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Monday, March 6, 2017

Notes on Anders's "Education" age 5 1/3

At 5 1/3


We stopped doing the Kumon reading program in January. He had wanted to do their program, so I supported him, but I never liked it very much. After I read The Well-Trained Mind I was able to explain to him (and myself) exactly why I was not liking the program and why I thought he should stop doing it. Anders agreed to stop after he finished level 3A. Here is the post I wrote about that decision:

Sometime in January we went back to doing Hooked on Phonics. We reviewed the kindergarten program for a few weeks, focusing on mastering sound combinations. Anders flew threw it and really enjoyed revisiting books that he had read when he was "young." Then we reviewed the first grade program up to where we had been when we switched last year. It was quite surprising to me how quickly it all came back to him. We have been doing a lot more repetition this time through, reading each little book several times until he has truly mastered it before moving on. We are now about two weeks shy of finishing the first grade program.

We currently read at night right before bed. We read something hard (new) for ten minutes, something easy (review) for five minutes, and then do flashcards for five minutes and some brain quest (we finished the kindergarten one during this time period). Then I read to him until he wants to go to sleep.

I finally found a series of kids' versions of the classics that I like. It's called the Classic Starts series. It is much less dumbed down than the other series of classics for kids that I have read – I have been happy with the vocabulary level. They are short. They are like a quick intro course that enables us to cover more books and decide which ones we really like and want to read the longer versions of. For example, we recently read Pinocchio, Oliver TwistTreasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and The Story of King Arthur and His Knights in the Classic Starts series. The only one we want to read a longer version of is King Arthur.

We also recently read (the original versions of) Little Men, Swedish Folk Tales, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All were hits with Anders, of course. The one I liked the most was Swedish Folk Tales. We have read many different books of fairy tales at this point and Swedish Folk Tales is the only one I have ever liked values-wise.

Another thing we have learned – several times, we keep accidentally repeating this experiment due to random circumstances: If Anders watches more than about ninety minutes of television (documentaries) in a single day, he will find doing his work extremely difficult the next day. It's cumulative too. If he watches no television for a few weeks and then has a television intensive day due to traveling, he will only struggle a little the next day whereas if he watches a bunch of television several days in a row, he will get progressively worse at his work each day until he is struggling to the point that we decide to forgo any more television until his brain is better.

What is different about his brain is his ability to focus. If Anders hasn't watched any television in a week, he can sit down and do five pages of math in one sitting. If Anders has had an overdose of screen time, he will do a half a page, stare into space, get distracted with something else, focus long enough to finish the page, and then decide he doesn't feel like doing his work today.


At the beginning of this time period Anders needed something to change with his math. He would say that he wanted to keep doing his math program, but for about two weeks he would never make time to do it. I couldn't blame him – there is so much exciting stuff going on at the farm all the time! I asked him if we could just put the program on pause as I didn't want to pay for it if we weren't going to do it.

That made him very upset, and he started doing the program again. After a few weeks I felt like I had to threaten him with cancelation of the program constantly otherwise he would not make the time to do it. That wasn't working for me.

I told him I was very confused about what to do. His words were saying he wanted to do the program, but not his actions. He told me to just make him do his Kumon, like the kids I used to be a nanny for. Thus began a very interesting discussion that lasted a few days: We try to have no force in our family, but is force okay if the other person gives you permission because they have a goal, but need help with their self-control? Anders thought so. He has helped me from time to time to limit my chocolate consumption, and I was always appreciative.

In the end I decided to experiment and see. I thought Anders might be curious about what it is like to be forced to do something and, when you are five, there is value even in negative experiences, provided they are not traumatizing. I didn't think it would be traumatizing, so we decided that the next day I would be "Anders's nanny instead of his mom."

So, the next morning I didn't let him leave his chair until his math was done, as I had done with many children before him. It was fascinating and depressing. He pulled the math out of his head with a slowness that I had never seen in him before. I have always marveled at how fast and bright he is, but that day he seemed slow and stupid. When his work was finally done, it was ugly, lots of erasing, scribbles, rips, and doodles. His behavior and the work he produced was virtually identical to the kids for whom I had been a nanny. All this time I thought he was so bright, but as it turns out he was bright because he was doing what he wanted to be doing. Shocker.

When his math was done for the day, I asked him what he thought about being forced, and he said, "It was fine. Will you do that again tomorrow?" I was feeling very conflicted. But the experience helped me realize what the problem was or, rather, what Anders needed.

The next day I told him I didn't want to force him. I told him that what I thought he might be interested in was something called self-control.

I said (something along these lines):

 "You used to do math for the experience of doing the math. You were learning something new, and it was fun. Learning new things is fun. But after you were done with the learning, it became time to master the math problems and have them so memorized in your brain that you never have to think about them again. That is your new task. And you are experiencing it right now as a boring task, because you haven't learned how to switch brains.

"In a way, we have two brains in our head. Our Long Term Goal Brain and our Right Now Brain. Most of the time, when you are five, your Right Now Brain is the boss. But as you get older, your Long Term Goal Brain starts to grow, and it wants to be the boss sometimes.

"Our Right Now Brains just wants to be experiencing the world, not memorizing things. In fact, it hates memorizing things. It hates it so much that every math problem is painful, and when doing work is painful, the work itself becomes ugly. Look at this work you turned in yesterday!

