The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

Read: 19 August, 2012

I’ve found this to be a fantastic resource, whether you’re homeschooling or not. The book is divided by age, and offers a sample schedule and resources for each of the core subjects for that grade level (math, science, history, etc.). Even Preschool and Kindergarten are covered, so I’m already making use of it.

The philosophy of the approach is that education should take place in three parts: Grammar (focus on memorization and absorbing as much information about the world as possible), Logic (learning how to reason, building on the accumulated facts of the first stage), and Rhetoric (learning how to express the ideas developed in the second stage).

It’s an interesting idea that focuses on many elements of classical education that have been (or are being) dumped from public school curricula, such as the study of Latin, the emphasis on proper handwriting, etc.

One aspect that I really like about the approach is that while each subject is taught separately, they are also integrated so that each subject tackles the same general topic from its own unique vantage.

For the homeschooling family, the book provides sample schedules and inspiration for developing curricula. For the family sending children to be educated in a classroom setting, the resource lists can still provide a lot of ideas for additional learning in the evenings or on weekends.

There were some iffy moments, such as the discussion about teaching religion in the Grammar section that started getting dangerously close to proselytizing (“Do fathers love their babies because of the urge to see their own genetic material preserved or because fathers reflect the character of the father God?”). It was completely gratuitous. But at least the authors do seem to acknowledge that some of their readers may be secular/atheists/other-theist and they do give warnings when a resource they are listing is God-heavy.

My last complaint is with the lists of famous people through history to learn about. These lists are titled as “Great men and women to cover,” but many of them have very few – if any – women. And it’s not like no women were doing important things during those time periods, so examples could have been found if the authors had bothered to look.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed the book and, as I said, I’ve already started to make use of it. It’s written very much as a list of prompts and resources, so there’s plenty of wiggle room to substitute your own materials as you please and to design your own curricula. I definitely recommend that all parents at least pick it up from the library and read through the section for your children’s grade levels.

Buy The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) from Amazon to support this blog!