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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Notes on Anders's "Education" age 3 2/3 and 4 1/3

At  3 2/3

Reading: Anders came and sat on my bed one evening with his Hooked on Phonics reading book and said, "Mom, let's do this." And we moved from practicing letter sounds to sounding out 3-letter-words. He can definitely read--not well, but he can sound out easy words successfully. No coercion on my part whatsoever, just available materials and an available and interested tutor (me). And of course he also watches me read a great deal, and I often talk about what I am currently reading or learning. I now read to him at night from kid's books with very few pictures, like the Little House books and Where the Red Fern Grows. He loves this, as do I.

Math: We hit a wall in math. He raced through the first three Kumon levels, loving his new counting ability (he can count to 100). But as soon as it was time to write the numbers he didn't want to do his Kumon anymore. So now we are taking a break and focusing on developing those skills he needs for writing to be easy and pleasurable--he is doing the first Kumon maze workbook, and I am inviting him to paint or color with me every day. He usually says "No," as he has never cared about coloring or painting. He does like the mazes though and does many of these every day. For now, I consider this his math.

Social Skills: He still chooses not to share most of the time, yet his interactions with kids seem successful. He is well liked and makes friends wherever we go, often with children older than him, though he has been known to "help take care of" younger children at the Kids Gym as well. Kids who have been taught that "good" children share do get upset with him for not sharing, but usually they figure out a way to work with him after I explain to them that Anders only knows how to trade. Some of them get extremely happy that they don't have to share their toys either and become quite possessive, but this doesn't last long; the trading starts rather quickly. Anders is very outgoing. He was talking to his dental hygienist about swimming and he ended up inviting her over to his house to swim. He tends to see himself as powerful--he likes to pay the workers and thank them for their work. At restaurants he orders for himself and has learned how to be loud/assertive enough to get the attention of waiters with "excuse me Ma'am." If they ignore him--as they do! It's crazy how often children just don't exist to people! He will now walk across the restaurant to get their attention. From most people with whom he interacts I hear that he is charming and bright; many comment that he seems to think he is a ten-year-old.

Eating: He is easy when it comes to meals, there is always something he is happy to eat, and he seems to be laid back about it most of the time. Sometimes he suddenly needs to go out for Indian food (he likes the saag paneer), but most often he becomes very passionate about going out for sushi. He orders the gravlax sushi or the salmon sushi, sliced avocado on the side. He has stuck to his healthy teeth diet with incredible dedication for months. He does not attempt to ever eat sugar, even when it is placed right in front of him or offered to him at banks, or hair salons, or birthday parties, even when all the other kids are eating in.

Baths: Anders loves taking his bath every night before bed. If he doesn't want to take one that is usually fine with me. If he doesn't want to take one, but he is dirty, I ask him to take a quick one and this is almost always fine with him.

Potty Training: Anders no longer wears diapers during the day and rarely has accidents. He does wear a diaper at night. He is not interested in not wearing diapers at night as he does not want to wake up to go pee. He is an extremely sound sleeper, almost impossible to wake, it may be a physical thing that he knows he cannot do or he may have decided a diaper is simply more convenient at night. I am not sure.

At 4 1/3

*We do a little math and reading every day, unless he doesn't want to, which happens maybe once a month. I try to have no real goals except to enjoy doing it with him. Sometimes I find that I am not enjoying it, so we will skip doing it that day. If ever he is not having fun, it is because the work has gotten either too hard or too easy. I am good at noticing this now and either skipping ahead or spending time in review to make sure whatever we do is interesting for him.

Reading: He is half-way through first grade in Hooked-on-Phonics. I thought he needed some review, but he didn't want to review the program he had already done, so I got Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, also phonics, and now we do one lesson in there each day in addition to one page in Hooked-on-Phonics. He loves 100 Easy Lessons and calls the book his friend and even slept with it the other night. I asked him if he wanted to stop Hooked on Phonics and just do 100 Easy but he said "No," so we continue to do both. We don't do either program exactly as it is written, like I said before I don't hesitate to speed up or slow down according to his needs. He doesn't need as much repetition as 100 Easy Lessons thinks he does, possibly because a focused and interested person learns faster. With Hooked On Phonics, his favorite part is learning new words. I add any words I think they missed in certain sound categories, including words some people think are "bad." (As if there is such a thing!) We use the internet often in definitions, for scythe not only did he get to see pictures of what one looks like, we watched videos of how to use one properly! My own inner child was envious in that moment! I also share with him sound-origins of words, and he loves this. He is very interested in languages, partly because he is learning Spanish so the usefulness is clear, but also partly because he sees me doing my German workbook.