"If you can learn how to command your attention, by strengthening your focus muscle, your Right Now Brain will be quiet for a minute and your Goal Brain will take over. When your Goal Brain is in charge, doing your math will be easy; you will be fast; your work will be beautiful; and you will feel powerful and competent. For that reason it will be fun again. It is fun to feel powerful and competent.

"You get to decide what brain is the boss. It's called commanding your attention, deciding what to focus on, and then having a strong enough focus muscle to stay focused. Yesterday, when you did your work, you were in your Right Now Brain. That's why the work felt boring and miserable.

"Today, I don't want you to think about doing math. This work isn't about math. This is about your ability to be the boss of your attention. Not me. If I am the boss of your attention you won't get stronger. If you are the boss of your attention you will get stronger and stronger every day. See if you can give all your attention power to your Goal Brain, and just get this done. You will know you are succeeding when time disappears, and you find yourself just whipping out numbers."

This was exactly what Anders needed to hear. His goal became, not to do math pages, but to see if he could command his attention and strengthen his focus muscle. He started with just one page at a time. But he could feel the difference. When he was in his Goal Brain he felt powerful and capable and the math was easy to do and time flew by. When he lost his focus, there were suddenly lots of mistakes on the page, and he felt powerless and miserable. (Or at least, that is what he told me. It's entirely possible he was just repeating to me what I had said.)

It took about a week for him to get his focus up to five pages straight. The new game of "Can I Focus My Brain?" was so interesting for him that he started hopping out of bed in the morning and saying, "Give me my pages!" Then he would sit down and whip them out, five beautiful pages with no errors and nice handwriting. Many times there would be a section, around page two or three in which there would be three problems or so that were scribbled out, and I would say, "Look, I can see you lost your focus here, and I can see here you got it back here."

At the end of this time period: Anders continues to race through his math every day, impressing himself with his speed and memorization abilities and blowing me away with his persistence and determination. He is almost done with the long, hard unit of 3A.

After he is done with his Kumon pages we do one page in his logic workbook. Sometimes he thinks it is so much fun that he ends up doing ten pages.

Business Skills

It occurs to me that this should be its own section, as it is a major part of Anders's curriculum. Right now, we play Money Bags every day. In the past we have also played Monopoly. We recently read (again) all the Tuttle Twins Books, Who Is Bill Gates, Who Was Steve Jobs, Buy My Hats, Lemonade in Winter, Escape the Rat Race, Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Go to Market, Alexander, Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday, and Fisherman's Catch. In the past we read: Who Was Milton Hershey, Who is Richard Bronson, Diddle Daddle Ducking, Pelle's New Suit, and How and Economy Grows and Why It Doesn't.

Anders also goes to work with his dad once a week or so for two to six hours. Tom also takes Anders on special "business dates," in which they meet an important lawyer or car dealer.

I talk about gold, silver, dollars, and cordobas with Anders and we have been to a coin store where Anders bought himself some pieces of silver. For the solstice this year, Anders decided to forgo getting sweets in his stocking so he could have another silver coin.


Anders's favorite game is still memory, though he loves any game anyone wants to play, especially games that involve running like hide and seek and tag.

Social Skills

Anders thinks that calling people names is the funniest thing ever, so funny that he shrieks. What is funny to me is what he thinks is funny to call people: a hammer, a nail, a window, a block of cement, rice, beans, milk, an ant, a chicken, a dog, a pig. I assume his brain is learning metaphors.

We had a family visit us at the farm for a week. They had a five year old boy who was our guest. They boys butted heads a lot at first, but after a few days they learned how to get along and became quite good friends with almost no squabbles.

I don't really have anything else interesting to note. Anders seems quite competent, outgoing, friendly, bossy at times and kind at times, and struggles with things other five-year-olds struggle with.


Anders pretends: that he is on his way to an airport and might be late, that he is riding on Air Force One with the president, that he is a Jedi and has to protect his property from thieves, that he owns a farm, and that he has invented a new weapon that makes him super powerful. He has an endless fantasy life and is always playing games and talking to himself. He can entertain himself for hours at a time. On our recent long travel day from the farm to Los Angeles, he never asked for the iPad, he was too involved in the world around him and the game he was playing with his Legos.

The other mom that was visiting marveled at Anders's ability to entertain himself.

Eating & Nutrition

We read The Adventures of Andrew Price and I still talk to Anders regularly about why I make the food choices I do. I also told him that our taste buds are largely habit based, liking anything they have tasted twenty times. I asked him if he would start tasting various healthy foods and he happily complied. He generally announces that he loves something new after only the second or third taste. Many times he likes things the first time.

There is no force here. If he says he doesn't want to taste something I say, "Okay, maybe next time." or I argue with him, "But Anders, carrots have vitamin A in them which is so good for your eyes!" Generally any argument works and Anders decides to taste whatever it is I was offering.

Because Anders has been raised on real food (as opposed to processed food), if he eats too much processed food he will throw it up. I was reminded of this recently when he was served goldfish at a friend's house (and vomited them up the minute he got home).


One day I saw two fire trucks. Anders saw them at the same time and said, "Look mom! A ladder truck and a pump truck." I looked at the trucks and noticed that yes, one did have a ladder on it, and the other, well, let's be honest, they all just look like firetrucks to me.

