My recent climbing trip (and flight) across the country gave me ample time to read a book anxiously sitting at the top of my “to read” list, Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure. As a mother to two young children and an avid hiker, climber, and camper, the story has a particular appeal. To start, the book is written by a stay at home mother of two young girls, Patricia Ellis Herr. At the start of her tale, Patricia, while an outdoor parent, was not (so far as I can tell) a mountaineering expert. Nor was she a trained hiking or outdoor professional. Throughout the story, you see that the hikes taken by Patricia and her talented daughter Alex progressively advance into higher mileage, elevation increases, terrain, overnight trips, and varied weather conditions.
Some things that I love about the book: 1) Patricia teaches her daughter that you should not be limited by gender, size, or age. 2) The lessons learned aren’t only about accomplishment (getting to the top) but are also about the journey, experience, and the learning process itself. 3) Our children can only benefit from the education, confidence, self sufficiency and appreciation for the outdoors that adventures such as peakbagging bestow. 4) The reminder that though others should not judge what one parent chooses for their children, they often (wrongly) do.
From a reader’s perspective, the writing is consistent with hiking peaks such as those in New Hampshire. Some stories seem to run together, some hikes are not so memorable, and some adventures are completely event free . . .The beauty of both hiking and Up is the truth that it gives to those uneventful moments, when the most amazing things happen, moments wherein the beauty lies in the “lack of” an action or event. The prose itself is very well done, and the story of Hugh Herr in the midst is integrated well and quite poignant, particularly for those who already know the story.
The most thought provoking and surprising piece of the tale, for me, is in Patricia’s desire to homeschool Alex & Sage (her younger daughter). She writes “I wanted to give my children the opportunity of a truly individualized education, I didn’t want to lose them to peer pressure and group think and low academic standards.” I find it interesting that this one quote is so judgmental, when so much of the rest of the book seems open minded and accepting, encouraging others to accept her choices for her children. She follows it up by saying that she is not one to prescribe her values on others, but I was taken aback by that one statement, that one harsh judgment of the educational system and traditional education. This one quote poses the only surprise for me, as I believe that this judgment comes across little different from the judgment that Patricia and Alex are subject to in their travels…people who believe that Alex shouldn’t be hiking such tall peaks.
I believe that there are values in both homeschooling and traditional education. I also believe that we can teach our children to avoid group think through our actions, activities, and family values, while operating within a traditional schooling environment. I love the idea that we can show our children the amazing things they can do, while also introducing them to nature and educating them on self sufficiency. I appreciate Patricia’s eloquence in communicating this last piece. For all of these reasons, I greatly enjoyed reading Up and I look forward to reading more about Patricia, Alex and Sage, as I’m quite sure that they aren’t done learning, hiking, or sharing.
For more from Trish, keep up with her blog.