Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What the Mom of a Gold Medalist has to say about Homeschooling

Here's an interesting article about a gold medalist from the Sochi Olympic games; the article comes from

The comment below that "kids are naturally driven to learn and progress...", well, that's classic developmental theory, and something that I'm working hard at trusting and learning more about.

Here's the link to the article (I Didn't Push my Kids to Read and Write) and you can read it here for yourself.

Gold medalist Jamie Anderson's mom: I didn't push my kids 'to read and write'
Vidya Rao
Feb. 11, 2014 at 3:03 PM ET

What does it take to raise an Olympian? In the case of Jamie Anderson, 23, the first woman to win gold in slopestyle snowboarding, her mom took an unconventional approach: there was no TV, no traditional schooling, and a focus on outdoor activities and following one’s spirit.
“I wanted them to be like children, playing outside, running and jumping and not sitting inside at a desk,” said Lauren Anderson, who raised the kids in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. “They got to be free, building their bodies, protecting their spirits and minds, and not being pushed or pressured.”
Lauren home-schooled her eight kids while running a lawn-mowing business on the side. But the emphasis wasn’t on academics.
“They went on the mountain and skied and snowboarded and they took the bus, and then they came home and did schoolwork — just to make it official,” she told during an interview at the P&G Family Home in the Olympic Park. “There wasn’t a big push for them to read and write and do arithmetic. I wanted them to learn how to get along and let life be the teacher. Character-building was more important than academics.”
While Lauren's approach was criticized by family members who worried that her six daughters and two sons weren’t intellectually stimulated (the grandparents would ask the kids to read out loud to confirm they were literate), she now counts among her kids an Olympic gold medalist and X-Games champions — even though she didn’t exactly want her kids to become athletes.
“I wanted them to be the singing Anderson sisters,” she laughed.
But at 9 years old, Jamie begged her mom to let her learn to snowboard, and within the year she was winning championships and beating boys who were older than her.
“Jamie hung with all the boys, she just learned their style, their aggressiveness, and she loved it,” Lauren said. “Then I realized, wow, maybe she is that good!”
Jamie told that she plans to raise her kids the same way, “100 percent.”
“It brings tears to my eyes, how much I feel that same vibration that kids should be kids. I think it’s sad how much time kids have to spend inside nowadays and I have so much gratitude for how my mom and dad chose to raise my family,” Jamie said while giving her mom a shoulder rub after she won gold. “I look now at how successful we all are — and I believe what my mom says that kids are naturally driven to learn and progress.”
Lauren, who recently moved to Vermont and bought an alpaca farm, isn’t sure what’s next for her or for Jamie, but says she hopes that her daughter continues to feed her soul, and not her ego. She says she plans to help Jamie stay grounded while being willing to go with the flow.
“Life takes you on a ride,” she said. “You can go kicking and screaming or you can go having a great time. Ya-hoo!"


  1. Hi Ruth, I have been following your blog for about a year now, after you mentioned it while talking about trauma on an adoption board (my husband and I are one of the original Imagine families who are still waiting for a referral). I just wanted to say thank you for writing about your family's journey into unschooling. I have found a lot of the articles you have posted incredibly informative and inspirational and while my husband and I have talked about homeschooling our children since my oldest son was born (he will turn 4 in May), your blog has been a catalyst to us feeling more and more that an unschooling approach is best for our family. This is coming from two professionally trained teachers - one still working within the traditional school system. We are finding that there is parental "peer pressure" to enrol young kids in more and more activities and push them into independence. Your posts about your family's success with keeping your kids close and allowing them to lead the pace and direction of learning help me feel a little more confident in our journey.

    1. Hi Meaghan. I'm so glad you are here, and thank you so much for your lovely comment - it did my heart a whole lot of good. I rarely get comments when I post an article, and I've wondered from time to time if I should bother posting these things...but to know that they've helped even one person is enough of a catalyst for me to continue as I find relevant things to post here. So thank you!!

      Your thoughtfulness about how to school your child(ren) is particularly striking given that you are both in the school system yourselves. More and more often, I meet h/schoolers and u/schoolers where the parents are/were teachers in the system.

      There is HUGE pressure, Meaghan - I completely agree. I honestly wish I could give society's parents a global shake or whack on the head for pushing their children waaay too early into independence. It's just sheer the quest to give our children the best leg up, too many parents wrongly assume that they can do this by starting their academics early...and that's just counter to what really should be happening.

      The pressure doesn't stop once you start h/schooling either - everyone has an opinion and it's rare that it's supportive and even more rare that it's supportive with an understanding of what you're doing! And u/schooling brings about even more bizarre comments - usually prefaced by blank looks and an 'are you crazy?' kind of expression.

      Just today I had a conversation with someone I am close to about her view of the importance of putting my kids into the private school system when they begin grade 6 (ie. middle school)...that would be Matthew in 18 months. And the more I think about it, the more I cannot even IMAGINE putting my kids into the system at grade 6 (or otherwise). One of the main arguments put forward was that the kids could then participate in band and choir and team sports. Well, all of that can be done from a h/schooling or u/schooling perspective as well. My kids are not cloistered up at home sitting here watching the minutes tick by - they're active and they're social and they're becoming amazing little beings...not without issues, to be sure, but then, who is!??

      (to be continued below)

    2. (continued from above)

      - I got to watch my kids spend three hours outside doing further construction on their 'olympic' bobsled runs and laughing with utter glee while they careened down them on their little GT racer sled thingee.
      - They also had some moments where they were fighting like cats and dogs and we had a chance to just be together while they recovered from the fights and had a chance to air their story and bring about some kind of reconciliation.
      - we spent just over 2 hours in our little library, with me reading out loud from a couple of chapter books and a few short stories while we all sipped on hot chocolate in thermal mugs.
      - we spent our lunch time talking about (and reading about) light as a source of energy
      - the kids watched about an hour of olympics on tv
      - they all three participated in a mid-week church program this evening where they played games in the gym, memorized bible verses, sang songs and listened to stories.

      When we came home this evening and we sat down to our Wednesday evening snack (a ritual evening snack only on Wednesday evenings when they get to stay up a little later than usual) of grilled-in-butter, homemade cinnamon buns, Matthew sighed and said "I have a really good life, Mom. I love you so much."

      The thing is that they DO have a good life. They're learning how to be people who can both get along with others AND maintain themselves as separate little beings simultaneously...and they do a little bit of academic learning along the way! What's NOT to like!

      Being a h/school or u/school parent is hard...on the parent(s). It's particularly hard getting over our own cultural/societal indoctrinations and learning how to let go of expectations and cultural norms, etc etc. But it's so worth it, most days, and a real blessing. I feel like this is precisely where I'm supposed to be and exactly what I'm supposed to be doing...even on the bad days I know this to be true.

      I soo wish you much joy as you contemplate the adventure that this is, Meaghan. I hope you'll keep me posted on what you decide to do.

      I also feel full in heart thinking about how long you have waited for your second little blessing. The bankruptcy was a horrible thing to live through and it seems impossible that you are still waiting and experiencing the impact of those circumstances. I will be thinking about you and praying for you that you hear your news soon, and I do hope you will tell me when you get the news.

      Blessings, and with thanks!