Anders is interested in Star Wars because other boys are. He is also very interested in war, weapons, money, and Donald Trump. He continues to be interested in being stronger and finding a partner.

Average day at the farm:

6:00am Wake, do Kumon
6:30am Have breakfast as fast as possible, run off to play
8:00am-12:00pm Work with German or Erick or Elieser, weeding, trimming trees, stacking fire wood, digging swales, or do cooking project with Emelia
12:00pm lunch
12:30pm Play with friends, swim, run around, play Legos
5:00pm dinner
5:30pm get ready for bed, admire the stars
6:00pm get in bead, do Hooked on Phonics, play games with Mom, read
7:30pm sleep


  1. He threw up goldfish? Like goldfish crackers, or regular goldfish like the ones people keep as prisoners(pets)? I guess you mean the crackers, because you talk about processed foods!

    I like your analogy to two brains; I was watching a Jeff Hawkins lecture the other day (author of On Intelligence, and founder of Numenta and many other things), and he talks about how we do have many parts to our brains, starting with the spinal chord, evolving a brain stem, and then the mid brain, and then Hippocampus which is where animals store their memories... and us mammals have the amazing clump of neurons called the Neocortex (that reptiles do not have), and that sits between the Hippocampus and the mid brain, and how the Neocortex receives a copy of all the sensory input that the mid brain receives, but how the mid brain is actually still in control! In fact, all the more primitive parts are still in control, and he points to holding your breath... you can only do it for so long, and then the earlier parts of your brain take over... so very interesting teaching Anders to develop control, it could literally be building up the Neocortex to be stronger than the mid brain! But I guess it could also be the different parts of the Neocortex competing for different goals too. Thanks for the article, great ideas on how to encourage learning.

    Link to video:

    And on the subject of learning, another video that was just released yesterday was Wal Thornhill talking about how there really is no "settled science" and that any kind of education needs to be tempered with encouraging students to constantly challenge what is thought to be scientific fact, especially when there is new contradictory evidence...
    Link to that video:

    Is there a reason you are having Anders learn math, without maybe having a use for it yet? After reading and watching John Taylor Gatto videos, he says that people can learn complicated math at any point in life, if they have a need for it, and can do it in less than a month. I understand the feeling of wanting your kids to learn many many things early, but I think if they sense they are doing it for someone else, rather than for their own goals and excitement, then that's where the boredom comes in. Plus, if you learn something without having an application or a goal in mind, you will quickly forget it anyway... that is why kids can go through 12 years of government schooling, and every year they have to repeat the same things over and over again... if the goal is just to pass some arbitrary government (or parental) test, I don't think the knowledge keeps very long! What do you think? I know my wife was trying to teach my daughter math, and my daughter started really rejecting it and hating it... and when I thought about it, my wife doesn't understand math either! My wife doesn't know basic trigonometry, geometry, or calculus, and probably forgot most algebra, none of which are really very complicated, if you have applications for them and use them daily...even though she was taught those in school, and did very well with her "grades" and on the SATs... when she says math, she means addition, subtraction, multiplication and division... which is just a fraction of the math that is out there... fraction, ha ha... fractions too!

  2. Hi Ray,

    You have touched upon so many interesting things!

    Math for us is arithmetic, essential for business and life. I would say that Anders uses addition and subtraction pretty much every day in some scenario or another. This morning when he was doing his Kumon I asked him why he was studying math, and he said, "Because I want to know about money." I asked what he thought of stopping doing math now and waiting until he was older and he said, "No thank you!"

    I would say that Anders is very motivated to learn math, even to the memorized extent that the Kumon program requires. But it's kind of like me going to the gym. Suuuuuper hard to actually make myself go. Which brings about fascinating issues of intrinsic motivation and long term goals. It is tricky turf. I try to be as clear about the choices and possible consequences as I can with Anders, and then support him as best I can in whatever he decides. (And yet, what he decides is based heavily on what I think is the best thing to do....)

    Why do I think that being mainstream (or better than mainstream) in math and reading is the way to go? Because first, with solid math and reading skills he can do whatever he wants with his life. Second, because I do support education in math and reading, exercising our self-control and attention muscles. Third, because he may want to take the SAT's and go to college, and if that is the case, he may want to go to a top college (and not the college he could get into with three months or one year of study as I have read about with various unschoolers). I am open to being convinced otherwise. And of course, if Anders didn't want to do math at all right now I would support him.


