Saturday, March 25, 2017

What To Do With A Five Year Old

This article is going to answer the question "what do I do with my five year old?"  A reader asked the question, and it was a great question that required days of thought, and any time I don't answer a question immediately the reader deletes it.  Curse you, great question asking parent of a 5 year old for your impatience.

There are wonderful At Home Schooling activities for each age.   The At Home Schooling programs I generally recommend are geared toward a really solid year of test prep, both standardized tests and cognitive skills tests.  I wouldn't recommend an intensive course every year, but a couple of times before high school is wonderful because it puts the child way ahead, usually permanently, and contributes to work ethic and grit, test or no test.

You could settle for the "average" that is taught at school, but if you did, you wouldn't be reading my blog.

Age five is by far the most magical time for At Home Schooling because a) the child can't really read yet and b) the child isn't ruined by the awful boring approach to math and reading that is used in school between 2nd and 4th grade. Learning to read is really important because learning to read exercises 100% of all cognitive skills, including those used in math.

Here's what you can do in a year.  First, you can read every leveled reader by every major publisher. It might start slow but by the end your child could do 2 in a day.  After that, you might get through about 10 Magic Treehouse books and who knows what else from the library.  Secondly, you could start with the first Vocabulary Workbook, the pre reading level, and get through it and the next level by the end of the year.  Finally, you could introduce your child to the first Every Day Math Student Journal and do this one and about half of the second one in about 9 months.

If you need a break, you could give your child Building Thinking Skills Primary, and if you want to spend more time with your child, have him start with BTS Level 1 and do it together more slowly. There's also Mind Benders if your child likes this type of thing and maybe a 2nd grade reading un-comprehension test to see if the child can think on her feet.

I've assume that parents in the US would hand their child Every Day Math Student Journal 1 and expect the child to actually be able to do it.   My experience is that the child will take about a week on the first page and get all the answers wrong and complain that they don't know how to do it.   Doing this 4 times a week, week after week, will result in a 5 year old who can actually do second grade math at a reasonable pace for a 5 year old.  But that's not the big payoff.  The big payoff is a child who takes on really tough problems and figures them out, because they will have no choice. Giving a 5 year old child 20 minutes to do a problem that a 2nd grader will do in 1 minute paves the way for big things in the future.  I think this is the secret to gifted in a nutshell.  

There are downsides to a successful At Home Schooling program.  The first one is that the child will be bored in school.  Think of school as an 8 hour break in preparation of the 30 minutes of hard thinking that will take place at home.  A place to learn social skills, cutting, and pasting.   My kids never complained about school after getting through EDM.  The second downside is the need to find a GAT program as quickly as possible.  The third downside is that your child will start to see through some of the things you say and start arguing with you.   The 4th downside is that you won't be able to do this in 1st grade.   This would be a great year to do nothing if you can get away with it, or just focus on test prep if it's a testing year.

Everything I listed above can be done in about 30 minutes a day of workbooks + 60 minutes a day in reading/read-to.   We generally stuck to a pace of 4 days a week for workbooks + 30 minutes extra on Saturday for vocabulary workshop.


  1. Exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for the wealth of information that you've shared on this blog. So helpful for someone like me who is very new to the education system in America. I am planning to get my 5 year old take the CogAt in 9 months. I haven't supplemented her learning much at home, so I have quite a bit of catching up to do. I have read about your views on Kumon- what do you think about Abacus?

    1. That's a really good question. Number sense is important to the quantitative section of the COGAT, obviously. We started Every Day Math in Kindergarten, and did each problem slowly with regrouping and analysis much like the approach of Abacus. If I were in your position, I'd try Abacus to see if it works and start EDM anyway. I think I tried 4 or 5 things to find the one that worked. Once I found I could enforce 20 or 30 minutes of math a day, we didn't go anywhere, but work, finance, and parenting situations differ. My only concern with Abacus is that, in our case, we were ahead of test prep, and ultimately wanted a thinker. Now is a great time to run through a COGAT practice test. The next good time will be in about 7 months. In the interim, you've got a lot of time to use, Abacus has a good alignment with number sense, you obviously didn't do Shape Size Color Count at age for, so my final recommendation is to do Abacus for 3 months and see if it's working.

    2. Thank you.. Got the Everyday math book and signed up for an abacus class. Let's see where this goes. Do you have any recommendations for books that teach adults how to teach children math? I know the abacus will take care of this to a large extent, but I am wondering about how to approach this otherwise. Pinterest and home-schooling mommy blogs are full of crafty takes on how I should approach math. Whatever little work I have done with my daughter at home had involved a bit of manipulatives, but this doesn't sit well with the niggling thought that eventually numbers have to be visualized for any form of constructive 'thinking' to happen. How does one facilitate this leap? Also, another issue I have constantly grappled with is the question of whether I should push her at this age. I've been reading a few blogs about education in Finland and wonder what makes Finnish education such a poster-child of primary-schooling.Am I foisting things on my child that she is not ready for yet? I haven't read much about Montessori or Waldorf, or about whether these children end up more successful/intelligent later in life, but I cant seem to wonder if I am not analyzing the other end of this tiger-parenting spectrum by being short-sighted about my immediate requirement for getting her into the only gifted school in out pretty below-average school district.I am Indian, so naturally I think I want to cram as much as education/extra-curricular activities as I can get for my child in whatever resource constraints at hand.I am not sure if this approach is correct , but in my experience the average Indian sub-urban child attends 3 extra-curricular classes and somehow manages to get into(and stay in it) gifted.Yet, I don't see them as well-rounded individuals. How does one bring up a well-rounded happy child? THat is a lot of questions and wondering..:)Hoping to read about your take on these things on the blog sometime. Thanks again for a great blog!

    3. Good question. Mathematical Mindsets is a great book on the topic.

      The short answer is to your other issue that you can have-both and, provided you follow the rules. My concept of pushing is ridiculously hard advance material that we go through at the child's pace, totally confused, making mistakes, working on 1 question a day, and in that environment, magic happens. At this age, studying for the COGAT is probably the best math curriculum available, by the way. Will comment more later. Good questions.