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Monday, November 7, 2016

Notes on Anders's "Education" age 5

At  5


We stopped doing the 100 Easy Lessons program at lesson 90 (so close to the end!) because when we went to the Kumon center (for math) in June, Anders insisted on starting their reading program and doing two different reading programs proved to be more work than he wanted to do every day.

Though we don't do 100 Easy Lessons anymore, Anders still insists that it is his favorite program. I continue to be unimpressed by the Kumon reading program. Their math program is great, but their reading program is more interested in kids memorizing words than in kids learning to sound things out. And they also have a social agenda going on that I don't appreciate. But Anders wants to do it, so for now, that's what we are doing.

We have not had a lot of time to read before bed lately. Anders has so much he wants to do outside during the day that he races out in the morning and only comes in at dark, passing out in seconds. Despite this, we did recently finish Little Men, Escape the Rat Race: Learn How Money Works and Become a Rich Kid, and we are half way through Beowulf, which Anders really likes.

Note: I don't buy the dumbed-down, children's versions of classic books. A big reason I read classic literature to Anders is to expose him to vocabulary to which he wouldn't otherwise be exposed. The dumbed down versions of classic books, the "kids versions," don't add anything to Anders's vocabulary.

Moreover, the kids versions all sound the same. Reading different authors and time periods requires listening to very different voices and ways of communicating; it's like learning to speak different languages. Anders is at a crucial age in which he can absorb these voices and languages without resistance. With enough exposure, his brain will remain open to them and later he won't find books by Dickens or Shakespeare overly foreign or intimidating. (Or at least, that is my hypothesis.)


On his most recent visit to the Kumon center, Anders worked for an hour and fifteen minutes without stopping, doing over 100 pages of work. He made it to level 3A in Kumon math. 3A is adding 1, 2, and 3. It is the hardest level for young kids and generally takes six months to a year to pass. (Kumon doesn't pass a kid to the next level until they are flawless and fast at their current level.)

I am a big fan of the Kumon math program, but also the Montessori math program (Kumon for the repetition and required excellence, Montessori for concretizing mathematical concepts). This is why I looked into Montessori summer programs and found one in Santa Barbara that Anders was excited to attended. He stayed after the camp for an hour three times a week for a private math lesson. He liked these lessons so much that he requested to do them every day! His Montessori teacher reported to me that when she got him he was very advanced in math, right on par with her students who are about a year ahead of public school students. By the end of her six weeks with him, she said he had done the entire upcoming school year and was now two years ahead of public school students.

In one hour, three times a week for six weeks, a kid can do the work of  an entire school year. I think this is the most surprising thing to me about homeschooling: It takes so little time.

Anders's favorite games these days are: the Montessori Pythagorus Board, the Montessori Stamp Game, and Memory. But we have not been playing games all that much as Anders has been so busy working on the farm.

Anders's Work

What is Anders so busy doing on the farm all day? Well... it all started when the kids dug the hole for the fountain one week. I was so blown away by their work, that I offered them more work, but Anders declined. He didn't want to work on my projects anymore, he wanted to work on his own, he said.

Anders negotiated with me and Tom for land. Despite his initial attempt to use the argument, "You guys have so much land, and I don't have any, so it's fair," we eventually reached an agreement, and about 1/8 of an acre--from the jocote tree to his treehouse--was deemed his.

So, Anders and his friends (whom he was referring to as his workers) spent weeks digging holes underneath and around the tree house. Then off to the nursery they went and took three dozen plants. The gardener, German, went with them to make sure everything was planted properly and now near his tree house Anders has "a farm" that includes many flower plants, an aloe vera, and some young teak and mahogany trees.

Next Anders, German, and the local kids spent a few days digging a trench that extended from the jocote tree to Anders's tree house. They put rocks in their trench and Anders announced, "This is the fence to my property." For a while he had everyone asking permission before they set foot on his land. Several of the children tired of this game and stopped coming over every day. 

When there was nothing more to plant, Anders and German worked hard cutting down shrubby guacimo trees to allow in enough light for the young rainforest trees they planted to flourish. Anders is now really good with a machete:

I am not sure when Anders will tired of this game. For now, he says it is very important to get his current acre successful, so that he can have a second acre of land.

Social Skills

Anders continues to be confident, outgoing, authoritative, and bossy. He is often compassionate. He is a ridiculously good negotiator.

Anders is very interested in girls right now as he wants to find a partner/wife. He often makes art projects and saves them "to give to his partner" when he finds her.