  3. I know how most people are brought up to feel about college, as if that is the only way to get a job, or to get knowledge, and it is entirely untrue! Companies want people that can get things done.If a company doesn't care about that, it won't be in business long. Plus, you can get an entire MIT education for FREE:
    So the knowledge is free, you can learn it all, you just won't get the piece of paper that says "degree", but no one really checks for that anyway, as it is a laborious process that requires the student's approval to release records, and never in any of my many technical job interviews did I ever get a request to see my transcripts.
    I think if someone wants to fit into the "script" of going to college to mostly waste time and not even get a decent job afterwards, let them pay for it! Personally, I think the sooner people start producing and doing the things they love, the better, as according to Gatto, the more people are exposed to the current system of learning, the less they actually know. And with my own experience in my brief 1.5 years of college before I quit, I had some strange experiences. In my electrical engineering class, with 70+ students, the teacher, Dr. Tazanas was showing some networked circuits, and I was in the back and asked him, well couldn't the same answer be calculated a number of different ways due to symetry, and pointed it out to him and the class.. .and he made fun of me, and said no it couldn't! Then after class he came running up to the top back of the auditorium, and said I was right, but he didn't want to confuse everyone, he said most students just need forumlas to plug things into! He turned out to be one of the best teachers I had because every test was completely open book, and you could bring whatever you like, as he said we would all have that in the real world. Then in my geology class, the teach had a giant pamphlet and said it was what the final exam was going to be based on, so I rarely showed up to class.. I crammed the night before the test, and got the highest grade in a class of 150 people... so he calls me into his lab office the next day, and starts picking up rocks and asking me to identify them! Well I couldn't because I had only seen them on black and white paper.. so he made me take the test all over again! And I still got the highest grade on the second test, although my score was lower. Then in my Fortan programming class, which was taught by an AT&T active system programmer, I was the only one in the class of 70+ students to get an A, and he actually came up to me after the test and said he really liked my programming solution... same thing in engineering chemistry, an auditorium of 300+, I was one of the few people to get an A, let alone pass.. he was on probation for failing too many people; the way I passed was I printed micro notes on to my periodic table; then in engineering drafting, back when drafting tables and pencils and t-squares were still being used, Mr. Minardi.. I think he is still there at UCF.. horrendous body odor, never gave anyone enough time to complete the drawing.. I realized he had two classes, mine was the second one of the day, so I snuck into the morning class, picked up the test, and walked out, and worked ALL DAY drafting the item required, then tucked my almost completed drawing into my stack of blank paper.I was the only one out of both classes that got an A on the final! So, if anything, I think college just teaches you that the real obstacles in life are other people, not the knowledge itself.

    1. Hi Ray,

      I am well aware (and so is Anders) that college is not the only way to get a job nor the only way to get an education. Likewise, I am a big fan of apprenticeships and of children working from as young an age as possible. I hope Anders is so successful by the time he is eighteen that college would be a waste of his time.

      But there is a possibility that it won't be. There is a possibility that college will be worth his time for other reasons - like to meet the smartest, hardest working girls his age in the county, or to meet ambitious young people his age, or for the network, or for fun, or to avoid the prejudice inflicted on those who do not participate in this barbaric initiation ritual and don't want to lie about it, or for the credentials for a specific line of work, or to feel "normal."

      I am not pro college by any means. But I think the door should be left open for now, and so does Anders. I will do a separate post expanding on my thoughts about college when I can - I don't have a lot of time to write when I am in LA. The post will be titled, "College is a Racket, a Barbaric Modern Initiation Rite, and a Waste of Time and Money - But I Still Tell Anders He May Want to Go."



  4. I think college is like the gym for people. You can exercise anywhere, do pushups, sitpus, run, jump up and down, but for some reason people think they need to go to the gym; they think if they go to college, it is magic learning machine, where they won't have to think, they just sign up, and knowledge is injected into them.If you have not seen it yet, I think you may enjoy Captain Fantastic.. it is free right now if you have Amazon Prime, and covers many of these topics:

    1. I have seen Captain Fantastic. I am actually working on a post about it!

      People go to the gym for community. Maybe they are lazy and should build a community on their own. Or maybe they are busy and it's just easier to join a community that already exists.

      Unfortunately, college IS the best place for 18-22 year olds to find community right now. Unfortunately, the community available to 18-22 year olds who don't go to college is not full of brilliant, entrepreneurial autodidacts--it's not a community I would want to be a part of at all. Many people meet their significant others in college. Many of the best mates are taken by the age of 22 (my husband was!) I was taken by 24. Because I was young and dumb, I would not have even given a first date to a boy who had skipped college (unless he was running a multi million dollar company that he started when he was 16). It's not ideal, but it is reality. Not that One Must Go, but that leaving that door open until you are 16 or so may be wise.

      The institution sucks, but it is still the world that we have to work with. Anders may not want to be a part of it. But, statistically speaking, he will most likely choose to go. Unschoolers and homeschoolers have an extremely high rate of matriculation to college 80-90%.

      These are more reasons why I tell Anders that I hope he is running his own company and it is doing so well that he doesn't have to go, but that if he isn't, he may want the option.

    2. I'd like to distinguish the reasons for going to college held by the students there and by their parents. The parents think they are buying the American Dream for their kids by sending them to college. But to many of the college students the parents are buying them four years of being irresponsible without parental supervision -- i.e. they are practicing for a lifetime of irresponsibility with the bills paid by others. Such "students" are just in the way of the real students who are trying to get an education. Most of those not academically oriented should be in trade programs which are likely to lead to better pay and job prospects than an English major -- and much less likely to get outsourced to India!-) (At least I have not seen any online plumbing services yet.)

  5. Some more thoughts on college...I should probably start my own blog! I was going to college to learn electrical and/or computer engineering, but I also had to take a bunch of nonsense filler classes, that I had already had 12 years of, such as English, Western Civ (failed it twice), American (Tainted) History (failed twice also), Philosophy (got a D because I couldn't remember the arguments that made no sense, and the dumbos who made them), etc etc.. even Geology, which was required, why is that necessary for Electrical/Computer Engineering? Because college is almost a complete waste of time and money when it comes to learning!

    1. I completely agree with you. College was a total waste of my time. So was high school actually. Had I been free to pursue the career I wanted from the age of 13 or so, I would most likely not have needed college. Or I would have used it very differently. I tell Anders all of these things.

