Learning alongside the Olympics

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom

The summer Olympics are now upon us, and the next two weeks promise excitement in many sports. Sounds like a good chance for families to take advantage of the natural learning opportunities this event invites into our homes, doesn’t it?!

My three kiddos–Trishna, Jonathan, and Elijah–stayed up late to watch the opening ceremony with Steve and me on Friday night, and it’s fun to see their enthusiasm building as they understand a bit more about what the Olympics are all about.

If you’re like me, you may have seen the same excitement from your little people. Looking for ways to translate that passion into learning? Here are some links and ideas for integrating various subjects with the Olympics.

Arts & Crafts




Olympic Book List

Official Olympic Sites


Several of this year’s olympic hopefuls have homeschooled for part or most of their schooling years:

Arielle Martin – Cycling
Dana Vollmer – Swimming
Danell Levya – Gymnastics
David Boudia – Diving
Gabrielle Douglas – Gymnastics
John Orozco – Gymnastics
Kayla Harrison – Judo
McKayla Maroney – Gymnastics

Danell Leyva – USA Men’s Gymnastics, Homeschooled since 2nd Grade

Photo by Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics

I had a chance to ask Danell about his homeschooling experience. Here’s what he had to say:

“I was born in Matanzas, Cuba and was raised and currently live in Miami, Florida. My stepfather Yin Alvarez and mom Maria Gonzalez both were members of Cuba’s gymnastic team.  My family owns the gym that I train at and it made it really easy to balance studying with work.  My stepdad has so much passion and drive.  It has definitely rubbed off on me!

Homeschooling has definitely helped me be able to dedicate all the time I need to being in the gym and perfecting my craft. The extra time I can make for practice has really made all the difference and allowed me to achieve my dream of competing for the USA at the Olympics. When I am studying, I have the discipline needed to make the most of that time and the competitive desire to achieve academically as much as I do athletically.”

I enjoyed watching this short clip of Danell with his stepfather–who also serves as his coach. He came first in the men’s qualification yesterday, and will aim for the gold in the men’s team final today–Go, Danell!

Gabrielle Douglas – USA Women’s Gymnastics, Homeschooled since 3rd Grade

Photo by Mitchell Haaseth / NBC Olympics

Here’s what Gabby had to say when I asked how homeschooling has impacted her life:

Being homeschooled gives me the freedom not to be confined to just a classroom for learning.  I’m learning everywhere, everyday.  My classroom really is the world!  I travel to competitions in countries all of the world and we use that as party of my studies.

I work at my own pace which allows me to follow my gymnastics dreams. Being homeschooled also helps build my self-discipline and time management.  I have to balance priorities and school is definitely a very important one to me.”

You can catch Gabby in the women’s team final on July 31st!

Danell’s and Gabrielle’s stories remind me, once again, how homeschooling gives us extra time together as a family. It also allows our children to pursue their dreams–wherever those dreams may take them.

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
~ Wilma Rudolph, (First American woman runner to win 3 gold medals at a single Olympics)

How do you plan to learn alongside the Olympics this year?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. Thanks for the insight into Danell’s experience with homeschooling. I love hearing different stories about how homeschooling has opened up different opportunities for different people.
    Steph’s latest post: On Not Wanting to Owe Anyone

  2. Jamie, thanks so much for sharing this. Love this post of yours!

  3. D. Elisheva says:

    The Parade of Nations was very inspiring, education wise. So many countries one rarely hears about to try to find on the globe, discuss national dress and discussions about why there are independent competitors (two come from a dissolved country, the other is from Sudan but refuses to compete for them after his family were killed and he was forced into a labour camp). So much to uncover just from that moment, before we even got to learning about the different sports!

    Other resources:
    http://www.olympic.org/national-olympic-committees – is an excellent resource. It is the official information.

    The British National Archives on the Olympics is also open for viewing: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/olympics/

  4. What great insight! Thank you, Jamie.

    An aside question (for anyone): what are your opinions on cost effective laminating routes?? I have so much stuff that could use laminating for homeschooling and I’m wondering if I should get sheets and do it myself, or take the stuff somewhere. I know places like Kinkos can be pricey, haven’t checked in a while, though.
    Kerry @ Made For Real’s latest post: A Less Stressed Christmas

  5. Annie Ferrante says:

    While I don’t homeschool my kids, I have also used this summer’s Olympics as a time for geography for my 3 1/2 year old twins and 6-year old son. I purchased a large, laminated map of the world from Amazon ($14). Each morning we review which countries have received medals. We colored labels (white address or similar) using gold, silver, and bronze crayons and single hole punched them. Now we have been putting the homemade medal stickers on each country that receives them. It’s been a lot of fun, with little fighting: 3 medals per event, 3 kids! Sweet!!

  6. awesome list! i know at least one of the USA Synchronized Swimmers is also homeschooled- and is actually putting off college until after the games. 🙂

  7. Awesome! So glad to see this!
    Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Get Ready for the {Not} Back-to-School Blog Hop!

  8. I was just thinking I should find some Olympics books at the library. Thanks for saving me time! Also, I’ll make sure & tell my kids when we watch those athletes that they are homeschooled. Thanks for that info!
    CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment’s latest post: In Praise of Dirt and Sticks

  9. What great stories! I am a musician and I found that many professional musicians also are homeschooled for the same reasons. More time to devote to their passions! Thanks for interviewing these athletes, Jamie!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Why I Keep Clutter

  10. Katie N. says:

    Awesome post! Thanks for the resources and the personal insights of 2 of the athletes! Very timely! I am hoping to incorporate the Olympic theme into our school year…Reading Olympics anyone?! 🙂

  11. Hi Jamie! I just wanted to let you know that I shared part of this story on my blog! I did not use all that you posted, as most of my readers are not homeschoolers. So I copied the section on the current atheletes. I did give you full credit and posted 2 links to your page in the post. I hope you are okay with that.
    Here is link

    Lumpy Clay’s latest post: Olympic Athletes Homeschooled!

  12. I just made up an Olympic Medal Count Chart activity for my own homeschoolers but everyone is welcome to share it 🙂
    Amber’s latest post: Free Download | Olympics Medal Count Chart

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