How to Teach at Home
by Leslie Fobbs
There are a lot of famous musicians that were homeschooled, but the most famous one is, without a doubt, Taylor Swift. No matter how she's changed or what people may think of her now from all of the, sometimes negative, tabloid media, Taylor's story is amazing in how determined she was to pursue her dreams at such a young age. Read on to learn more about her humble beginnings before superstardom and the role that homeschooling played.
Born in 1989, which is the title of her 5th studio album, Taylor Swift is originally from Reading, Pennsylvania. Her father, Scott, was a financial advisor and her mother, Andrea quit her job at an ad agency to be a stay at home mom. Taylor has just one younger brother, Austin.
Andrea noticed early on that Taylor had an ear for music when she would sing nursery rhymes. She also started changing the words to the verses, which in hindsight, Andrea says is the start of her songwriting career. They lived on the family’s Christmas tree farm which provided a rich learning environment for Taylor. She would make up stories about the animals around her. Even in her first-grade class, she wrote a lot about what was going on in her daily life. Taylor just loved to use her imagination and tell stories. In second grade she debuted on stage in her first school play. There was only one character that got to sing a solo, and it was a male part. That didn’t matter to Taylor though because she wanted to sing, so she played the role.
After that, she starred in many children’s theater productions. There were parties after the plays where the children got to sing Karaoke and Taylor seemed to enjoy that more than acting on stage. People noticed and suggested she sing instead. Taylor soon discovered country music and fell in love with it. Some of her biggest influences were Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, LeAnn Rimes and Faith Hill. There was a local country artist who owned an amphitheater where he invited other country musicians to perform. He would hold Karaoke contests in his restaurant to provide the opening act for these shows. Taylor entered the competition every week until she won and got to open up for Charlie Daniels. Her next task was to make a demo CD of all her Karaoke songs.
At the age of eleven, she saw a tv program that mentioned Faith Hill got her big break by going to Nashville and she became obsessed with going there herself. Her parents took her to shop her demo around to all the record labels but failed to get any callbacks. The failed trip made her realize that she needed something to make her stand out and be different from all the other acts looking for the same big break. Success wasn’t going to come based on luck. Shortly after, Taylor learned to play the guitar from a computer repairman, and that's when her love for music and writing all came together. Once she learned the first three chords, she wrote her first song at age twelve called Lucky You.
In middle school, Taylor was starting to have a hard time with her classmates. She was invited to sing the national anthem at a 76ers game, and the next day she was bullied for it. On the weekends while her peers were going to parties, Taylor was performing at coffeehouses, fairs, and festivals. They could no longer relate to her and her love for country music. She chose to deal with the harsh situation though and found solace in her songwriting. Finally her parents decided to move to Nashville after making trips at least once a month to try and meet people that could help Taylor’s career. She got a meeting with RCA, the biggest label in town, and they gave her an artist development deal. She was also signed to Sony ATV to compose songs for other artists.
Taylor’s school experience was much better in Nashville because the kids were used to everyone in town having musical aspirations. That positive experience is contrary to what’s out there about Taylor transitioning to homeschooling due to being bullied. Unfortunately, RCA wanted to sign another development deal the following year, but Taylor wanted more. Instead of waiting until she was 18 to finally be heard, she decided to take a risk and walk away from RCA. She continued to promote herself by performing at the Bluebird Cafe where Faith Hill had been discovered. The cafe had a song writer’s night where people could perform their songs to a packed house of record label executives.
One executive who was on his way to starting his own label, Scott Borchetta, was mesmerized by Taylor’s performances. He didn’t have a label yet, but he promised once he did, she would have a deal. Taylor had many offers from major labels by then but chose to trust Scott and wait for his deal. He formed Big Machine Records and Taylor’s career took off. When you’re a 15-year superstar, school tends to take a backseat to fame. When she no longer had time to attend school regularly, Taylor opted to homeschool. She was able to enroll and graduate early through Aaron Academy, a private Christian school. Here’s what Taylor had to say about her homeschooling experience:
"My homeschooling has been a great experience. I feel like I’ve had the best senior year possible. It’s awesome that I’ve been able to stay on the same path to graduating that I would’ve been on if I’d stayed in high school. I’m going to graduate this year, and I’m so excited about that. My education was always a big deal to me, and I’m so glad home schooling allowed me to keep it up."
Taylor went on to much fame and success by the time she graduated. She was and still is most known for writing songs about her personal life, even including real names (one of her first big hits, Teardrops on My Guitar, was about a boy she liked named Drew). She is also known for how personable she is with her fans.
While Taylor may have homeschooled out of necessity like many artists and athletes, her story is another testament to how far children can go when nurtured by parents who believe in their dreams and make the space for them to do what they love. Homeschooling can be a great tool for that!