  6. This is a very interesting discussion. Since I am a mathematician, I will stick to the math stuff. I almost want to say that if Anders is trying to memorize a lot of math stuff he is on the wrong path. I'll approach that from two directions.

    First, c.1820 Warren Colburn published the first in a series of arithmetic textbooks that became the dominant texts in the nineteenth century in the US. I have a very tattered copy of the original version (a later version is free online), and it is not at all obvious what was distinctive about his approach. It could be seen as just another collection of drill problems to give students practice in memorized facts and algorithms. But in fact it had quite another purpose. The intent was that students begin working with concrete objects and develop their reasoning skills with those. The textbook then presented exercises that students were to figure out using such objects, common sense (practice in THAT is BADLY needed today!) and any methods the students could devise themselves. The exercises were carefully structured to help students discover various number patterns for themselves. As students progressed, they were given oral exams one on one and asked to solve problems AND EXPLAIN THEIR REASONING. If the master was satisfied that the reasoning was correct, the student passed. If the reasoning was correct but the method inefficient, then the master might suggest modifications. In any case, it was up to the student to chose what method they used to get the right answer. They could use a multiplication table, for example, if they found that helpful, but they had to make their own. Fast forward now to one of my former college students. Soon after she graduated she was named Vermont's Teach of the Year (not just MATH teacher) because the kids from her tiny village were winning statewide math. competitions. Unfortunately, she has had some ups and downs in her career due to politics -- she really shakes things up wherever she goes (read _The Fountainhead_). But last I knew she was chair of the Math. Dept. at St. Johnsbury Academy in VT. One of her innovations when she came there was that none of their high school mathematics courses use commercial textbooks. The students write their own! So Warren Colburn is alive and well in VT;-)

    1. This is very useful to me, thank you Irrevo. The math you describe sounds exactly like Montessori math. Anders does Montessori math in addition to Kumon. He loves both right now. (He has only ever not liked Kumon for one week back around October.)

  7. Secondly, my own experience with arithmetic in grade school was that it was boring, so I did not do it. However, without any help from Colburn, I figured out how to find right answers. I just did not always do it the approved way. In particular, I refused to learn the multiplication table. (My brother did not even learn the alphabet.) It was not until seventh grade that a teacher decided that maybe my doing things my own way was a POSITIVE sigh so I skipped seventh and eighth grade math. and taught myself Algebra I. I took Algebra II in a classroom, and then taught myself Geometry over the summer. At the end I took a NY State Regents test and missed three items out of 50 -- because I had mis-memorized the parts of a 30-60-90 triangle. But that did not cause me to try to memorize better -- it taught me to check what I thought I remembered with a simple example;-) In my second year I took what would today be called "precalculus." There had been hopes that by then there would be someone available to help me with calculus, but the young teacher who might have done that decided that teaching was not for him after all and left. So then I had two years with no math. at all, after which I took the SAT and scored somewhere around 750 on the math. portion. That and other factors got me a full scholarship to MIT. But I still did not know the multiplication table. That continued to be the case through my first two years at MIT where I got As in all my math. courses.

    After that I dropped out of MIT for various reasons and did various things but eventually did learn the multiplication table just from doing so much mental arithmetic in the engineering lab where I worked. I did eventually get a BS in math. from MIT and later spent 25 years as a college math. professor. I credit my success to figuring stuff out for myself and refusing to memorize what I was told;-)

    1. Fascinating story irrevo, and inspiring! And you beat me to the punchline on Howard Roark, and dropping out of school... same message in the Fountainhead, which I was going to mention, as it is one of my favorite books. And I received an email of a comment that I guess you deleted, on doing the job of an engineer for the salary of a technician; In my case, I always told them I had a degree (yes lied), and since I could do the work better than the rest of them combined, no one ever checked, and I got better than full pay. As for the brilliant people on an MIT campus, you can go walk around there for free with some books in your hand and no one will ever know you aren't attending classes. They really don't seem that brilliant to me, as most of them are still asleep at the wheel. Do they understand the non-aggression principle? I bet the majority of them don't understand that you don't steal from others, even if you do it through voting or some fancy ritual or process. Do they understand that government is the problem, that government is just a gang of people stealing from people and bossing them around? Do they understand that the presidents are just puppets to the bankers? Do they understand that if 99 of your 100 neighbors votes to take your car, that it is still theft? Do they think that if a robber steals your car, and then gives you a sandwich that you didn't want, that the robber is somehow "serving" you and "represents" you? How many of them would fail the Milgram test? Do they understand that an MIT education is free, that they just paid for a piece of paper? It is laughable the guys sitting at graduation, with all the fancy robes on... is it Halloween?...and what have they learned? Einstein's theory of relativity, or some variation of quantum theory? Both of those theories are proving to be wrong, and mostly just math, not physics, and not even correct math. Have they read any of Stephen Crothers work on how Einstein fudged his numbers? And the scary part, will they use their powerful brains to invent stuff for the looters of the world? My guess is a resounding yes.

  8. Irrevo,

    I really appreciate you sharing your story. I find personal stories to be very useful, and yours especially as you managed to do well on the SAT and get into MIT with very little formal math training.