I read him Aesop's Fables and then a book of Scottish fairy tales. He is very clear on reality, but even so, after I read him a story about a giant that picked a castle up and moved it, he confirmed with me the next day that this was actually not possible. After each story we talk about what the story was really about, what the author was actually trying to say with the story. To continue with our unit on "magical stories" I also have books on: Irish fairy tales, Viking myths, German fairy tales, Greek Myths, and Biblical stories. Will get some Eastern ones as well but don't have them yet. Though he is happy to read them, he doesn't seem to care about fairy tales very much. He did not choose another fairy tale book for his next book, but two non-fiction books, one on machines and one on air planes. After those he opted for The Swiss Family Robinson. He loves this book so far and does not seem bothered at all by the archaic language. This book made him interested in whales, so we watched a very interesting documentary on whales and then another on orcas.

Math: We focused on his writing skills for a while, lots of painting and mazes, and now he is back to loving his Kumon math. He is dying to start addition and is always asking me addition problems, like "Mom, what's 10 and 10." He did the Kahn Academy things that were at his level, but their addition program is terrible! Kumon starts with 1 + 1 and then 1 + 2, which makes sense to me. Kahn starts with everything that adds up to 5. Anders understands that Kumon doesn't start addition until he can finish learning to write his numbers well so he is practicing this with dedication.

Social Skills: He is still very outgoing. He shares more now than he used to. He is very easy to get along with as long as his needs are being met too. He is happiest when I am building things out of Legos with him. He is very interested in power dynamics--policemen and governments interest him a lot. That his friends here at the farm are so poor is interesting for him. He wishes they had more toys for him to play with. His favorite games are hide and seek, tag, memory, and pretending to fish in his tree house. He spends a lot of time outside doing whatever the grown ups are doing. He helps James in the kitchen, helps the workers with their shoveling and wheelbarrowing, helps Herman trim trees, helps Papa make compost, helps Mama make bacteria sodas. He is emotionally aware. Each day at lunch we read one manner from the book Manly Manners and talk about whether we like it or not. Thus far Anders has liked all the manners except for the "ladies first" thing. He prefers being first.

He has no issue whatsoever playing with girls, nor does he associate pink or dolls with the female gender (and that would be especially hard here in Nicaragua where men and boys wear all shades of pink). He did come home from a playdate with a schooled child once saying "eww girls," but, not being repeated, that passed from his memory after about a week.

He is completely comfortable initiating play with older kids and socializing with adults. He is comfortable walking into a restaurant on his own, sitting down, and ordering all by himself. He was very socially successful at the spring break camps he attended in Los Angeles, and made a lot of new friends out of kids his age, older kids, and adults. He didn't have any problems lining up or doing what he was told all day.

Eating: He loves rice and beans, fish, steak, chicken, milk, cheese, sea snacks seaweed in onion flavor, mulberries, golden raisins, watermelon, apples, grapes, and pesto sauce anything. He loves going out for meals, especially if I find ice cream somewhere that is up to our standards. It is harder here in Nicaragua to feed him that it was in LA. He gets bored of having the same old thing and then doesn't eat much. This wouldn't be a problem except that a hungry Anders can be a very unpleasant Anders.

Hygiene: He loves baths, but will shower if there isn't one--if I request it. He has never showered on his own just to be clean. He loves to swim in his large plastic pool with his friends.

Potty Training: He still wears a diaper at night and is uninterested in changing that if it means getting up to pee at night, but he says he is working on holding his pee all night long to make his bladder bigger.

