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Lessons From Thomas Edison- A Homeschool Success Story


Yesterday we had the awesome privilege to visit the Thomas Edison Museum. My oldest boy is obsessed with inventing and read about Mr. Edison this year, so I promised him a field trip to the museum. We were all pleasantly surprised as there was so much to see, and I was inspired by the fact the Mr. Edison was a successful product of homeschooling! In fact, he was called “slow”at school, but went on to create 1,093 patents in his lifetime and much of our modern day comforts came from Mr. Edison’s brilliant mind.

This article found at EdisonMuckers.org explains it beautifully:

The world’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison, was home schooled by his mother, Nancy Elliot Edison. After performing poorly in the traditional one-room schoolhouse of yesteryear, his mother refused to believe the teacher’s assessment that young Tom’s “brains were addled” (mentally slow). Clearly Tom was experiencing the world quite differently from his classmates, and mother Nancy knew her son had quite a bit of capability from the things he was doing and experimenting with around the house. Through a great deal of nurturing and leadership, she gave him the basic tools to learn, both in the form of process and content; and empowered him to learn.

Nancy Edison encouraged her son to have both a head and hands approach to learning, allowing him to have his own laboratory in their small basement-a place where his father became quite concerned as various small explosions emanated, along with strange smells. Nancy endured over dad’s protests and imbued Tom with four life-long pillars of learning:

  • Do not be afraid to fail, keep trying, learn from your mistakes
  • Read across the entire span of literature, not just what you like
  • It is OK to work with your hands and learn from life, not all important things come from books
  • Never stop learning, keep improving yourself.

In later years, a grown and very successful Thomas acknowledged that his mother’s discipline for a focused life was responsible for his great success. Today we hear a great deal of classroom interest in involving children in a head and hands learning environment. Renovated and new museums almost always involve head and hands exhibits or hands-on themes for learning.

Tom obviously learned differently from the standard rote learning and recitation of the day. It was fundamentally necessary for Edison to have a visceral feel for the information he was learning, especially for a need to experiment and react to the results of those experiments. Throughout his life Edison developed a love for literature and could quote many great poems and passages.

His life-long learning style motivated his strenuous recording of experiments, thoughts, and observations in thousands of detailed laboratory notebooks, which scholars are still mining today, 79 years after his death. So intense was his love of information, communications, and learning that he placed his own corporate office in his beautiful and well-stocked library. To him, a corporation was a continuous learning environment. In our Information Revolution today, symbolized by the ubiquitous Internet, Edison would be one very happy fellow!

I don’t think it is by accident we have also been reading about Milton Hershey this week, who was also taken out of school because he wasn’t doing well. It bored him. Ha! Look how successful he became!

We have learned that some minds can’t be contained to a school room- in fact, none should! We have also seen the awesome character traits of diligence, perseverance, and hard work as well as a common trait of making a difference in the world is what helped these men achieve success.

Success for my children will never be defined by a test, a schoolroom, or a job even. 
May their learning never be stopped by a bell forcing them to move on. 


My son is free at home to explore his interests, spend his time discovering on his own, and creating. I would hate to stifle that. Just like Mr. Edison, he needs to experience his learning in real life.

It will be character that counts and character that aims to please the Lord. Without seeking Him first there is no success.

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