Along with his wife, the couple lived a rather non-descript life. Ali Riza had spent a brief career in the military before assuming role as a customs broker. Prior to Mustafa Kemal's birth the couple had had three other children who all died. In effect, according to Itzkowitz et. al., Ataturk was a "replacement" child (10).
Mustafa Kemal attended school during his childhood in Salonika, which according to Sansal is now Thessaloniki in modern Greece, at the school of Semsi Efendi. However, when Mustafa Kemal was eight years old his father died and unable to support herself and her two small children, Zubeyde was forced to have Kemal leave school and the two moved into the countryside to reside with Kemal's uncle. Kemal worked alongside his mother at the farm for several years, but her growing concern for her son's education led Zubeyde to make the difficult decision to send Kemal back to Salonika to live with her sister. There she knew Kemal would be able to attend school there. Kemal attended middle school and in 1895 graduated from there. However, Kemal had a growing fascination for the military and his enthrallment with the military uniform and allure of the military life propelled Kemal, without the knowledge or consent of his mother, to take the placement test for the Military Academy. He was accepted and enrolled in Askeri Idadis Military High School in Manastir after Zubeyde reluctantly gave her consent. This was the beginning of a military education for Kemal which lasted for 13 years ("Presidency").
Upon graduation from high school in 1899, Kemal moved to Istanbul where on March 13th of that year he enrolled in the War College in the infantryman division. It was during this time that Kemal began to show the development and refinement of his political ideology. He was, according to the Republic of Turkey Presidency Website, "deeply inspired by liberal-nationalist literature, in particular by Namk Kemal, known at the time as 'the poet of liberty'" (1). In 1902 Kemal entered the General Staff College after his successful completion of the Military Academy War College and graduated January 11, 1905 as a Captain (Sansal). During his military education Kemal was an intense student excelling in his studies. He was distinguished academically among his peers. Kemal read extensively and to the then current standards was far advanced when compared to his contemporaries. He was deeply affected through his readings with the precepts of the French revolutionary ideology and "would prove to be more consistently inclined to this nationalist, libertarian and essentially secular experience than most of his contemporaries in the years to come" ("Presidency" 1).
During his first military assignment in 1906 Kemal was stationed in Damascu