Probably most noted for being a critic in the Saturday Review and for writing Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) spent a great deal of his childhood being homeschooled by his uncle. Under his mother’s guidance, Shaw was allowed (and even encouraged) to pursue his interests in fine arts. After his mother left his father – and took his sisters with her – Shaw followed four years later and decided to pursue his interest in writing.While the family did struggle financially for a while, his mother saw potential in him and absolutely encouraged him to continue writing novels.

Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Born in 1990, Mattie Stepanek was all about peace and poetry. His parents divorced while he was young, but that didn’t stop him from encouraging peace through his writing. In fact, in his short life, he managed to publish seven books of poetry mostly about peace. Unfortunately, Mattie suffered from a rare disease known as dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy which led to his untimely death at just 13 years of age. He did, however, manage to accomplish so much more in that short period of time than many adults ever do – such as being on Oprah, being known as one of her most memorable guests, becoming known as a peace advocate, and gaining a reputation as a motivational speaker. Sadly, Mattie wasn’t the only one in his family to die of dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy; his three sisters all died from the same diseases. It wasn’t until after all four children were born that their mother learned she passed on this disease. In 2003, Mattie passed away, leaving behind a legacy of being a peace advocate and leaving an imprint on the hearts of many Americans.

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