Media: He loves Ted Ed videos, especially those about the human body, Kahn Academy early math videos, animal and space documentaries, and any show about construction. Other kids talk about cartoons, and he told me he wanted to watch them. I told him about what I have read about television and what it does to our brains, but that just like any drug, if we don't do it large quantities, we will probably be okay. So we decided that on full moons we would watch a cartoon movie. On the last full moon (our first one) I showed him previews for Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Ponyo. He chose Ponyo, but the movie has disappeared from the web. It's not on iTunes or Amazon--though you can get a hard copy DVD, that is not what I was after. So we watched Sleeping Beauty. That movie terrified me when I was his age, but he didn't seem scared at all, I think because he is so clear about what is real and what is not real. At his age I genuinely believed in fairies and magic and dragons and there was no grownup telling me otherwise. When it was over he told me that he liked it a lot. We talked about what kind of ideals the movie was selling to us and I told him the ancient viking true-story that Sleeping Beauty is based on. He has not mentioned Sleeping Beauty again. But we will see!

Self-Control: He developed a horrible habit of picking off his scabs. We talked about this and I told him how concerned I was, but he did not seem able to stop. Then we watched some YouTube videos about skin and healing, and he quit his habit. It only took him a matter of days. Like when he did no-sugar-at-all for three months to help his teeth, his self-control blew me away. Today he still struggles with not scratching bug bites, but he does not pick off scabs.

Sometimes when he does his work he looks like a regular school kid. But most of the time he is far more energetic than a child who would be considered ready for school. Granted, he is only 4, but I often wonder if he were in school how he would do due to the sheer amount of energy he has, the lack of stillness. All through school teachers accused me of being hyperactive and often when I work with Anders I wonder if he wouldn't be accused that as well.

Other educational things: when we are in Los Angeles Anders does gymnastics and drum lessons and when we went in March he did two weeks of theater camp and a week of gymnastics camp. Here in Nicaragua he does a painting class when we go to the city and I am hoping to get a dance teacher to come to the farm. These are not that random.


The best sports, from a physical health perspective are: dance, gymnastics, swimming, some form of martial art, and yoga. These are whole body, balanced sports, unlike for example tennis or golf that imbalance your body. Not if they are done competitively though.

I don't like competitive sports--ever--as they tend to lead to injuries. My highest value is health and part of health is exercise. Exercise should always be in service of our health, and not something that damages us. Competitive sports make exercise about winning and war, about sacrificing your body for the sake of wining or for the team, rather than exercise as something we do because of how it feels to move our bodies and be strong, rather than leisure and fun.

Not done to excess, I imagine no sport would imbalance your body. (Though I still wouldn't put a child into tennis, golf, baseball, basketball or the like before 8-10 years old and only then if they had a very strong core.) But that being said--why? Why not choose the sport that is the very best for your body?

Another sport I think is important is shooting/hunting. Not only is this a valuable skill, it exercises our eyes. This is crucial in today's close-up world. Kids who spent a week or two on hunting trips with their families every year will never wear glasses.

Another thing I consider is the sheer reality of body-creation and attractiveness. Kids who do a lot of sports tend to end up with the body of that sport. One of my girlfriends was a competitive swimmer in high school and hates the shoulders it gave her. I also have friends who hate their shoulders because of volleyball and gymnastics as well. Men tend to like big shoulders, but these sports will make them unbalanced, giving them an unattractive "triangle" body.

Anders is very sporty as a personality, so I imagine he will play some team sports one day and that is fine, but in the mean time I hope to offer him a solid basis in sports that help him develop a truly strong, healthy, and beautiful body.

AGE 4 - A Day in the Life
*We have no real schedule and travel often, but we tend to get into rhythms. This was our rhythm from 3.75-4.25. Ish.

8am wake, cuddle, talk about our day, dress, go to breakfast
9-930 eat
930-10: practice math
10-12 plays, lots of imaginary conversations
12-1 mom plays with him or he "helps" mom
1pm-2pm lunch
2-5pm play with friends or errands with mom or cooking project with mom or class or playing alone
530pm dinner
630pm bath/ plays
7pm brush teeth get read for bed
730 in bed, practice reading
8pm mom reads to him
830pm lights out and we talk and cuddle and talk about our day

9pm sleep


  1. Thanks for writing this stuff, it's interesting to follow Anders progression as a person with increasing consciousness. It's also interesting to see how you're reacting to his development and the pleasures and challenges it entails, alike.

