Not too long ago, we posted a couple of articles about famous homeschoolers–one dedicated to entertainers, the other about athletes. But what about the celebrities who choose to homeschool their children, just as you’ve decided to. There are some pretty huge names on this list–some A-list TV and movie stars, a few singers, and a wildly successful businessman. So, let’s jump in and look at 10 famous parents/couples who think like you when it comes to their kids’ education!
- Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor and The Nutty Professor actress are serious about education, so when it was time for their children Willow and Jaden (both grown and celebrities in their own right) to start school, the couple opted to homeschool so their education consisted of genuine learning, not memorization. The actors found other like-minded parents, and all of their children began homeschooling together. In an interview, Smith once said, “We found about either or nine other parents that homeschool, so we put the children together. There are just very powerful educational concepts that we believe in, and we feel like we want to design the system that revolutionizes public education.”
The couple meant this literally, and went on to found the New Village Academy school in Calabasas, California in 2009. The school was designed for pre-K through sixth-grade students and utilized many different learning methods and featured a very diverse staff. Some of the progressive curriculum included courses in yoga, robotics, etiquette, technology, living skills, and karate, as well as traditional academics. While the school claimed no religious affiliation, there were some reported similarities to Scientology education. The school operated for five years before closing in 2013.
- Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: While they’re no longer together, A-listers Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt felt strongly about keeping their six children home to learn. Because of the diverse backgrounds of their kids, the couple opted to make their education more individualized rather than the more uniform instruction they’d otherwise receive in public or private schools.
There are some rumblings, however, that the Maleficent and Moneyball stars may allow their brood to begin traditional school once the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is over. While their oldest son, Maddox, is a college student, the other five children–ranging in age from 16 to 11–have made homeschooling quite a challenge for a single mom. In an interview with Time magazine, she stated, “We’re all locked in, we’re doing all right…Well, the two things that affect children from my view the most being out of school is of course, education, and the challenges of education. I know parents across the country are challenged with homeschool and maybe that’s more a challenge for the parents than the children.” We’ll have to wait until the 2021-22 school year begins to see which method the former “Brangelina” pair chooses for their children.
- Mayim Bialik: The former Blossom (look it up, kids) and The Big Bang Theory star and her ex-husband are firm believers in homeschooling. Mayim actually has an advantage in this area–she has a doctorate in neuroscience and taught both undergraduates at UCLA as well as homeschooled middle- and high school students in the Los Angeles area. The reason why the actress feels so strongly about homeschooling her two sons? Simply because she and her former husband agreed that their kids would receive a better academic and social education at home. While she is a practicing Jew, religion isn’t the foundation of her sons’ education–though they do learn Hebrew and observe Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) on Friday and Saturday evenings, a time when they’re encouraged to “power down” and relax.
Rather, she and her ex focus on academics (obviously), especially science (her go-to subject), but also place a premium on education of the arts. Both boys have learned how to play musical instruments and are interested in art, particularly Shakespeare. For homeschool guidance and inspiration, Mayim also created a series of homeschool videos on YouTube in which she answers questions, offers advice, and just talks homeschooling!
- Elon Musk: Why did the outspoken Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder decide to homeschool his kids? Because he thinks public schools are, well, “useless.” We’ll let him explain in his own words: “Regular schools, they were not doing the things that I thought should be done. So I thought, well, creating a school [homeschooling] would be better. I hired a teacher from the institute my kids were previously at, who also agrees that there’s a better way to do it [educate].” There you have it.
It does go a bit deeper than that. Essentially, Musk is a huge proponent of problem-solving–he believes that is the essence and foundation of any education, and he doesn’t believe public or even private schools offer that type of teaching. He uses this example to explain his logic: “It’s important to teach problem-solving. Let’s say you’re trying to teach how engines work. Now, a traditional way is to teach all about screwdrivers and wrenches, which is a very difficult way to do it. A good approach would be like: ‘Here’s an engine, let’s take it apart and how are we gonna do that? We need a screwdriver or a wrench for that.’ When we teach like this, something important happens, the relevance of the tools becomes apparent.”
He does have a point. So, as he mentioned, he created his own school for his children, called Ad Astra (Latin for “to the stars”). Not everyone has the resources the PayPal founder does, but there are homeschools and curricula out there that do focus on problem-solving, so it might just require a little bit of problem-solving on the part of a curious parent!
- John Travolta and Kelly Preston: The Grease and Saturday Night Fever star and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, who tragically passed away at age 57 in 2020 from breast cancer, chose to homeschool their two children, Jett and Ella Bleu. Jett, who was autistic and born with Kawasaki disease, was homeschooled for health reasons, as he often suffered seizures due to his conditions and otherwise wouldn’t have been able to receive the individual attention he needed in a public or private school setting. Sadly, Jett died at the age of 16 in 2009 after suffering a seizure while the couple was vacationing in the Bahamas. Ella, now 20, has followed her parents to Hollywood and has appeared in two films (to date) with her famous father.