    My math story: I loved having my arithmetic and multiplication tables memorized. But then, I loved memorizing exercises as I found it so impressive what my brain was capable of (memorizing). I had my tables memorized so well that when I was in fourth grade I beat the sixth graders in several mental math competitions. I always did well in school and generally enjoyed learning everything. I did well on my math SAT (a 710?) and got a perfect score on my math GRE. But I did not pursue a career in math and never even took a math class in college and have found all the math I learned after basic arithmetic and a little algebra to not be used in my life.

    Which is to say: I do not find learning basic arithmetic to a high (well-memorized) degree to be a useless life skill, but rather a useful one.

    More later, gotta go!


    1. "Which is to say: I do not find learning basic arithmetic to a high (well-memorized) degree to be a useless life skill, but rather a useful one."

      But I don't think that is the issue. I can do all that basic math and could do it when I was a little kid. The question is whether one NEEDS to memorize a lot of stuff in order to do that. I did not. My brother did not. Thousands of kids brought up on Colburn's textbooks did not. But if you enjoyed memorizing, go for it. It sounded to me like Anders was less enthusiastic so my personal message was to let him find his own path.

    2. Interesting on Colburn, I will have to look him up. I agree entirely with what you say irrevo, as that has been my experience as well, and John Taylor Gatto's as well, author of Dumbing Us Down, and other similar books. Gatto, on his Youtube channel, was talking about an 1850's math book that for the 5th grade was the equivalent of a college text today.. I wonder if that was Colburn? Another point on MIT, billionaire Jeff Hawkins, who created the Palm Pilot, precursor to smart phones, has had a life long dream of figuring out how the brain works. He was not accepted at MIT, as their AI department (artificial intelligence) told him that he didn't need to know anything about brains to make AI work! Hawkins points out in his book, On Intelligence, that intelligence is not passing the Turing test, and it is not a "Chinese Room". Intelligence can't be measured with a ruler... intelligence finds a way, and doesn't need extraneous institutions. In Jeff Hawkins case, he was better off not getting in, as he went on to found Numenta, and become a leader in the field of AI. When I hear that Anders was reading about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, it makes me want to gag, ha ha. He should be reading about Jeff Hawkins, not crony capitalists! Steve Jobs with the Apple, they were giving those computers away for free to government schools, as part of what I guess to be a successful indoctrination plan to get people hooked on Apple, and yet Commodore Business Machines, had better machines at the same time, with more features.. the Commodore Amiga computer was the first full 32 bit processor (the Motorola 68000) with complete sound synthesizing, and 1 megabyte of RAM for far less than Apple... and yet they went out of business. Same thing for IBM, another big CIA/NSA government contract company.. still in business, and yet their equivalent machine to the Amiga back in the 80s, cost 10 to 20 times more, and still couldn't match the capabilities without add-on cards. And iOS, is just a ripoff version of Linux. Wow, I am rambling, ha ha... okay, got to get back to work.

    3. Back again...was just verifying my facts on Hawkins.. this was from a transcript where he spoke on Ted Talks: "
      First, I went to MIT, the AI lab was there. I said, I want to build intelligent machines too, but I want to study how brains work first. And they said, "Oh, you don't need to do that. You're just going to program computers, that's all. I said, you really ought to study brains. They said, "No, you're wrong." I said, "No, you're wrong," and I didn't get in.


      I was a little disappointed — pretty young — but I went back again a few years later, this time in California, and I went to Berkeley. And I said, I'll go in from the biological side. So I got in the PhD program in biophysics. I was like, I'm studying brains now. Well, I want to study theory. They said, "You can't study theory about brains. You can't get funded for that. And as a graduate student, you can't do that." So I said, oh my gosh. I was depressed; I said, but I can make a difference in this field. I went back in the computer industry and said, I'll have to work here for a while. That's when I designed all those computer products.
      The link to the full transcript is here:

    4. Irrevo: You are correct. Any math you use frequently in life you will have memorized simply from frequent use. The only point in memorizing it now (doing Kumon) is to do well on the SAT's when you are 16, which means, to go to one of the best colleges if you do choose to go to college.

      That being said, Anders was not enthusiastic about doing his Kumon for a little while last October (I think I said a week above but it was more like three weeks or a month) but that has passed. He is beloved at his Kumon center now (as he was before) because he is the only child they have ever seen (or so they tell me) who runs in there with a big smile on his face, excited to do his pages and take tests, and always requesting extra work. I don't think he has ever gone to the Kumon center and not requested extra pages (i.e. they say you are done when you have completed ten pages, he is never done yet when he has completed ten pages, he alway tries to do 20 or 30. One time he worked for almost two hours and completed 110 pages.) I guess I should have mentioned those things in my post in addition to the month where he wasn't very enthusiastic about it.

    5. But I got terrific scores on the SAT and a full scholarship to MIT without memorizing the multiplication table. In your shoes I would be worrying about WHY Anders wants to do 110 pages of arithmetic practice. To me it just feels too external -- jumping through hoops presented by others rather than arising from within. I hope he loses interest again soon;-)

    6. -On "jumping through hoops presented by others": Anders does a lot of camps and classes and enjoys them immensely. There are quite a bit of hoops presented by others. I don't think that's a bad thing. To me what is important is that you choose the class and want to be there. He never has to sign up for a single class, but if he does sign up for a class, they will have a program they will want him to follow. He is very choosy about teachers and classes. He tries 4 classes for every 1 he decides to take. I am sure he will get more choosy in terms of subjects later. For now he likes everything as long as he likes the teacher.