    1. Glad you are enjoying it, Taylor! Thanks for letting me know.

  2. Thanks for the update. I had never thought about sports causing body imbalances.

    1. You're welcome Alicia. Glad I could give you something new to think about!

  3. Wow, I only could say, that I'm pleasantly jealous for Anders, that he can experience such rich childhood! The progress he's making is also staggering, really interested how it will change during the years! It really made me laugh when you mentioned that he's making his own orders in the restaurant, that should put those adults into their place hehe. That just remind me some years ago when I was teaching martial arts in a mixed group, children and adults, we had a 6 year old who wasn't afraid to "teach" adults as well! When I read about your story I really think, that we should reevaluate our stereotypes when it comes to children capabilities.

    All the best

    1. Thanks for sharing, Evaldas! Me too! Very happily jealous....

  4. I'm curious on when Anders was an infant and it was bedtime and he was crying how you responded. I go and comfort her and my husband gets frustrated and wants her to cry it out. How did you make it through this phase?

    1. Hi Christel, I followed the methods in Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect. I never abandoned Anders when he was sad--crying it out is brutal on both the baby and the parents. But I also didn't hold him when he was crying. I was simply with him and loving him and trying to support him, perhaps with my hand on his back, often I was cuddled up to him. (He never had a crib, he had a Montessori floor bed.) I did other things too, like at night I never turned on the lights. Anders knew by the time he was three days old that night time was dark. I allowed the house to get dark naturally in the evenings as well. Natural light gets us in tune with our natural rhythms. Very hard NOT to go to sleep when you watch the sunset and then experience darkness. But also Anders slept with us from the age of 1 1/2 on. I hated having him in the other room. I woke up all night to check on him. Having him in our room enabled me to sleep much more peacefully. And I just love sleeping with him. Loved it then and love it now! He doesn't always sleep with me. He has his own room and at various points in his life has slept in his own room for months at a time.

  5. Roslyn,

    Thank you for sharing this; it is truly inspiring. I don't have a baby yet but this is exactly how I have always dreamt it, what a relief is it to know that it is possible!

    Also: I'm a good measure into the Price book and how interesting! I only studied a little biology in college and can be skeptical to a fault but his case is strong and I'm going to give it a shot (but keep good notes on everything).


    1. Hi A.M.M.E.,

      That's so great. I am very happy with how Anders is being raised and would totally recommend it to anyone! Though having kids (one kid!) is still a lot harder and more exhausting than I ever thought it would be (which is crazy to me because I was a nanny for ten years, I thought I knew).

      On Weston Price: I am a big fan of his work. But I want to add here that I didn't read Price's research and choose his diet or follow the recommendation of a friend. I found him because after taking a class on nutrition at Wesleyan, I became very interested in having no vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and so I designed Nutritionally Perfect Meals (meals that per 2000 calories would give me 100% of my RDA in every vitamin and mineral).

      This exercise in creating these meals taught me that ideal meals should be high in fat; they cannot be nutritionally perfect without a minimum 25% fat content, 50% being the norm. In my class I had learned that the human body only needs 2 grams of fat per day. This simply cannot be the case. You cannot get 100% of your vitamin E for the day in 2 grams of fat. It was the numbers of my meals, the percentages of fat and protein and carbs required to get 100% RDA in every vitamin and mineral, that led me to this conclusion: A high fat diet is the only way to get all of our micronutrients. Anyone can use to analyze what they eat and see how they are doing in the micronutrient department. I encourage everyone to do this as vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause serious health problems.

      I was telling someone one day what I had learned about how humans should be eating relatively high fat diets and they said, "Oh, you should look into Price's stuff. He says the same thing." And I did, and it all hit home for me--organ meats, eating the whole animal, fermented grains. Perviously I had never considered him because in college I was taught that he was a quack, that straight teeth and being cavity-free are a sign of malnutrition!!!! Seven years of research later, I concluded that HE was not the quack.

      I'm not holding him out as some beacon of perfection who shouldn't be questioned. But I am really happy eating his diet (and I kind of did before I found his work because the conclusions I had formed on my own using just the math of creating meals that provide 100% of every vitamin and mineral led to a very similar diet). And, just as the Weston A Price Foundation promised me, I had a baby who never spit up, never got cradle cap, never had eye goop, and never even had a cough or a fever before he was 4 years old.

      Anyway, hope you are well!