The Well-Trained Mind {Review}

Jessie Wise taught three children at home from elementary school through high school; all three completed college degrees and two also completed graduate degrees — including Susan Wise Bauer. Drawing on their combined teaching, homeschool, and educational experiences, they have coauthored The Well-Trained Mind, now in its fourth edition. The authors begin by providing a detailed picture of classical education in the home.

First, it is language-focused: learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos and television)….

Second, a classical education follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of those facts and images, and finally equipped to express conclusions. Third, to the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated.

Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind

The Well-Trained Mind is a parent’s guide to bringing an “academically rigorous, comprehensive education — a classical education” home. The key word here is “guide.” You will find very specific and detailed instructions for establishing a classical education model for your children — right down to the specific books to buy and formats to use for notebooks.

Don’t let the details keep you from modifying this approach to fit your own family. As the authors point out:

It’s a rare parent who will follow this program exactly. The freedom to tailor an academic program to your child’s particular interests and needs is one of home education’s greatest advantages.

The philosophy behind a classical education, detailed guidelines in curriculum, scheduling and resources are very clearly explained making it easy to implement in our homes.

Parents using this book as a guide — realizing and incorporating their own needs as a family — should be able to successfully provide their children with a classical education at home.

Don’t be intimidated because you can’t reproduce a classroom environment or school activity. Remember, programs, multiple aids, and group activities are designed for groups. Tutoring is probably the most efficient method of education since the teaching is tailored to the individual child’s needs and rate of learning. You can supply this. As teaching progresses, parents can teach not only academic subjects, but life experiences as well. Home schooling allows time and space for the teaching of practical skills….

Parents also serve as models and guides for acceptable, productive behavior….

In classical education, the teacher isn’t a never-ceasing fount of information from which students continually drink up answers. Instead, the model of the classical teacher and students is that of leader and ‘disciples,’ meaning that the teacher and students are united together in the same task, learning an inherited body of knowledge together.

If you are a DIY homeschool mom — you’ll find that you can easily pull many valuable ideas from The Well-Trained Mind for implementation in your own home no matter what educational framework you decide to use —  beginnings, notebooking, reading lists, solving particular problems, and more. A handy book to have on the shelf!

If you are interested in understanding more about the classical education model, you might want to visit The Classical Approach for a more complete picture.

Additional Resources

The Classical Approach
Much, much more about classical education.

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