Thomas Edison: Patron Saint of Homeschooling

“Though Thomas Alva Edison’s creations and ingenuity are legendary, most don’t realize that Edison almost wasn’t the world’s greatest inventor. At five, his zeal to understand fire ended with the family barn in ashes and a whipping from his dad. His at times dangerous curiosity and endless questions drove his father to distraction, who wrote the boy off as ‘a dunce.’ But his mother saw something else in her Al. Little Al was registered at the Reverend GB Engle’s schoolhouse in 1855. The rote lessons and memorization were likely boring to Al. He daydreamed through classes. Edison said of this period: ‘The teachers did not sympathize with me, and my father thought I was stupid.’  His teacher did as well. One day, in front of Al, the Reverend Engle complained that the boy was ‘addled’ and ‘unable to be taught.’ Al ran home in tears. The next day, Mrs. Edison appeared at the school, upbraided the teacher, insisted that her son had more smarts than even the Reverend and that she would educate Al herself. Astoundingly, this marked the end of Edison’s formal education and the beginning of the great inventor. Nancy Edison was a teacher by trade and equipped her son with a combination of literary classics and science manuals that fed his passion. She encouraged Al’s daring, hands on experimentation. I don’t know why Thomas Edison isn’t the patron saint of home-schooling. He said late in life: ‘My mother was the making of me. She let me follow my bent. The good effects of her early training I can never lose. 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.’ By the end of his life, he would file more than 1,000 patents and transform the lives of millions around the globe. The alkaline battery, the lightbulb, the motion picture camera, the tattoo pen, and the first electric car—all sprang from the mind of a boy who was tossed out of school and told he was too dumb to be taught.”

Raymond Arroyo, “Why Thomas Edison,” Fox News, Mar. 21, 2023