      -I do worry! I worry endlessly that I give Anders the right advice because of how faithfully he follows it. And I worry about that too, that he follows my advice so faithfully.

      -I think Anders thinks very long term for his age. That is largely my fault as I think very long term. Which brings an interesting question: If I make myself do something that I don't want to do right now, but helps me accomplish my long term goals, am I "externally" motivated or am I having empathy for my future self and acting accordingly? Does intrinsic motivation have to be right now? Can't I be intrinsically motivated to finish my next book but kinda have to make myself do the work? Or does the making negate the intrinsic-ness of it?

    7. When I was at MIT a LONG time ago they were probably one of the first schools to have a computer do scheduling. An innovation other schools have not followed is that students signed up one day and that night the computer scheduled the classes to fit the students needs. So not being able to get a class you wanted was very rare. The down side of this was that there was no way to know who would be teaching what at the time you registered. So I registered for all the many classes I MIGHT want to take and showed up for the first session(s) and then decided which to drop, which was most of them. I loved that at MIT nobody objected if you did weird things like this. I do remember bringing three or four pages of registration forms (to hold about 20 classes) to the Math. Dept. secretary who rubber stamped it and said, "My, you're going to have a busy semester." So I am glad Anders is being very selective/proactive.

      Tell Anders about all the dumb things you did in your life;-)

      I see "extrinsic" motivation as pleasing others or responding to a bribe. The situation you describe sounds 100% intrinsic in that it is a conflict wholly within you. Trading present pleasure for long term happiness is difficult and may take discipline. OTOH some people live ONLY for the future and never have a rewarding present. It's not easy to balance. When I was in seventh grade my math. teacher told me I was wasting my time taking his class and that I should teach myself algebra instead, so I did. He also convinced my that by getting good grades I could get a scholarship to a place like MIT, so after getting middling grades all through school I went to all Bs the next marking period and all As the next -- and thence all through high school, save one B for insubordination;-) But I regarded it all about like Ray -- it was stupid but I needed to jump through those hoops to reach MY goal.

    8. That is interesting, especially on jumping through hoops. There is actually something called "hoop theory" which is pickup artist terminology (for picking up women), and it says that it is okay to jump through a hoop that is presented to you, as long as you make them jump through a hoop of yours first; which kind of makes sense, because it is then basically just trading value for value; it works in sales too. But relating it to the hoops we had to jump through for grades and such, I guess we were getting something in return, although many of them were non-functional hoops that just hindered reaching the goals. Example on hoop theory (AFC stands for Average Frustrated Chump):

      Mystery's Hoop Theory ...In HOOP THEORY, a girl gives you a HOOP and AFCs think they HAVE to jump through it. Simply, grab the hoop FROM HER ...

      "You do NOT have to answer questions asked of you. In HOOP THEORY, a girl gives you a HOOP and AFCs think they HAVE to jump through it. Simply, grab the hoop FROM HER and get her to jump through it or present another hoop to HER. OR ... just don't jump through her hoop and leave it at that. SILENCE is often the BEST REPLY."

      Grabbing her hoop:
      HB: Will you buy me a drink?
      YOU: Buy ME a drink and we will see.

      Putting up a new hoop:
      HB: Why are you talking to me?
      YOU: Hey why do you do wear your lipstick like that?

      HB: What is with your shirt?

  9. Here is the disappeared post Ray refers to. It was not removed by me.

    Speaking of MIT, can you really get an MIT education at edX? At the most basic level, are ALL the courses in any degree program available online? I took one course that way and it was awful. I dropped out half way through because I was spending too much time working around the course management system's limitations. And as there was no way to get questions answered anyway, I found it MUCH more efficient to just read the textbook. Finally, for me the most important part of "an MIT education" was being on campus and interacting with all the brilliant people there. Interaction on edX was more like an online chat room filled with children.

    I do have to disagree slightly with Ray about employment without a degree. Without a degree many doors will be closed and you will never have a chance to show what you can do. (This is mainly an issue for your first job.) And in my own situation I ended up doing the job of an engineer for the salary of a technician because I did not have a degree (though most of the people who worked for me did). Even so, in today's world, I think college is mostly a scam whereby adolescents get parents to foot the bill for four years of partying without parental supervision;-)

    1. I agree with you, Irrevo. "Without a degree many doors will be closed to you."

      I also do not agree with lying about a having a degree, not because I think it is "wrong" to lie about it, but because my understanding of human psychology leads me to believe that the psychological cost of lying is far higher than going to college.

  10. What is the psychological cost of lying? I don't think it costs anything depending on the situation; I think if you know what you are doing, and you have to lie to get past some Human Resource person, that may as well be picking people with a dart board, then by all means lie; once you get past them, and hopefully on to the interviews with the people you will be working with, they will be able to figure out pretty quickly if you know what you claim to know and can do what you claim to do. But you can't lie about your abilities.. a college degree is not an indicator of ability. I think, lying about your actual capabilities would be wrong, because that is what you are being hired for, not for having a pedigree. (hopefully!). But yes, meeting members of the opposite sex that are intelligent and have the same motives would be nice, but college is a rather expensive way to do that; I think it would be better to meet in the school of life, like Dagney met Franscisco... uhhm and then Rearden... and then Galt... wow, she got around! Peter Keating met girls in college all the time.. but hey, that's all fiction though.
    Also, as V for Vendetta said, "Artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up."... I think when I lied it was to tell the truth!