- James and Kimberly Van Der Beek: Traditional homeschooling. Co-op homeschooling with other parents. Methods that emulate schools in Finland. Actor James Van Der Beek and his wife Kimberly have tried it all with their five children–and they love every minute of it. Viewing public schools as a form of “imprisonment, where they spend hours of their day being told what to care about and what to learn,” the Van Der Beeks are content to let their kids learn at their own pace, even if that means they’re “behind” according to traditional school standards. That’s why the former Dawson’s Creek and Varsity Blues star and his wife have embraced the Finnish way of schooling. Kimberly explained that her oldest daughter, Olivia, was drawing stories until she was around seven-and-a-half years old, so she was technically considered behind reading level for her age. But she said, “I don’t consider her behind at all, I consider her to be a creative child that just doesn’t want to do that yet.” She acknowledges how important reading is and isn’t trying to change others’ minds about teaching their children to read; but she stresses that she doesn’t need her own kids spending four years of their lives trying to learn how. “She learned and she’s where every other kid is. She just spent all those other years drawing pictures and books.”
Whether you agree or disagree with the Van Der Beeks’ approach to homeschooling, one thing we can agree on is that part of the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility and options it provides.
- Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise: Before this Hollywood power couple called it quits in 2001, Oscar winner Nicole Kidman and Mission Impossible hero Tom Cruise shuttled their kids, Connor and Bella, back and forth between their homes in Los Angeles and Sydney. After their split, things became pretty complicated for the family, with Nicole immersing herself in her work and Tom working a hectic schedule of his own. The children wound up living with their father full time, and their education was handled by their aunts, Tom’s sisters, at home.
Tom Cruise’s devotion to Scientology most likely entered the picture as well, as Scientologists generally believe in homeschooling their children rather than sending them to public or private schools.
- Michael Jackson: A notoriously private person who created an entire world for his children, the world’s most famous pop star homeschooled Paris, Michael Joseph Jackson Jr. (who goes by Prince), and Prince (formerly known as Blanket and now known as Bigi…yes, this is very confusing) until they were all around middle school age. The King of Pop passed away in 2009, and it was only a short time after that tragic event that Prince and Paris took the plunge into traditional school. Today, Paris is a world-famous model, actress, and singer; Prince (aka Michael Joseph Jackson Jr.) graduated with cum laude honors from Loyola Marymount University in 2019 and has his sights set on becoming a screenwriter, producer and direction; Bigi has mostly remained out of the spotlight, understandable considering the bullying he endured thanks to his infamous “Blanket” nickname. He does have a fairly large social media following, however.
- Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus: You probably don’t have to think very hard about who country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and his wife Tish’s homeschooled daughter is. What might surprise you is that there are actually two Cyrus girls who homeschooled and went on to become successful singers. Miley Cyrus, the one you probably guessed right away, was a Hollywood hit before she ever reached high school. As Hannah Montana, Miley was a tween (and younger) idol, and her insanely busy schedule, between filming her hit Disney show and hitting the road to perform live shows, didn’t allow her to maintain a traditional school schedule. So, she homeschooled with tutors, excelled at her studies, and graduated high school early, even managing to squeeze in some college credits.
Her sister, Noah, eight years younger than Miley, also homeschooled–but for different reasons. She faced quite a bit of bullying at school for being “Hannah Montana’s sister,” so the Cyruses decided to homeschool Noah as well. Coincidentally, Noah’s interest in music began to grow around the age of 15, so she took advantage of the flexible homeschooling schedule to hone her songwriting skills. And that seems to have paid off nicely!
- Emma Thompson: The supremely talented Sense and Sensibility and Love, Actually actress and her husband, actor Greg Wise, didn’t actually decide to homeschool their daughter, Gaia. It was actually Gaia who decided she wanted to be homeschooled at the age of 15, because she simply was no longer intellectually stimulated by the cookie cutter nature of the British school system. Her parents were proud of her decision and were more than happy to accommodate her wishes. Dad built her a school room at their home, and she began learning with tutors.
Gaia has kept a semi-low profile since graduation, though she must have caught a mild case of the acting bug from her parents as she’s appeared in a couple of films. She also became involved with Greenpeace activism after an expedition to the Arctic Circle with her two-time Oscar-winning mom.
So, there you have it. While many of these famous parents decided to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons, they all came to the same conclusion–homeschooling allowed them to take their child’s education into their own hands and decide what was best for them, just like you did or are considering doing with your kids.