4 Lessons from the Olympics

The Olympic Games have been going on in Rio for a week now and we have been watching a bit here and there. I am very fond of gymnastics. Other than that, we watch some of the sports simply to help the kids understand more about the world around them.

Rio 2016 Olympic Logo

Yes, I think there is educational value in watching a bit of the Olympics. Emphasis on “a bit.” Competition is part of life. Grit and perseverance are part of a successful life. Olympic athletes may have super-human powers, but at the end of the day they are people who have turned on the flame of ambition in their hearts. 

The result is intrinsic motivation which helps them sacrifice a lot in order to follow their dream, train and make the Olympic team and even the podium. That’s a recipe for success in any career. What great role models for our children, even if we don’t plan on their becoming athletes for a living.

Here are four things I have learned from the Olympics this week:

  1. Simone Biles used to be in the foster care system, because her mom was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Her biological grandparents adopted her and her sister eventually and raised them as their own children. Think of the foster parents who cared for her. Think of the grandparents whom she calls “mom and dad” now. They acted in love and now they have a champion. If you are ever tempted to think “I’m ‘just’ a mom,” Simone’s story should help you get through the tough days. One day, your child will be independent and maybe not world-famous, but on their own two feet. They will have you to thank for bringing them to that point.
  2. Aly Raisman was ten when she was watching the Olympics with her parents. Her mom said, “I feel for the parents of Carly Patterson and other gymnasts! Thank God I don’t have to go through that!” Aly, who was taking gymnastics at the time, got upset with her mom. “You think I am not able to  go to the Olympics??” And she showed her mom, by going to the Olympics not once, but twice. The videos of Aly’s parents and their agony are now viewed by millions of people. The take away? Be careful what you say to your children. A comment like that can either discourage or spark ambition beyond belief. Not sure which is worse.
  3. Michael Phelps is setting records constantly by winning gold after gold in swimming. The thing is, I keep wondering, is there a doping scandal just around the corner? When somebody is that good, it’s sad, but we wonder if they are somehow cheating because we have seen it many times before. At what point do you believe his results are genuine? They caught Lance Armstrong years after his success on the Tour de France. Waiting to see if your children will be responsible adults who make healthy choices can feel the same way. When will you know if all your hard work homeschooling them and instilling your values in them will pay off? Hard to tell.
  4. In tennis especially, we saw some huge names being defeated by not-so-huge names. What happens at the Olympics is different dynamics. You are not a pro competing for yourself. You represent your country. For some, it’s less ambitious, so they don’t focus as much. I am sure there are other things involved as well. But what makes a champion like Novak Djokovic lose in the first round? Just like that, in homeschooling there can be days when your children will not focus and they will “lose” to lesser opponents. My son can program on scratch.mit.edu but he told somebody recently that he could not read an analog clock. I was shocked because he knew the clock last year. I promised him the first thing we would do in math this year is review telling time. When we did, he knew it. But he admitted he forgets it sometimes. The lesson is, prepare to be embarrassed by your child’s temporary memory loss.

There are a few more days of Olympic competition and I am sure I will learn even more lessons. What about you? Are you watching the Olympics? Have you learned anything new for your homeschool from these athletes?

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