    1. Just heard about this in one of his videos, that John Taylor Gatto, one of the most famous teachers in the world, lied about having a teaching license! When he first started, he used his roommates license! Some more details from an article in case anyone is interested:

  11. I fact, I would argue that a college degree is more often than not, just a written down lie about your abilities that you don't really have.

  12. I just remembered how in my engineering classes at college there was one girl... that's it, just one! And I dated her, but she really didn't do it for me. And I didn't want to join a frat, but I did join the rowing team even though I was no longer a student, and met some of my best life long friends there (all dudes); it was kind of like a frat only we actually competed in something other than pulling underwear over our heads; plus there was out of state traveling involved, being out on the water before sun up, the sound of the oars in the oarlock... very primitive and soothing.. I definitely recommend joining the crew team if he gets in a college! I understand about wanting to give Anders the opportunity to be normal and take the blue pill and fit into the matrix; also, I think you are a rare find, I don't think there are many girls like you, even though apparently there are a lot of people reading Atlas Shrugged... more than the Bible right? Plus, I have read from many sources that it isn't good to try and find a girl when she is younger than 24, as women on average don't know what they want at that point. Well looking forward to your college article... maybe you can do a dating one after that.

  13. I just recalled something else... not sure if anyone is still reading; I hope you haven't quit the blog Rosyln, but I may just print this out for my own history... my mother faked my birth certificate using white-out on the year, and then typing over it, so I could get a cooking job at McDonalds when I was 15 (had to be 16 to cook).. I was running the whole place some Saturdays, the only cook, cooking everything! So that was my first experience lying to get a job, ha ha! I also built my first computer when I was 15 using discrete components, etching my own circuit boards; all this despite being forced to go to public school (and getting all A grades without even trying). I would say my advice is make sure you are willing to lie for your son, if it is just to get past arbitrary formalities.

    1. Hi Ray,

      I have not quit the blog, just busy!

      It seems that you and I are going to have to disagree about lying. From a psychological perspective lying makes you a stressed out person, always worried you will be caught, and from a moral perspective, lying is the initiation of force or fraud. I could never encourage Anders to lie nor would I lie for him, especially in regards to his resume, which is illegal and could land him in prison.

      I think you made your case well – thank you for sharing it. I am always glad to see the world from other people's eyes.


    2. Lying is not always the initiation of force; it can just as easily be in response to force; a lie can be defensive force; I think in those cases it is perfectly fine to defend yourself and I would tell anyone the same; as for lying to get past some arbitrary HR person, they really didn't initiate force, but they had a wall up, preventing those without some piece of paper from getting in, regardless of the persons abilities. It really was lying to get around prejudice; the wall was a wall of prejudice, judging me based on a piece of paper that supposedly told them what I am and what I am capable of; that isn't much different then if they judged me by my skin color, which, by the way, that had that on their HR form too, to check off which "race" that I am, ha ha. I would encourage anyone to lie in self defense; I think that lying is one of those things that we are brainwashed into believing is bad at all times, with that lie about George Washington not telling lies.. that was a lie! So if Anders survival depended on him lying to someone, if he had to lie to counteract some force that someone was using against him, you would still tell him to tell the truth? I'll have to think about that, maybe I am wrong about lying. If a thief was going to steal from you and he asked if there was anything else you had of value, you would tell him the truth? As for lying about your resume being illegal, ANYTHING we do can be made illegal. It is illegal not to wear a seat belt; I could be murdered for not wearing a seat belt if someone in a costume with a gun tried to pull me over and I didn't stop. I understand you not wanting Anders to be threatened with murder for lying on a resume... is that some new California law? Please show me the law where you will go to prison for lying on a resume... is it for a government job? Obama wasn't even a citizen; just about everything out of every US presidents mouth is a lie. I think what this comes down to is the circumstances or conditions, and you wrote something on that a while ago, about you have to look at each situation objectively, no situation is the same, and to take each on a case by case basis.

    3. And let me clarify on the presidents lying...presidents lie to rob and control and steal from people; that is what presidents do, they are funded by the theft called taxes; certainly lying to do those things is wrong! Yet, does anyone stand up and say that? If you lie to get a job because you have fumes in your gas tank and you've been on 20 interviews where some ignorant HR people reject you on your clothing or your papers, or they make you work an entire 8 hour day, which I had to do on one job, before they tell you they aren't going to hire you, meanwhile sweating buckets while trying to look presentable because my car's air conditioning wasn't working, and when I know I could do a better job then 10 of them put together... you know how much sleep I lost from lying about not having a college degree? ZERO. And I should not have lost any sleep.. they should be the ones losing sleep, they are the sorry excuses of copies of copies of a poor original copy of something that could be called noble. Were any of the following Ayn's philosophy? I was!

      1. Follow reason, not whims or faith.
      2. Work hard to achieve a life of purpose and productiveness.
      3. Earn genuine self-esteem.
      4. Pursue your own happiness as your highest moral aim.
      5. Prosper by treating others as individuals, trading value for value.

      It is just like money being maligned.. if you love money then you are bad for some reason. It is the love of unearned money that is bad; earned money is wonderful! Same thing with lies, not all lies are bad...