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 TODAY.com 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 TODAY.com 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!"