Educated and Educating {Books by Daughter and Mother}

Educated: Tara Westover, 2018 (the daughter)

Educating: LaRee Westover, 2020 (the mom)


Rating: 4 out of 6.

One family. Two very different viewpoints.


Educated is a book about Tara’s troubled childhood on into how she deals with things as an adult. She describes her life near Clifton, Idaho as traumatic and unsettling. Her father distrusted the government and the medical establishment. He was constantly stockpiling food and fuel so when they had to head to “head for the hills” they could stay alive with no outside help. Burns, gashes and anything else that happened on their farm were all taken care of at home with herbs and other homeopathic helps.

Tara did not see the inside of a classroom until she was seventeen. Then she had to make the choice for herself and against her parents wishes, she enrolled in college. She struggled mightily since she claims they had absolutly no formal schooling at home. The children were left to their own devices. They were expected to help in the scrap yard at early ages, doing very dangerous things. No one interened when Tara’s older brother became violent.

Eventually, Tara was accepted in the Brigham Young University. She loved learning things and applied herself vigorously. She studied in Cambridge and Harvard, recieving a PhD.

She has tried to go home again, but she does not want to see her overbearing, too religious father. Her mother refuses to see her if Val cannot come. They are at an impasse.


Educating is very obviously written by someone defending herself. In this book, LaRee writes about the very same times that Tara writes about, but it is with no admission of fault or guilt. In LaRee’s own words she made basically no mistakes in the raising of the family. She writes of the love and good times they had all along the way. It is hard to reconcile the fact that these two books come from the same family and time. Tara’s sounds hardscrabble and dangerous. LaRee’s sounds idyllic, something we all are striving for.

LaRee says they worked hand in hand with local schools gaining permission to homeschool. She also had help finding the perfect curriculum for each child. She matched the way they studied with personalities and abilities. Every summer, each child was encouraged to pray about the upcoming year. They were given the choice of being schooled at home or going to a public school. LeRee and Val were not going to stand in the way of those choices.

LaRee also claims that she worked well with the doctors in the area. She became widely know for her natural remedies and locals knew she had a knack. Apparently, one of her doctor friends would even send burn patients to her and she could help them better than the doctors. She spent a number of years as a midwife. According to Tara, that was illegal at the time and her father forced LaRee into doing it. They constantly were in fear of the local authorities finding out and getting her in trouble over it. That doesn’t really sound like working with the local medical establishments. LaRee has built up a mult-million dollar business selling herbs, tinctures, teas and essential oils. She also does training of some sort at their place of business.

LaRee has no reference in her book to any of the brothers being violent. And the fact of the matter is, if anything like that had gone on, Val (the dad) would have given a priestly blessing and all would have been forgiven. If you didn’t also forgive, that meant you were given over to the devil and should no longer be allowed in the home.


How to reconcile the two? I have no idea. I tend to believe Tara more easily for a couple reasons.

The first reason is that I read Tara’s book first and that makes me biased towards her story. I am curious how I would have felt if I had read LaRee’s first. I am guessing I would have been biased towards her narrative.

The second reason I believe Tara’s story is because she makes it very clear at the beginning and even throughout the book that these are her memories. This is how she remembers it. She never says she is totally right. In fact, throughtout the book, she has notes saying how different family members remember certain situations. That seems like a person that doesn’t have anything to hide. She is just saying how she remembers it, and is honest enough to admit that her brother or dad remember it in a different way.

The third reason I find it easier to believe Tara, is the because of the way her mom wrote Educating. Most mothers, when presented with facts of how things went, would be quick to admit they could have done better. Most mothers know that the way they raised their children could have been improved on. Most mothers know that God helps fill in the gaps. LaRee’s entire attitude through her whole book was ‘I did this right”. She never says she should have done differently. She never admits that she lost her temper. Or sided with one child too much. Or lost patience in home schooling. Or any of the other myriad things that we all deal with in being mothers. She does not even leave room for Tara’s memories being what they are. There is no leeway given that maybe Tara did have a rough childhood. In LaRee’s eyes they had a super life in the hills of Southern Idaho. So, is she telling the truth? My gut feeling is that she has things to hide. My gut feeling is that she has made the best of her life and she has learned to make her own reality with the difficulties of living with a man that is possibly bipolar. That thought makes me feel a bit softer towards her. Even if the truth falls somewhere between Tara’s version and her mom’s, it most likely wasn’t all easy. I don’t know where the truth is, but I do know that it was incredibly interesting reading these two books from two totally different perspectives.

Have you read Educated or Educating? I am so curious what you think. Let us know in the comments please!

5 responses to “Educated and Educating {Books by Daughter and Mother}”

  1. Oh wow, I didn’t know the mother has also written a book! I thoroughly enjoyed Educated a few years back, even tho i felt frustrated with the rough family setting. I’m not sure i should read Educating, as my opinion is already biased…


  2. This is interesting.. I have read ‘Educated’, and did not realize that her mom also wrote a book.. I’m quite sure I too would be biased toward Tara.. But the simple facts seem to be there and seems to be a bit obvious of how that home really was.. Now I wanna read ‘Educating’, but am thinking it’ll make me feel a bit (or more) of ugly feelings 🙈


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