Anders continued to lie about his age until about a month ago. He stopped telling people he was 13 or 19 around July as he found no one believed him. He started telling people he was 6. This confused a great many people. After September the excitement about his birthday took over, and he started telling people he would be 5 on October 20.

Anders values being a person who sticks to his deals, but he is currently not quite truly capable. Which is, developmentally speaking, totally fine. He has incredible perseverance to accomplish his goals--as long as they are intrinsically motivated.

Anders tells a lot of tall tales. Often they are benign lies that are things he wishes were true. "No it wasn't me that did that, it was Moises." I might say, "I think you wish that was the truth." Often he agrees that he wishes that were the truth. Other times he becomes offended and says he is not lying. Again, developmentally speaking, lying is not a big deal at this age. I want him to understand the concept of truth, but I don't want to make it a moral thing. I tell him truth is helpful, and truthful information enables us to make better decisions, but I don't make a big deal out of it. Though I never laugh, it is extremely difficult as his tall tales are immensely entertaining.

Anders's changing phone skills: When he was younger and he was done with a call, he would just hang up. Then, as he learned the social customs associated with telephones, he would interrupt whatever the person was saying, and say, "Bye!" and hang up. In the last year he began allowing people to finish their sentences before saying, "Okay bye!" and hanging up. Recently he has started waiting until they finish their sentence sand saying, "Well, I'm done talking now. Are you done?"


Anders's favorite food these days is jocote leaves. They taste like spinach, and the kids like to climb the tree and snack on them. I am having a hard time convincing them that they need to be washed first.

Anders commented to me the other day that the men who work at our farm chew with their mouths open. Though we read the book Manly Manners, it's not like I have ever told him to close his mouth while he eats (though, come to think of it, he does).

Personal Care

Anders showers every night before bed as always. He currently takes great care in washing his body, shampooing his hair, brushing his own teeth and water-picking. His motivation for this self-care evolution is that his future partner will want a man who is nice and clean.


Anders's main interest at the moment is dinosaurs, space, and airplanes.

He loves building with his legos. Currently he builds airplanes and methane factories. 

He loves all arts and crafts projects, and especially loves my pens and markers. He does not like his much larger collection of Crayola markers, colored pencils, and crayons. He says my markers (sharpies, nice art markers, painting-pens) make much richer colors. He also prefers the thick, nice paper that I like to use to the standard printer paper that I buy him. 

Anders has watched almost no documentaries lately. He is just too busy all day. Tom brought three new Families of the World DVD's from the library in LA for us to watch, and we had to really make time to watch them.


About six weeks ago, Anders got so busy with his farm project that he stopped doing his Kumon entirely for about ten days, after which we had a conversation something like this:

Me: Anders, I notice that you haven't done your Kumon work in over a week! Do you want to keep doing the program or should we stop doing it?

Anders: I want to do it, I just don't have time right now.

Me: That's fine. Maybe we can do it again later. It's just important for me to know because it costs money every month, and if you are not going to do it, I need to cancel it, so that we are not spending $260 a month on a program you are not doing.

Anders: No! Don't cancel it! I want to do it!

Me: You may want to do it, but you are not doing it. How about I wait until the end of the month to cancel it? If you start doing it again, I won't cancel it, but if you still aren't doing it, then I can cancel it. Is that good?

Anders: It's great! But I'm going to do it!

Me: Okay. (Totally non-committed, not having an opinion one way or the other.)

But the next day he did four days worth of pages (which I did not suggest, that was all him) and the following day he did two days worth of pages, and after that he has stuck to doing his daily pages.

Average day in Santa Barbara:

7am wake, dress, eat
730am walk to camp
8:00am camp
2:30pm math tutor
3:00pm swim in hotel pool, play 
5:00pm dinner and Kumon
6:30pm get ready for bed, read
6:45pm I start reading, and by the end of the first page Anders is asleep.

Average day at the farm:

5:30am wake, get dressed, rush outside to work with German

7:00am breakfast
7:10am back to work with German
11:30am lunch, Anders runs to the dining room when the lunch bell is rung; we talk about what we are up to; he eats very fast and rushes back out
11:45am back to work with German 
2:00pm swimming
3:00pm Legos
4:00pm dinner and Kumon
5:00pm get ready for bed
6:00pm Anders gets into bed with paper and a pen and plans his day for the next day
6:30pm I start reading and by the end of the first page Anders is asleep.

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